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A Lotus Light Charity Kitchen Preparation Day

A Lotus Light Charity Kitchen Preparation Day

By Rick

On Wednesday, May 22, we at the Lotus Light Charity Kitchen were again preparing 100 boxed meals for the elderly residents in SRO buildings. Our reliable volunteer Lilian arrived early, just before 10 am, to rinse the rice and load up the rice cookers. I arrived soon after, and as the one tasked with leading the shift, had to decide how the ingredients were to be prepared. Usually, we aim for a balance of starchy staple foods, vegetables, and protein to ensure our meals are nutritious. The protein is chosen by Lotus Light’s general program coordinator and defrosted overnight.

This Wednesday, we were presented with pork sausages and a flat cut beef brisket. The sausages were simple enough, as we could bake them in the oven until they’ve gotten a good amount of colour. As for the brisket, I decided to stick to the more familiar Chinese-style preparation: remove excess fat, cube the beef, blanch to remove scum, rinse and drain, sauté to lightly sear the surface before tossing in aromatics like garlic, leek, star anise, and Sichuan peppercorns, followed up with broad bean paste and five spice powder after aromatics had a chance to fry, then when everything’s nice and seared, I added Shaoxing wine, dark soy sauce, some oyster sauce, and water. Later we added some carrots and potatoes to the braising beef as well.

Our third volunteer Nancy – a very capable and hard-working longstanding volunteer – arrived around 11 am. For vegetables, we prepared Korean zucchini and carrots for a stir-fry: carrots were cut into thin semicircular slices and blanched, Korean zucchini were into thicker semicircular slices, garlic was crushed and sautéed, followed by the prepped vegetables, salt and pepper, oyster sauce, and light soy sauce. When the vegetables were tender enough to eat, sesame oil was added for fragrance, and a cornstarch slurry was used to thicken the sauce because Korean zucchinis release a lot of water during cooking. Our fourth and last volunteer for the day was Carol, a meticulous and cheerful volunteer that always compliments the food, who arrived just before noon.

We worried that we didn’t have enough vegetables, so we quickly prepared some broccoli, which was washed and boiled in water seasoned with salt, sugar, powdered beef bouillon. With everything ready, we cleaned and disinfected the tables and began assembling the lunch boxes. Although we were a bit behind schedule, we were luckily able to finish right as the delivery driver from Watari arrived to pick up the food. With the limited time available, the beef wasn’t able to reach optimal tenderness, but was delicious nonetheless; however, it would be fantastic if we were able to procure more ingredients so that we could make the meals a bit more bountiful. It’s always a bit tense to finish before the time limit with the limited volunteers available, but everyone is very hardworking and flexible with their duties, allowing us to make it through service successfully.

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