I am Butterfingers, mostly because I’m quite the klutz.
My name is Ming-Cheau Lin, I live in Cape Town and I love to eat.
I am originally from Tainan, Taiwan and South Africa has been my home since my family immigrated to Bloemfontein when I was three. I identify as Asian South African, Asian being the adjective and South African being the noun.
Spending my childhood as an immigrant in a strong Afrikaans culture was humbling. I found out what it meant to be different from a very young age — I was teased for bringing strange foods to school and for having different customs. I was embarrassed to be Asian, to stand out like a sore thumb, and now as an adult, I’m embarrassed again. But this time, because a sad kind of embarrassment… to admit I steered away from my culture in my youth when there’s so much depth and beauty behind it.
I studied at Vega doing brand communication in Cape Town, graduating in 2009 and now am a freelance copywriter, specialising in food content and concepts in both digital and traditional media. I also develop East Asian-style recipes and desserts (with an international diploma in Patisserie obtained through City & Guilds) and offer talks on being mindful in a multicultural environment with a focus on the harms of cultural appropriation and stereotyping. And this path has led its way to creating my cookbook ‘Just Add Rice – stories and recipes by a Taiwanese South African’.
My blog’s purpose is to keep a record of the recipes I love and create (mostly Taiwanese recipes my parents use), as well as a space for creative recipes inspired by both Taiwanese and South African food culture, to introduce new flavours, new textures, new ingredients to locals. My blog has evolved over the years… and as I’m learning more and more on intersectional feminism, I share stories on what it’s like to be a woman of colour in South Africa’s advertising and food media industry, what it’s like to be East Asian diaspora.
Want to know more about Taiwanese food?
Taiwan’s cultural cuisine is a hybrid of cultures — originating in its use of settlers’ knowledge, recipes and skills and that allowed them to adapt and evolve. This dates back to the 17th century when Taiwan was colonised by the Dutch (another stop for the Dutch East India Company). Taiwanese cuisine draws its major influences from southern China, Japan and the indigenous tribes in the mountainous areas, with hints from Spain and Portugal. Soon after World War II, the Chinese Nationalists of Fujian Province immigrated to Taiwan in 1949 after Chinese communists took over mainland China. All of these unique groups played an important role in shaping Taiwanese cuisine into what it is today — a culture famous for its high mountain green tea, vegetarian variety and street food. My heritage is of the Han Chinese, that settled in the 16th century.
Even though presentation is often simple; flavour is always balanced and good cooks know just how to showcase the best features of the local produce. Traditional meals mostly include seafood since the island is surrounded by ocean, but there’s also chicken and pork. Beef is seen on menus, but there’s less of this meat variety than others due to the Buddhist reverence, as they rely on the animal for agriculture. Important staples include rice, sweet potato and taro roots with cooking styles leaning towards the quick and effective so as to save energy.