Chinese New Year foods

Chinese New Year symbols Wishing you a prosperous new year!  Khiung Hee Fat Choy!  Welcome to the Chinese year 4713 on the lunar calendar that begins on February 19, 2015.

This is the year of the goat, (also called ram or sheep). Chinese celebrate for about two weeks with family reunions, festive banquets, symbolic decorations, red envelopes filled with money, and good wishes. The new year signals a time for renewal and is also called The Spring Festival.

Many foods eaten during the celebration have symbolic meanings. They may resemble or their name sounds like something that is auspicious. For instance spring rolls look like gold bars, kumquats resemble gold coins, open clams represent new opportunities, green vegetables suggest growth in business, noodles symbolize long life.

In preparation for talks I am giving later this month, I posted a question in an international Hakka group on Facebook. I asked them “Do you serve any special Hakka dishes for Chinese New Year?”

Here are some of the answers I received. Some are regional specialties or Hakka classics. Some are fancy dishes; others beloved humble family favorites. Responses came from Hakka from all over the world so the spelling for the Chinese names may differ than what you know. Maybe you will see some of your favorites here. 
Pork Belly with Preserved Mustard Greens

Pork Belly with Preserved Mustard Greens

  • Pork belly with preserved mustard greens (kiu ngiuk moi choi)
  • Steamed minced pork with egg (choo nyuk jin gai choon)
  • ABC soup (lo song tong): soup with potato, carrot, onion, red dates, dry groundnuts, goji berries, meat or chicken carcass
  • Steamed fish with pickled mustard greens, red dates, tomato, and lily buds
  • Fried duck with plum sauce
  • Yellow wine chicken (wong jiu gai)
  • Pineapple chicken
  • Buddhist vegetarian stew (lo hon zai) Eaten on the first day of new year
  • Steamed chicken with salt (pak zm gai)
  • Fish maw soup (oem biao tong)
  • Sweet and sour duck (son moi ap)
  • Braised stuffed oysters with fat choy, and chestnuts (ngiong haw see)
  • Slice of pork liver wrapped in caul fat
  • Steamed fish with Chinese white radish in sweet and sour sauce (lo ped oem)
  • California squid with salted mustard green (ham choy)
  • Dried squid with celery
  • Stir-fried chicken with arrow root and vegetables
  • Surinamese Hakka-style chow mein made with spaghettini
  • Eight treasures duck (pat mui ap)
  • Black bean beef bone soup

What’s your favorite Chinese New Year dish? Here are some Hakka specialties featured in The Hakka Cookbook.  Have a delicious and Happy New Year! Khiung Hee Fat Choy!


Cooking class in San Mateo

Learn about Hakka history, my global journey to find my Hakka identity through food, and Chinese New Year traditions. Check out my new slide presentation for this special event at
San Mateo County Libraries located in San Carlos, Foster City, and Millbrae on February 25, 26 and March 4. The event is called Cooking Asian with Linda Anusasananan.

Ingredients Mustard green soupI will follow with a cooking class showing how to cook three easy dishes: Fresh Ginger-Onion Noodles, Mustard Green and Pork Soup, and a seasonal vegetable stir-fry. Recipes included. A tasting and book sale follows.

This event is free, but spaces are limited and you need to register in advance. Click on the highlighted links for details. Hope to see you!


Asia Society Hakka dinner


Martin Yan at Asia SocietyA few days ago, the Asia Society Northern California sponsored an event on Chinese Soul Food: Hakka Cuisine at M.Y. China in San Francisco featuring Chef Martin Yan, who wrote the forward for my book, and me. Robert Bullock, Assistant Director for Programs Northern California, proposed the idea almost two years ago. When we got a date from the globe-trotting celebrity Martin Yan, we were able to pull together an off-the-menu dinner program. So many people helped–Asia Society, M.Y. China, and A.F. & Co. They organized and publicized the event. Hanson Li of Saison Restaurant donated wine.

M.Y. China vegetable carvingMartin Yan and his chefs Tony Wu and Kin Fong and I collaborated on the menu. I was impressed that the chefs had studied my book and were able to convey an authentic Hakka flavor to the dinner. Even the intricate vegetable carving by Executive Chef Tony Wu reflected the mountain home of a Hakka village. With the exception of the bitter melon palate cleanser and the dessert, the menu reflected recipes from the book. Let me share the evening with you.

