She grips the crown of the purple eggplant with her bare hands, holding it over the open flame. Spinning it slow, she adjusts the fire with care as the skin of the eggplant blisters and chars. I smell smoke from the roasting, waiting. She peels back the wrinkly, blackened skin of the eggplant, revealing a goop of unattractive soft and slimy looking flesh. My seven-year-old self stays standing at the kitchen door. She places the eggplant on a plate and flattens it with a fork. She adds beaten eggs onto the eggplant and the already mushy flesh turns to yellow swamp. I begin to be a little skeptical of my soon-to-be dinner.
I watch as she again grips the crown of the eggplant – the only part of the vegetable that is not a mushy mess, and places it into a pan. I hear the sound of sizzling as eggplant hits the hot, oiled pan, the sound of water from the eggplant dancing in the hot oil. She flips it over. After a short while, she slides the eggplant onto a plate, revealing a yellow-golden eggplant omelet. I am stunned. The once grey and unappetizing mush has become something else entirely; a disc of golden-yellow omelet with crispy edges all around. She drizzles some ketchup over my omelet, sits with me, and smiles as she watches me eat.
I am now twenty-two.
I think back on the time when my young eyes were enchanted by the dancing blue flame. It was the moment I entered the rabbit hole, the beginning of my journey in the world of food.
My initial excitement led to my constant act of discovering, working with, and tasting food. Doing these three things has cultivated a passion within me that I naturally thirst to pour out onto others.
I want my diners to feel the wonder as I did, watching the blue flame dance.
I want my diners to feel delight as I did, witnessing the transformation of ingredients from nature.
I want my diners to feel nourished as I did, eating a dish prepared with care.
From the thoughtful composition of a menu, to creating dishes, to adjusting every element, all is done in hopes of bringing the best experience possible – to draw out the child from within my guests. To feel the warmth just as I, in my seven-year old self felt as I enjoyed that eggplant omelet dish. My nanny called it Tortang Talong.
– rachel tong
You can find more of Rachel’s food experiments at rachelttong.tumblr.com