Stories of my grandmothers

I have two sets of grandparents just from my mother's side.  It is an interesting story that if I invest enough time, it would makes for a great novel.  From snippets of story and through conversations, I gathered that my biological grandmother comes from a poor village family and when she was in her teens, she came to her cousin of some distant relation's home to help.  This cousin of hers was wealthy and educated and married to a doctor.  Of course this was during the time when Burma was still a British colony.  They lived in a beautiful grand Victorian home with a garden surrounding the whole property.  They seem to have it all except they couldn't have any children.  The story goes that my grandmother was arranged to get married at the age of seventeen to a local jail warden.  She would then have five children and each child was adopted by her cousin.  My grandmother continued to live in her cousin's home and took care of the house and its residents.  My mother and her siblings were loved and raised by two sets of parents who were in their own ways were polar opposites.  I never really got a chance to get to know my grandfathers but my two grandmothers were important figures in my life.  These two women would continue to raise these children and took care of one another long after their husband's deaths and until my Mommy Gyi (my mother's adopted mother) death.  What I remember most about Mommy Gyi is her loves for antiques and decorating.  Every weekend, I woke up to the sounds of furniture moving.  Of course what I remember the most about my other grandmother, Mommy Choe, is her love for cooking.  I can't though figure out if she loves cooking because she truly loves food or if her love stems from spending her whole life in the kitchen and that is where she now feels comfortable most.  She takes great pride in each dishes.  To this day, she wakes up with the sun rise to walk through local farmer market for her ingredients.  She plans each meal thoughtfully to make sure the vegetable dish would compliments the main meat dish and the soup would enhance the flavor of the side dishes.  Her daughters would beg her to relax and not cook anymore but she ends up sneaking into the kitchen and pushing the cooks out of the kitchen anyway.

I think my grandmother's favorite thing to do is to stand next to you as you take your first bite of the meal.  She watches you with such intensity.  I can tell you that even before each flavor burst in my mouth, I know every bite of her food would be delicious.  Even my father, who is very hard to please, will tell everyone that no one can cook as well as his mother in law.

Sometimes I wonder if half the fun in cooking is actually watching other people enjoy your meals.  Every time I fry the chili oil or find some wonderful treasures at a flea market, I feel I am closer to my grandmothers.  Of course, whenever I cook for friends and I find myself staring intensely as they take their first bites and feel a rush of such excitement. I think to myself how the blood and the memories of these two women are rooted so stronger in my identity.

Recipe courtesy of www.cookingforkeeps.com

Spicy Pumpkin and Butternut Ramen
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Yield: 4
Serving Size: 1 bowl
Easy, thai-style homemade ramen at home and in under 30 minutes!
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 teaspoons minced ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups sliced shitake mushrooms
  • 1 fresno chile (or more depending on your spice tolerance), thinly sliced (plus more for garnish)
  • 1 teaspoon salt 1 ½ cups cubed butternut squash
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 can light coconut milk
  • ½ cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 teaspoons red curry paste
  • 2 small chicken breasts (about 3/4 pound)
  • 3 ounces chinese ramen noodles (not fried)
  1. In a large pot, heat olive oil over a medium-high heat. Add onion, ginger and garlic. Sauté until softened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add mushrooms and chiles, sauté another 2-3 minutes. Add salt and butternut squash. Cook another minute.
  3. Add chicken broth, coconut milk, pumpkin puree, red curry paste and chicken. Reduce heat to a simmer until chicken is cooked through, 7-8 minutes. Remove chicken from pot and shred.
  4. Add chicken back to the pot along with noodles.
  5. Cook until noodles are soft.
  6. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Garnish with sliced chiles and cilantro.


  1. Victoria it is always a beautiful ho or to read about your family. The traditions you carry and devotion you hold is so dear. I can imagine that your cooking is truly delightful. I wish I could eat foods like this but I have terrible sensitivity and allergies to spices and many ingredients that go into such dishes. I have to eat very plain, organic, and clean. Garlic and sea salt and thyme are all I ever use to season with. I have always cooked with only fresh ingredients, home made from scratch...whatever you want to call it and because of that all of my children learned to cook and desire healthy meals. So I will share your recipe withmy daughters whom can eat all these spices and love to try dishes from other countries. My oldest daughter is fery brave in the kitchen. She lives in Oakland and goes to all the different cafe's and dining places the area has to offer. I know she will want to try your recipe.

    You are such a good photographer of food. You are an artist in every area of life. I believe you could do so many things. I think that you are a well spring full of much to give to this world. Keep following your dreams. xx

  2. Victoria I could sit for hours and listen to stories about your parents and Grandparents. You have the knowledge and understanding of a very beautiful culture. I agree with you about the excitement waiting for appreciation and approval from the first taste. I show my love to family and friends by nurturing through food, always have, always will.

    In Winter I make a different soup every week, a huge pot so when we need a little warmth and comfort a bowl of nourishment cradled in your palm feels comforting when the ground is frozen. I love the flavor of Red Curry paste and all the ingredients in your soup so I will definitely print out your recipe and make it very soon.

    What I love most about blogging is the learning and sharing. Thank you Victoria for this lovely share.

  3. Lovely story behind the beautiful food, Victoria. Thank you for the recipe. I think it is something we would try to make, because everyone likes Thai food here, and I use light coconut milk as a cream substitute for my daughter with the thin chinese rice noodles. xoxo Su

  4. Victoria, you are blessed to have two sets of people that loved you so much! I loved reading the history of your unique family. Beautiful photos! Thank you for sharing!

  5. Your ramen looks delicious and I love anything with butternut. How special to have both sets of grandmothers and their love of cooking and decorating-No wonder you have so much talent!

  6. A wealth of family history is what nurturers ones soul, I can see the strength in culture here for you my dear, and your cooking family meals is always a beautiful bounty to pass down to family ( your girls! )
    I do this with my family heritage in meals. Nothing says family like a fresh home cooked meal. Soups and salads are a favorite here as well.
    And garden fresh from local organic farms is what we choose as well.

    Love your photos they tell your story well, perhaps a small family cook book you could put to get here of your grandmas and family recipes and have it printed out and bound at a local print shop like a Staples store. You can then pass one each to your girls? This is what my mother had done for everyone in our family. It's a treasure to behold, and something that moves on in history. Your girls will love having family of old and you can add some of what food inspire you as well.
    A short story as to the founder of the foods as my mom did for us :)

    Have a most beautiful weekend, be yourself, create joyfully, and pass on history we adore this about you.


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