Incarcerated: 11 years
I have a son named Jason. Being a father who is far away, I needed to find a way to connect to my son. When I got locked up, he was nearly two. On his second birthday, I wanted to send him a card. I told myself I would learn how to draw so I could draw for him and everyone who supports me out there. I found that drawing was not only helping me build our relationship, It was also a way to express my emotions, a productive way to spend my time and it helped me focus and I’ve learned to be patient. It turned into a therapy which took me out of prison. I draw flowers, birds, koi fishes, and Spiderman, my son’s favorite superhero. I am also helping him to express his feelings through art. I could confidently say we finally found a common ground that we can talk about whenever I call home. Today, I would like to share my story and my little drawing. I hope by my sharing, it will help lift people up and help them find peace. I drew for peace in Ukraine, tensions in Southeast Asia, etc. I want to wish the world a peaceful moment. I was the kid who was growing up after the war. I’ve experienced that path and I had to move to a whole different country. I left behind everything and struggled for a new life. So peace is what I wish for, not only in the world, but for all of us incarcerated, who live in a negative environment. The blossom flowers represent a better life, better moments under the moonlight, under the darkest times. Even if the flower could blossom under the moonlight, so do we- right!
Thank you for asking me to write and thank you for giving me the opportunity to express my feelings. I would say expressing feelings through art is one of the most powerful, positive ways which I wish I could have learned a long time ago (before I committed my crime). Through art I found a connection to my son. And through drawing I guided him to express his feelings in a positive way.
Through drawing I found a connection to my son. And through drawing I guided him to express his feelings in a positive way. He is now 13 and interesting in cooking, I am glad he found something positive to do and help cope with his daily problems.
Sweet-Sour-Spicy Fish Soup
Food is the most important tool to connect me to my feelings, memories and also to help me in my loneliness. When I miss my parents, my childhood, or my hometown, I cook and try to use all the stuff we have here to make magic, to make the taste to a point which triggers my memory. I call my food fancy names like the names from home. One of the dishes I make the most is sweet – sour- spicy fish soup. At SQ, we’re allowed to bring vegetables back such as tomatoes, celery, onions, etc.
We are in prison so we lack ingredients. However, if you ever tasted the food before, all you need is to try to recreate it using what we have and match your memory. If you have never tasted it before, then you can create your own dish, and who knows, you might create something good.
I kept telling my friends that my cooking is not based on formulas such as 1 teaspoon, 1 pinch salt, 1 cup water, etc. I use my memory and taste. Whatever the taste I want, I will find something to match: instead of lemon and sugar, here in prison we use Kool-Aid Lemonade or even sugar and lemon juice, or sugar and vinegar. If you look for sweet, sour, spicy then you can use jalapeno juice and sugar to try to balance it with other spices. We don’t have catfish so we use Marckel or even tuna or sardines instead!
I like to make this because it reminds me of my hometown. Of course, we are in prison so we don’t have enough stuff to make it exactly. But we can make a similar version, and most Asian Pacific-Islanders will recognize this kind of soup. At home, we make it with freshwater or tropical fish – sometimes we use rock fish or pink fish, but it’s always good with catfish from the Mekong River.
I love to make magic in the kitchen. Especially in a place like prison, we lack everything but it won’t stop us from making a good rice bowl.
We are looking for sweet, sour, spicy and a bit salty. If the fish sauce isn’t salty enough (remember fish sauce is for the favor, it is super strong so be careful) we use salt to make it salty instead of fish sauce. Optionally, you can use sriracha or tabasco sauce instead of jalapeño pepper to make it spicy. Tom Yum paste is in rich flavor so it can be used on its own with just lemon for sour we only need the Lemon for sour The miso soup base pangsiugan, is sour already so all we need is to balance the flavors with fish sauce and salt. Optional: you can also add shitake mushroom, sour bamboo shoot or sour mustard, to taste.
- Fresh fish will work fine here as well. Choose a full-flavored, high fat fish such as mackrel, sardines, or catfish.
- We tested this recipe with the Kool-Aid Drink Mix (which is essentially just citric acid) but you may substitute fresh lemon juice instead.
- Nora Kitchen Islander Style Miso Soup Base can be found on Amazon.com.
Makes 2 servings
1 ripe tomato, chopped
1 stick celery, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped (seeds and ribs removed for a less spicy dish)
½ medium onion, diced
9 oz. canned mackerel or sardines
2 -.23 oz. packets Kool-Aid Lemonade Drink Mix or 1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon
1 – 1.05 oz. packet Nora Kitchen Islander Style Miso Soup Base (Pangsingang Sa Miso)
1 tsp. fish sauce
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 seasoning packet from Chili Flavor Ramen Noodle Soup (save the noodles for serving, or another use)
Cooked white rice or noodles, for serving
In a medium saucepan, combine the tomato, celery, jalapeño pepper, and onion. Strain the fish, reserving the liquid in a medium bowl. Gently break the fish up into bite-sized chunks, and then add to the pan with the vegetables.
Add the Kool-Aid Lemonade Drink Mix, Miso Soup Base, fish sauce, sugar, and chili seasoning to the bowl with the strained fish liquid. Mix briefly, then add to the pan with the fish and the vegetables.
Bring the fish mixture to a simmer on medium low and cook for 30 minutes – do not let the mixture boil.
Place cooked rice or noodles in two bowls. Split the fish mixture between the two bowls, spooning over the rice or noodles, then top with additional sauce from the pan.
Recipe tested by Sheri Codiana