Despite having grown up in Beijing with a Chinese mother, there are aspects of the Chinese culture I’ll never understand. My mother grew up during The Cultural Revolution – one of the most horrific movements in the 20th century that led to chaos, violence, deaths, f*cking mayhem – yet she has never opened up to me about the pain and atrocities she witnessed and experienced in that time. It’s not appropriate in Chinese culture to share your misfortunes, I suppose, especially not with your children. She shares the fond memories from her childhood, like the monthly joy of receiving that rationed jar of sesame paste and smearing it on bread (plain Chinese bao bun) that’s sprinkled liberally with brown sugar. It’s like a sad PB&J. She still absolutely loves that snack.
The Chinese sesame paste is made with roasted whole sesame seeds, rather than raw sesame like in tahini. It’s so good and we usually eat it as a sweet filling in things, I don’t know why it hasn’t made it out to the West yet. I mean people here are embracing matcha and even adzuki but I have yet seen a product with sweet sesame paste.
I made a pea tahini dip and it reminded me of my mother’s favorite snack. I love dips because, I’m sorry, there’s no real recipe (below’s an estimate). You taste as you go. Tahini is brilling because it just elevates any dip. Got some beets? Blitz it with some tahini. Got carrots? Carrot tahini dip. Pumpkin? Sweet potatoes? Whatever you mush you can add some tahini. Or sesame paste if you’re close enough to an Asian supermarket.
2 cups frozen peas, defrosted (just quickly blanched works too)
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
2-3 tbsp tahini
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
zest of 1/2 lemon
1-2 tsp lemon juice
Blitz everything together, taste as you go as you adjust the quantities. Finish with a sprinkle of zaatar, some whole peas and maybe some fleur de sel and olive oil.