Another Cooking Class at HPBA. The theme: Eggs!

It’s been a while since our first cooking class in November but we thought we’d wait until the holiday season(s) were over (Christmas, New Year’s, Lunar New Year, Clan Association Spring Banquets and Chingming) and the commotion settled down before we started another class. This time around, we focused on the theme of eggs – quick, accessible and cheap. 

We made a simple homemade meal consisting of 2 dishes and a dessert. See the recipes and pictures below. If you try any of the dishes at home, please let us know how you did! If it doesn’t taste right, let us know and we can do some “troubleshooting”!

RECIPE #1  Tomato Cooked Egg – The sweet and sour flavours of this saucy dish make it appetizing and great to accompany rice (soong faan). A simple, fast dinner that kids love. In the absence of a wok, we used a frying pan, which also works.

Serves 4
3 eggs
¼ tsp chicken bouillon powder, optional
¼ tsp + ¼ tsp salt
canola oil for stir-frying
3 slices ginger
1 green onion, cut into 1-inch lengths
3 ripe tomatoes, cut into large cubes
2 tsp sugar
3 tsp ketchup
½ c water
1 tsp cornstarch

Tomato and Egg prep
Whisk eggs with ¼ tsp salt and optional ¼ tsp chicken bouillon powder. Heat canola oil (about 1 Tbsp) in wok or large frying pan on high. (The key to cooking great eggs is to make sure your pan/wok is hot before you pour in the eggs. To test if it’s hot enough, you can flick a couple drops of water onto the pan or put the end of your egg covered chopstick on the pan. If the water or egg sizzles, it’s ready) Pour in egg mix and cook as you would scrambled eggs until just barely cooked through, being careful not to overcook. Remove to your serving dish.

Give the pan a quick clean if needed and return to high heat. Add canola oil (about 1 Tbsp) and when hot, add ginger and green onion and let them sear for a few seconds. This is where lots of the flavour comes in – the “wok hay”. Add cubed tomatoes and ¼ tsp salt and stir in pan for 1 minute. Add sugar and ketchup and stir to combine flavours, for 1 minute. Add water. Cover and lower heat to medium-high, simmering for 2 minutes to break down the tomatoes.

Prepare cornstarch with a little water in a small bowl making sure the cornstarch is dissolved, not settled on the bottom. Uncover and stir in reserved eggs, breaking them up a bit with your wok chaan. Slowly mix in cornstarch to thicken and create a sauce. This is called “da heen” which is to make a thick sauce. Make sure it is evenly mixed through.
Serve with rice and lots of sauce!


RECIPE #2 Steamed Egg Trio 蒸三色蛋 – A great contrast of comforting flavours and textures across the three types of eggs in this dish. The saltiness of the ducks eggs make it great to soong faan too. 

Serves 4
2 century eggs 皮蛋, shelled and chopped
2 salted duck eggs 鹹蛋, separated and yolks chopped, whites in a seperate bowl
3 chicken eggs 雞蛋
1 14 oz can chicken stock
1 green onion, sliced
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp light soy sauce

Equipment needed:
– Deep plate, about 9 in. diameter
– Flat plate wide enough to cover
– Steaming apparatus: My mom uses a wide, flat-bottomed wok with a metal wire steam rack stand and about 4 cups of water. Too much and the water may boil over into the plate, too little and the wok may dry out.

Spread out chopped century eggs and duck egg yolks in deep plate. Bring steamer to boil at maximum heat. Add plate of century and duck eggs. Steam with the wok lid on for 5 minutes. 

In medium bowl, combine duck egg whites, chicken eggs, chicken stock and green onion. Beat together well.
Once the 5 minutes are up, uncover the steamer and slowly pour the egg mix into plate. Cover carefully with a flat plate turned upside-down. This will ensure a smooth surface in the end. Cover the steamer and steam for 15 minutes.

Uncover steamer and flat plate and check to see if the eggs have set. Eggs should be springy. If still wet/wobbly, steam for 5 minutes further. 

Remove dish from steamer. Finish by drizzling olive oil and soy sauce over top. 

Serve hot.


RECIPE #3 Dried Beancurd and Ginkgo Nuts Dessert 白果腐竹雞蛋糖水 – A personal favourite of mine, an easy and refreshing dessert that can be served hot or cold. Vacuum-packed, pre-shelled ginkgo nuts can be used, but are not nearly as fresh/fragrant/fun as peeling your own. Once shelled, soaking in a little hot water makes it easier to peel off the brown inner skin.

ImageServes 4
6 cups water
4 slices ginger
1/3 box of rock sugar, or to taste
20 to 25 gingko nuts (5 to 6 per person), shells removed 
50g dried beancurd sheets (not sticks) 
eggs, 1–2 if using as egg cloud, 2 if ½ egg per person, 4 if one egg per person

Bring water to boil in a large pot. Add ginger, sugar and gingko nuts. Turn stove to medium-low and simmer covered for 15 minutes. 
ImageSoak dried beancurd in a bowl with cold water for 15 minutes to soften, with optional 2 tsp salt to prevent the beancurd from breaking up too much. Rinse and drain in a sieve. 

Add beancurd to pot. Turn heat to medium-high and cook partially covered for 15 minutes until beancurd breaks into pieces. Watch the pot as it will easily boil over at this stage.

Add eggs according to your preference.

