Beef and Hearts of Palm: Ode to My Taiwanese-Dominican Roots

by Jill Tang, NJ & Santo Domingo

For our sixth Holidays All World Round Post, we learn about a holidays foods as rich, unctuous amalgamations of cultural cuisines and values. Yet, as a highly nomadic humans, holiday dishes are often reflections of our cultural dualities––a way for everything to come together, even our cultures. Jill Tang, a Taiwanese immigrant bred in the Dominican, explores the wholeness of half-ness in her recipe for stir-fried beef and hearts of palm.

The Tsang family was and still is one of our family’s best friends. When my family immigrated from Taiwan to the Dominican Republic in the early 60’s, we shared the same flight with the Tsangs. Because a Taiwanese movie producer and his crew “jumped the plane” and disappeared into NYC illegally, we were held up in the JFK airport lounge overnight to wait for their connecting flight next day to DR.

At arrival in the DR, we grew closer. The Tsangs could count from 1 to 5 in Spanish while our’s could from 6 to 10, so we helped each other out in getting by. When the Tsang’s apartment was robbed by some petty theft, it was my dad and my brother who went to chase the young rascals out. We bought a second-hand Mazda so our two families all packed in that brown sedan and drove everywhere. In return, Mrs. Tsang, this wonderful business woman who was very successful at shoe manufacturing was happened to be a great home-cook, would give us shoes from sandals to heels with odd sizes and cook a feast for us very often.

This beef and heart of palm dish is one of her inventions, a mix of Chinese and Dominican, just like us. It was a slice of Taiwan that we could only relish once a year, during the Lunar New Year’s supposed “feast.” Holidays are replicable anywhere, and, often, they are a fusion of many of the intersectionalities that define us.

Now, my family in America and the Tsangs in Canda, we can’t get fresh heart of palm around us. But, one day, perusing the Costco isles, I saw these white little cylinders in a glass jar. Without any hesitation, we snatched the canned heart of palm. Mom said they don’t taste like the fresh ones in DR, but I guess the memory is the same because this dish is one of our dinner table staples. Here is to you, Mrs. Tsang; here is to us, the Asian Latinx – together, it is a holiday everyday.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. beef flank or sirloin
  • 1 jar of Heart of Palm (at least 16 oz.)
Costco hearts of palm: certainly not as fresh as on the DR, but will suffice!
  • 1.5 TBS Soy sauce
  • ¼ tsp Salt
  • 1 TBS Cooking wine
  • 1 TBS Corn starch
  • 1 tsp Garlic powder
  • ½ tsp Black pepper
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 TBS oil
  • 1 Scallion thinly sliced

Directions

Slice beef and hearts of palm into thin slices.

Marinate sliced beef with soy sauce, salt, cooking wine, corn starch, garlic powder, black pepper, and 1 egg. Mix them well.

On high flame, in a frying pan, put in 1 TBS oil, pour in the beef when the oil is hot. Saute the beef till they are still a bit pink (80% done), pour in the sliced palm heart, continue to saute and mix them for about 1 minute. Add in the scallion, saute for 30 seconds more. Turn off the flame. Serve.

We usually serve this dish with rice and a plate of saute green leafy vegetable. Enjoy!

About the Author

Jill Tang is a Taiwanese-Dominican American immigrant residing in Northern NJ. A wife, mother of two, and daughter, Jill is passionate on preserving her families’ cultural identities through food, celebration, and storytelling. Also, she happens to be my mother.

Published by holidaysallyearround

For most cultures, holidays serve as the only opportunities in the year in which we come together: to reunite with faraway relatives, reconcile our past ancestors, and refill stomachs. And for most, holidays fall deep into history, myths, or grandma's fictitious tales that dictate the food boiling after a sacrificial ceremony to the decorations adorned on doors.

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