Sun 13 May 2012
Father Tom Tehan (with the beard) of Co. Meath at our First Communion; I think that’s me raising my candle and my sister in the back row (we’re identical twins and even I get confused!).
People here always ask me if I have any Irish blood coursing through my veins, and I always replied that I do not. I’m half-Japanese, part German, perhaps a bit Czech and maybe even a little Yugoslavian. But Irish, no – at least that’s what I thought.
And then several weeks ago my dad emailed to tell me that he was looking through our ancestry files and was reminded that his great grandmother (which would be my great, great grandmother) was one Hanora N. McDonough born in January 1872 in…County Mayo, Ireland!? She immigrated to the United States and married Bernard Henry Cook on the 17th of September 1890. So there you go, I’m a bit Irish after all.
Relatives aside, my family has some long-standing Irish connections that I either didn’t know about until recently or just forgot about. Growing up in Japan, we had a very close family friend in the form of an Irish priest: Father Tom Tehan, who hails from County Meath of all places. My parents met him when we lived in Japan, and he has remained close to us over the years; he even flew out to Arkansas to give my sister and me our First Communion. Shortly after I moved here to Ireland, I met with Father Tom for a cup of tea and a chat when he was here for a short visit with his siblings.
Sr. Bernadette at our christening – she is in the second row next to my godfather.
Recently my mother emailed to ask if I could look up a Sister Bernadette Harty of the Sisters of Charity of Nevers in Co. Dun Laoghaire. My mother met her when she attended Sacred Heart College in Japan, and they became fast friends. She told me of how Sr. Bernadette would invite my mom and her friends over to the convent and make them a proper Japanese meal, which was a real treat because the college cafeteria didn’t serve such dishes. She let the girls stay late after dinner for a chat, a welcome break from the rigors of college life.
My mother described Sr. Bernadette as a friend and almost like a second mother to her; she helped my mom with her thesis and took her shopping in Shibuya for sewing materials. She was also very honest and down-to-earth; when a young Irish priest that Sr. Bernadette knew impregnated a Japanese girl, she told my mother about it rather than try to hide it.
I don’t remember Sr. Bernadette myself, but she was at my christening in Japan. After my mother’s recent email inquiring about the Sister I did some research and found out that she passed away in 2005. My mother had suspected as much, as it was around that time that she stopped receiving the annual Christmas card from Sr. Bernadette, who was living back in Dun Laoghaire until her death. My mom wanted to visit her when my parents come to Dublin this autumn, but sadly that won’t be possible. However my mom will always have fond memories of Sr. Bernadette and is grateful for her kindness and friendship.
With all of these Irish connections, it almost seems like moving to Ireland was always in the cards. I’d love to find some relatives of my great-great grandmother, so if the name and birthplace rings a bell, please leave a comment here. It would be amazing to meet up with some of my Irish relatives!
Roasted Trout with Zesty Asian Chili Dressing & Braised Daikon
Being half-Japanese, I love cooking Asian food here at home in Dublin. I recently came across daikon, a Japanese radish, at the Organic Delights stand at St. Anne’s’ Farmers Market and I knew I had to make one of my favourite childhood side dishes. My mother used to braise daikon in a mild broth and the process transformed the hard, slightly bitter radish into a flavourful, tender morsel of goodness! I made it the other night with a main course of roasted trout with Asian dressing.
For the trout:
2 whole rainbow trout, gutted and scaled and cleaned
Several slices of fresh ginger (no need to peel)
Several slices of lemon
Salt & pepper to taste
For the dressing:
1 thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled
1/2 red chili, seeded
Handful of fresh coriander
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
Juice of one lime
1 tablespoon water
Preheat oven to 170C. Line a baking sheet with foil and coat with some vegetable oil. Lay the trout onto the baking tray and salt and pepper both the inside and outside of fish, and then stuff each fish with sliced ginger, lemon and some fresh coriander. Place in the oven and bake for 25 minutes.
While the fish is baking, combine all the ingredients for the dressing into a small food processor or blender and whizz together. You don’t want it too smooth, so pulse until everything is in small bits. You can also hand chop all the ingredients into tiny pieces and then throw it into the fish sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar, lime juice and water mixture.
To serve: Remove fish from oven and drizzle on the dressing. Make sure to put leftover dressing in a bowl on the table – you’ll want more, trust me!
1 large daikon
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup mirin
1 tablespoon brown sugar
To cut the daikon: Peel the exterior either with a vegetable peeler or a knife – the outer layer is slightly thick (even though it’s hard to tell) so you’ll want to peel a few layers if using a peeler. Top and tail the daikon, and then cut into 1-inch thick slices.
Place daikon into a large pot and pour water over until the daikon is just covered with water. Add in the soy sauce, mirin and brown sugar and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the setting and simmer for 40-45 minutes. Remove from broth and serve in a large bowl with a bit of the broth poured over the top.