Recreating Childhood Lunch Memories

Recreating Childhood Lunch Memories

Bien Dang This July 4th my sister and I attemped to recreate bien dang, which is a kind of ready-made boxed lunch that we used to get in Taiwan. My sister and I remember it from road trips; there was a particular rest station between Taipei and Kaoshiung that had pork chop boxed lunches that I liked. The box included interesting vegetables, eggs, and pickles, but it was the pork chop that I really looked forward to most. The photo above is our best approximation of a real bien dang.

I’ve been trying to recreate the chinese porkchop recipe based on experimentation, and I think I almost have the seasoning correct. However, there are a lot of variations in the recipe. One of my buddies shares a similar passion for pai-gu fan (pork chop rice, I think it means). And then there’s this example that my sis found on Bribe Me With a Muffin; as a bonus, this blog yielded tons of Boston-area foodie information and clued me in to a firm called Design Continuum (they apparently did some work on the $100 laptop UI)…but I digress.

Our bien dang re-creation has a ways to go before we really nail it–they were a bit dry, and I didn’t season the pork chops enough–however, we have made significant progress: you can read more on our documented Flickr photoset. Sis and I will likely plan a trip down to the Taiwan Cafe in Chinatown to recalibrate our taste buds; there are also several more Taiwanese restaurants that I want to visit. Yay!

Strawberry Picking We also went strawberry picking for the first time. I had no idea how awesome fresh strawberries were; as kids in rural New Jersey, my sis and I would sometimes come across wild strawberries in the field behind our house in Perrineville. Usually they were scrawny things with bugs inside, picked over by birds and rabbits. Not very appetizing, plus we were too small to know what a ripe berry looked like…we picked them all indiscriminately! Anyway, commercial strawberries are much more interesting…check out the strawberry picking photoset for a peek. We bought some baking soda biscuits and made strawberry shortcake; this was something I don’t think we had growing up, so it was good to be introduced to something new. I asked the kids manning the strawberry picking booth how to make the stuff, and they were somewhat surprised that I had to ask how to do it.

Marshmallow of Death To round out the July 4th Weekend, we also decided to make S’mores. I’d never had one, but I wanted to toast marshmallows so we got the stuff: marshmallows, sticks, Hershey’s Chocolate, and Graham Crackers. Now, I’m not a fan of Hershey’s Chocolate (it’s mostly sugary and without character), but I had to establish the baseline for future comparison. The picture shows one exceptionally well-charred marshmallow that, despite its ghastly appearance, smelled quite wonderful My sister’s boyfriend got to eat it; I got to take the picture.

99% CocaoSpeaking of death and chocolate, sis and I were at the Mall and stopped by the Lindt chocolate store. They had (gasp) 99% Cocoa Chocolate Bars. I like the 70% and find the 85% rather harsh, but despite that I had to buy a bar. I haven’t tried it yet; I probably will buy a few more bars of this first “just in case”. I expect that the tasting experience will similar to licking a piece of charcoal, or it might be like ingesting the ashes from a very fine cigar. Yes, I really am looking forward to this.

We also consumed a fair amount of Pocky and fancy I-Mei Cookies, but that’s a post for another day.


  1. CharlesOS 16 years ago


    I am glad to hear that you have now experienced many of the things that I, on this side of the Pond, have grown up with………toasting marshmallows over a camp fire or simply open fire, picking not just strawberries but other fruits as well.

    99% Cocoa, that’ll be bitter, but nonetheless fabulous and supposedly godd for you medically speaking.



  2. Alvin 16 years ago

    99% cocoa? Now you’ve made me curious! Do post a review :)

  3. beth 16 years ago

    I don’t know if you’ve ever read Giant Robot (it’s an Asian American culture and music mag with really great art) but a couple issues back they had a two page spread on school lunches, and it was pretty awesome and hilarious, you should check it out.

  4. Alterion 16 years ago

    mm i had the same thought the first time i saw that choclate. trust me 70%ish dark is a LOT nicer

  5. Dave Seah 16 years ago

    Charles: Which side of which pond are you on? I’m all for collecting and experiencing other people’s childhood experiences :-)

    Beth: Oh, I used to read GR back in the early 90s…I will have to try to hunt down that issue and get my dose of Asiana. Where I live right now, I hardly see any other asian people, and I often FORGET I’m asian. It’s weird when I visit some place like California and am immersed in a setting where such things are actually a lot more common (and I can still speak English).

    Alterion: Yes, I found the 70% about right, with 85% pushing it. But based on the Scotch I happened to end up liking, it may be that 85% was just not EXTREME enough. :-)

  6. beth 16 years ago

    I thought it would resonate with you since the authors talk about getting Pocky instead of cupcakes and all of them wonder what is up with the little paper grass their moms would put in with their lunches.

  7. Bridget 16 years ago

    Your strawberry shortcake… what kind of whipped cream did you use? With the small price of having to clean a bowl you can make your own whipped cream from heavy whipping cream – adding a bit of sugar and vanilla at the very end to flavor. One of the pick-your-own places up the street is offering blueberries and raspberries starting this week, if you’re in the mood for more fresh fruit :)

  8. CharlesOS 16 years ago

    Born and brought up in Ireland, Dublin, Connemara, Counties Limerick and Cork, now living and working in Jersey in the Channel Isles and have obviously spent a lot of time in continental Europe – particularly France and Andorra.


  9. S. 16 years ago

    YUM!  And the photos are wonderful – both of the lunch box and the strawberry picking!

  10. Barry 16 years ago

    I hope this isn’t a downer, but I just finished reading a book about the history, politics, and practices of the chocolate industry, and that bar brings 2 things 2 mind:
    99% means more cocoa beans cultivated by child laborers in West Africa, and I think Lindt is Belgian – nice Canadian loving folks now, but in the early days of European chocolate, their King Leopold perpetrated a ruthless slave trade that killed millions (10, I think) of innocent Africans, all while purporting to support human rights.
    Sorry about the drama, just thought you’d like to know.
    Oh, the book is called “Bitter Chocolate: Investigating the Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet”.
    Knowing this stuff sucks, of course, but chocolate certified “fair trade” is so expensive it’s helping my diet.