The Diasporic Predicament

Flog this shit. 

Am I angry? Yeah, positively pissed. A bit at the perverse prose Western society continues to feed the brainless public, which at this particular point in time happens to be pathetically paralyzed by its own paranoia, but more undeservedly at myself, as a member of the model minority meekly should. Sick and tired would be an abominable understatement. Disgust gets us about a third of the way there. 

Three words I want you all to know on a first name basis today and hereafter: gaslighting, tokenism, and appropriation. I’m not here to preach, I just wish somebody had told me about these types of things when I was younger.

Gaslighting – screwing you over then calling you crazy for calling them out. Repeat after me, you are not crazy. You are not crazy for speaking up about the smallest things from your classmates making fun of you because your lunch smells funny to bigger things like being openly called a chink. They call you crazy because it’s the only way they can delegitimize you. It’s a cheap shot, and useless as long as you don’t take it lying down. They simply don’t have any better points to make. Also, I beg you – do not go anywhere without your phone. How else are you going to have a receipt?

Tokenism – including you just so they’re able to say they’re “inclusive”. What a completely convoluted and perverse way of thinking, which apparently is championed and (appalling to me,) applauded in all sorts of groups from school cheerleading teams, to churches, to corporations. In a non-profit, an Asian volunteer may be disproportionately featured (ahem, exploited) on social media but passed over for leading responsibilities despite having superior qualifications and seniority. They may, and do do this, but it’s wrong. Period. How is tokenism different from objectification? It isn’t. Except for the fact that it makes the perpetrator feel like a saint.

Appropriation – stealing from another culture without giving credit. In literature, in music, in science, we call it plagiarism, and destroy peoples’ entire careers when they’re caught committing it. Yet somehow, SOMEHOW when this comes to culture (which gives birth to these wonderful fields, might I remind you), it’s completely acceptable. Is it so damn hard to admit the thing that inspired you? Are you so ashamed of the source of your inspirations that you don’t even have the balls to utter their name? Or do you claim to be a creative but are so unimaginative that you must loot from those long dead? The student who bows to her teacher brings honour to both, but shamed is the student who scorns the teacher by whom she has prospered. Remind me to do a piece on cultural appropriation in food, because it’s an absolute shite show.

Now onto happier things. I’m going to show you how to make sweet taro paste, and how to make three snacks for sharing using a giant batch of taro paste.

Sweet Taro Paste

  • 1 large fresh taro, about 3 to 4 lbs*
  • 1 tbsp fine sea salt
  • 4 to 6 cups white sugar, depending
  • 3 cups heavy or coconut cream

*Taro quality is the biggest factor in the texture of the finished paste, be sure to choose one that is very firm with no soft/squishy spots, and is light for its weight (indicating more starch and less wet).

  1. Wearing kitchen gloves (because raw taro can be quite irritating to your hands), peel off the woody skin completely with a vegetable peeler. Cut the taro into flat chunks, about 3/4-inch at the thickest.
  2. Place the taro chunks in a steamer (or rice cooker) and steam for an hour or until completely soft.
  3. While hot, mash the taro with the salt and sugar (adding a cup of sugar at a time) until the mixture gains some shine and begins to form a paste (as opposed to being dry and crumbly).
  4. Mix in the cream until it resembles creamy mashed potatoes. It should be slightly wetter than store-bought red bean paste since the starches and fat will both harden as the mixture cools.
  5. Optional, but I would also strain the mixture through a sieve to get it really smooth. If you like some small chunks (like my mom), feel free to skip this step.
  6. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days, or in the freezer for up to a month.
Fried Taro Balls

Fried Taro Balls

  • 4 cups vegetable oil (peanut or corn preferably)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 3 cups sweet taro paste
  1. In a large pot or dutch oven, heat the oil until it reaches 350 degrees F (this recipe is not picky – any medium-high oil temperature would work so don’t fret about this step.)
  2. In a large bowl, beat together the egg, flour, and taro paste until completely even.
  3. Drop spoonfuls of the taro paste mixture into the oil and fry until they float to the top, are deeply golden, and piping hot in the center. (If you want them to be perfect balls, chill the mixture until hardened, and roll into balls before frying.)
  4. Serve immediately.
Taro Fresh Pineapple Sticky Rice

Taro Fresh Pineapple Sticky Rice

  • 1 large ripe pineapple
  • 1 1/2 cups glutinous rice
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup sweet taro paste
  • 1 dried red date, halved
  1. Wash the rice once in cold water to get rid of any dust. Drain off the water and add 1 1/2 cups of filtered water to the rice. Cover and let it soak overnight.
  2. The next day, steam the rice until cooked through and fold in the sugar while hot until the rice is glossy and the sugar has dissolved completely.
  3. Cut off the top of the pineapple and carve out the flesh inside without damaging the peel.
  4. Add layers of sticky rice and sweet taro paste (easier to work with if you microwave it for a minute or two so it softens) to the pineapple until it is filled, ending with a layer of rice. Top with half (or both halves) of the red date.
  5. Steam until heated through and the date is soft and re-hydrated.
  6. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Taro Pork Floss Morning Buns

  • 6 brioche hamburger buns (unsliced)
  • 3 cups sweet taro paste
  • 3 tbsp kewpie mayonnaise
  • 2 cups sesame and seaweed pork floss, blitzed once or twice in a food processor
  1. Cut a slit into each of the buns to form a pocket (not a clam, that’s just crude).
  2. Pinch the ends of the pocket towards each other so the cavity opens. Stuff in about 1/2 cup of the taro paste. Repeat with the rest of the buns.
  3. Brush the tops of the buns with 1/2 tbsp mayonnaise each.
  4. Dip the tops of the buns in the pork floss until the tops are completely covered.
  5. Enjoy immediately or within 3 days (keep them in the fridge).

Stay safe, love you all. Until next time when I publish my lunar new year recipes.

2 thoughts on “The Diasporic Predicament”

  1. Thanks for sharing and giving us another thoughtful post (and of course beautiful food pics). I’m sorry that it had to be inspired from what I can only imagine is unfathomably frustrating lived experience.

    Looking forward to trying those morning buns sometime this week 😍 never cooked with taro before, thanks for the tip about kitchen gloves!

    1. Thank you so much Maddi. While some experiences have absolutely made me boil, I do consider myself to be tremendously blessed in that the role of those who see and appreciate me for who I am have always far outweighed that of those who don’t. These days I indulge myself looking back on the way I grew up – the friends that chose me (outstanding humans like you), the mentors that shaped me, and my own family, and have been so reminded of how fortunate I have been. That being said, my heart still sinks as I hear and read of what is happening to the Asian community in North America these days.

      I’m glad to hear you’ll be trying the recipe! I hope you like them, let me know how they turn out! 🥰

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