A Delicious Mother’s Day Remembrance

My Mom was like the Chinese-American June Cleaver.

For those of you too young to remember the 1960’s black-and-white television comedy, “Leave It to Beaver,” actress Barbara Billingsley played Mrs. Cleaver, a devoted wife in suburbia, caring for her hard-working husband, and two sons — the elder, Wally, and the younger, mischievous, Theodore “Beaver” Cleaver.

No matter what scrapes Beaver got into, Mrs. Cleaver never had a hair out of place.

And no matter if she was just vacuuming or tidying up the house, June Cleaver was always decked out immaculately in a fitted shirt, bouffant skirt, heels, and pearls.

My late-Mom may not have gone that far. But she was close.

My cousin Gary jokes that at a family barbecue at his house years ago, where everyone else turned up in T-shirts, jeans, shorts or chinos, there was my Mom — in a smart skirt and blouse ensemble, with a jade bracelet on her wrist.

There were no “Casual Fridays” back when she was working, so this was my Mom’s uniform, so to speak, whether she was at work at her office in San Francisco, or chatting with visiting relatives in her living room at home.

Even when she did housework, my Mom dressed in a simple shift, with buttons down the front or a zipper up the back, which she often had sewed, herself.

The idea of sweats or shorts on the weekends never entered her imagination. I don’t recall her wearing a pair of jeans. Nope, not ever.

In fact, I rarely even saw her in slacks. I think she only owned a pair or two. And they came out of the closet only to be packed in a suitcase when she and my Dad would take a cruise.

I look at old snapshots of her now and that’s the Mom that I see. Graceful, delicate, dainty, and neat as a pin.

Which is why whenever I make her dish of “Prawns with Pork and Black Bean Sauce,” I can’t help but smile, because it’s a bit messy.

Oh, not in the way that eating cracked crab or chicken wings with your fingers is. It’s a fine, eat-with-a-fork dish of juicy prawns sauteed with onions, green bell pepper, garlic, ginger and fermented black beans. But it has irregular chunks of ground, rather than neatly sliced, pork in it. And at the last minute on the stovetop, a beaten egg gets stirred into the whole shebang quickly, so that it coats everything, lending it a velvety body, and a rather sloppy looking consistency.

It’s a non-perfect looking dish from a woman who was almost always well turned out.  And that’s what makes me love it so.

Prawns with Pork and Black Bean Sauce

(Serves 4 as part of a family-style dinner)

1 pound medium or jumbo prawns, shelled and deveined

1 tablespoons cornstarch

1 tablespoon dark soy sauce

1/4 teaspoon sesame oil

Peanut or vegetable oil for cooking

1/2 pound lean ground pork

2 tablespoons salted and fermented black beans, rinsed and crushed

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger OR 1-inch piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and minced

3 tablespoons oyster sauce

1 green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch dice

1 small onion, cut into 1-inch dice

1/2 cup chicken broth

2 teaspoons cornstarch, mixed with 3 tablespoons cold water

1 egg, slightly beaten

Mix prawns with 1 tablespoon cornstarch, dark soy sauce and sesame oil. Marinate mixture in the refrigerator for about half an hour.

On medium heat, add a little peanut or vegetable oil to a nonstick skillet or wok. Add shrimp, browning lightly on each side. Once browned, transfer prawns to a plate; set aside.

Heat wok again on medium heat, add ground pork, black beans, minced garlic, ginger, and oyster sauce. Cook mixture until pork is no longer pink, stirring frequently, and adding bell pepper and onion just before pork is done. Next, add prawns, chicken broth and dissolved cornstarch, and stir until mixture thickens. Finally, rapidly stir in beaten egg.

Serve with steamed rice.

From May Jung

More: My Mom’s Steamed Pork Cake with Salted Fish

More: My Mom’s Tomato Beef Chow Mein

More: My Version of My Mom’s Sticky Rice

More: My Version of My Mom’s Jook

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  • she reminds me so much about my mom–so neat and proper and her food is amazing

  • What a beautiful post about your mom and thank you so much for sharing her special recipe, the dish sounds terrific!

  • A beautiful dish to remember your mother by. She sounded like an amazing woman. Hope Mother’s day leaves you with a lot of happy memories.
    *kisses* HH

  • Thanks for sharing memories of your mom. Reminds me of my impeccably dressed, Tokyo-born mom.

  • I’ve never heard of this dish. Sounds like the precursor to a won ton filling! πŸ™‚ Your mom totally sounds like the opposite of my mom. Not that my mom was a slob, but she was just probably tired from chasing the five of us around!