M.Y. China Pork BellyAfter Martin and I talked about Hakka history and cuisine, the meal opened with a Hakka classic, Pork Belly with Preserved Mustard Greens (kiu ngiuk moi choi). This dish epitomizes traditional Hakka characteristics: robust flavors, hearty satisfaction from the rich pork, and salty savoriness from soy sauce and preserved vegetables. M.Y. China’s rendition melted in my mouth. Individual portions were presented in small clay pots. To make this dish at home, see pages 42 to 44 in The Hakka Cookbook.

Bitter Melon M.Y. ChinaFor a innovative palate refresher, M.Y. China chefs created a new dish made from bitter melon, a popular vegetable in Hakka cuisine. I was a bit surprised when Executive Sous Chef Kin Fong suggested serving the bitter melon raw. Traditionally the bitter vegetable is cooked. It is often stuffed with a meat filling, then braised or poached. Slices may also be stir-fried. The chefs shaved raw bitter melon into paper-thin slices, blanched them briefly, and served them cold in an ice bowl. A scattering of edible flower petals and a dressing of acacia flower honey and wasabi elevated a humble vegetable to royalty status. The bitterness of the vegetable was toned down by blanching and balanced with the sweetness of the honey. Although Chilled Bitter Melon is not a traditional Hakka dish, it fit the meal beautifully, refreshing the palate and cutting the richness of the preceding pork belly.

Salt-baked Chicken M.Y. ChinaOne of the most famous Hakka classics is Salt-baked Chicken. In China, the chicken is rubbed with seasonings, wrapped in paper, and cooked in a hot salt. The chicken emerges juicy and aromatic. Outside of China, most restaurants and home cooks do shortcut versions, either rubbing the chicken with salt and steaming or poaching the chicken in salted water. The results more closely resemble Cantonese white-cut chicken. M.Y. China took no shortcuts and cooked the classic version in salt, a rare treat. They showed the guests the whole chicken, partially wrapped in paper and nestled in the hot salt. Then they returned to the kitchen to cut the chicken and brought it out with a ginger and scallion sauce.  For a recipe for the home cook try my version on page 64.

M.Y. China cumin beefCumin Beef is creation of Hakka chefs from India who created a new fusion cuisine to appeal to their Indian customers. It blends Chinese cooking techniques and ingredients with Indian spices. In this dish, beef is stir-fried with cumin seeds, chile, and soy sauce for a cross-cultural fusion of enticing flavors. M.Y. China used American Kobe beef in their version. This is an easy dish to make at home, see recipe in The Hakka Cookbook on page 183.

M.Y. China gai lonThe simplicity of the Chinese broccoli (gai lan) with Sweet Rice Wine (page 230) balanced some of the stronger flavors of the meal. The same basic recipe could be used with other vegetables.



M.Y. China almond royaleM.Y. China ended the meal with Almond Royale with Ginger Syrup, a sophisticated variation of the Chinese pudding. A fresh zesty ginger syrup floated atop and seeped into an almond-scented panna cotta-like base.

The evening ended with noodle dances by the M.Y. China chefs. Imagine pulling noodles Gangnam-style.

Heartfelt thanks from a very grateful author to all who made this event so special and help me share the taste of Hakka soul food.



The Hakka Cookbook, a year in review

With book artist and brother, Alan Lau, at Book Larder in Seattle

With book artist and brother, Alan Lau, at Book Larder in Seattle


Just one year ago on September 29, 2012, I officially launched The Hakka Cookbook, Chinese Soul Food from around the World at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. It was a bit like giving birth in public after a seemingly endless pregnancy, more than seven years. The long labor was worth it.

What a great year! The press has been good to the book, gaining attention even at some of the big names such as New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, and Martha Stewart Living.

Cooking with Mark Bittman, NY Times writer.

Cooking with Mark Bittman, NY Times writer.

The Hakka Cookbook was recognized as “Best Chinese Cuisine Cookbook in the World” in Paris, I’ve talked about the book on the radio and cable television and many book signing events. Bloggers wrote very thoughtful and appreciate reviews. Best of all, I have connected and met with Hakkas from all over the world. Just shy of its first birthday, the book is in its second printing.

Here’s a quick summary of year one for The Hakka Cookbook. For details on this list, visit this page.

"Best Chinese Cuisine Cookbook of the World"

“Best Chinese Cuisine Cookbook of the World”

  • 21 Printed articles and reviews
  • 24 Digital and blog articles
  • 5 Best or Favorite Cookbook Lists
  • 3 Radio interviews
  • 1 Television/youtube interview
  • 1 Cookbook Award
  • 26 Book signing events

Thanks for all your support. Hope to meet you at a  future event.


