My mom grew up on the island of Punghu in Taiwan and she inhales seafood like a Midwesterner devours steaks. Of all the fishes in the sea, milkfish has a special place in her stomach. Growing up, I have fond memories of my mom, taking me to different street food stands, telling me how this stand has the best seafood congee, this stand has the best milkfish soup…etc. Some days, my mom would take me to the open market in our neighborhood in Taipei and buy fresh milkfish. Maybe because congee is so easy to cook, that is always her go-to home-cooked dish. When my dad was sick in the hospital, I remember my mom would search the local markets for milkfish congee, claiming that it is the most nutritious and nourishing for someone who is convalescing. If I ever get to request a last meal, this has to be it.

 This is an illustration by Jave Yoshimoto of a deep white bowl filled with milkfish congee served with a twisted and glistening piece of Chinese fried dough on the side. The bowl is rendered in black line work with blue washes for the shadows. The congee is painted in washes of brown and tan. Linework has been used to illustrate the pinkish-gray milkfish, rice kernels in the congee, and the garnishes of pickled ginger strips, cilantro, and sliced scallions. The green of the cilantro provides an intense color contrast to this otherwise subtly earth tone and white painting.
Jave Yoshimoto, Kathy Liao’s Milkfish Congee, 2021, ink, watercolor and gouache on paper, 9” x 12″.

Milkfish Congee 虱目魚粥



    • Milkfish belly and head, cut the fish into 2-inch pieces (you can substitute other white fish, but milkfish is the best)
    • 1 cup of day-old rice
    • 6-10 cups of water or fish stock (depend on how soupy you want the congee to be)
    • (if using water, add 1 teaspoon of dashi)
    • salt
    • dash of white pepper
    • dash of sesame oil
    • few slices of ginger


    • 1 green onion (finely chopped)
    • cilantro
    • pickled ginger strips


    1. Save a cup of left-over rice
    2. In a pot, add rice, fish stock (or water and dashi), salt, and ginger slices.  Bring everything to a boil at high heat, and then turn it down to a simmer.
    3. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, or when the congee starts to thicken. Sometimes, I add more water/stock halfway through to make it soupier.
    4. Once congee reaches the desired consistency, throw in the milkfish chunks, add a dash of white pepper and sesame oil, and let it cook for a few minutes.
    5. Dish it out in a bowl and garnish it with chopped green onion, cilantro, and ginger stripss.

*best served with a side of Chinese fried dough

Kathy Liao headshot. A Taiwanese American woman in her mid-thirties has a slight smile and twinkle in her eye in this three-quarter view headshot. She has short black bob haircut that is tied back. Loose strands of hair frame her face. She wears bronze drop earrings with a chevron pattern and wears a black v-neck blouse with a yellow and pink floral pattern. The background of this studio photo is a muted dark olive green.

Drawing inspirations from her diverse cultural background and personal history, Kathy Liao’s mixed media work is about the intimate yet universal concept of relationships. Liao received her MFA in Painting from Boston University and BFA in Painting and Drawing from University of Washington, Seattle. Liao is a recipient of various awards including the 2020 Charlotte Street Foundation Visual Artist Award, Elizabeth Greenshield Foundation Grant, and artist grants and fellowships from Anderson Ranch Arts Center, Vermont Studio Center, and Jentel Artist Residency. Her work was shown in Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Kansas City, and many other cities nationally and internationally. In the past, Liao was Director of the Painting and Printmaking Studio Art Program at Missouri Western State University and taught at Boston University, University of Washington, Seattle University, and Gage Academy of Art. She is currently part of the Artist Services team at Mid-America Arts Alliance in Kansas City.

This is an installation shot of a large-scale horizontally oriented mixed-media painting by Kathy Liao of waiting at an airport. In the foreground rendered in black and white is a group of exhausted-looking people seated in a terminal waiting area. The entire bottom section of the painting is of a view labyrinth of security ropes with passengers trying to navigate the maze. The bottom left quadrant has a pale transparent yellow glaze. The top half of the painting is filled with painterly black and white marks that allude to clouds, an incoming airplane, and an escalator. The artist describes the painting: Phone calls at the same time every day, packing and unpacking luggages, eagerly waiting at Arrival and saying good-byes at Departure, getting into another long winding customs and border security line… These rituals are performed by many American Dream hopefuls, despite not knowing when or where the line ends. In my work, I look for patterns and repetitions in behaviors of the immigrant family. I want to understand the driving force behind making choices to uproot a family. As families separate and migrate, I recognize the invariable loss and the struggle to justify and reconcile the distance in between.
Kathy Liao, In Between the Lines, 2019, site specific installation at H&R Block Artspace at the Kansas City Art Institute, collage, charcoal, marker, ink, silkscreen, oil on paper and canvas. approximately 252” x 132”. Photo Credit EG Schempf.