  • That’s my favourite…prawns! Looks very delicious. Would be perfect with rice. I have not tried it with pork. Would love to try. The way you described your mom amuses me. I’m just the opposite. I have every excuse here….to cold to wear skirts. My poor legs will be freeze…haha

  • Lovely article, Carolyn. My mom was never neat because she had mental issues, but boy could she cook! Too bad her arthritis won’t let her cook anymore, or I’d invite you to eat at her place. BTW – have you eaten at Cooking Papa’s yet (on Homestead in Santa Clara)? The food is a lot like mom’s cooking – I found dishes there I hadn’t eaten since I was a kid.

  • Thanks for the recipe and memories of your treasured mom.
    Happy Mother’s Day to all.

  • I see emotional ties than a messy dish in an impressive post.

  • Thanks for sharing your beautiful memories of your mom. I hope my mom will never leave me but if she did, I would have nothing but happy memories of her as well. She’s a very casual woman and we treat each other like friends. I’m really looking forward to spending Mother’s Day with her.

  • This is such a nice tribute to your Mom, and I love that she made this messy dish. Messy usually means delicious, and I bet this follows that rule!

  • What a lovely post! Your mother sounds like a real lady! And clearly she could cook. This looks amazing.

  • what a sweet homage to your mother, carolyn! that black bean sauce would be quite welcome in my belly at any given time. πŸ™‚

  • Wonderful recipe-perfect for Mother’s Day. Have a great weekend!

  • How come, when we remember the best times in our lives, it always gravitates back to food and family? Our mothers must have been around the same age. Pork and seafood- classic combination! BTW, I loved the “Leave it to Beaver” throw back. Should I mention Hugh, Wally and, of course, Eddie and Lumpie! Happy Mother’s Day. πŸ™‚

  • Jai: Lumpy!! Oh man, I nearly forgot about him. Those boys were such a hoot. I should channel surf to see if I can still find the show on the air somewhere. πŸ˜‰

  • Another beautiful post. My mother passed away two years ago on 5/5, and this mother’s day, my brother is going to pray her with sticky rice with coconut milk and durian! One of her favorites.

  • Such is a dish we will not get to eat in any restaurant where sometimes look almost perfect but never taste so. With irregular chunks of meat certainly made it family-style, kinda Mom’s signature and spell comfort-delicious.

  • I loved the story of your mother, she sounds like an incredible woman – and the Leave It to Beaver comparison is great, I have such a strong visual image of her now.

    This dish sounds so tasty and to me looks about perfect. Messy is good, as I am just going to dig into it with my chopsticks anyway. I cannot wait to recreate this meal it just sounds packed with flavor.

  • What a beautiful dish, it does look like a celebration dish, and what’s better for mother’s day!

  • I loved reading this wonderful tribute to your mother– she sounds like an amazing person. My mom had lots of “messy” dishes in her cooking repertoire. Messy, to me, means comfort food — usually served with rice. It’s home cooking at its best. Thank you for sharing a such a delicious dish and lovely memory!

  • No matter how long our mothers have passed, they’ll be always on our minds.

    Many of the best tasting dishes aren’t always the most “photogenic”, but they’re the most memorable such as this dish.

  • Your mom sounds like someone very impressive, yet at the same time, not to be messed with! πŸ™‚ Loved this post.

  • Such a wonderful tribute to your Mother! She sounds so classy. You would make her very proud! And such a delicious looking dish too – I’m looking forward to seeing more of your Mum’s recipes.

  • Your mum is like Bree in desperate housewives! I love her, so proper and classy =) Great post about your mum!

  • This is just a lovely post, Carolyn–it evokes an entire era for me…I can’t wait to try the recipe, too…

  • I love reading about your parents. These posts are written with such love and deep affection.
    If you every compile your recipes into a cookbook I will be one of the first ones in line to buy it!

  • combining meat and seafood can be exciting and yet can be not a very easy task either! πŸ™‚

  • What a lovely, heartfelt, tribute to your mom.

    My daughters and I cook in the kitchen together on Sundays and have made your Pork with Brussels Sprouts & Black Bean Sauce. We all love it(it’s a fav around here), and I know we will enjoy trying this one too. I will share your story with them while we cook.

  • Hi Carolyn, I love your description of your late mom…the recipe sounds really delicious too! a very fitting tribute for Mother’s day!

  • Pingback: Food Gal » Blog Archiv » No Dill-y-Dallying to This Dish

  • Not only did my mother not own shorts, she had a fit when I wore them. When I would go back to NC, she would always insist that women didn’t wear shorts there, even though I could point out dozens who did!

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