Comfort Food Requires No Recipe

Comfort food should not require a recipe. Especially if you make it for yourself. If comfort food is to nourish your soul and body, then it needs to be easy-peasy to make or buy when you want it, crave for it.

Soft German pretzels, not buttery nor too soft. Another comfort food I adopted after knowing Jack. St. Lawrence Market, Toronto 2014.
Soft German pretzels, not buttery nor too soft. Another comfort food I adopted after knowing Jack. St. Lawrence Market, Toronto 2014.

Comfort food is what you instinctively turn to when you’re down, tired, alone or you are or have been sick. Or when you’ve been travelling for several weeks in a foreign country and suddenly you pine wistfully for that comfort food.

Comfort food that has childhood roots --Chinese savoury steamed custard with slices of beef, soy sauce, onion, ginger root. Food when I'm tired, sick or homesick when travelling for weeks overseas or on the bike.
Comfort food that has childhood roots –Chinese savoury steamed custard with slices of beef, soy sauce, onion, ginger root. Food when I’m tired, sick or homesick when travelling for weeks overseas or on the bike.

Not Chips, Pop Nor Gelato
My first comfort food is drawn from childhood into adult years. It is not pop, chips, cookies nor gelato, though I enjoy chowing down such indulgences except for pop.

When I was vacationing in Greece for 3 weeks, towards the end I started to lust for …Chinese savory steamed egg custard with sliced meat and abit of soy sauce. With maybe some sautéed bok choy or green beans on the side. A little pat of rice.

Now it’s light noodles on the side. I know. Weird. How ethnic. Why not? I did eat Chinese cuisine at home most of the time well into my teens. This egg comfort dish has peasant roots, is not spicy and calming on a tender stomach. A morale and energy booster after a long winter cold and fever. Or even just relaxing on a pleasant summer day.

Comfort Food Longevity Over Decades, a Lifespan
While at university in the midst of the study grind, I used to brainlessly and happily cook this dish for myself. After slicing a fistful of meat and marinating it for 5-10 min. in a bit of soy sauce and oil with flour and steaming it in a pot, this dish for 1 person is ready in 15 minutes.

Partially steamed beef slices with a bit of soy sauce, onion, etc. serves as the base befoe pouring in 1 beaten egg or some egg whites with 1/8 c. of water into steaming dish.
Partially steamed beef slices with a bit of soy sauce, onion, etc. serves as the base befoe pouring in 1 beaten egg or some egg whites with 1/8 c. of water into steaming dish.

It’s egg, some meat protein nourishment and light sauteed veggies on the side, that makes my world feel normal all over again.

As my culinary horizons expanded, when I started to earn money and venture out into the world, other comfort foods joined my list: peameal bacon sandwich with generous dollop of Dijon mustard when I’m in Toronto. In Vancouver, it’s steamed fresh salmon with abit of soy sauce, ginger root and onion.

When I lived in each of these cities, I adopted these favourite comfort foods like a pair of warm mittens.

Another comfort food from knowing German cuisine through Jack, is a real German baked soft pretzel that’s not buttery nor greasy. If it’s the latter, then it’s so American and just not right in my opinion. A soft pretzel with the right lauden finish, a thin firm crust, is better than a heavy bagel. I can eat 2 pretzels without guilt. Unfortunately fresh pretzels meeting such basic, original Old World criteria, are hard to find, even in big cities with over 1 million people where I’ve lived.

Zaatar flatbread or what they call "pie". A favourite Lebanese snack from a bakery during local bike rides. Spices on top include sumach. Bubbly pastry is just from baking on the grill before flatbread is lightly reheated for customers. Calgary, AB 2014.
Zaatar flatbread or what they call “pie”. A favourite Lebanese snack from a bakery during local bike rides. Spices on top include sumach. Bubbly pastry is just from baking on the grill before flatbread is lightly reheated for customers. Calgary, AB 2014.

Comfort Food May Look Ugly, Plain –But It’s Yummy
Now I’m sure it’s easy to make this Lebanese comfort food which looks very plain-ugly. It’s zaatar flabread –simply a thin baked wheat flatbread sprinkled with brown fine sumac spices that is served, rolled up and hot after it’s been warmed up on the grill. I haven’t been drawn to other variations with tomato or feta cheese and spinach. I’m just happy with this basic thin piece of spicy carb with a jot of red, spicy hot sauce, in the middle of my bike ride.

