Hi food lovers!
I’m a food lover just like you, and my name is CiCi Li.
My life has been full of surprises, be it sweet, sour, bitter, or spicy, I’ve tasted them all.
Whenever I thought I couldn’t do it anymore, I’d flip a page, there would be another turning point, and it would lead to more exciting stories.
The question I’ve got the most throughout the years is “CiCi, where are you from?”
I was born in Beijing, and spent most of my childhood in Thailand and Singapore. When I was 11, my family decided that I should go back to China to learn Chinese. During that time, I became both a nighthawk and an early bird. I stayed up late every night, and copied each character I encountered that day over and over again until I became familiar with every stroke. I then woke up before dawn to go over them again.
The hard work paid off. In the following midterm exam, I even received first place, out of the entire grade of about a hundred students, in Chinese literature. I also became the president of several clubs. But the fairy tale didn’t last long.
One day, in the summer of 1999, just like every other morning, I rode my bike to school. In a little while, I noticed a car, following very closely behind. In it sat two unfriendly men, donning sunglasses and earphones.
Upon my arrival at school, the principal asked to see me in his office. He lowered his head and told me to pack my bags and leave. I could tell that he wasn’t proud of what he said. My classmates were in tears, and I was speechless. The school had been forced by the Chinese communist party to kick me out, because of my belief in Falun Dafa.
Falun Dafa is the best thing that ever happened to me and my family. It is a traditional cultivation practice, and it is rooted in truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. It makes me a better person, healthier physically and mentally.
In China, I lived with my grandma, aunt, and her two toddler sons. The Chinese Communist Party put us under house arrest. We were not allowed to leave the house. They recorded our phone conversations and watched closely our every move. They also took over all of my family’s assets in China; the house, car, bank accounts, and even personal belongings.
At the age of 12, I arrived in the US as a political refugee.
One early evening, around Christmas time, when the weather was freezing cold, my mom and I made our way to the supermarket. As we passed by a residential area, I saw the houses all glittering and decorated with shiny, warm Christmas lights. I looked through a house’s window and saw a family happily enjoying a meal together. It made me wonder if my family could ever be like that again.
For me, there’s no better place than around the dining table because food has no boundaries. Food unites people and makes everyone happy regardless of age, color, or religion. The process of cooking became a process of healing for me.
In 2009, another great turning point occurred. I joined New Tang Dynasty Television. It is the only Chinese television network not influenced or controlled by the Chinese communist party. Its mission, of creating a bridge between the East and West, tied perfectly with mine.
I produced and hosted 6 seasons of food and travel TV programs around the world, with more than 300 episodes. My team and I were invited into the kitchens of hundreds of world-renowned chefs. I loved meeting them and learned about their cooking philosophies and styles. The more I traveled, the more I learned about these amazing chefs, then the more I craved to find my true origin.
In 2014, the exploration turned me into a chef-in-training with Chinese Master Chef Zizhao Luo. Chef Luo is known as one of Beijing’s “Top 4 Chefs”. His cooking philosophy is based on traditional Chinese culinary art.
The first thing Chef Luo asked me to do was to julienne mountain-high piles of carrots into thin hair-like sticks. As you can imagine, I started by slicing not just the carrots, but also my fingers.
“When you cook, first, you need to calm your heart. Then, treat the ingredients with respect, care, and compassion. And naturally, you wouldn’t cut or burn yourself in the kitchen,” Chef Luo kindly explained.
In 2016, I started a cooking show called “CiCi Li, Asian Home Cooking”, which now has more than 200 episodes. It’s where I share my passion and Asian home cooking dishes with all food lovers.
Join me in discovering the world of Asian home cooking!