First, assemble your ingredients. Chinese cooking is fast and doesn’t wait for the unprepared. There’s the soft tofu of course, which should be cubed. You have green onions, oil, optional meat and veggies, and pre-packaged sauce.

I stop to think about whether this can be considered an authentic recipe if I didn’t make it from scratch. I’m not even sure exactly what goes into making a mapo tofu sauce. I know that the brand I’m using, with the bright red, flat box and green label, is the one I’ve always used. Did my mother use it? …


In Southern Spain, about an hour and a half flight from Barcelona, there is a small city called Granada.

Granada is famous for a few things. At one point a Roman stronghold, Moorish forces took control of the area in the 1st century AD and brought with them a relatively stable religious tolerance that was notable at the violent time. Granada is also an absurdly beautiful city of hillside cave houses, dramatic architecture, and sand-colored brick streets. It houses flamenco dancers, traditional tapas, and excellent craftsmen.

Granada’s biggest claim to fame is the palace city of Alhambra.

In 2015, my…


Carlos was newly home after a year in Vietnam teaching English. A year older than me, he had a long face, shiny brown hair worn low across his forehead, a runner’s frame, and a very slight lisp. He was the only child of an older, progressive hippie couple that lived in a large Victorian on the island of Alameda. When I met him, he was still at home, thinking of going back to school but working part-time at a music technology company.

For the first few months, we had a great time. It was an easy, warm, and laugh-filled courtship…


Discovering a new emotion in the wake of the March 16 Atlanta attacks

Years ago, a man wrote me a message on the dating app OkCupid.

I responded along the lines of, “Thank you but I’m not interested. I hope you find who you’re looking for, good luck!”

He responded with, “All of you stuck-up Asian bitches are the same.”

When I woke up today, I immediately began thinking of the killings in Atlanta yesterday. On March 16, 2021, a man went inside multiple spas and killed 8 people, almost all of them Asian women.

It wasn’t until I called…


The clothes are spinning in the washer, suds flying up against the shiny glass. Amy watches, waiting for the bright red flowers of her favorite shirt to appear.

It’s loud in the laundromat, even though there aren’t many people inside. But Chinatown is always noisy on the weekends, especially when the markets are open.

Grandmothers pick their ways through the narrow sidewalks, poking at fish and side-stepping discarded fruit that will be wedged in the gutters for a week. …


We’re piled into Nate’s mini-van, and he’s blasting Built to Spill. The windows are down so between the air whipping past on the highway and the music, it’s hard to hear each other. I’m in the backseat, leaned up against Ashley as I doze. Kaitlin and Roger are in front of us, staring out the windows, and Warren’s in the passenger seat, talking to Nate about kung-fu. Somewhere ahead of us, Michael is driving his own beat-up maroon SUV full of people.

It’s about two hours to New Smyrna from Orlando, but it’s our fifth beach trip of the year…


A man once told me, “you’re great, but not the kind of woman you marry.”

He had made many assumptions with that statement:

· that women must marry or must want to marry

· that there is a Platonic ideal of women that is marriageable

· that I had some grave faults excluding me from this social contract

· that because he didn’t want to marry me, no one should

· that he knew enough about me within two months to determine my future

· that he was an accurate judge of personality

· that he was the kind of…


You can always hear the insects buzzing in the warm months of the South. If it’s not cicadas, it’s crickets. If it’s not crickets, it’s flies. If it’s not flies, it’s lovebugs. They rustle and create the low hum that keeps me from being able to sleep in silence as an adult.

I’m only fourteen during this Tennessee spring and running out the glass doors of the kitchen. Katie’s due to meet me in the wide field beyond my backyard, the boundary delineated only by manicured grass meeting tall weeds. …


I looked up at the street lamp tonight, saw its light gilding the bare branches of a small oak. Soft flurries sifted into this golden circle, and I thought of you.

Last night I dreamt that I was saying goodbye to you, but in a different house and in a different life. Some things remained the same: your shirt collar brushing against my temple as I leaned in, the bristles on your jaw reaching down, the ridge of your nose sliding over mine. …


Sometimes I forget my sister exists. It’s not her fault.

When she was born, I was sitting in the Lins’ beige, wood-paneled living room. It was the end of May in Savannah, and the air was thick even inside. Their family was close to mine, in the primary way that Chinese families can be close, by building their relationship on a core principle: competition.

Mrs. Lin bustled into the room, still holding the cordless phone, and excitedly whispered in Mandarin, “You have a sister now. You’re going to be the big sister and take care of her.”

I jumped up…

Candace Cui

An over-thinker. Previously published to Broke-Ass Stuart, 7x7, DotheBay, Curiously Direct, and Mosshouse Collective.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store