Chinese newcomer tempts meat-loving boyfriend with cauliflower dish

For our new series, What I Bring to the Table, CBC Ottawa asked four newcomers to cook a dish from home for a friend. Today, Lacey Sheng teaches her Canadian-Korean boyfriend, Yoon Shin, how to whip up a cauliflower-pork dish her grandmother used to make in southern China.

Part 2 of CBC Ottawa's series, What I Bring to the Table

Four newcomers, four dishes from home. For this series, CBC Ottawa asked recent arrivals to make a dish from home with a Canadian friend. Here, Lacey Sheng teaches her vegetable-averse boyfriend Yoon Shin to make a fragrant cauliflower-pork dish. This video was shot by freelancer Fangliang Xu. 4:24

Lacey Sheng measures out the rice and water, then gently pours both into the cooker. Her boyfriend, Yoon Shin, gives her a sour look.

"Although we are both Asian, there are differences in the way we approach food," Sheng said. 

Notably, Sheng, who came to Ottawa from southern China to attend university, prefers white rice with her stir-fry, while Shin, who is Canadian with South Korean roots, prefers a blend of white and brown grains.

He also dislikes vegetables.

"I always tell her, tigers don't eat vegetables. Right? Exactly," Shin joked.

Bowled over: Yoon Shin, left, prefers Korean-style brown and white rice, while Lacey Sheng, right, prefers hers pure white in the southern Chinese style. (Fangliang Xu)

Sheng and Shin met four years ago in Ottawa. Food has always been common ground, though Sheng focuses more on healthy dishes and recipes she knows from home, while Shin admits to having little knowledge of the vast variety of Asian foods.

"This is going to make me sound really North American, but my go-to Chinese food was always General Tso chicken," Shin said. "That's not really Chinese food."

To set her boyfriend on the right path, Sheng has chosen a vegetable-heavy meal made with cauliflower, which is readily accessible in Western grocery stores and was also common back home. It's a recipe Sheng learned from her grandmother, an excellent chef.

"Someone once told me your family, friends and food are the three most important things in your life," Sheng says. 

Sheng adds pork belly to the pan of hot peppers, garlic and cauliflower while Shin provides backup. (Fangliang Xu)

Shin was up for the challenge.

"I've been watching a lot of Master Chef, so I am ready," he joked.

Sheng and Shin finely chop the pork belly, hot red and green peppers, garlic and cauliflower, then add them to the pan.

Knives out: It's going to be good, but will it be Master Chef good? (Fangliang Xu)

The rice cooker plays a song to announce it's ready, and the two pack the fragrant rice into small bowls. The pork and cauliflower is heaped onto a plate to share.

"I like it. It's got flavour and is well-seasoned," Shin said, though he added it may not be good enough for the next season of Master Chef.

'I like it. It's got flavour and is well-seasoned,' said Shin, who minutes earlier professed to hating vegetables. (Fangliang Xu)

"We gotta up our game," he vowed.

Watch the first episode of our series, What I Bring to the Table: