BY Albert Lin

Serves 1. You will need:

Return plane ticket


Rice cooker





Spring onion

Frozen peas

Frozen corn

Olive oil


1.     Move overseas for half a year.

2.     Come to the realisation that you'll need to cook for yourself.

3.     Discover your local Asian grocery store, one of the few constants from home.

4.     Lug a 10 kilo bag of rice back to your flat, as if you were once again helping your dad carry groceries.

5.     Discover that you cannot cook dumplings, buns, or anything frozen that would make your life infinitely easier.

6.     Call your mother, halfway across the globe, and ask for recipes and advice.

7.     Borrow your flatmate's rice cooker, and use it more than he does.

8.     Measure out the rice and the water with the tip of your finger, like your grandmother taught you all those years ago. Mess up, somehow, anyway.

9.     Chop up onions and garlic and carrots and spring onions, knuckles to the flat of the knife, remembering how your mother watched over you and made sure you didn't cut yourself.

10. Cut yourself.

11. Apply a band-aid and wonder what kind of Chinese medicine your grandma would have insisted on using.

12. Cook a stir-fry in a too-small wok, and try to toss and catch the food.

13. Clean half your meal off the wall.

14. Add frozen peas and corn, enough to add colour to the dish, but not enough to impact it in any meaningful way. Wonder if it's as colourful as the fried rice your mother made.

15. Repeat, again and again, as you try to capture the essence of the place you call home.

16. Fail, again and again, as you start to realise that the ingredients aren't the same. The place isn't the same. You're not the same.

17. Start a herb garden, planting the stems of the spring onions in a way that you're sure your parents didn't do, but they'd appreciate you trying.

18. Call your mother, every week, like she wanted you to.

19. Go travelling, and realise that even the poor caricature of your parents' cooking that you managed is better than nothing. That, more than just umami and dumplings and fried rice, what you miss most is less about the food, and more who you ate with. Who cooked it. Who taught you to cook.

20. Return home, and take in what you've missed. Take in the saffron summer sunsets you traded for a symphony of strange sights. Voraciously devour the views that vanished from your life for far too long. Hug your mother, and father, and grandma, as they pester you about what you did and what you saw. Accept that, after 550 meals or so, you are finally, finally, home.

21. Order Japanese takeout.

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