Cooking and eating with Mom — Food writers share stories about their mothers and food

Compiled by Pat Tanumihardja
For Northwest Asian Weekly

Image by Denise Sakaki

For many, food is the link to cultural roots, the lens through which we view our culture. Through food, we learn about traditions (eating noodles for longevity) and values (allowing elders first dibs at the food as a sign of respect). Most importantly, food can be a conduit for love. Whether we’re eating chicken soup on sick days or store-bought chocolate cake on birthdays, mothers have often been the source of this love.

Here, some of Seattle’s best known food writers and bloggers share fond food memories, with their moms in the starring roles.

Alice Currah and her mother, Chungsook Sorrell. (Curry photo by Andrey)

Alice Currah

“I’ll never forget the day when I made Japanese curry in a pressure cooker. My mother used to prepare this for us growing up, and it’s a family favorite. My late father also enjoyed it. He passed away later the same year when he was hit by a car while crossing the street. My siblings and their families, as well as my family, were honoring my mom with a Mother’s Day potluck dinner that also included rice, salad, fresh fruit, garlic sesame king salmon, and asparagus. Mom, unfamiliar with this type of pot, grabbed the release valve from the lid. The whole family and I watched the curry spew from the valve opening like a violent volcano and cover our white dining room ceiling like a coat of fresh mustard-yellow paint. Mom was horrified but found some comic relief when she joined my siblings and me in a moment of uncontrollable laughter.”

Alice Currah is the author of “The Savory Sweet Life Cookbook: 100 Simply Delicious Meals for Every Family Occasion” and popular food blog She writes a bi-weekly column for PBS and was named by Forbes as One of the Best Food Bloggers.

Jen Chiu

Jen Chiu

“It was May 1998, and I was home from college. I bought my mom, Nancy, flowers and planned on cooking up a dinner feast in commemoration of Mother’s Day. As usual, my mother beat me to it. On the day when moms around the country are getting pedicures and massages, my mom was multitasking and bouncing back and forth like a madwoman, preparing my favorite dishes, which included green onion pancakes, her famous sweet and sour shrimp, and spicy tofu lettuce wraps, to celebrate my homecoming. She even bought egg custard tarts from my favorite Chinese bakery. As I was taking my last bite, she popped up from the table and started doing the dishes. That particular memory is special to me because I always took my mother’s natural inclination to cook for us for granted. As a kid, I always wished she would show more obvious forms of affection. It wasn’t until that day that I realized her way of showing her maternal side was through cooking for us.”

Jen Chiu of, a food/travel/lifestyle blog, writes a weekly food truck column for the Seattle Weekly and is on the brink of launching an iPhone application. was awarded King 5’s Best Food Blog of Western Washington.

Shirley Karasawa

Photo by Han Bui/NWAW

Shirley Karasawa

“My fondest and funniest memory of cooking with my mom was baking American-style cookies and cupcakes with her. She learned to bake by watching neighbors as a teenager when she first moved to the United States from Korea. She made everything really big, so her cookies were always huge, and her cupcakes would overflow their liners. They weren’t perfect and beautiful like other American moms’ baked goods, but they always tasted the best. When I asked Mom why she made everything so big, she told me, ”So you don’t have to eat so many, and it’s bad luck to make anything too small.” My mom always has an answer for everything.”

Shirley Karasawa is an American born in Paris, France. She was raised in Tokyo, Japan. She is a Japanese cooking instructor and has taught classes at Williams Sonoma, Whole Foods, Tom Douglas’ Culinary Summer Camp, and the Dahlia Workshop. She writes a Japanese Home Cooking blog,

(left to right) Christine’s mother, Linda Sidik with Christine’s son, Samurai, and Christine Ng.

Christine Ng

“Growing up, I wasn’t allowed in the kitchen often because my family thinks that kids should pursue their education instead of “playing” in the kitchen. So it was really special when my mom and I cooked together for the very first time on Thanksgiving in 2010. All my life, I had seen my mom as this strict lady. I had never seen her giggle the way she did on the day we had the “funky” turkey. Let’s just say the turkey’s position was suggestive. Before that incident, I didn’t think my mom could joke about stuff like that. Outside the kitchen, we’re mother and daughter. She is the boss and she lets us know it. But inside the kitchen, we’re best friends and equals. In the kitchen, she considers my opinions, but outside the kitchen, her opinions are best. It made me realize that cooking together can enrich relationships.”

Christine Ng is the author of She works as a cook at a restaurant in Seattle, and she dreams of attending culinary school in the near future.

Dave Nguyen and his mother, Nga Huynh


Dave Nguyen

“Last summer, I visited Vietnam for the first time. I was really pumped to spend time with family, learn the lifestyle and history, and eat some authentic food. We were eating at a food court in Nha Trang, and I ordered the pork chop with broken rice, while my mom and the rest of the family ordered banh canh bot loc, a noodle soup dish. I was not feeling like soup on this 85-degree day. When the food arrived, I took one bite of the dry pork chop and thought, “This is bad!” My mom saw my reaction and offered me a taste of her soup. The noodles were made from tapioca and served in a crab soup base with chunks of a crab and mixed pork loaf. It was super delicious! My mom saw how happy I was and gave me her bowl of soup. I realized then that throughout my life, my mom has always put me before herself. My mom sacrificing her meal that day just to see me happy was another testament of the things she does to continually express her love for me.”

Dave Nguyen was born and raised in Seattle. He is an internal auditor, CPA, by day, and he chronicles his dining experiences on his blog by night.

Denise Sakaki and her mother, Stephanie

Denise Sakaki

“I remember when my mother taught me how to prepare rice. I felt like the rookie benchwarmer finally being called up to bat when she handed me the plastic scoop to start measuring out the opaque, stubby grains. I heard that familiar metallic hiss as they scattered into the aluminum cooking pot. She made sure that I didn’t forget to wash the rice. I flooded the pot with cold water and swirled it with my hand to agitate the excess starch from the grains. I asked her how many times I needed to do this and if there is a precise number of rinses or method, and she simply said, “It’s done when the water runs clear.” She watched me as I washed the rice, carefully draining the milky water. I’m sure I lost more than a few grains, and I still do. With the cooking water added, she let me click the ‘on’ button and let modern technology take over. When that familiar steamy, slightly sweet smell of cooked rice started to perfume the air, it was dinner time, and something simple, but important, was passed on.”

Denise Sakaki is a food writer, photographer, and graphic designer. She cooks meals and posts them on her blog (end)

Pat Tanumihardja is the author of “The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook — Home Cooking from Asian American Kitchens.” Visit her blog at

Pat Tanumihardja can be reached at

One Response to “Cooking and eating with Mom — Food writers share stories about their mothers and food”


  1. […] I did a mini mother’s day write-up on NW Asian Weekly on a memorable Mother’s Day experience. Love you […]

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