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!

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.

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.

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?

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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!

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.

New York Hakka Conference schedule

nyc Hakka I am putting together a slide show for The New York Hakka Conference. My subject is Hakka Cuisine so I plan to show photos of Hakka food and share stories I encountered on my global journey to research The Hakka Cookbook. Register for the conference and learn more about Hakka history, identity, and food. Following is a tentative schedule of events:

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2015

Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) at 215 Centre Street, New York, NY 10013

RECEPTION at the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA). 7:00 PM Feature presentation – The Nation Music of Jamaica’s Byron Lee. Starting a calypso and mento group in high school, Byron founded the Dragonaires as a big dance band that held sway over four decades in Jamaica and the Caribbean, as well as in  the diaspora cities of London, Miami, New York, and Toronto. From ska to rock-steady to reggae and soca, mambo and cha-cha-cha, Byron reproduced the international signature music of the Caribbean.

 

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 17, 2015 NYU Cantor Film Center at 36 East 8th Street, New York, NY 10003

9:00AM OPENING CEREMONY (Room 200)
9:15 – 10:30AM THE SEARCH for MY CHINESE FAMILY –  Paula Williams Madison screens her documentary and reads from her book, “Finding Samuel Lowe: From Harlem to China” (Room 200)
10:30 – 10:45AM BREAK
10:45 – 11:30AM CHINESE NAMES, HAKKA GENERATIONS – Dr. Keith Lowe, co-founder of the Toronto Hakka Conference, uses the Lowe family to illustrate the clan system that is the backbone of Chinese civilization. (Room 101)
10:45 – 11:30AM RESTORING THE CHINESE CEMETERY – Robert Hew and Robert Lee, leading members of the cemetery team of the Chinese Benevolent Society of Jamaica, describe the restoration of the cemetery that was unused for three decades.  Records have been translated and carried over to a database which reveals the location of one’s ancestors. (Room 102)
11:30AM – 12:30PM AFRO-CHINESE RELIGIOUS PRACTICES in CUBA – Dr. Martin Tsang, Florida International University (Room 101)
12:30 – 1:30PM LUNCH (Non-hosted) Please enjoy the wide selection of local restaurants.
1:30 – 2:45PM CHINESE SUCCESS AS SHOPKEEPERS, BAKERS, ENTREPRENEURS, Part 1 –  Alexandra Lee moderates a panel consisting of business leaders Vincent HoSang, Vincent J. Chang, Butch Hendrickson, and Dalton Yap. (Room 102)
1:30 – 2:45PM REVOLUTIONARIES AND CHANGE MAKERS – Prof. Richard Bohr, Dr. Samuel Lowe (Room 101)
2:45PM – 3:00PM BREAK
3:00 – 4:00PM CHINESE SUCCESS AS SHOPKEEPERS, BAKERS, ENTREPRENEURS, Part 2 – Alexandra Lee moderates a panel consisting of business leaders Vincent HoSang, Vincent J. Chang, Butch Hendrickson, and Dalton Yap. (Room 102)
3:00 – 4:00PM HAKKA CUISINE – Linda Lau Anusasananan, author of The Hakka Cookbook: Chinese Soul Food from Around the World (Room 101)

 

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 18, 2015

NYU Cantor Film Center at 36 East 8th Street, New York, NY 10003

9:30 – 10:30AM HAKKA EARTH BUILDINGS AS WORLD HERITAGE – Ruifeng Liang, Professor of Engineering, Western Virginia University (Room 101)
9:30 – 10:30AM HAKKA MIGRATIONS – Patrick Lee, author of Chinese Canadian Jamaicans & Chinese Jamaicans Worldwide (Room 102)
10:30 – 10:45AM BREAK
10:45AM – 12:00PM MASTERING CARIBBEAN MUSIC and ART, Part 1 – Panel Discussion: Broadcaster Francine Chin, VP Records President Randy Chin, and author Kevin O’Brien Chang (Room 101)
10:45 – 12:00PM MIXED RACE PERSONS Screening of documentary, “Half,” produced and directed by Jeanette Kong (Room 102)
12:00 – 1:00PM LUNCH (Non-hosted) Please enjoy a the wide selection of local restaurants.
1:00 – 2:30PM MASTERING CARIBBEAN MUSIC and ART, Part 2 – Panel Discussion: Broadcaster Francine Chin, VP Records President Randy Chin, and author Kevin O’Brien Chang (Room 101)
1:00 – 2:30PM CARIBBEAN CHINESE LITERATURE and ART – Easton Lee reads poems and stories from his many books based on a lifetime spent developing Jamaican culture from the village square to the international stage. (Room 102)
2:30 – 2:45PM BREAK
3:00 – 4:15PM WRAP UP & CLOSING CEREMONY in Room 200

 

 

 

New York Hakka Conference

nyc Hakka“Reclaiming our Hakka Heritage” is the theme of the first New York Hakka Conference. This conference aims to educate people of Hakka and Hakka-Chinese descent in retaining and adapting their traditional culture. Any interested person can attend. The conference starts Friday night October 16 and ends Sunday October 18, 2015.

