The Comfort of Broccoli Tempura

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The email request was unusual and poignant: A man was asking for a recipe for his terminally ill mother-in-law. She loved the favorite broccoli tempura at Ekiben, which has two locations in Baltimore. 

The answer was unexpected. 

“Thanks for reaching out,” wrote restaurant owner Steve Chu. “We’d like to meet you in Vermont and make it fresh for you.” 

Brandon Jones, who made the request, was stunned. Chu was looking at a six-hour drive. He emailed back to clarify. But there had been no confusion.  

“No problem,” Chu wrote back after reading the email on March 11. “You tell us the date, time and location and we’ll be there.” 

Jones and his wife, Rina Jones, live in Canton, a trendy Baltimore neighborhood. They were set to visit Rina’s mother in Vermont for a weekend. Rina’s mom is in the final stages of lung cancer and is now in hospice care. 

One of Rina’s mothers’ favorite places to go when she was in Baltimore was one of Chu’s Asian-fusion restaurants, so she could order the tempura broccoli topped with fresh herbs, diced onion, and fermented cucumber vinegar.  

“She loves that broccoli, and I really wanted her to have it one more time,” Jones, an engineer, told the Washington Post. His mother-in-law asked that her name not be published by The Post in a request for privacy at the end of her life. 

“She had always told us, ‘When I’m on my death bed, I want to have that broccoli,’” said Rina Jones, 38, who works in the health-care industry. “In fact, when I was packing on Friday to drive up to Vermont, I called my mom to see if she wanted us to bring anything special and she jokingly said, ‘tempura broccoli!’” 

Chu did not mess around timewise. He drove to Vermont with his business partner, Ephrem Abebe, and employee Joe Anonuevo on March 12. The truck was loaded with a hot plate and a cooler filled with the ingredients for broccoli tempura. 

“To me, it was a huge honor to be able to help fulfill the family’s wishes,” Chu told The Post. “This is about her, not us. There was a lot of good, positive energy in doing this.”

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