It's time to share food traditions

Enthused by cooking: New Champion columnist Julie Tran.
Enthused by cooking: New Champion columnist Julie Tran.

IN MY mind, there was only one university I was going to: Charles Sturt University at Bathurst.

All the journalism greats went there. Jana Wendt, Tara Brown, Andrew Denton.

The list goes on.

Of course the idea of sending a 17-year-old female into the middle of nowhere only dawned on my parents when the HSC results came out in my favour.

My father Ton Tran cobbled up his entire life savings to open the Chinese restaurant at Canley Vale with his immediate family shortly after he arrived in this country.

It was a lofty accomplishment, given they had lost everything in the fall of Saigon.

Nham Tran, a qualified nurse in Vietnam, became a tailor and then cleaner to support herself in her new home, Australia.

Nham, my mum, met my dad through a mutual friend in the mid-1980s.

The by-product of their romance was a stubborn, headstrong individual.

I was a classic middle child: attention-seeking, noisy and determined to do things my way.

As most migrant parents do, my father worked around the clock to make sure he could support his wife and three kids.

My mother devoted all her love and care to her kids, and it was always expressed through food. Crispy chicken wings, succulent spring rolls and an assortment of strange hybrid Italian meals such as macaroni soup would be served straight from the kitchen and into the mouths of her hungry offspring.

Before I knew it the time came to leave the family nest.

A long ride on the country express a few hours into the west of NSW became my new place of residence for three years.

Every holiday, when I stayed behind to work at the local radio station at Bathurst, I would bring a batch of my mother's signature fried rice for those remaining in the dorm.

Soon, word spread like wildfire about this saliva-inducing meal.

It became more popular than the dining hall chicken schnitzel.

According to historians, fried rice gained popularity between 589 to 618 AD in Yangzhou, China.

It was a meal-in-one dish enjoyed by one or more people.

Peasants couldn't afford to waste food.

Generations later, the meal has been reincarnated and enjoyed by "new" Australians who treasure this dish.

As an adult, I came to realise that not every parent can cook.

And not every parent delivers their food with such passionate gusto.

What better way to pass the cultural torch onto a new generation than sharing these family recipes?

What's your story? Is it Nonna's signature lasagna? Or Dad's famous baba ganoush?

How has food helped keep your cultural heritage alive?

Email and share your story.

For all recipes featured in this column, go to or visit

Twitter: @jujutran

Instagram: @jujutran


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