La Cocina showcases women we admire and their kitchens. Part photo essay, part interview, all admiration.
Here is our new episode of La Cocina, a conversation with Delia Tethong.
Delia is a mover and shaker about Portland, Oregon. For the past decade she has given herself wholeheartedly to the local food and maker scene and is a real champion for all the arts. She is mother to five year old Tashi who is a true spark of energy and joy. We were so lucky to sit in Delia's kitchen, sip tea, and chat in her beautiful open space home filled with the work of local artists and ceramicists, all while she made us a most special Tibetian soup: Thukpa. We were all delighted to learn how to make hand pulled noodles — funny that something really so simple feels incredibly decadent.
Curl up somewhere cozy with your favorite morning drink and peek inside Delia’s kitchen with us. Then run, don’t walk, to the market to gather all the ingredients to make this delicious soup for yourself!
What is the soundtrack to your cooking?
I realized that that precious time spent as a teenager and young(er) person listening to all the music while driving with no destination has now in my thirties become the time while I cook. I have some playlists that get a little over played in the kitchen while cooking and they will always include my favorite TV on the Radio (always and forever), Misun, Ofege, Jamie xx, and whatever new songs I have discovered recently. Depending on the mood and the type of day it has been, it can be the mellow Zero 7, Moses Sumney, and London Grammar type of playlists or the Robyn, Beyoncé, and Inoj type of playlists. Life is all about variety, right?
A couple current faves on repeat:
Tora-i - Call Your Name
Dirty Gold - California Sunrise
Lady Wray - Piece of Me
Frank Ocean - Nights
Who taught you to cook? We love how food can travel through our lineages. Are there things you love to cook that have been passed down from generation to generation?
Both of my parents had a serious influence on my cooking. My father was Tibetan, so I grew up eating lots of curries, rice dishes, lentils, and momos (Tibetan dumplings). My mother is American, happens to be a very good cook and baker, but is someone who never looks at a recipe. Her cooking style has definitely been passed down as I also am not a good recipe follower, as much as I inspire to have all the cookbooks. They both taught me different techniques and dishes that I still make variations of to this day. Momos are definitely the staple favorite among our family, friends, and anyone else who tries them, so it is fun to make those for people. They are the dumplings you have at any Tibetan gathering or celebration, where Tibetans just make mountains of them and you eat an ungodly amount in the double digits. I wish I was as skilled as my father was at making them, but oh well, they still hit the spot.
We all have our tried and true meals. What is your: “I can’t be bothered” meal?
Always always always a pasta or a soup. I love a Sunday bolognese that I can eat for a couple days. Also love a Tibetan soup called Thukpa or a sausage, kale, lentil/bean, brothy soup with crusty bread. It never gets old, always comforting and super easy.
Favorite take out meal?
I love cooking, but equally love eating out and getting take out. A lot of my work revolves around food and drink so I consider eating out “research” and take every opportunity to do so. A few of my tride & trues for takeout are Mekha, Cully Central, paadee, and do yourself a favor and go to the truck Los Mayas Loncheria on 42nd and Prescott. Being Tibetan, you’re always on the hunt for momos when you’re too lazy to make them, so I go to Momo House on Sandy to scratch that itch.
Food shopping can be a drag or a dream; where is your favorite spot to gather ingredients?
I feel like there are two kinds of people in the world. Those that love grocery shopping and those that despise it. I am the former. I love everything about it. I love looking through all the aisles, picking the exact produce I want, looking at packaging, branding, and all the different options. I usually hit a local farmer’s market every week and love going to specialty shops like Wellspent Market to be inspired and buy all the things I never knew I needed but sound too good to pass up. Also, the Wellspent crew are dear friends who really know their stuff. Everyone should go in and just ask all the questions.
What ingredients/staples do you always have stocked in your pantry and/or fridge?
I always have at least a couple jars of locally made Hot Mama Salsa chili oil, because I go through about one a week. It’s that good and can go on everything. Nikki is a chili goddess and no matter how many other chili oils I have in my pantry, I go straight for hers most days.
I always have soy sauce, cilantro, garlic, and ginger on hand — probably based on growing up with Asian family and being the base of many dishes we had throughout the week. There’s nothing more infuriating than going to cook and missing garlic and/or ginger.
What is the kitchen task you most dread?
Since I was a teenager, it has been unloading the dishwasher. It’s such a simple task and yet I hate it so much. Something about unloading the damn dishwasher just drains so much joy from my kitchen experience and I'd like to think I am not alone in that...or maybe I am just a brat.
Are you pro kids in the kitchen? Or do you prefer to cook alone? What meal/food do your children most request?
It’s funny because it has changed just in the last couple of months now that my daughter is five years old, she has actually been very excited (and surprisingly helpful!) about assisting with dinner. When she was younger she didn’t have as much interest and you need the patience of a saint to watch a toddler try to measure out flour and spill more things on the floor than in the bowl, but now she takes her jobs very seriously and after each one asks “okay what’s next mom?” I was shocked when she was really wanting to help form the meatballs for the spaghetti a few weeks back. At first I thought it wasn’t a great idea since it’s raw meat but then I thought “hell, we can wash her hands after,” and it allowed me to prep everything else while she did the meatballs, and did it well! Since then she has shredded chicken, ground spices in the mortar & pestle, and mixed dressings for me while I work on the other things and I got to say, it’s been a game changer. Plus, it’s nice to do something you love so much with the human you love the most.
MADRE’s tagline is We all eat. We all rest. We’ve asked a lot about eating, so how do you build rest into your day/week/month?
I like to stay in bed as long as possible in the morning. I am definitely not someone that opens their eyes and hops out of bed into the world (props to those people!). If I don’t have to be out the door, I am soaking up every second I can lounging and staying under the covers until the very last minute. Do I really need more rest after hours of sleeping? Who knows, but it feels damn good.