A festive Friday evening reception at the Museum of Chinese in America kicks off the conference with The Nation Music of Jamaica’s Bryon Lee.

On Saturday and Sunday film screenings, panel discussions, and presentations will be held at the Cantor Film Center at New York University. View the documentary film, “Finding Samuel Lowe: China, Jamaica, Harlem. Learn about Hakka earth buildings, Hakka Migrations, Chinese names and Hakka generations, Chinese success as shopkeepers and entrepreneurs, and much more.

I will be sharing a slide presentation on Hakka cuisine on Saturday afternoon. Register NY Hakka Conference now and join me for a weekend of discovery.

The second Hakka cooking party

A couple of years ago, my high school friend Karen suggested we organize a cooking party around The Hakka Cookbook. We had such a good time she wanted to repeat it again. I suggested we try different recipes this time.

I planned a menu with six recipes trying to choose ones that would not suffer when cooked in a larger quantity. I suggested each cook claim one recipe and bring it to the party ready-to-eat or completely prepped and ready to cook. In this organized potluck, the work and expenses are shared which makes it much less stressful for the host.

We numbered thirteen. The men opted out of the cooking and were happy to drink beer and socialize outside. The six women, longtime childhood friends, gathered in the kitchen to catch up, laugh, and get the meal on the table. Since we served two dishes at a time, usually only two people were at the stove, while others watched and learned.

Our crew cooked and ate the meal at a leisurely pace in three courses, serving two dishes at a time, buffet style. We spent the whole afternoon cooking, talking, and eating. It’s an easy party plan to duplicate for your own Hakka cooking party. This party also pushes you to explore the cookbook more deeply. Enjoy—cook, learn, and eat!

First courses:

Ruby and Chicken MorselsSoy Glazed Chicken Morsels (p. 199). Ruby doubled the recipe, cooking it in two batches at home, shortly before the party. She served the chicken at room temperature over a bed of lettuce. The chicken can also be served hot.

Mustard Green and Pork Soup (p. 26) Nancy brought a double batch of the broth with the pork. Shortly before serving, she reheated the broth and added the cut-up mustard greens.

Second courses:Phyllis and Shrimp

Poached Shrimp and Ginger Broth (p. 103) Phyllis brought a double portion of shrimp and seasonings. Once the water boiled, it only took minutes to cook the shrimp.

Barbara with Squash and Peas

 

 

 

 

Ginger Scented Squash and Peas (p. 52) Barbara pan-steamed a double portion of this colorful vegetable medley in my 14-inch wok. She used shallots instead of lily bulbs.

Third courses:Melanee and Spinach

Steamed Black Bean Pork (p. 165) The day before I cooked a double batch of this recipe and chilled it overnight. The next day, I reheated the two bowls in my stacked steamer.

Spinach and Peanuts (p. 56) Mel stir-fried two double batches of spinach just before serving.

Hot Rice

Potluck Desserts

Wine, Beer, Hot Tea, and  Sparkling Wine and Water

 

 

 

 

Hakka steamed pork and eggs

Steamed Pork and EggLast month I wrote about Hakka dishes for Chinese New Year.  I had asked a Hakka Facebook group what were some of their favorites. Although many suggested fancy dishes, some elected simple family favorites. One dish was Steamed Minced Pork with Egg (ju ngiuk jin gai chun) also known and steamed pork hash or steamed pork cake.

This pale steamed pork and egg patty looks rather plain and humble, but it packs lots of flavor and comfort food satisfaction.  It is easy and quick to make. Mix minced or ground pork with eggs and seasonings, them steam to make a soft, juicy savory meat patty, similar to a steamed meatloaf.

Steamed Minced Pork and Egg

This version is adapted from a recipe from my friend Fah Liong. It contains Tianjin (Tienstin) preserved vegetables often sold in squat brown crocks in Asian markets. The dry chewy shreds of fermented cabbage add a savory, garlicky, saltiness. If unavailable, omit the preserved vegetables and add more soy sauce. For another version see page 148 in The Hakka Cookbook.

Makes 4 servings as a main dish or 8 servings as part of a multi-course meal

1 pound ground pork

1/2 cup minced shallots or onion

1/3 cup Chinese rice wine (shaoxing) or water

2 tablespoons rinsed minced Tianjin preserved vegetable or 2 teaspoons soy sauce

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons cornstarch

2 teaspoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper

3 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion

1. In a medium bowl mix the pork, shallots, wine, preserved vegetable, eggs, cornstarch, soy sauce, sugar, salt, and pepper. Lightly pat the pork mixture into an even layer in an 8- to 9-inch wide shallow heatproof dish that will fit in a steamer such as a Pyrex pie pan.

2. Set the dish on a rack over 2 to 4 inches boiling water in a steamer or wok (if bottom is round, place on a wok ring to stabilize). Cover and steam over high heat until the meat is no longer pink in center (cut to test) about 20 minutes. Watch the water level, adding more boiling water as needed. Carefully remove the dish from steamer. Sprinkle with the green onions and serve.