Home is Where the Food Is

I'm happy to once again take part in the Expat Blogger Link-up called The Expat Experience hosted by Molly @  The Move to America. For this week's theme "Feeling at Home," I will be writing about what made me feel right at home when I moved to Dubai. Join in the fun by clicking here and feel free to share some love.

The Move to America

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As an expat who misses home,  the closest to feeling the warmth and comfort of home is the food!

Sinigang, sour  and savory stew, tamarind soup base
Photo by: Lito Flestado
I remember arriving in this foreign land, alone, not knowing how to cook.  Back home, in the Philippines, I was pampered by our kasambahay (housekeeper) and was blessed with a mother who prepared warm meals.

I didn't appreciate it back then, the luxury of coming home to find a hot  pot of sinigang waiting for me after a long work day. Not to mention waking up in the morning with the scent of garlic from the sinangag (fried rice).

Oh not to mention street food!

Popular Street Food:  Fish Balls
Fish Ball Sauce, just the way they're served on street. Fish balls on stick dipped in this jar.
There I was, with my can of Century Tuna (a Philippine brand of tuna ). I had different flavors every day and replaced it with Lucky Me instant noodles some days.   I survived these  for a  few months, but as my homesickness grew along with my craving for home cooked meals or lutong bahaymy mother's cooking, my immediate cure was a trip to the closest Filipino restaurant across the block.  

Each flavor brings with it a certain memory of an event, of a certain someone, of a childhood friend whom I used to share the food with or a place that means a lot to me.

Being far away, one of the challenges we have to face is being physically ill on our own, with no one to look after us and to cook chicken soup or SopasA spoonful of this creamy  soup seems to have some healing wonders.   

Arroz Caldo : Filipino Congee / Rice Porridge with chicken usually served with Tofu spring onions and roasted garlic

These are the times we long for a nurturing hand helping us a serving of congee or arroz caldo, while dreaming of those days we snuggled under the blanket accompanied by the comforting sound of rain continuously beating against the glass pane.  

Reality hits me as I gaze at the sand storm outside covering the neighboring buildings like espasol. (cylinder shaped rice and coconut pastry covered in rice flour)  Too sick to cross the street, I call the first fast food take away on my speed dial.

Lechon Kawali - Crispy Roasted Pork Dish
Photo by Lito Flestado
Living abroad, I have developed a liking  to different cuisine and was gifted with the appreciation for them. I noticed, however, that when I feel sad, I crave for the dishes I grew up eating.  For they brought me closer to home.

With that came a decision, a brave attempt to start cooking my favorite Filipino meals dear to me.  A habit blossomed.  Whenever I feel stressed, I immediately search for a recipe and just made it.

The scent of sauteed garlic and onions or ginisa  reminded me of our kitchen and my mother effortlessly tossing in the ingredients. The preparation distracted me from homesickness and depression.  There's nothing more rewarding than finally learning how to cook these meals that I used to take for granted and seizing the satisfaction of enjoying my foodie project at the end of a tiring day.   Little did I know, I started cooking a lot more Pinoy dishes that I can ever imagine.

  1. Learn one of your favorite home cooked meals and enjoy the process of making it.
  2. Surround yourself with friends and new acquaintances and share these comfort food with them.
  3. Create a home. Start by unpacking those boxes and suitcases. Surround yourself with things that make you feel warm. Decorating your new place, even a quick trip to IKEA can lighten up one's mood and give something to look forward to.

So far, cooking keeps me company, the food brings  me home.

Love & light,

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  1. You are so right about the food of your home country being a real connection and source of comfort - I have found that too! It is amazing the difference a familair taste an create a feeling of home.

    Thanks for joining the linky too! :-)

    Molly @ The Move to America

  2. I should definitely learn to cook more dishes that my mom and grandma make. Thanks for inspiring to ask my grandma how to make my favorite scallion pancakes tomorrow!

  3. i love your tips. and while i don't remember much of korea - i came to the states when i was 7 and think my childhood is mostly what i experienced here... there are certain snippets i do remember and miss. and it's mostly the culture around food and i get nostalgic about my mom's cooking.. i have found myself making some of my favorite dishes that she used to make!

  4. There are so many foods I miss so much from home, and I cook every night, but some things you just can't get abroad.

  5. yep, most of those would be too exotic for me. I often wonder what on Earth would I eat if I lived abroad, since I eat very minimalistic vegetarian food.

  6. I'd like to try fish balls. I've never had them.

  7. I love fish balls too! I tend to miss Singapore food too.

  8. I really enjoyed reading this! And you're right, one of the worst things that can happen when being abroad on our own is being physically ill. Specially when sick with nauseas and vomits - these are the only times when I really, really wish I was back at home because my mind goes crazy picturing worse-case scenarios and i don't want to be alone in case the worst is to happen.

    All that filipino look delicious, I should really try a filipino restaurant sometime. I also think that learning to cook can help you to overcome depressing evenings in a foreign country. And sharing the food with friends can be the great celebration :)

  9. I cook more now than I ever did in England and I'm the same in that I find cooking and eating familiar food very comforting #ExpatLinkUp

  10. Great post! Australians aren't renowned for culinary wonderness (is that even a word?) but I know when I'm feeling homesick, there's nothing better than hitting up the Australia Shop in London for a real meat pie & a few Aussie treats to take back to our flat.

  11. You are absolutely right about food from home being a comfort and we all remember special childhood dishes. I'm always interested in learning about and trying different cuisines. Great tips too!

  12. What a great post. My mouth is watering. How lucky you were to have such lovely home-cooked food and no wonder you missed it but how wonderful that you are now doing it yourself. Very clever

  13. This all sounds delicious to me!