Stir-fried Chinese lettuce

Chinese lettuceLast weekend, I saw the whole stalks of Chinese lettuce (芹 萵) sold in San Francisco Chinatown. With leafy greens sprouting from a long, thick stem, it looks like a little tree. This vegetable goes by many names–A-choy, stem lettuce, Taiwan lettuce, celtuce, won sun, ching woh, qin woh sun. The tops resemble romaine lettuce, which makes a good substitute. The thick stems have the texture of broccoli stems or kohlrabi with a lettuce flavor.

In China, I saw the vegetable sold with leaves attached to the stalk. In America, I find the tops and stems are often sold separately. The thick stalk-like stem resembles a broccoli stem in texture. Peel it deeply reach the tender interior. Slice the stems to use for pickles, stir-fries, and soups. The leaves can be cut and stir-fried or added to soups.

Stir-fried Chinese LettuceOn page 57 of The Hakka Cookbook, try the recipe for Stir-Fried Chinese Lettuce, Garlic, and Black Beans. If you can’t find the Chinese lettuce, use romaine lettuce but cut the leaves in half lengthwise if wider than 3 inches. The process is simple. Cut the lettuce leaves into about 3-inch lengths. Wash and drain well. In a hot wok, stir-fry sliced or small whole garlic cloves, fermented black beans, and minced fresh ginger in oil until aromatic. Then add lettuce pieces, a splash of water, and a little soy sauce to taste. Stir-fry just until leaves are slightly wilted. Enjoy!

Be Sociable, Share!

Cooking classes at home

grokker videoInterested in watching cooking, yoga, and fitness classes at home on demand from your computer or other device? I cook Chinese dishes (including some Hakka recipes) on a subscription food and fitness website www.grokker.com  You will find 59 experts teaching cuisines from all over the world plus other topics such as healthy eating, baking, gluten-free, vegan, and techniques. After all that eating, choose from over 2000 yoga and fitness videos with topics that range from pilates to Hatha yoga.

Grokker is offering a special promotional price to my friends. For $99 for a 1-year subscription (45% off normal price) you have full access to the site. If you’re interested in this special price, use these codes: Checkout code: lindaa99 OR https://grokker.com/create-account/lindaa99 OR http://grok.kr/yhr9da  Cancel anytime.

For a preview glimpse, check out this video on how to cook Hakka Noodles with Pork and Mushroom Sauce.

Be Sociable, Share!

Hakka in Suriname

Bitter melon braised with Madame Jeanette pepper, 5-spice powder, star anise, garlic

Bitter melon braised with Madame Jeanette pepper, 5-spice powder, star anise, garlic

Before I met Stuart Lee at the Toronto Hakka Conference 2012, I did not know Suriname, his home country. I learned this former Dutch plantation colony is located on the northeast Atlantic coast of South America with Guyana to the West and Brazil to the south. Many Hakka, as well as many other ethnic groups, live there.

Recently Stuart shared photos of the diverse food culture of his home country. Here are some of his photos and comments.

Stuffed tofu (ngiong fukah) by Surinamese Creole

Stuffed tofu (ngiong fukah) by Surinamese Creole

The Hakka placed their footprints on Suriname in 1853. Their contribution to the New World is huge. Chinese medicine, foods, kite flying, fireworks, mahjong–all ethnic groups in Suriname use these gifts from the Chinese. Their influence is seen in many Surinamese dishes, often blended with local ingredients, and multi-cultural tastes.

Chicken in hoisin and wine sauce with ever-present yellow pepper

Chicken in hoisin and wine sauce with ever-present yellow pepper

 

 

Dutch split pea soup with Chinese dumplings

Dutch split pea soup with Chinese dumplings

 

“As Suriname is probably the third most ethnic diverse country after USA and Canada,” says Lee, “ it is not uncommon for us to eat a lunch or dinner plate with boiled or fried cassava, plantains, ham choy with chicken and a sambal made with chicken hearts, gizzards and livers.” Dutch, Indonesian, Jewish, Hindustan, and African also play a strong role in this multi-cultural cuisine.

Pom, national dish of Suriname

Pom, national dish of Suriname

All cultures also embrace the Suriname national dish Pom. It is only available in Suriname, Holland and the Netherlands Antilles. “I have to thank the Jews who came to Suriname 400 years ago for inventing this dish!”

This baked casserole is made with root called pomtayer, similar to taro used to make poi. “I think the root is only grown in Suriname by the descendants of African slaves or the Creoles. My Mom marinates it with orange juice for the nice orange color, fills it with braised chicken and salted cured beef. The salted beef is also a Jewish influence. My grandfather and father would import shiploads of salted beef that were packed in wooden barrels similar to the wine barrels. Hakkas like my family were the ones who got the salted cured beef from New Brunswick. We also imported salted cod from Halifax that were the size of a small desk and came in jute bags and also salted pig tails, salted herring from Holland, and cured hams from Virginia. All these were poor man’s foods.”

