Holiday gift: The Hakka Cookbook

large version of cover of The Hakka Cookbook

Best Chinese Cuisine Cookbook 2012 by Gourmand World Cookbook Awards

Need a holiday gift for your Hakka children or foodie friend? Consider The Hakka Cookbook. It’s a perfect and unique gift especially for Hakka who want to learn more about their history, heritage, and cuisine. The book tells the story of the migration of China’s “guest people” known as the Hakka. It follows my journey to discover my own Hakka identity as I travel and interview Hakka throughout the world. These transplanted Hakka share their stories and their food. Through the easy-to-follow recipes, cook your way to the Hakka soul.

Ask your local bookstore to order The Hakka Cookbook for you. Or buy online. Check this link for sources and details. Online retailers such as Amazon (North America, France, Germany, UK, Japan, and Canada) and Kinokuniya Online Store Bookweb (Southeast Asia) have sold the book in the past.

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Hakka community

Opening ceremony at Toronto Hakka Conference 2016

Dr. Vivienne Poy and lion dance opens Toronto Hakka Conference 2016

Growing up in a small primarily all-white town, I never felt like I belonged to a Chinese community. I didn’t know any other Chinese besides a few relatives. I understood some Hakka but never was very fluent.

Even when I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area where lots of Chinese lived, I never identified with any specific Chinese community. I rarely met any Hakka.  Most Chinese spoke Cantonese or Mandarin, which I tried studying, but never really mastered. The only language that spoke to me was the food. I grew up eating Chinese food and it was always my go-to comfort food.

It wasn’t until I went to Toronto that I felt I belonged to a Chinese community. There I met Hakka who had migrated from all over the world. They were like me. We had a shared history of migration. Many didn’t speak or write Chinese but we could communicate in English.

When I went to my first Toronto Hakka Conference in 2008, I had never seen so many Hakka gathered in one place. Finally, I found my Hakka community.  At the most recent 2016 Toronto Hakka Conference, I recognized people I had met on previous trips. I also met new people who were also searching for their cultural identity through food, through their ancestry, and through the conference. One of the greatest benefits of the Toronto Hakka Conference is connecting with Hakka from all over the world. This year some attendees came as far as India, Portugal, Australia, Hong Kong, Jamaica, and Mauritius. The majority of the attendees live locally because the greater Toronto area is home to many Hakka.

For me the conference celebrates being part of the Hakka community.

 

 

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Being Hakka

Dr. Shui Loon Kong at Toronto Hakka Conference 2016

Dr. Shui Loon Kong at Toronto Hakka Conference 2016

What does it mean to be Hakka? It’s a question that I sought the answer to most of my life.

Keynote speaker Dr. Shui Loon Kong answered my question at the Toronto Hakka Conference 2016. I could identify with his remarks.

Being Hakka means adaptation. We Hakka learn to fit into the environment and transcend it. We achieve it in five ways: Accept, Access, Activity, Achievement, and Appreciate, said Dr. Kong.

A long history of migration forced the Hakka to new environments, often harsh and inhospitable. To survive, the Hakka learned to adapt. They accepted their new phase, figured out how to best survive in these new conditions, and acted to succeed. This is the Hakka story, repeated over and over, as they migrated all over the world. For me, Dr Kong distilled the essence of being Hakka in just one word, “Adaptation.”

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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.

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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

 

 

 

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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.

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Proud to be Hakka

Popo by Alan Lau

The idea for this book was planted when I was just a child. My grandmother (we called her Popo) kept telling us, “You should be proud to be Hakka.” My brother and I resisted, refusing to speak Hakka even though we could understand most of what was being said. We were the odd balls in an all white conservative community in northern California. In fact, we were the first and only Chinese in town. In spite of our protests, Popo taught us Chinese lessons after our American classes. We learned to write Chinese calligraphy and read from picture books, but it didn’t stick.

It wasn’t until we grew up and left home did we realize what we missed. I greatly regret not being able to speak Hakka, even though I know few people who do.  My career as a food writer and my family absorbed most of my time.  It wasn’t until I left Sunset Magazine and had more time to pursue other interests that Popo’s words echoed in my ear. What did she mean? Why should I be proud to be Hakka? Now I had the time to find out.

