It’s that time of year again, everyone. Another revolution around the sun is approaching, and it’s time to gather your closest friends and family to reflect, appreciate, and celebrate. Like 2020, for me, 2021 was its own swath of problems. I’ll publish a longer post on this later, probably when I reflect on my 2021 goals, to dive into my year some more, but for now, I’ll say that being jobless and at a crossroads of my career is as much frightening as it is liberating. Things may not always turn out how you expect them too, but one thing’s for certain: eating together with your closest friends is always a fun time.

Projectime Time: ~2 weeks from idea to conception, 2 hours for blog post.

Famsgiving 2021

Before getting into the meal, I want to emphasize the value of tradition and how tradition creates community. I’ve been doing a lot (too much) reflecting on the past couple of years and have come to realize that everyone should have something to look forward to. Keeping your head down on work and never giving your second to swim to the surface to breath can become unhealthy, borderline suffocating. What I’ve found most helpful for my sanity has been to plan small wins to look forward to. It can be as small as a walk around your block or going to the gym; it can be as grand as hosting a ten person dinner party for the OGs. For me this year, it has been concerts and going to the gym a few times a week. It’s these traditions you make for yourself and communities around you that can end up having a must larger positive impact in your life than you may expect.

Famsgiving is one of these traditions I want to make essential in my life. I love cooking and love cooking for my friends even more. As much as holidays are national traditions, we can take this idea and apply it to my life. Famsgiving commemorates and celebrates the people I cherish most in my life. Hopefully, the people I celebrate with grows to include the worldwide animanga community, but more on that later …

Preparation

Since I was planning on having about double the number of guests this year, I wanted to be especially prudent in my preparation. A kitchen’s success during meal time is dictated almost entirely by the hours and hours of work leading up to it. Luckily, the preparation for this meal was surprisingly straightforward. I guess all the cooking I’ve done in the last year is starting to pay off, where now I’m rather proficient at planning how to gather the ingredients and in which order I should cook the dishes. Wake up, shop the Asian markets, pick up paper plates, start prepping. Start the soups first because they need to simmer for a while, prep all the slow cooked dishes, cook the stir fried dishes last. It’s quite elementary my dear Reader.

Menu

Time for Dinner

Food 1

God DAMN, what a spread. I’m just going to list the dishes starting from the top of the picture. On the top right of the place mats, there are some bean sprouts sauteed in garlic, soy sauce, and Lao Gan Ma aka Chinese crack. Right beneath that, we have some Hong Shao Rou (in the style my mom would usually make it so way less fat) and scrambled eggs with celery. Then comes some hearty boys. One steamed striped bass and a lovely tub of Nikugaja (Japanese homestyle meat and potatoes). Shoutout to Torikom – the scene where Komatsu prepares the Shining Gourami (in the manga its actually tempura but fuck it) – and Monster – Dr. Tenma makes Nikujaga for the man who teaches him how to use a gun and his daughter. At the bottom of the table, we have a fried rice cake dish made with chinese sausage and this salty vegetable called Xue Li Hong. Edit: just remembered that there was another bowl of scrambled eggs but this time with yellow chives that was spectacular.

Out of this first round of food, the Nikujaga and the scrambled eggs with yellow chives were personally my favorite. I think I overcooked the Hong Shao Rou because it was a little bit on the dry side, and chinese sausage in the fried rice cake was also a mistake because it doesn’t make the dish as juicy and similarly textured as something like shredded pork would.

Food 2

So I ended up steaming two bass but finished preparing them different. The first was really basic. I steamed it for about 12-15 minutes and basted it with the sauces I steamed it with. The second fish had some ~technique~. Along with the final baste, I also topped the first off with a clump of chives and poured hot oil over it. Honestly, I was really doubting that that would make a difference, but it ended up tasting way better than the first fish. Maybe it was a stroke of luck this time. Gonna have to try this out on more fish.

Food 3

This glorious soup above is famous amongst sumo wrestlers in Japan: Chanko Nabe. Traditionally, sumo wrestlers eat this soup for health and to bulk. I kind of blew it with this one because I forgot the crucial chicken meatballs, but it’s alright, the broth was extremely savory and the copious amount of chicken thighs in the soup were enough (probably) to do the traditionalists justice.

Not shown above was honestly the crown jewel of the dinner, a Chinese Oxtail soup. That soup went dummy hard and I’m definitely going to make it again and again and again. I let the bones sit and simmer for over 6 hours, so you best believe the broth was as rich as it can get.

In a year as uniquely chaotic as any, I find it a gift to mental health – mine and my peers – to take the time to pay that appreciation forward. In gestures big or small, your friends are the ones in your corner. My Day 1’s are the people who have seen it all and have been with me for every mangled move I made. I believe there’s no better way to be together than to share a home cooked meal. It’s the least I can do for them. Alright, stopping this here before it gets too cringe.

Special Shoutouts

This lovely dinner would not have been possible without the help and support of my friends and familly. Gotta give credit where credit is due, so without further adooo.

  • All manga that inspired this menu – Monster ~ Naoki Urasawa, One Punch Man ~ Murata, Toriko, Kingdom ~ Hara, Grand Blue
  • The Mother: Shoutout my mom for lending me this claypot and WOK.
  • Hao Nguyen for the big table blessings. Making sure we aren’t eating on the ground.
  • Advait for supplying some #lemons and some #dranks
  • Everyone else for coming and being part of the Famsgiving Tradition.

Cover Photo: Cheesin' with the homies <3. I swear my friend group is more diverse than this …