Heying (she/her) is a postdoc with Radiology at Stanford. She grew up in China but relocated to Austria when she was seven years old. She considers Vienna her home but her food preferences have stayed connected to her Chinese culture and the recipe that she has chosen reflects that. This dish reminds her of her grandmother who used to make it for her when she was a kid and it holds a lot of feelings for her. The recipe invokes a sense of bittersweet for Heying, happy to reminisce of good times with her grandmother but slightly disappointed she didn’t get to spend more time cooking with her. Collective cooking, cooking with other people, is a tradition that Heying grew up with and genuinely enjoys. It is always a festivity when her family comes together to cook meals. Cooking together demonstrates the power of teamwork; everyone working together but individually working on something different and at the same time there is a lot of talking and gossiping. Having missed that connection, Heying took part in a cooking workshop hosted by The Stanford Alt. Protein Project and Hillel where participants followed Chef Amit Raz in making vegan kebabs with tahini and tzatziki sauce. She cooked with her friend while her friend’s 90+-year-old Jewish mother was yelling instructions and advice to them. It reminded Heying of her Chinese grandmother.
Eating vegetables and meat alternatives is nothing new to Heying. It’s pretty common in Chinese cuisine. For example, tofu is a staple at home; there are so many recipes using tofu and variants like tofu skin or fried tofu. Seitan, which recently has become popular on tik tok, was a common ingredient in Heying’s meals as a child. It is very common in Chinese culture to have several vegetarian dishes on the table as they ‘cleanse the palate’.
Additionally, Heying likes knowing what’s in her food. She pays attention to labels and checks if there are any additives or preservatives. She prefers to make things from scratch as a form of controlling what goes in her food and also because she loves cooking. This love for cooking emerged once she moved to the United States. Apart from cooking, Heying enjoys growing her own food ever since a friend gifted her a plot when she lived in Vienna. Here, in the US, she has been growing vegetables in a hydroponic system. This has helped her to stay resilient in COVID times. She enjoys talking to her plants, watching them grow and eating her own produce. It is also a way to be connected with nature. One day, Heying’s plants had an aphid problem. She had tried every homemade spray under the sun, cajun pepper, hydrogen peroxide, and dish soaps as non-pesticide solutions to her problem but none of them worked. Then she brought three ladybugs from a hike who feasted on the aphids. Problem solved. Heying enjoys strolling through farmers markets, buying local and trying to reduce packaging.
Check out Heying’s recipe below!
'Fish fragrant eggplant' (Sichuan Eggplant)