Sure, I rhapsodize about fine gelatos, prawns, smoked salmon, Chinese sticky rice packets (sticky rice embedded with meat goodies, egg or lentil beans then steam-wrapped with bamboo or lotus leaves) or tamales (with real corn husks). But just give me the watery egg custard steamed with small thin slices of beef, chicken or pork: I will be content and sleep like a baby. And yes, we have no written family recipe. It’s that easy to make.

What’s your comfort food, your culinary arsenal for yourself and has it changed over time?  Check in below,  your response in this fun, totally unscientific poll.

<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/feast/”>Feast</a&gt;

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41 Comments Add yours

  1. I actually do not know if I have something like comfort food. For me it really depends on the situation/ mood whether I want German, Finnish or Chinese food!

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    1. Jean says:

      Somehow you probably have specific comfort food per cuisine type (German, Finnish or Chinese). Or you’re trying to say that if you feel happy, you would have xxxx type of food? Let’s just assume getting the food you want at any given time, is no barrier. (I realize your family lives in a smaller German town.)

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      1. It is still hard to say as I somehow feel everyday a bit different when it comes to comfort food. Right now I would say my favorite BBQ restaurant in Xi’an would be best. Perhaps tomorrow my wife’s tomatoe egg noodles will be again number one for me 🙂

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        1. Jean says:

          Chinese BBQ meat if on the lean side and properly done, is delicious. A real fantasy for you. Your wife’s tomato egg noodles sounds like a familiar dish also. Good comfort foods for a cold day. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Chyrel says:

    I think my comfort food is mostly dimsum, pasta, and chicken biryani. I know. Weird combination. But it depends on my
    mood. Wish I’m able to spend more time in the kitchen and make my own comfort food. Usually, I just bike my way to the nearest resto.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Sure, restaurant versions of comfort food are always welcome when we’re tired/busy or someone else can whip it better than ourselves. I have no clue how to make German pretzels. So am always delighted to find a bakery that makes the real traditional version.

      Though I love dim sum, there’s waaay too varieties which I haven’t landed on which ones are my favourites. I don’t make dim sum myself even though I was shown some basics as a teenager. Too long ago….and waaay too labour intensive for homemade comfort food category.

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  3. Mabel Kwong says:

    For me, it depends. If I’ve had a light lunch or dinner and feel hungry later, I usually find myself craving for a savoury kind of comfort food to keep me going. Sometimes it will be a boiled egg, other times a chicken pastry puff, even yum cha. I do crave for junk food like chips and biscuits. If I’ve eaten a heavy meal then a bit later I might want some sweet foods like M&Ms or a coconut juice drink.

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    1. Jean says:

      Very intriguing that you would crave for M & Ms after a heavy meal. My natural tendency after a heavy meal is some very light fruit –preferably fresh berries or 1-2 slices of oranges. Definitely tea to finish off.

      The chicken pastry puff craving seems sort of British based influence. I used to have boiled eggs more frequently when I was growing up. Nowadays I just buy a carton of egg whites. I just prefer a lighter egg taste.

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      1. Mabel Kwong says:

        I’ve always loved M&Ms, but in recent months have developed a strong fondness for them. Don’t know why. You are very healthy, Jean. Fresh fruits for snacks. I should follow your lead. But fruits are very expensive in Australia.

        A carton of egg whites, interesting. Don’t know if they sell that here, I will need to check it out. I prefer eating egg whites over egg yolks, and like you prefer a lighter taste.

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        1. Jean says:

          I’m not sure if you are comparing Australian prices against fruit prices in Asia which is not the best comparison? For instance, nowhere in Canada are oranges and lemons grown. So we must import them. Prices varying depending on if there is peak citrus fruit harvest. So price varies, country source, but I have paid over $6.00Can for 5-8 oranges or so. Does Australia not grow its own fruit and if yes, what fruit are grown in abundance?

          Ah, I do eat dessert for a coffee. Not good.

          Check out the egg whites. I find making scrambled eggs or omelettes from them lighter. Other people say I’m losing the protein from the egg yolk. I don’t feel that at all since I do eat some meat several times per month.