Thanks to Stuart Lee for sharing a glimpse into the Surinamese diverse culinary history.

Be Sociable, Share!

Hakka soul food cooking class

IMG_1363I have been busy giving cooking classes and slide presentations at four branches of the San Mateo County Library the past two weeks. This Saturday, February 20, marks my last event in East Palo Alto. Come to learn about the Chinese migrants known as the Hakka and Chinese New Year foods and traditions. I will cook three Hakka soul food dishes and tastings follow. If you have a copy of The Hakka Cookbook, bring it and I will be happy to personally autograph it. There will also be copies for sale.

IMG_3853I love meeting people at these presentations. In Foster City, I met a young couple who told me they had cooked three recipes from The Hakka Cookbook for their Chinese New Year’s dinner. These were some of the more labor-intensive Hakka classics such as Salt-baked Chicken, Stuffed Tofu, and Pork Belly with Preserved Mustard Greens. I am so proud of them!

One member of the Millbrae audience said her father was Hakka from Jamaica. She was thrilled to buy a book with her Hakka history. Another attendee told me she had read the book from cover to cover and appreciated the research and stories. She admitted she was not much of a cook so she focused on the simpler recipes. She was so happy that the results were successful.

Comments like these are my reward.  When a person understands and uses the book, it makes all those years of research and testing worthwhile.

Catch the last event: February 20, Saturday, 2 pm. East Palo Alto Library, 2415 University Ave., East Palo Alto, CA 94303. 650. 321. 7712, ext. 225.

 

Be Sociable, Share!

Chinese New Year cooking class

LNY Double Cooking ProgramHappy Year of the Monkey! Visit the Millbrae Library Tuesday night, February 9 for a special double-header Chinese New Year event.

Come at 6 pm to see Jimmy Zhang, founder of Art Chef, Inc., carve fruit and vegetables into intricate shapes.

At 6:30 pm I will be showing slides on Hakka soul food and history and Chinese New Year. Watch me cook three dishes adapted from The Hakka Cookbook, Chinese Soul Food from around the World. Stay for a taste of the Ginger-Garlic Noodles, Snow Peas and Tofu Stir-fry, and Chinese Lettuce with Garlic and Black Beans. Bring your copy of The Hakka Cookbook and I will be happy to sign it. I will also have a few copies of The Hakka Cookbook for sale. Advance sign-up needed. Click here to sign up for the event.

The library is located at 1 Library Avenue in Millbrae, California. I hope to see you there. If you can’t make it, come to my cooking class at Foster City Library on 2/11/16 at 6:30 pm or East Palo Alto Library on 2/20/16 at 2 pm. Click here for more details.

 

 

Be Sociable, Share!

Chinese New Year

IMG_7650Khiung Hee Fat Choy! Wishing you a prosperous new year! Welcome to the Chinese year 4714 on the lunar calendar which begins on February 8, 2016. This is the year of the monkey.

Last night, I gave the first of four presentations for the San Mateo County Libraries on Chinese New Year and Hakka Soul Food (click here for event schedule). In my talk, I showed slides of many foods eaten during the two-week celebration.

Many dishes served for the Chinese New Year dinner have ingredients with auspicious meanings or symbolism. The Chinese word for fish sounds like abundance. Spring rolls look like gold bars and kumquats resemble gold coins. Green vegetables suggest growth in business. Noodles symbolize long life.

taro abacus beadsI also included photos of Hakka new year specialties such as Taro Abacus Beads (芋 頭 算 盤 子 Hakka: wu tiuh sun pan jue) that I tasted in Malaysia and Singapore. These chewy disks made from mashed taro and tapioca flour are shaped to resemble the counting beads on a Chinese abacus. Boiled and stir-fried they likely represent wealth. In Hong Kong, the popular multi-course banquet layered in a wash basin known as Basin Feast (盆 萊 Hakka: puhn choi) represents unity.

Last year I conducted an informal survey in Facebook Hakka groups and found many people serve humble family favorites such as Steamed Minced Pork with Egg or steamed fish. Others opt for more labor intensive Hakka specialties such as Pork Belly with Preserved Mustard Green (扣 肉 梅 菜 Hakka: kiu ngiuk moi choi).

I am still planning my menu.  What are you cooking for Chinese New Year Dinner?

.

 

 

 

Be Sociable, Share!

