I was that person in the cafeteria. The one with the salmon salad, the prawn crackers, and the pomegranate for lunch. (ie: The Weird Girl.) Even though those mean-kid days are over, I still feel funny eating certain foods in front of others. But tonight Julian is at Yale visiting his Dad, and I opened up that cabinet of scandalous ingredients.
Most of this dish is simple and inoffensive: eggplant, bean sprouts, and a sane amount of onions and scallions. Then I also added Mouse Ears (our family's name for wood ear mushrooms) and a mini-glob of fermented tofu (so rich, like foie gras slightly turned). But what really makes this a why-don't-you-eat-that-outside dish is the dried baby shrimp.
You probably have dried baby shrimp all the time in Thai dishes. It's not that weird. Growing up, I always ate dried shrimp with Napa cabbage, the Chinese version of corned beef and cabbage.
I guess I'm self-conscious about it because one day Julian asked me, "Baby, do you think a mouse died in our cabinet?" I looked inside and searched through the beans, the dried fruit, the vitamins. "You mean this?" I asked, holding up a pack of dried shrimp cinched tight with a rubber band. He cautiously sniffed. "Yup, that's it!"
So this is my grilled Nutella sandwich, my whisky on the rocks, my humongous bowl of Honeynut Cheerios. The thing I eat when no one is watching (or smelling).