Welcome To The Dyke Kitchen!

The Dyke Kitchen is a bi-weekly series about how queerness, identity, culture and love are expressed through food and cooking.


Since Reneice has recently moved on to new things in the wild world, we’ve had to say goodbye to her beloved series Femme Brûlée. So in this Saturday spot, you will now find my new series The Dyke Kitchen. Every other week, this will be a place where I’ll show you the delicious food I make on the regular, explore the values and identities that I bring into the kitchen, test out unexpected ideas that occur to me in my madness and talk to people who really know what they’re doing. The kitchen is my home and food is my greatest love language — so they’re vital to the way I connect with people and I’m excited to share them with you!

I wanted to start out with a little history of where I’m coming from with food. My mom is third-generation Japanese American from what she says used to be “the boonies” northeast of Oakland, CA and my dad moved to the U.S. from Andhra Pradesh in South India when he was seven. The comfort foods of my youth were heavily influenced by their food traditions. There are numerous shots of me as a kid stuffing mochi into my mouth, smearing rice and yogurt all over my face, and family lore about how much fish I could eat as a toddler.

chubby faced toddler sits in high chair with yogurt smeared on her cheeks

My most notorious moment as a precocious two-year-old took place at an Indian restaurant, where we were regulars. “You stood up in your high-chair and announced ‘I think I have diarrhea,’” my dad likes to remind me with hysterical laughter. “We were thinking, ‘Oh no!’ but other people were impressed that you would know that.” I’m ashamed that this might have been the result of an embarrassingly low spice tolerance, though I’m also aware I was only a baby.

I grew up in Oakland and later moved to a posh, Stepford Wives suburb inside of Oakland, called Piedmont, but the Bay Area has always influenced the way we ate: lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, all kinds of cuisines at once. My earliest best friend trio  — in our ballet class we were called Winkin’, Blinkin’ & Nod — included two girls who were Japanese-Filipina and Mexican-Hawaiian. So it was totally normal for me to go a party with kalua pig, enchiladas, macaroni salad, teryaki and adobo. That’s exactly the kind of approach I bring to my cooking.

Truth be told, I’m not considered the finest cook in my family. I’m regularly overshadowed by my sister’s epic roast pork masterpieces, my mom’s simple yet elegant vegetables, my dad’s inventive South Indian staples, and let’s not even bring in my aunt, whose creations most people believe are bought from a fancy bakery. Among my friends, however, I get to shine as someone who will always be able to make something reliably tasty with whatever we have, and though I do have refined taste, it includes instant noodles and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos alongside caviar. I think that’s an accurate picture of my life.

Today, I’m keeping it simple with my favorite go-to snacks. I’m two kinds of Asian, so spoiler-alert, it’s rice. Rice is always a star, in my mind. More on that another day.

Rice with soy sauce & furikake

If you’re not familiar with furikake, it’s a blend of dried Japanese rice seasonings, usually with sesame seeds, nori and various other goodies, from bonito flakes to wasabi, that I’ve been dumping on my rice with reckless abandon since I was a kid. There’s a whole host of flavors for you to experiment with mixing together. Lately, I’ve been doing the Seto Fumi with a little dusting of the shiso variety too.

bowl of rice with toppings and spoon

Rice with yogurt & Indian lime pickle

The last time I spent time with my family in India, they spent considerable effort aggressively encouraging me to “take curd.” Curd, in this case, was plain yogurt smothering a small pile of rice, which I was supposed to find room for after a giant meal. The intention, I believe, aside from dampening my feminist rage about not being allowed to go out alone, was for it to aid in digestion and soothe the fire of spice I had just eaten. I’ve always just liked the balance of fatty and tart. It’s also my dad’s mini meal of choice, and he’ll often top his with Milaga podi or gunpowder and fried potatoes. I like mine with an Indian pickle, I’m doing a lime one these days, and if I have some my dad’s gunpowder, I’ll add that too.

bowl of rice with spoon

I’m looking forward to sharing more food and stories with you soon!

Kamala Puligandla lives in LA and is the writer of various autobiographical fictions. She is the distinguished recipient of her parents' leftovers and hair compliments from strangers on the street. Her first novel is forthcoming from Not A Cult. Find her work at kamalapuligandla.com.

Kamala has written 39 articles for us.

16 Comments

  1. I will be back to read the rest of this article. Still processing the loss of Femme Brûlée and Reneice’s AS contributions. I’m not one to spend time in the kitchen if I can avoid it, but reneice’s photos and writing got me baking more than once.

  2. Super stoked to know your culinary perspective will be part of AS’s week! I’ve been trying out a bit of Japanese cooking recently and LOVING IT. There’s a Japanese market near me with the most amazing selection..I’m so lucky to live in a city with lots of fresh food easily available. Can’t wait to explore Asian cuisines further with your guidance!

  3. I can’t wait to see where this column goes. Probably because I’m half Punjabi, I love my curd and pickle with bread (especially paratha) instead of rice. Give me that with some karak chai for breakfast, and I’m so happy.

    • I have always loved all food related content on AS, but to me Reneice achieved pure perfection with her colum. I have reread them and baked so many delicious treats… Will miss it and her a lot. That is not to say that this makes me curious as well. My love language also is cooking. curious to see what deliciousness lies ahead. Best wishes to Reneice <3

  4. I’m so excited for this! I’m also Yonsei on one side of my family. I grew up with some Japanese food (but not much), and not much understanding of my cultural heritage. I have really big feelings (and insecurities!) around Japanese food, and not feeling “Japanese enough” (whatever that means). I’m excited to see what this column brings!

  5. I’m looking forward to these columns! I love cooking, and like all sorts of cuisines, with the exception of much of my native Dutch kitchen. I currently have some home made mini-pizzas in the oven.

    One of my new years resolutions was to empty out my pantry because I have way way to many staples just sitting there. Since there are plenty of Asian ingredients and I’m not that great at making Asian foods, I’m looking forward to some of your (parents) recipes.

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