Tea with Hakka Food

Yearning Tea Plantation in Meizhou China

A few weeks ago, Winnie Yu, one of the owners of Teance Fine Teas in Berkeley, California hosted a book signing event for The Hakka Cookbook. In the zen-like atmosphere of this tea shop designed by Fu-Teng Cheng, the tea shop staff served several recipes from my book with premium teas while  I talked about my Hakka journey. The enthusiastic audience was relaxed and totally engaged. Perhaps that is the magic of drinking premium teas with food, it soothes the soul and creates energy.

Speaking at the tea bar at Teance Fine Teas in Berkeley, California.

Winnie says, “Appreciating artisanal teas is a lot like appreciating great wines.” For our event, she served mostly fine oolong teas, semi-oxidized and roasted teas that seem to go with a wide variety of foods. I think of oolong, similar to a Pinot Noir, with lovely aromas, complex flavors, and a full-bodied palate. The oolong teas can range from greenish and floral to darker and fruitier. We started with Old Grove Shuixian with dark cinnamon notes that we drank by itself while we waited for guests to assemble.

Behind the scenes, samples from The Hakka Cookbook to serve with tea at Teance.

We sipped the full-bodied Tieguanyin Light Roast with Salt-baked Shrimp (page 62) and  Garlic Chile Eggplant Sticks (page 56). Phoenix Almond Oolong with the taste of almonds complemented the neutral Steamed Rice Cake (page 174) with the sweet-sour-medium hot Pickled Red Chiles (page 72). We tasted the spicy-sweet Taiwan Beauty with the Chewy Rice Morsels in Sweet Peanut Powder (page 97).  With the robust flavored Braised Taro in Bean Sauce (page 219), we drank a Red Plum Black tea, a darker, fully oxidized tea.

This book event reminded me of our afternoon at a tea plantation on our scouting trip in China. In the mountains of Meizhou, we visited the Hakka owned Yearning Tea Plantation. There we tasted the local dancong tea, an oolong tea noted for its ability to soothe the throat. The company logo, a flying wild goose, represents the Hakka fleeing from the north to the south, a fitting tribute to tea and the Hakka.



A Hakka feast

Minced Pork with Lettuce Wraps

I discovered the Hakka Restaurant when I was almost done with the research for my book. Luckily I was able to include talented Chef Jin Hua Li and a couple of his recipes in my book. When the San Francisco Professional Food Society (SFPFS) asked me to put together a menu from the Hakka Restaurant for their Traveling Table, a program that explores the bay area’s unique restaurants, I was happy to share his delicious food with them. Here’s the menu.

Minced Pork with Lettuce Wraps
Bamboo Pith Seafood Soup
Chinese Bacon with Preserved Greens
House Special Pan-Fried Tofu
Fried Pumpkin Strips coated with Salted Egg Yolk
Chicken Stuffed with Preserved Greens (recipe pg. 233)
Stir-fried Chinese Broccoli with Rice Wine (recipe pg. 230)
Clams with Spicy Salt and Black Beans
Home-Style Steamed Sea Bass
House Special Eggplant
Steamed Rice

The lettuce wraps uses a well-seasoned pork as a simple filling for crunchy lettuce leaves. The mild soup, focuses on natural flavors and offers a light contrast to the more robust flavors in the meal.  The House Special Pan-Fried Tofu and the Chinese Bacon with Preserved Greens are Hakka classics. The Chicken Stuffed with Preserved Greens is one of Chef Li’s specialties, order a day in advance. The chicken is filled with a savory mix of preserved mustard greens, mushrooms, and pork, then braised.

Chicken stuffed with Preserved Mustard Greens at the Hakka Restaurant

The steamed fish is topped with a shower of typical Hakka ingredients pickled mustard greens and shreds of pork. Both the clams and eggplant dish reflect adaptations to local tastes as the Hakka migrated. The clams exude a spiciness reminiscent of Sichuan province.  The clams are deep-fried in their shells then stir-fried with fermented black beans, ground pork, chiles, garlic, and sometimes Sichuan peppercorns.  The tender eggplant tastes mildly sweet, sour, hot and aromatic with basil and cilantro, hinting of Thai seasonings. Hakka settled in both these areas, China’s Sichuan province and Thailand.

Everyone loved the meal. I think you will, too. The Hakka Restaurant is located at 4401-A Cabrillo Street (corner of 45th Avenue), San Francisco, CA 94121. Tel. 415. 876. 6898.

