Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Chinese Roast Chicken with 5 Spice Which My Dad Disapproved

My friend told me after she and her boyfriend broke up, she went back and cried on her dad's shoulder. I was shocked. You can do that?! It is like a colour that I cannot even imagine. My dad made a surprise visit to San Francisco a couple months ago. Partly it is because of the Chinese culture, the fathers tend to be very serious and distanced, and they believe in tough love. I remember when I was a kid, I asked my dad, "Dad, how come you never compliment us on anything?" He said, "Whenever I'm not saying anything, that's a compliment."

I guess that is part of the reason why I'm so distanced from him. Because that gives me the illusion that he is not saying anything, and it is a compliment. When he arrived at my apartment building, he insisted on carrying his luggage. I grabbed the luggage from his hands and started walking up the stairs. After we reached the top floor where my apartment is located, I realized he was breathing heavily. I think as daughters, we always forget our parents have aged. And they forget we are grown ups. His eye brows are growing so long and curling up. He is quite proud of them actually. He was also proud of my car's powerful rumble. He didn't say anything about it, but he took out his new digital camera, and asked me to stand beside my car.

During his stay, I made Chinese roast chicken with 5 spice for him. While I was busy in the kitchen, he was reading Chinese newspaper, word by word, silently. When we had dinner, he was commenting on everything. Why didn't you put more salt on the chicken? Roast chickens in China tastes so much better than this. Why didn't you put some bouillon powder in the vegetable stir fry... When I was doing the dishes, I thought of how stupid I was to cook him a Chinese meal and give him one more chance to criticize me. I even spent $14 to buy a top quality free range organic chicken from Berkeley Bowl and then stood in line to pay for that damn misery.

While I was driving him around the city, there were tons of posters for the movie I worked on, in the bus stations, and on billboards everywhere. I was one of the tailors for this movie, which I am proud of. I got to see some of my work on a big screen. But I didn't bother to point that out to him. I guess all our lives, we try so hard to get our parents' approval, ranging from roasting a chicken to having a career. I can cook a fantastic 9 course French dinner and I work in a reputable computer animation company, but it might not mean anything to him after all.

After I drove him to the airport, I came home and felt such a relief that my life was back to normal. When I walked into my bedroom, on the drawer chest, there was a picture of me standing beside my car with an awkward facial expression. I don't know when my dad got that printed out. Next to the picture there were a little webcam, a package of bootleg Chinese typesetting software, and a writing tablet. Unfortunately, none of them are compatible with my laptop, which I think he didn't quite understand. It is the thought that counts. Well, I don't know Chinese typesetting, and he doesn't read in English. But there is always a beginning on everything. Perhaps he didn't hate my Chinese roast chicken with 5 spice that much after all.


Chinese Roast Chicken with 5 spice


1 chicken (about 2-3 pounds)
salt and pepper
3 tbsp 5 spice (it is available in most Chinese supermarket)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
a few slices of ginger and some green onion

Preheat oven 450 degree
rub chicken with vegetable, 5 spice, and sprinkle salt and pepper. I like to rain a thin layer of salt evenly over the skin. It will give you a result of a crispy salty skin. Sprinkle some in the cavity, too. Put the ginger slices and green onion in the cavity. Tie legs with strings.

Put chicken in a roasting pan, breast side up. Stick a meat thermometer at the thigh of the chicken. Bake chicken for 20 minutes. Then turn the heat to 375 degree, and make for another 30 mins to 40 mins, depending on the size of the chicken, or until the internal temperature reaches 180 degree. Discard ginger and green onion in the cavity. Let chicken rest for 15 minutes before you serve.


  1. My good friend J told me that she dropped a few drop of tears after reading your post.

    This is a modern san francisco version of "my father's back" (i.e.the famous chinese literature work from Zhu Ziqing). Relationship with parents are always complicated, especially for us - who are at the crossroads between chinese and western cultures - while we find ourselves longing to enjoy the freedom and individualism, we also feel ourselves are labeled and our achievement are evaluated by a set of traditional values. Sometimes, I feel helplessness. It's my life that I want to chase my dream rather than follow the traditional values/path set by our parents, but they gave us life and love us unconditionally. Still learning how to close to culture and generation gap ...

    btw, dont jealous - dad did compliment me once, for the curry chicken that I made. I was using frozen chicken from china and malaysian curry paste (that I bought from my last KL trip). After we finished the chicken, he ended up drinking the remaining curry like soup. I guess he is used to the food that similar to what grandma made when he was a kid. I am sure the 5 spices roasted chicken tastes very yummy but guess he is too old to accept new tastes... -_-

  2. I think "grow" means "change", "change" means "be different". As I grow up, I change what I was and can’t return to the state I was before.

    I believe my achievement is my proud and I want my parents to proud of me because of my achievements. In my parents view point, they may think having a good family and health are more important than what I got from work.

    Who is right? Time will tell when I reach their age. It may not matter who is right. Everyone can raise his/her believe. I shouldn’t feel hurt if my parents disagree with me cause it just a result of viewing in different value systems.

    Parents are always "grown up" compare to me. I think generation gaps are unavoidable but the gap can be closer by communication.

    It sounds like an old saying that everyone knew. However, I just didn’t do it at the time I should. Why? I think everyone has his/her reasons. One thing I learnt after I lost the chance, the "grow up" eagerly wants to understand me too. They just forgot how they think when they were kids because "grow" erase it from their memory.

    It is never too late to again communicate. If I see something should be done, such as the floor should be vacuumed, I am the one to do it. If I think someone else should do it not me, my relationship with family will be broken one day when those complains cumulated.

    Try to begin with something in your daily life. No need to worry too much about how they feel if I tell them this and that. Talking daily life won’t hurt. When you disclose to them, they disclose themselves too. I should be confident to who I am. I believe it is OK to be different from them. They may worry and misunderstand even more if they don't know who I am today.

    From understanding more of parents and enjoying the relationship, you may have another prospective to see the world and the next generation.

    I wish one day you will invite your father to taste a 5 spice chicken again. You may say "Dad, this is the most tasty children in the world; you can't find anywhere else because your daughter cook it." He may still say something this and that. He knows this is your offer from heart. He will feel warm in his heart too. You know, man is most stupid creature to understand woman heart.