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          1. Mabel Kwong says:

            Australia grows quite a lot of fruit. Bananas, cherries, grapes, mangoes, more than I can name. But we do import some fruits from Asia that don’t grow here, like rambutans. The cost of labour and transportation here is very high, which is what makes fruit here expensive. $6 here would buy you around three pieces of bananas. We grow loads of bananas up in Queensland – but this is the state where it rains torrentially until it floods, washing away a lot of the bananas.

            True. You can get a fair bit of protein from lean chicken. I’m not one who eats eggs every day, Probably around 4 to 5 days a week.

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            1. Jean says:

              Mabel, I have an egg white dish approx. 2-3 times per month. I think I used to have 1 egg per wk. but that was over a decade ago or more. That does sound like some high labour and transportation costs for Australia’s imported fruit. I’m pretty certain we can buy 7-8 bananas for $6.00 or so…even during non-banana peak production from other countries. Our banana shipments come from Central and South America.

              Liked by 1 person

  4. Lani says:

    I think comfort food cravings depend on your mood, your place in life and seasons. I can go through very heavy decadent food phases and desires for either Asian or Western food. The blessing of being raised in both cultures. In Thailand, I want burgers and pizza. But normally, Thai and Chinese dishes hit the spot. I love the picture of you eating a burger! 😀 Hope you are recovering quickly from your fall.

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    1. Jean says:

      I’m actually digging into a peameal bacon sandwich. 🙂 I didn’t realize how difficult it was to find a place that served such sandwiches on their menu, elsewhere in Canada. My recovery is taking time. But I’ve come a long way from not wanting to take a shower for a few days after collision (for fear of falling) to some self-sufficiency if I don’t move super fast for now. Gettin’ better each week.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Lani says:

        Good news. Take good care 🙂

        Like

  5. Sue Slaght says:

    Your post really got me thinking Jean. For me it is chocolate every time. I am sure there is some dopamine release going on.
    I hope your recovery is continuing and that you will be cycling soon if not already.

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    1. Jean says:

      Good ole, deep dark chocolate. Irresistable for a treat. No, haven’t returned to cycling yet, Sue. I started physiotherapy this week.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sue Slaght says:

        Wishing you well in the rehab Jean!

        Like

  6. Great Jean, now I’m hungry! 🙂 My comfort foods?
    I like homemade soups, stews, pot roast, porridge, stir fries, corn bread, home made bread fresh out of the oven, eggs and bacon for dinner. I could go on and on… ❤
    Diana xo

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      At least there are enough choices that good friends and family can provide to you. 🙂 Nothing like freshly baked homemade bread. You are one of the rare folks I know who like porridge as comfort food.

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      1. I know! Not many people like porridge, but on a cold winter’s morn it warms you up and sticks to your ribs… 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Chrissy Jee says:

    steam egg custard is one of my comfort foods. My mom was an amazing cook and she cooked everyday growing up so many comfort foods. My other comfort foods are congee, steamed rice noodle, sweet red bean soup. I love hot sauce also!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      I never did develop a craving for congee. Steamed rice noodle is great. Have to say that I’ve cut down white rice, rice vermicelli / noodle over the past 5 years because of a near diabetes 2 reading. So white rice for me amounts to less than 10 times annually. Yup and I used to have rice nearly 90% of time for dinner.

      Lots of people don’t understand the savoury steam egg custard fix. 🙂 So it’s my own treat to self.

      Like

  8. I’m very unhealthy person, but for last two years whenever I’m down – physically or mentally, in-n-out burger is my comfort food. Maybe that’s why I gained a bit of weight haha 🙂

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    1. Jean says:

      Maybe the burger fix will happen again when you relocate to Ireland. For certain over there, you won’t get choice dim sum. 🙂

      Like

  9. Hope this post doesn’t reflect an extra need at your house for comfort food — i.e., hope you are well, and fully recovered from the bike accident. Thanks again for cooking inspiration.

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    1. Jean says:

      Well, I have had all those different comfort foods that were featured in the photos over the past few months. 🙂 I’m getting a lot better. Not yet back on the bike. Glad you tried the recipe last year.

