Chinese new year’s yum-yum after seeing The Artist

22 01 2012

Shanghai dumplings and Shanghai noodles by Ming's

Went on a date last night, DH and I. Went to The Artist, the award-winning film I wanted to see ever since hearing the music and wondering about that cute dog on the Golden Globes. When I told my date there was a dog in the movie about the size of Alice Brown, he said okay we could go. Woof!

Is it in black and white? Yes. Is it a silent movie? Most of it. And that’s all I’m gonna say because I don’t want to spoil it for you. A fine, heartwarming flick!

Where to go for an after-movie snack? It’s Chinese New Year! Chinatown is in the opposite direction from home, but I felt like acknowledging my ancestral heritage nevertheless, so taking a cue from my friend Lori, I suggested we find Ming’s Chinese Restaurant in the little shopping center at Waiakamilo road and Dillingham boulevard in Honolulu and eat some Shanghai dumplings.

That’s not what they’re called by the restaurant, but you can look for a picture of them, similar to the one I made above, on the menu. We ate the dumplings by loading each onto a soup spoon, biting off the tip, slurping the soup that is inside, and only then ate the pork filling and its wrapper. Mmmm, good. Very tasty! And even better with red vinegar already on the table. No need to ask for it.

DH pronounced we could do this again. Good movie. Delicious snack. Renewing date night.

Copyright 2012 Rebekah Luke

Hakka dinner with Tsung Tsin

31 07 2011

Favorite food of Hakka people

For relatives on my mom’s side and friends interested in Hakka Chinese things, here is my link to the Tsung Tsin Association in Honolulu’s website where you can learn about this Hakka club too:

The group seeks new members to help achieve its mission “to promote the exchange of knowledge among the Hakka peoples, develop a spirit of cooperation among the Hakka in Hawaii and throughout the world, and promote education, charity, and benevolence.”

Last night, taking advantage of my “guest” status, eight of my cousins and friends partook of a Hakka dinner cooked by the chef of Golden Palace Seafood Restaurant. About 120 people attended.

At our table were my eldest first cousins, Eileen and Kwong-Yen, and cousin Audrey Helen and her husband Howard; our mothers were sisters. Nani and Rae came; they are cousins on Eileen’s father’s side. So did Pixie whose birthday is today—Happy Birthday, Pixie!—and Lori who is a professional foodie.

We ate dishes prepared especially for this event that are not part of the regular menu—as there is no Hakka-specific restaurant in Honolulu—and were reminded of our childhood and the foods our parents and grandparents made.

I consider Hakka food “Chinese soul food.” Some people call it peasant food. My friend Lori described it as “rustic” and “pigcentric.” It’s salty because Hakka people worked in the fields outdoors and needed to replace the salt in their bodies. Salt was also used as a preservative for foods like cabbage and eggs. Hakka cooks also use a lot of oil, because in the olden days there was not enough oil, so now that it is available, they use it (that is what I was told on a Hakka food tour I took in China one time.)

Although today’s advice is to eat what our ancestors ate, I don’t indulge like this very often anymore, and if I do, I modify the recipe and try to make it healthier. I do, however, like that the food we ate as kids did not contain much sugar.

Last night’s flavors allowed us to reminisce about the recipes. The occasion and the Tsung Tsin Association gave us a chance to revisit our roots. Please consider getting in touch. It’s a well-organized and very friendly community.

Copyright 2011 Rebekah Luke

Special Chinese food: joong

14 12 2010

Nani showed me how to make joong at her house today. Last month I was with her when she bought a whole bunch of eggs in flats. She said they were to make hahm dahn, or salted eggs, for joong. I began salivating.

“You know how to make joong?!” I asked. Coincidentally, my cousin Tim had just issued a joong cook-off challenge to his cousins via Facebook, but most had no idea what he was talking about!

Nani said she has made joong every year for 60 years starting from the time her mother taught her. At choir practice last week I asked how the hahm dahn were coming along, hinting that I wanted to see the production.

Joong is a Chinese festival food—a pouch of soft, sticky, sweet rice hiding savory morsels pork, peanuts, and a salted egg yolk. At least the way Nani makes them.

I recall my mother treating joong as special food. Nani said Chinese people eat joong for Boat Day in the spring although she makes it more often, and that joong represented an anchor—something heavy that stuck to the bottom of your stomach. Could be, I thought, but joong is also delicious.

Today Nani and her three sisters Corinne, Barbara, and Rae and her cousin Eva were already gathered around the modern kitchen island when I arrived. Each had her own set up. Each had started soaking chicken eggs in brine 30 days ago. What they made today they took home to boil for 6 hours. After cooling in the cooking water overnight they will be ready to eat or freeze for later enjoyment.

As with most Chinese recipes, much goes into preparation before cooking. Last night Nani softened the bamboo leaves that she bought in Chinatown by heating them in boiling water. She soaked the peanuts and the glutinous rice. She marinated cubes of belly pork with Hawaiian salt and Chinese five spices. Just prior to assembling the joong, she cracked the salted eggs into a bowl.

There are similar rice pouch type foods – of Chinese and other ethnic origins – of other shapes, using other kinds of outer leaves, using other fillings, but according to my joong mentor, those are not joong.

I can hardly wait to taste our efforts. Thank you, Nani, for sharing your family joong-making day with me!

This metal form makes it easy to assemble the joong. You build an upside-down pyramid starting with 3 bamboo leaves inserted a certain way.

The process starts with soaking eggs in brine at least 30 days in advance. These are chicken eggs. You may also use duck eggs that would be more of a delicacy. These eggs are tan because Nani added tea to the solution. (Aha! Chef’s secret?!)

Once the bamboo leaves are in place, top sides touching the food, add a serving spoon of rice, the hahm dahn yolk (discard the whites), two pieces of marinated pork, and a few peanuts. Top with two serving spoons of the rice to cover the filling you see here. Then fold both long sides of the leaves over as if gift wrapping a box, followed by the short sides. Secure with string.

More finished bundles will go into this pot. Add water to cover and set to boil and simmer for 6 hours.

P.S. Nani said the following book most closely describes their family’s way to make joong. In it, the recipe is entitled “Savory Jeng.”

Every Grain of Rice by Ellen Blonder and Annabel Low. Clarkson N. Potter Inc./Random House, 1998. ISBN 0-609-60102-4

Copyright 2010 Rebekah Luke

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