I had more than three decades experience writing about food and developing recipes. I would explore my culture through what I knew best, food. In the digital age, I could search the web and find basic information on the Hakka. I was surprised how easy it was. Occasionally, before computers and google I would try to find information about the Hakka and found very little. I knew the Hakka were wanderers or nomads but never realized how scattered they were. They were pockets literally all over the world. Since I grew up knowing very few Chinese, let alone Hakka, I had assumed the Hakka were a small minority. Yet once I started my research I saw world population figures ranging from thirty to one hundred twenty million. A recent figure estimates 75 million Hakka live throughout the world. Also Hakka are not a minority, but Han, part of the Chinese majority.

I found reference books that enlightened me about who the Hakka were. The Hakka share a unique history and identity. The ancestors of the Hakka were displaced from their northern home around the fourth century and led a life as homeless migrants for centuries. Between the tenth to the fourteenth century, they lived in an isolated mountainous area in Fujian province where they solidified their language, culture, and identity. As they moved south they were treated as unwelcome lowly newcomers left with poor pieces of land. This forced the Hakka to grow strong in their ability to survive in any situation through hard work, adaptation, frugality, and tenacity. They gained a reputation as being pioneers, able to establish settlements where no one else could such as in Sarawak and Sabah in the Federation of Malaysian. Even in James Michener’s  historical novel Hawaii, Dr. Whipple specifically requests Hakka laborers for his sugar plantations. When asked why, he replies “…Hakka can work…” Eventually these hardy pioneers settled throughout the world.

Hakkas are no longer just peasants. Many great political leaders were Hakka—China’s political reformer Deng Xiaoping, father of modern China Sun Yat-sen, Taiwan’s first elected president Lee Teng-hui, and Singapore’s first prime minister Lee Kwan Yew. Author Han Suyin ( Many-Splendoured Thing) and artist Lin Fengmian claim Hakka heritage. Famed couture shoe designer Jimmy Choo is a Hakka born in Malaysia. Actor and action film star Chow Yun-Fat who starred in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a Hakka from Hong Kong. Successful Hakka restauranteur Alan Yau who created the original Michelin-starred Hakkasan in Britain was also born in Hong Kong.

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Who are the Hakka?

Who are the Hakka? Simply put, you might call them China’s nomads.

There are many theories about their origin. The story that most Hakka embrace is that around the fourth century, invaders forced the ancestors of the Hakka from their home in north-central China, once the cradle of the Han, or Chinese civilization. They fled south in a series of migrations. During a period of relative isolation from the tenth to almost the fourteenth century in southwestern Fujian province, they solidified their culture and language.  By the time they reached the southern provinces, land was already settled so when the Hakka moved elsewhere they were considered the unwanted newcomers. The best, most fertile pieces of land were already taken. They were left with the scraps. They had no connected homeland and lived as dispersed minorities throughout Southern China.

The Hakka made the best of what they had and soon gained a reputation of being hard workers, pioneers who could survive almost anywhere. Other Chinese often looked down on the Hakka because they were migrants, unwanted newcomers, poor, independent, and clannish. In the twentieth century, the labeled them Hakka (Kejia in Mandarin) meaning guest people or family. Some Chinese called the women “big feet” because the Hakka did not follow the prevalent practice of foot-binding. It simply wasn’t practical. Women could not work in the fields with bound feet. Hakka women were feminists –independent, stubborn, strong, and hard-working.

Hakka women often wear a straw hat with a black veil attached around the edge of the brim.

By the end of the nineteenth century, the Hakka proudly claimed their identity. Contact and conflict with other ethnic groups, especially during the Taiping Revolution (1851 to 1864) and the West River Hakka-Cantonese wars, fostered an ethnic group with a shared identity.  After the wars, many Hakka left China to find a new life and escape the turbulence in their homeland. They emigrated to India, Southeast Asia, Taiwan, South America, Mauritius, North America, Tahiti, the West Indies, and many other destinations. Eventually they dispersed all over the world. Like dandelions, where ever they landed, they dug in, adapted, and flourished in their new homes.

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