An Ode to Portable Food

Two food items that rock my world right now are striking in their similarity: hand sized portions of a starch jammed with filling, gift wrapped and steamed to edible perfection.

I am grateful that my place, both on the planet and in history, allow for these foods to coexist in my diet because the origin locations are about as distant from one another as is physically possible. Chinese zongzi (glutenous rice dumplings) are usually wrapped in bamboo leaves into a pyramid shape and filled with things like cubes of roasted pork, boiled eggs, shredded chicken, taro, and Chinese sausage. The ones pictured, from Kam Man supermarket on Canal Street,  have a filling of azuki beans, boiled peanuts, and shiitake mushrooms.

The tamale stand in my ‘hood is run by a mother & son from  Oaxaca. The mother does the cooking, wrapping and steaming her tamales in corn husks after filling them with chicken in salsa verde, pork in salsa roja , picante queso & vegetables, or a sweet version studded with raisins.

Zongzi and tamales are serious comfort foods, despite neither being part of my experience till long after my childhood.

Roaming Hostess: How to Throw a Party and Move at the Same Time

In between cramming cardboard boxes full of my belongings, I made a big pot of chili and a double batch of pico de gallo the day before moving. After the long day that followed, I threw a housewarming party that featured a homemade meal. Hearty, satisfying, and personal, it was the perfect way to feed my the friends who volunteered to help and introduce myself to my new roommates. And it doesn’t get more PRACTICAL: easy to make, the flavor only improves after a night in the fridge, economical, vegetarian, gluten-free, and interactive (bowls of mix-ins like cheese, sour cream, and bacon pieces allow every palate to be satisfied). Another bit of gold: mix pico de gallo into some mashed avocado and presto, fresh guacamole.

Pico de Gallo

  • 4-5 diced tomatoes, cored and seeded
  • 1/2 diced red onion
  • 2 big cloves minced garlic
  • 1 diced jalapeno
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, stems removed
  • juice of 1 lime
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Drum roll, please:
    Combine all ingredients.