      Like

  10. livelytwist says:

    I like the way you describe food. I’m hungry!
    Comfort food for me must have sugar, plenty of it 😉

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Aye, I’ve developed a sweet tooth for gourmet fine desserts/pastries. They aren’t exactly comfort food for me, but it’s easy to fall into the sugar bowl. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  11. MB says:

    I love a bowl of home made pho. Just in case you don’t know, pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup. Some people eat it plain, but I like mine spicy and a bit sour. My mouth just waters typing this up. Whenever I’m sick or not feeling well, I always crave for congee or mov kua dis as how we call it. My mom used to make it for my siblings and me when we were younger and I think that’s why it is so comforting.

    I hope all this comfort food is keeping you well.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Didn’t know that was the alternate word for congee in Hmomg. I love pho with a grilled spicy chicken or pork cutlet on top. Pho is often to me, known for its massive bowls of soupy-rice vermicelli goodness! Good so see you, MB.

      Like

  12. That flatbread looks wicked. Yum!

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    1. Jean says:

      Middleastern flatbread with the simple spices, is delicious when warmed up with a hit of chili hot sauce. I get it midway during a short bike ride in town. Bakery is also a wholesale location for all of western Canada for other types of flatbreads and Middleastern phyllo pastries. They make the best hummus that we buy at a reasonable price –not too oily nor too salty.

      Like

  13. Jane Thorne says:

    Comfort foods are ❤ – lovely post Jean. x

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      And our choices of comfort foods maybe someone else’s puzzle. 🙂 Our food security teddy bear.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Rita H. Azar says:

    I’m so hungry now Jean! It’s lunch time now here in Aussie land! I can tell you that we share one of the same comfort food and that is Lebanese pizza zaatar (which is dried thyme, by the way, mixed with sesame seeds). I absolutely adore it. I have so many memories of my mum making lebanese pizza late at night and me helping her.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Ok, the store employees call it “zaatar pie”, not pizza. 😀 I think only some of the employees are from Lebanon. They have different versions with spinach and feta, tomato … I don’t recall seeing sesame seed (if even black-brown baked) mixed in with the thyme. But my knowledge is nearly zero on the finer points of zaatar! 🙂 I suppose making flatbread very thin is initially hard at first.. I make focaccia and thin pizza from scratch.

      This bakery actually is a wholesale bakery which supplies B.C., Alberta and probably even Saskatchewan. When I’m there eating :), one can see their customers are actually probably restaurant owners, grocery store owners who walk off with probably over 20-50 large bags of different flatbreads, and regular customers like me. The bakery also makes en masse several different traditional Middleastern phyllo pastries. I’ve never bought nor seen their bagels. I’m spoiled by Toronto’s better bagels. I’m certain Montreal may have the best bagel bakeries in Canada.

      I’m tickled to give you happy memories, Rita since you are far away from your birth family.

      Like

  15. Love the post Jean. I totally agree with you that comfort food changes with time. Given my current gluten free/vegetarian diet, I confess to craving either a Burger Fuel Gluten Free Vege Burger or a Dominos GF Vegetarian Pizza.
    Hope you are fully recovered from your adventure by the way..take care.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Another healthy comfort food freak. 🙂 Sorry, it is freakish to crave for comfort food that is healthy. My bike ride was actually not far from home. But I guess as a major life event, a kind of unanticipated, not desired adventure.

      Like

  16. Why is my stomach growling??– was it something I read??

    Wonderful post, Jean. Once again you have expanded my horizons– not a difficult feat in my case, but you do it consistently… : )

    I guess my favorite comfort food is ice cream– I certain eat my share, and a few other people’s shares as well. When it comes to “real” food, I guess I find the most comfort in breakfast foods: omelets and french toast (but not at the same time!!).

    I hope your recovery is progressing. Are you still doing physical therapy and rehab? I feel so bad about you getting hit. Hang in there, and don’t lose that big smile!! : )

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      I’m recovering well, Mark. Physiotherapy has been quite helpful.
      Glad to show other definitions of comfort food. 🙂 You are probably a true ice cream and gelato connoisseur. I like atypical flavours –blackberry, lichee, mango, passionfruit, pistachio, hazelnut, etc. No doubt, you must have a Ben and Jerry’s favourite flavour since they started out in Vermont, not too far from your state. We biked over to the original shop when we were in Vermont. So you are a breakfast fan too to enjoy omelets and French toast.

      Liked by 1 person

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