Cantonese Pork Xi Fan with Ginger & Green Onions, Inspired by Helen Klein Ross’ WHAT WAS MINE


I can’t imagine losing a child. It’s just not something I can generally even think about. But when I started reading What Was Mine, I was thrown into the life of a mother whose child hadn’t died, but had been snatched right out of an IKEA shopping cart.

I was angry and sad, though hopeful, as I read, but Helen Klein Ross, the author of this harrowing tale, did something I never expected, she made me feel for the kidnapper in her story. Not enough to feel she should have been exonerated for ruining so many lives, especially that of the full grown child she’d snatched, but I found myself feeling a kinship with this other “mother” as she cared for baby Mia, then toddler Mia, then teenage Mia, even while I was certain she couldn’t be completely right in the head. I do know the mothering, nurturing, sacrificing kind of love that took over from the moment I was aware that my children were no longer a wish but were actually on their way into the world and my arms, when I learned I was expecting each of them. So I suppose Lucy’s first meeting with Natalie, as she was called before the kidnapping, no matter how twisted, could have enticed the same feelings from her, leading her to make one outlandish decision after another.

Mia’s Chinese caretaker, Wendy, just seemed so precious to me. I loved that, though baby Natalie hadn’t known the love of her biological mom growing up, she basically ended up with two bonus mothers, thanks to the nurturing of Wendy. Because Mia missed Wendy’s comforting xi fan after the nanny moved back to China, I decided to make a savory pot of pork xi fan with green onions and minced ginger to go along with this book. It’s a very easy rice porridge with few ingredients. And its “one pot” method makes it easy to transport for those wishing to take a batch of it to share at book club meetings.


Cantonese Pork Xi Fan with Ginger & Green Onions


6 cups water

1 cup jasmine rice

1 tsp. fish sauce

3 T soy sauce

1 T minced fresh ginger

1/4 c. sliced green onions

1/2 lb. ground pork


3 T sliced green onion tops

Minced fresh ginger


Simmer the rice in the water, in a medium sized stock pot, until it resembles porridge, stirring occasionally to keep it from settling and sticking to the bottom of the pot, about one hour. I cooked mine, covered, on a very low simmer and still had to keep a close eye on it.


Stir in the fish sauce, soy sauce, ginger, green onions, and ground pork. Continue simmering until the pork is thoroughly cooked, breaking it up as it cooks. Add water if it starts to get too dry.


Season to taste with salt, more soy sauce, or whatever you like. Xi fan is very versatile that way.


Garnish individual bowls of the creamy porridge and serve.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings








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