Hakka restaurants

Anthony Lin, chef/owner at Danforth Dragon in Toronto

Anthony Lin, chef/owner at Danforth Dragon in Toronto

Where are the Hakka restaurants?

I am surprised there are so few. In San Francisco, I only know of a couple—The Hakka Restaurant and Ton Kiang. Both are owned by Hakka and serve some Hakka dishes as well as other popular Chinese dishes. But in a city with such a large Chinese population why are there so few?

I suspect some restaurants may be Hakka-owned but to attract more customers they may promote a more recognizable Chinese cuisine or generic Chinese dishes. The scarcity of Hakka restaurants may exist only in North America. Although I did find more Hakka establishments in S.E. Asia, China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, the numbers still seemed rather minor. Since I don’t live there, perhaps I may not be aware of them.

Because Hakka chefs come from all over, there are variations on the cuisine they serve. Some serve Hakka-Indian, Hakka-Caribbean, or Hakka Chinese food.

Do you know any Hakka restaurants anywhere in the world? If so, please share. Provide the restaurant name, address, phone, website, email address, type of Hakka food (Chinese, Indian, etc.), house specialties, your favorites, and any other comments.

I am happy to share the information here. Looking forward to your recommendations. Thanks!

Be Sociable, Share!

Hakka Cookbook for holiday gifts

The Hakka Cookbook (med)Looking for a gift for someone who loves to explore new cuisines and enjoys culinary history? Do they like to cook and eat Chinese food? If so, consider giving them The Hakka Cookbook, Chinese Soul Food from around the World. My book contains more than recipes. It also holds history, art, and personal stories.

My book uncovers the “soul food” of the Chinese migrants known as the Hakka. It is the result of my exploration to find my own Hakka identity and culinary history. As I traveled and interviewed Hakka around the world, I realized that the keepers of the Hakka recipes were the older generation. I wrote the book to preserve the recipes and stories of these relatively unknown Chinese migrants who live in scattered communities all over the world. If you have Hakka friends, relatives, or grandchildren, this would be a meaningful book to help them understand their history and food.

The Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 2012 recognized The Hakka Cookbook as the “Best Chinese Cuisine Cookbook in the World.”

Order the book from your local bookstore or explore online bookstores such as Amazon or Kinokuniya. Click here for more options on where to buy The Hakka Cookbook, by Linda Lau Anusasananan, published by University of California Press. Read the reviews and articles written about the book to help you decide.

Be Sociable, Share!

New York Hakka Conference

IMG_0728When I attended my first Hakka conference in Toronto in 2008, a feeling of belonging overwhelmed me. It was the first time I was in the company of so many Hakka, guest people like me. All my life I lived mostly in a Western world, feeling different than most Chinese who spoke Cantonese or Mandarin. I knew few Hakka.

The feeling of finding family came again when I attended the first New York Hakka Conference last weekend. Reclaiming our Hakka heritage was the theme. Co-chairs Dr. Keith Lowe and Paula Madison Williams succeeded in bringing Hakkas together to learn about their shared roots and history. From the evening of October 16 to October 18, attendees immersed themselves in Hakka culture, often with a Jamaican vibe since many of the attendees had Jamaican roots.

We listened to speakers discuss how to find our Hakka roots through Chinese names and cemetery records. We learned about the Chinese success as shopkeepers, bakers, and businessmen in the Caribbean. We saw photos of Hakka earth buildings and Hakka food. Revealing films took us into the lives of Hakka searching for their long lost families in China, growing up in China, and living in India.

The Hakka are one people with a shared history. Find your Hakka heritage at next year’s Fifth Toronto Hakka Conference, July 1 to 3, 2016.

Be Sociable, Share!

New York Hakka Conference

12038109_10206866982065686_8953866209858775553_nIt’s almost time for the first New York Hakka Conference. The event starts Friday, October 16 with a  reception at Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) featuring The Nation Music of Jamaica’s Byron Lee. A weekend of films, panel discussions, and talks–all focused on the Hakka follows at the Cantor Film Center at NYU. Come and learn about the “guest people”, their history, identity, diaspora, and food.

Click here to register. Special $50 rate for students. Day passes available for $88. Check the schedule of events.

On Saturday, October 17, I will talk about Hakka cuisine and show some slides of food and people I encountered on my global trip. If you have a copy of The Hakka Cookbook and would like me to sign it, please bring it. I am not bringing a suitcase full of books to sell.

You can order or buy The Hakka Cookbook at a couple of local stores: NYU Bookstore, 726 Broadway, NY, NY,  212. 998. 4678 or Kitchen Arts and Letters, 1435 Lexington Ave., NY, NY, 212. 876. 5550.

Hope to see you soon.

Be Sociable, Share!