The Hakka Cookbook tours the Northwest

I’ve been traveling through the Northwest, sharing the story of The Hakka Cookbook. I’ve met many new people including a Hakka pharmacist  in Vancouver BC, originally from South Africa to a young woman in Seattle originally from Taiwan.

I’ve learned some tricks to a successful book signings. Invite all your friends and ask them to bring their friends to ensure you have a decent-sized audience. List your event in as many newspaper and blog calendars as possible. Here’s a short summary of The Hakka Cookbook events.

Portland, Oregon

Speaking in the Scholar’s Study at Lan Su Garden. Photo by Emily Park.

I was honored to present The Hakka Cookbook to a group in the elegant, classically designed Scholar’s Study at Portland’s Lan Su Chinese Garden. A opulent display of pink mums decorated the room. The garden, considered the most authentic Chinese garden outside of China, was assembled by craftsman from China. It’s a beautiful gem located in Portland’s Chinatown. In the audience, I met some old friends.

Seattle, Washington

Alan Lau, my brother and artist for the book, joined me in all my Seattle events. In a bright room, lined with cookbooks, a crowd of about twenty-five gathered at the Book Larder.  Alan, also a poet, began with a dramatic reading of poems. Rachel Coyle, event coordinator, served chunks of Soy-Braised Chicken and Mushrooms (p. 204).

Alan Lau reads poems from Blues and Greens, a Produce Worker’s Journal. Photo by Barry Wong

Francine Seders Gallery, which represents my brother’s art, hosted a book signing and show of Alan’s paintings from our trip to China. Francine cooked Soy-glazed Chicken Morsels (p.199), Pickled Mustard Greens and Cucumbers (p.147) and Pickled Carrots and Radishes (page 60) for guests to sample.

Elliott Bay Book Company, in the Capitol Hill area, is a large spacious store with a varied selection of books. Definitely, it’s a book lovers retreat.  Here we were pleasantly surprised by seeing a staff recommendation posted for The Hakka Cookbook.  We sold twenty books that night.

Signing books at Elliott Bay Book Company. Photo by Therdphong Anusasananan

Wing Luke Museum in the International district showcases the history of Asians in the area.

I recommend the guided tour. A young informative guide took us to an original store stocked with foods and ingredients that reminded me of my youth. I saw pouches of bitter black tea, that Popo brewed with water, ginger, and green onions when we came down with a cold. Shelves were lined with big glass jars filled with dried or preserved snacks such dried salted plums and candied ginger. We also toured the meeting room of a Chinese association. Later, we gave our book presentation with slides in the small theater. In spite of the rain, friends came to our presentation and bought more books.

Vancouver, BC, Canada

Barbara-Jo’s Books to Cooks hosted me in her warm cozy store. All seats were filled around the kitchen counter as we discussed the book and snacked on Soy-Glazed Chicken Morsels (p. 199) cooked by Mark.


The Hakka Cookbook at The Wok Shop

Linda, Fah, and Tane, owner of The Wok Shop

The Association of Chinese Cooking Teachers (ACCT) sponsored a party for The Hakka Cookbook at Tane Chan’s, owner of The Wok Shop in San Francisco. Tane was one of the original charter members of this group who started in 1983. I, too, have been president of this group. ACCT originally started to share their expertise about Chinese cooking.  Now, its culinary interest has expanded to include other cuisines across Asia. The group promotes the interest in Asian cuisines through eating, visiting markets, manufacturers, and kitchens.

The Wok Shop is the best place to shop for cooking equipment for Asian cooking. So Tane, who has been in business for more than 40 years, has a legion of loyal customers and good friends. They came to see her, eat, meet me, and buy the book. She provided her lovely home, dim sum, and noodles with JADE Sichuan Peanut Sauce. She also invited a Chinese fortune teller and a dim sum master to demonstrate.  I brought Hakka Pork Sliders. My friend Fah Liong, helped demonstrate a few simple vegetable dishes from the cookbook. We cooked Stir-fried Chinese Lettuce, Garlic, and Black Beans (p. 57), Stir-fried Spinach and Peanuts (p. 56), and Stir-fried Snow Peas and Tofu (p. 48).

Selling and signing books has never been more fun. Thanks Tane!


The Hakka Cookbook at Omnivore Books

Linda Lau Anusasananan with her book, The Hakka Cookbook, Chinese Soul Food from around the World

Stop by and meet me tomorrow night 10/24, Wednesday, 6 pm at Omnivore Books on Food at 3885A Cesar Chavez (at Church St) in San Francisco. It’s a great store dedicated to cookbooks.

