Quarantine in Isla Vista makes me miss my mom’s cooking and dinner parties with my friends. The cozy atmosphere of catching up was humming, stress melting. Pausing long study sessions to grow with kindred spirits—who wouldn’t long for this?
Now, all has evaporated and there is nobody to bet for doing the dishes. I am left to cook, because I have to eat and Postmates hurts my wallet. To quell this icy longing, I resort to my comfort foods. When I invest effort into making a dish pretty, tasty, and good for my body, meals spark joy again. So, here are some of my favorite comfort foods. I hope they may spark joy for you too.
Want to try your hand at cooking some of these comfort-inspired dishes? Celine’s easy-to-make recipes can be found here.
A savory medley of sweet corn, cubed potatoes, and scallions. This is the hearty soup that reminds me of home: doors wide open to aerate an aromatic kitchen, a wooden spoon peeking out the silver pot, late waking sisters with hunger-flowing gratitude. My mom makes this into egg flower soup with wispy eggs and shredded rotisserie chicken, but with a plant-based alternative, I appreciate knowing no animals suffered for the meal. When I discovered the dining commons served corn chowder during the colder months, I would check the menu everyday, going out of my way to get a taste of the chowder again. The chunky soup is elevated with a bowl of steaming jasmine rice or toasted bread. Also, watching a cozy movie like “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” makes this dish sweeter.
An exhilarating dance between any small cut pasta and a cheesy sauce — with a spicy kick. This potato and carrot sauce is godly: pureed with a medley of spices and heaven (aka nooch). Under low-lighted dinner parties, my friends and I made this numerous times and every time, they were shocked by how pleasantly the cheese sauce hits. For me, the dish tastes best amid conversation. Adding something crunchy like roasted chickpeas, fried vegan sausages, or panko crumbs elevates this experience.
A generous handful of kimchi is crunchy and refreshing, but once it ignites your tongue, the warm fries and gooey cheese is comforting. After midterms or to cheer up a sad friend, my friends and I would bounce to Mojo’s Teahouse for boba, accompanied by kimchi fries. It is astonishingly time consuming to well… consume — it’s after all, a finger food to occupy mouths between long conversations and breaths. I was devastated when Mojo’s fryer broke for a long time, so I decided to recreate it. Although this home recipe may not have the same ambiance as eating it at Mojo’s, pleasure still radiates from every bite.
If you ask me what comfort food sparks the greatest joy, it is ramen, the savory soul of my childhood. My dad (a chef) always offered to make this for us on his days off. To heartily cook it, he takes our order, listing all the possible ingredients in our fridge. My sisters and I loved eating this umami meal while watching “Running Man.” It’s an extremely difficult dish to mess up, especially when you’re solely making it for yourself. Whenever my mom would come visit me at Santa Barbara, we ate out at Nikka Ramen — ordering the same vegetable ramen — and caught up: she gossiped about my sisters and I spilled highlights of my college life.