My mother’s way of expressing ‘I love you’ or ‘I’m worried’ is more in food than words. Maintenance, ‘I cooked for you, did you eat it?’ It means.”
Duilio Lin says that this way of showing affection often comes from eggplant in miso and soy sauce, which her mother Jasmine Chen has made at home for years. The delicious food tastes like nostalgia. Dona Jasmine, a Taiwanese immigrant to São Paulo in 1979, speaks with an accent that never left her homeland:
“I started cooking because I missed my country so much.”
A kitchen that has lasted generations
Gastronomy has always been a part of Dona Jasmine’s life, as her father was a cook. However, the teaching came not from him, but from his mother.
“Professional cooks didn’t teach you, they told you to cut onions,” he says in his homeland at the time. But not so with his mother, who cooks at home. He had observed that he had learned many recipes, including eggplant. A simple but comforting meal.
Despite her passion for the kitchen, Dona Jasmine took some time to work in the area. When she just arrived in Brazil, she and her husband got a job at a slipper factory for Taiwanese expatriates. She always cooked delicious meals for her friends, but not professionally. For Diulio, one of his main inspirations in those meetings was born there:
That moment of watching my family greet people, serve, bring togetherness and joy precedes my passion for cooking.”
Life took a turn when her husband passed away in the ’90s and Dona Jasmine found herself alone with three children she had to raise. On this occasion, the master of the Zu Lai Temple in Cotia, his friend and someone who appreciated his culinary skills, invited him to command the kitchen of the Buddhist center. He spent 17 years as a chef at Zu Lai, which only changed because his son also decided to become a chef. He left the temple to aid her in this new endeavor.
Duilio has a similar trajectory in gastronomy in the sense that she has always loved to eat and cook, but her professional life began in other ways. He went to food engineering college and went to the stove just for fun. After working as an engineer for more than seven years, that was until 2016 when he gathered his courage and decided to experiment in a restaurant in Colombia. He has not returned to the corporate world since. It counts:
“I think generally speaking, my mother and Taiwanese immigrants thought that some types of careers, like gastronomy, weren’t careers that you could survive.”
After proving to her mother and herself that it is possible to make a living from gastronomy, the two got together and in 2019 decided to create Mapu, a restaurant specializing in Taiwanese cuisine.
Located in Vila Mariana in the Southern District of São Paulo, the house draws on tradition with typical recipes re-expressed through high cuisine and design techniques. In Eggplant Misô Shoyu, as the dish is called in Mapu, Duilio says it’s no different:
My mother always made eggplant starchy, but we switched to three different flour mixes, which improves the consistency and leaves it crusty. All dishes are very traditional, its basis comes from it, but the idea is to be able to innovate while keeping the roots. And the main thing: to be consistent and very tasty”.
Or a taste of Taiwan
The centuries-old conflicts surrounding this tiny island nation have greatly influenced the way Taiwan cooks. Since the island was under Japanese rule until 1945, the main delicacies were Japanese, and in the following years, by Chinese delicacies when it was reintroduced to China.
Of course, there are two very large cuisines, each applying it in different ways, but Taiwan has absorbed both and created its own peculiarities. The most commonly used spices are a mixture of cinnamon, anise, and the very Chinese Sichuan pepper. But according to Duilio:
“There’s a lot of search for a texture we call ‘q’ (you say ‘kiu’ in English), a chewy texture that’s heavily influenced by Japan and very Taiwanese”.
The “Q” is like a mix of “al dente” for Italians and mouthwatering “umami” for Japanese. Mapu eggplant is a good example of this texture and flavor combination.
“Mapu” is Duilio and his two sisters affectionately calling Dona Jasmine. The name given to the restaurant is a beautiful tribute to the underage mother, as its nickname means “mother’s garden.”
The idea arose with the creation of the restaurant, and Duilio says that choosing the ideograms of “ma” as “mother” and “pu” as “orchard” or “garden” reflects the hospitality they intended to give customers. . The idea is that food represents care, a welcome. It claims:
In addition to honoring my mother, we want to use food as a love language.”
After participating in the early moments of Mapu’s creation, helping with the preparation of the recipes and attending the reception in the hall, according to her, Dona Jasmine now has the best role of all:
“Now I’ll see if they do everything right and I’m always looking for different traditional Taiwanese dishes to show to Caio Yokota and Victor Valadão, who are in charge of the kitchen. I also taste everything, that’s the best part.”
For Duilio, her mother’s involvement is important creative advice, but they no longer work directly together: “it was too much fighting,” they both say with a laugh. Duilio says about eggplant: “It’s an iconic dish that many people like and want a recipe for. There are those who say, ‘I don’t like eggplant and I love Mapu.’
Dona Jasmine admits angrily but very sympathetically:
If it had happened before, we would have fought because I wouldn’t have given the eggplant recipe, it’s a secret,” he said.
Eggplant with 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 of corn starch
- 80 grams of flour
- 1 bunch of fresh coriander
- vegetable oil for frying
1- Prepare the sauce: Heat in a pan and melt the sugar, miso, soy sauce and water well, turn off the heat after the first signs of boiling. Reserve.
2- Prepare the mixture for breadcrumbs: Mix the three flours with the help of a tap until you get a homogeneous mixture.
3- Wash the eggplants well and cut them diagonally to form small pieces of the same size.
4- Soak the eggplant in water.
5- Strain the eggplant with the help of a strainer.
6- Put the mixture in the pot to cover the fresh eggplants and remove the excess flour with your hands.
7- Fry in hot oil (180ºC) for about 2-3 minutes.
8- Take the eggplants on a plate and distribute the amount of sauce you want on them, remember that an exaggerated amount can make the dish salty.
9- Finish with chopped chives.