Had a great turnout this past Sunday at Eastwind Books of Berkeley. Standing room only. Met a couple of young Hakka girls interested in learning more about their culture.

A party for The Hakka Cookbook

Susan Yan, Linda L. Anusasananan, and Martin Yan

A few days ago, my good friend Jerry DiVecchio hosted a book party for me. I worked with Jerry for more than three decades at Sunset Magazine. She taught me how to write and develop recipes, a skill that came in handy when writing a cookbook.

We invited a lot of old friends, many in the media, some from Sunset Magazine, and some fellow Les Dames members. Joyce Jue who wrote some generous words for the book jacket came. Martin Yan, who wrote the foreward for the book, and his wife Susan arrived during the latter half of the party. With his busy travel schedule and the opening of his new restaurant, M.Y. China, I’m lucky he could attend.

Jerry suggested I cook several recipes from the cookbook for the party. What do you serve to celebrity chef Martin Yan?  I struggled with the menu, because it had to meet so many criteria. The menu needed to be no maintenance, meaning I didn’t have the time to fuss with the food during the party. I had to make the food completely ahead and transport it. The food had to hold up for a few hours. Preferably there would be little last minute cooking. We scheduled the party during dinner hours, so it needed some substance. We expected about forty people. This is what I came up with. Follow along with your cookbooks.

Hakka Walk-Around Party for 30 to 40

Pickled Mustard Greens and Pickled Cucumbers (p. 147, double recipes)

Pickled Carrots and Radishes (p. 60, double recipe)

Garlic-Chile Eggplant Sticks (p. 56, double recipe)

Chef Soon’s Pork Belly with Preserved Mustard Greens (p. 45, optional)

Steeped Chicken Breast (p. 22, cooked 3 lb. chicken) with Fresh Ginger-Onion Sauce (p. 66, triple recipe) in Lettuce Leaves or on a bed of shredded Chinese Cabbage

Hakka Pork Sliders (adapted from Steamed Black Bean Pork p. 165, slider recipe follows)

Sesame Cookies (purchased) and Orange Wedges

The Game Plan:

Pickled cucumbers, radishes and carrots, and mustard greens

The pickles could be made several days ahead. The eggplant could be also made a day ahead; allow to warm to room temperature for serving. Shortly before serving, sprinkle with cilantro. I had some pickled red chiles and sprinkled them over the top for a pop of color; you could also use chopped red bell pepper.

The pork belly is not essential, but I had food professionals as guests, so I aimed to impress. It takes time to make so I spread the work over several days. I steamed it completely the day before the party, then reheated it in the steamer until hot in center, 30 to 45 minutes, at the party site. If you were doing the party at home, you can also just assemble the dish ahead, then steam a couple of hours before serving. This dish needs to be served hot so set it on a warming tray. Serve with sliced small buns or rolls for sandwiches, if desired.

I cooked and shredded the chicken and made the ginger-onion sauce a day ahead. The morning of the party, wash and crisp the lettuce leaves as directed on p. 201. Mix the chicken with the zesty ginger sauce. However, for the next party, I skipped the lettuce cups and placed the chicken on a bed of shredded Chinese cabbage or lettuce.

The sliders were adapted from Steamed Pork with Black Beans (p. 165). Since I needed to keep it hot for a few hours, I thought a crock pot would be the perfect solution. I doubled the recipe and cooked it in the slow cooker for 3 to 3 1/2 hours. It worked beautifully. You can cook it up to 3 days ahead, cool, remove fat, transfer to smaller containers, cover and chill. Reheat the meat in the slow cooker, covered over high heat until hot and bubbly, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Then reduce heat to warm setting. Serve with split baked rolls and people can assemble their sliders throughout the party.

Hakka Pork Sliders

Follow recipe for Steamed Black Bean Pork (p. 165) except double the ingredients, Cut the pork into about 3-inch chunks and brown meat, in batches, if needed. Transfer the meat to a 6-quart slow-cooker. Add the black bean mixture to pan and 1 cup water and bring to a boil. Pour black bean mixture over pork. Cover the slow-cooker and cook at high heat until very tender when pierced, 3 to 3 1/2 hours. Skim off and discard fat. With forks, break pork into coarse shreds or chunks. Serve in small baked rolls. Makes 5 to 6 dozen small sandwiches.