Q&A With Molly Yeh | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine

Q&A With Molly Yeh

Q&A With Molly Yeh

Photo Courtesy Molly Yeh

Molly Yeh Dishes on Her Family's Chinese-Jewish-American Christmas Eve Traditions

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Though many cookbooks are a chef's self portrait by way of the food he or she prepares, Molly Yeh's Molly on the Range is truly reflective of her diverse background. Yeh, the daughter of a Chinese-American dad and an Ashkenazi Jewish mom, presents foods that are reflective of her upbringing, as well as of her current home in Minnesota. Yeh, a Juilliard- trained percussionist originally from Chicago, met her husband, a fellow musician, at school and moved to his family's farm in the Upper Midwest. In Molly on the Range Yeh writes her life story through food, sharing personal essays to introduce each section and introducing recipes with anecdotes and tips. In honor of Yeh's Chinese-Jewish background, and American Jews' propensity to eat Chinese food on Christmas, we present a few of Yeh's multicultural recipes to try on Shabbat, on Sunday (Christmas Day), or whenever. Yeh was also kind enough to answer a few questions about her family's Christmas Eve traditions and what it's like to serve Israeli food to Minnesotans.

CL: Growing up, what was your family's tradition on Christmas Eve/ Christmas? Did you eat Chinese food?

MY: Yes Chinese food! We often had our dumplings of the world party on Christmas eve that included a lot of homemade Chinese dumplings and steamed buns. We'd sit around with family and friends, folding dumplings, and then eating way too many of them. Christmas day typically involved bagels and lox. So many carbs. 

 CL: How do you celebrate now? 

MY: This year I'm celebrating on the farm with my husband's family. Since the first night of Chanukah is Christmas eve, I'll be hosting a latke AND dumpling party. It's convenient that both of those can be fried. And I'm going to make homemade apple sauce from our backyard apple trees! Christmas day will be celebrated across the street at my parents-in-law's house with a traditional Christmas feast. Lefse, a potato-based Norwegian pancake will likely be on the table, so I think of it as their equivalent to the latke. I'm also going to attempt to make a cross between a chicken pot pie and a babka as a gift for my husband on Christmas morning because he somehow got it in his head that a "chicken pot babka" could be a tasty thing to eat. 

CL: How has your experience been introducing Israeli food to your new community in Minnesota?

MY: Every single person has been so open to trying it, and my husband's family has especially taken a liking to it since so much of it is so healthy and they are total health nuts. I don't think that I've completely convinced everyone that a spread of 12 vegetable salads and other vegetarian tasties has a place at the brunch table, but maybe I'm just enabling them by making sure that meat and potatoes are at the center of every meal so they don't leave my house feeling like they didn't get enough to eat. Also pronouncing some of these dishes is probably the most difficult part! I take it for granted that I grew up surrounded by a lot of these foods and have conversations about them on a regular basis, but seeing a 30-year-old farmer of Norwegian ancestry pronouncing "sabich" for the first time is truly something else. 

CL: What do you miss most about the food scene in NYC? 

MY: The pizza, Xi'an noodles, bagels, and falafel sandwiches that are available at all hours of the day. I just ate a falafel sandwich about an hour ago, and it was great, but it was the culmination of two days of work! I made the pita from scratch, soaked the chickpeas overnight, chopped the salad, and had to ration my tahini because I can't get good tahini here so I order it online or have visiting friends deliver it to me. I obviously really like spending time in the kitchen and making things like that, but I definitely do miss the ease of being able to push a button on my phone and have good falafel at my doorstep in 20 minutes.

Molly Yeh’s Scallion Pancake Challah:

Molly Yeh’s Chicken Potstickers:

Molly Yeh's Chocolate Tahini Cake with Tahini Frosting:

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