A while back I came across a book titled Daughters of Heaven—A Memoir with Earthy Recipes by Lesli Li (arcade Publishing, New York). The book reminded me a lot of my own tome, Puerto Rican Cuisine in America, in that it followed the same format: A family saga and coming of age story told through cooking. In my case it was through Puerto Rican culture and Caribbean cooking. In Ms. Li’s fine example, it was told though Chinese culture and its cuisine. It brought to mine that, at heart, we are all the same, and how we cook and use ingredients for our nourishment is paramount.

I enjoyed Ms. Li’s book wholeheartedly. And I still get a kick out of the recipes she posited. One of my favorites is the one given below, Steamed Pork Patty with Water Chestnuts and Dried Chinese Mushrooms. I like steamed patties, always have, be they vegetable, seafood or meat. But this dish struck my fancy in that it’s one large steamed patty filled with flavorful ingredients, and perfect over steamed rice. Think of Shepherd’s Pie if it were steamed rather than baked. A fascinating idea.

Note that for this recipe you’ll need a good sized steamer. It could a bamboo steamer, or a steamer attachment over a wok; or you could place a small metal vegetable steamer (the folding collapsible basket type) inside a large pot, add about 2 inches of water, place a plate with the ingredients atop steamer, cover and steam as you would normally. I use something that I purchased years ago, the Serendipity Pan, which is a 3-piece enamel cookware that works as a wok, steamer and serving platter all in one. Alas, it is no longer sold or made. If you’re lucky enough to find one in a thrift shop or store that sells antique cookware, grab it! Otherwise, go with what you have.

Another thing: the recipe calls for placing the mixture in a loaf pan or baking pan. I discover that it works just as well if you place the pork mixture in a deep plate or platter that fits into the steamer. It gives you the same results. So, go at it, and enjoy!


1 pound pork butt, trimmed of excess fat and minced fine or 1 pound lean ground pork, minced fine.
4 large dried Chinese mushrooms, soaked in boiling water for 10 minutes, stems discarded, caps minced
10 canned water chestnuts, minced
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon cornstarch
½ teaspoon sugar (or honey)
½ teaspoon salt (optional)
1 tablespoon fine julienne of peeled fresh ginger root.

In a bowl stir together the pork, mushrooms, water chestnuts, soy sauce, oil, cornstarch, sugarand salt. Aerate the mixture by fluffing with a fork.

Transfer mixture to a loaf pan or other baking pan that will fit in a steamer, being careful not to pack the mixture down. Sprinkle with the ginger root. Put the pan in a steamer set over boiling water. Steam the pork, covered, for 30 minutes.
Makes 4 servings.