Chinese like the Chinese don’t have

It feels like the coldest year of the day today. I wore my fur-lined heavy leather jacket when I went shopping this morning, complete with a scarf I end up folding over my freshly barbered head to keep the chill out.

It’s a good weather to make a hearty, warming meal. I’ve just finished making a dish that in my home growing up we would quaintly call ‘Chinese’ – some mongrel variant on Chow Mein supposedly. I always thought it was a meal unique to our family. It was Nanny’s recipe, my mum’s mum, concocted in a time – the 1940’s perhaps, perhaps the 1950’s – when there was little real conception of what Chinese food was. To my surprise I found out a few years ago that other families had their own, very similar versions, of it. I still don’t know if it’s just a Melbourne thing, or Australia wide, or God knows beyond that (pretty sure that would exclude China itself). In any case, I used to love it growing up, and have had it probably once a year since.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a recipe for it. It’s one of those recipes handed down by experience, and likely adapted along the way. It’s been a couple of years since I made it, and so had to scratch my head first up.

Basically, if I remember right, it’s beef mince with curry powder, onion, beef stock, a packet of chicken noodle soup, soy sauce, and a mass of cabbage (I don’t think I’ve ever seen cabbage in an authentic Chinese recipe), all sort of thrown together and dispensed by instinct and taste. It’s bubbling on the stove now, the cabbage piled high wilting and shrinking and being absorbed into the mix. I’ll fix myself a steaming bowl of it tonight with some steamed rice, and will better for it – physically, and nostalgically.

And, can’t let it go – finished the first draft of my book this afternoon. 87,123 words. I start tomorrow on the next draft, many changes in mind.

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