The way my mom expresses “I love you” or “I’m worried” is not so much with words as with food. Care translates as: “I cooked for you, did you eat?”.
Duilio Lin says this way of expressing affection often came from eggplant in miso and soy sauce, which his mother, Jasmine Chen, has been cooking at home for years. A delicious dish also evokes nostalgia. Dona Jasmine, a Taiwanese immigrant who arrived in Sao Paulo in 1979, speaks with an accent that never leaves her homeland:
“I started cooking because I really missed my country.”
Cuisine that unites generations
Gastronomy has always been a part of Doña Jasmine’s life since her father was a chef. However, the teaching did not come from him, but from his mother.
She says that in her homeland at that time, “professional chefs did not teach, but told to cut onions.” But with my mother, who cooked at home, everything was different. And it was an observation that she learned many recipes, including eggplant. A simple but cozy dish.
Despite her passion for cuisine, Dona Jasmine worked in the area for some time. When she first arrived in Brazil, she and her husband took jobs in a factory that made slippers for Taiwanese who had previously emigrated to the country. She always cooked delicious meals for friends, but not professionally. For Diulio, it was at these meetings that one of his main inspirations was born:
The moment I watched my parents greet people, serve them, bring a moment of togetherness and joy, precedes my passion for cooking.”
Life changed when her husband passed away in the 90s and Dona Jasmine was left alone with three children to raise. On this occasion, the owner of the Zu Lai temple in Kotiya, her friend and connoisseur of her culinary skills, invited her to command the kitchen of the Buddhist center. He worked as a chef at Zu Lai for 17 years, and that trajectory only changed because his son decided to become a chef too. To help him in this new endeavor, she left the temple.
Duilio has the same trajectory as his mother in gastronomy, in the sense that he has always loved to eat and cook, but his professional life started out differently. He went to food engineering college and just went to the stove to have fun. So far, after working as an engineer for more than seven years, he plucked up the courage to experiment while working in a restaurant in Colombia in 2016. Since then, he has never returned to the corporate world. He considers:
“I think, generally speaking, my mom and the Taiwanese immigrants thought that certain careers, like gastronomy, weren’t the careers you were going to survive in life with.”
After proving to his mother and himself that gastronomy can make a living, they got together and in 2019 decided to create Mapu, a restaurant specializing in Taiwanese food.
Located in Vila Mariana, in the southern part of São Paulo, the house is based on tradition, with typical recipes that are reimagined with haute cuisine and design techniques. Duilio says that nothing has changed in Miso Shoyu Eggplant, as the dish is called in the Map language:
My mom always made eggplants with starch, but we switched to a mixture of three different types of flour, which improves the texture, leaves a crust. All dishes are very traditional, all the foundation comes from her, but the idea is to be able to innovate while keeping the roots. And most importantly: be consistent and very tasty.”
Or a taste of Taiwan
The age-old controversy surrounding this small island nation has greatly influenced the Taiwanese way of cooking. The main flavors were Japanese as the island was under Japanese rule until 1945, and Chinese flavors in later years when it was re-incorporated into China.
Of course, there are two very extensive cuisines, each with its own cooking methods, but Taiwan has absorbed both and created its own characteristics. The most commonly used spices are a mixture of cinnamon, anise and Sichuan pepper, very Chinese. But, according to Duilio:
“A lot is required for the texture we call “Q” (pronounced in English, you say “kiu”), which is a chewy texture heavily influenced by Japan. There are a few little things that represent a lot of Taiwan.”
Q is a mixture of al dente point for the Italians and all the delicious umami for the Japanese. Mapu eggplant is a perfect example of this combination of texture and taste.
“Mapu” is how Duilio and his two sisters affectionately call Dona Jasmine. The name given to the restaurant is a beautiful tribute to the matriarch as the nickname means “mother’s garden”.
The idea came with the creation of the restaurant, and Duilio says the choice of the ideograms “ma” for “mother” and “pu” for “orchard” or “garden” conveys the hospitality they intend to give to customers. . The idea is that food represents caring, greeting. He claims:
In addition to honoring my mother, we want to use food as a love language.”
After being involved in the early moments of Mapu’s creation, helping prepare the recipes and attending the salon reception, Dona Jasmine is currently playing the best role of all, according to her:
“Now I’m just going to see if they’re doing everything right and I’m always looking for different traditional Taiwanese dishes to show Kayo Yokota and Victor Valadao who are in charge of the kitchen. And I also try everything, that’s the best part.”
For Duilio, his mother’s involvement is important creative advice, but they don’t work directly together anymore: “There was a lot of fighting,” both laugh. Regarding the eggplant, Duilio comments: “It’s a cult dish that a lot of people like and ask for the recipe. There are people who say, “I don’t like eggplant, and I love Mapu.”
Dona Jasmine irritably but very sympathetically admits:
If it was earlier, we would have quarreled, because I would not have given the eggplant recipe, it’s a secret.
Eggplant in miso and soy sauce
Makes 4 servings
- 30 grams of soy sauce
- 30 grams of miso paste
- 30 grams of sugar
- 30 grams of filtered water
- 4 Japanese or Chinese eggplants
- 80 grams of wheat flour
- 80 grams cornstarch
- 80 grams of flour
- 1 bunch fresh green onions for garnish
- vegetable oil for frying
1- Prepare the sauce: in a saucepan, put on fire and dissolve sugar, miso, soy sauce and water well, turn off the fire after the first signs of boiling. To book.
2- Prepare the breading mixture: mix the three types of flour with fue until a homogeneous mixture is obtained.
3- Rinse well and cut the eggplant diagonally to form small even-sized pieces.
4- Soak eggplant in water.
5- Strain the eggplant through a sieve.
6- Put the wet eggplants into the pan with the mixture to coat them and remove any excess flour with your hands.
7- Fry in hot oil (180ºC) for about 2-3 minutes.
8- Arrange the eggplant on a plate and distribute the desired amount of sauce, remembering that too much can make the dish too salty.
9- Done with chopped green onions.