To create egg cloud, beat eggs in small bowl and add to pot in slow stream while stirring. 
For soft-boiled eggs, turn off the heat and break and add whole cooked eggs individually to the pot, letting the heat in the pot cook the eggs, for about 5 minutes. 

For hard-boiled eggs, cook eggs separately. Serve with ½ or 1 egg per person. 



Are you interested in joining our cooking class? Is there a dish you would like to learn how to cook? Feel free to email me and we’ll try to find someone who can teach! We are thinking of holding these every 2 months and currently exploring the possibility of doing Zhong for our next session June 1st. Interested??? 


First Chinese Community Kitchen at HPBA


I know I’ve completed neglected this blog, but now seems to be the perfect time to revive it with so much happening in the Chinatown community this past year and my increasing involvement as well. Since my last post, my sister and I got elected to be new members on the Hoy Ping Benevolent Association (HPBA) Board of Directors, I’ve been participating at the Vancouver Chinatown Revitalization Committee meetings and am connecting with more people to discuss some of the invisible issues amongst the Chinese community.


In the past year, I’ve met many young Chinese-Canadian youth like myself, looking for opportunities to get involved in the Chinatown community and wanting to “get back to their cultural roots”. In October, after prancing around in our navy blue suits and giant HPBA badges at the 64th Anniversary dinner of the People’s Republic of China, my sister and I met another pair of sisters who are young board members of the Lee Benevolent Association. What was supposed to be a meeting of a few young board members turned into a meeting with about a dozen others! While sipping on milk tea and eating egg tarts at the back of Newtown Bakery in Chinatown, we discussed our concerns around the lack of young talent and engagement in Chinatown benevolent associations/societies. Filled with inspiration, ideas and passion from the group, my sister and I revived the idea of coordinating an Intergenerational Chinese Community Kitchen at the HPBA and invited those from the meeting to come participate. As a pilot, we wanted to test the level of interest among youth, the level of interest from the elder chefs and the possibility of turning this into an ongoing program of the HPBA as a means of getting more youth involved. Participants from other associations/societies came to see how it could be done in order to implement it at their respective organizations.  


So, the result? Some good learning lessons, but fairly good success! There was lots of interest from youth with many RSVP-ing. Some couldn’t make it because of the semi short notice (an email notification was sent out 1 week prior), but nonetheless, the interest was there. And though we had a menu planned around the theme of eggs, again, due to short notice, our chef was unable to make it. So first lesson – give people time! 


Despite this hiccup of having the chef abandoning the task, we thought of the best chef we knew – our mom. Enlisting her help, she came and taught everyone how to make Ground Beef & Cilantro Egg Drop Soup. It’s simple, fast and cheap to make. The recipe can be found below.



Following the soup, everyone pitched in to help dice ingredients for BBQ pork fried rice (my lazy man’s recipe can be found here). 



And last but certainly not least, many thanks to Josie Pure Souls Media for taking all the beautiful photographs from the cooking session!


Ground Beef & Cilantro Egg Drop Soup

Egg drop soup is a Chinese soup featuring wispy beaten eggs. It makes a quick, easy, comforting meal.


Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Makes 4 servings


1 14oz can chicken broth
1 can water
½ lb ground beef, or other ground meat of choice
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp cornstarch
A few drops sesame oil (optional)
2 heaping Tbsp water chestnut powder (see Variations notes)
½ cup water
2 eggs, beaten
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
White pepper (optional)



Marinate the ground beef with soy sauce, sesame oil and cornstarch to tenderize. Brown the beef in a small saucepan over medium high heat.
In a large soup pot, bring the chicken broth and water to a rolling boil. Add the cooked beef.
Mix the water chestnut powder with ½ cup water in a small bowl until smooth, or shake up in a small jar. Add slowly to the boiling soup while stirring to thicken to the desired consistency.
Add the eggs slowly in a thin stream while stirring the soup. The eggs should cook immediately, creating thin, silken strands of cooked egg that float in the soup.
Stir in cilantro. Season with salt. Serve with white pepper.



  • Create a heartier soup by adding cubed tofu.
  • This soup can be made vegetarian by substituting vegetable stock for the chicken stock, and cubed tofu for the ground beef.
  • Cornstarch can be used as a substitution for the water chestnut powder if the soup is consumed immediately; otherwise any leftover soup will liquefy again. Water chestnut powder can be found in Chinese grocery stores for less than $3 for a Jello-sized box.


Seeing the success of this first session, we’ll be opening it up to invite others to join us. I know some of you are anxious to come participate!

40th Chinatown Spring Festival Parade

Alright. I’ve been terrible at keeping up on this blog.  In the past 6 months a lot has happened that has kept me away. I got a full-time job, but more importantly, my yen yen’s health deteriorated. Unfortunately, she became very ill over the Christmas holidays with pneumonia and passed away in January at the age of 95, which brought on a whole other amazing experience of learning about the rights and rituals in Chinese culture, this time around death. I really wanted to document all the cultural things we did around my yenyen’s death to share, but I simply didn’t have the time or extra pair of hands to be doing much photographing. Though it may seem morbid to some people, these are traditions (like cooking and holiday celebrations) that are important in our culture. Also, I found the Chinese style funeral to be more interesting, engaging, meaningful and … dare I say… fun? Learning about traditions around death is also very important as we approach a time when our parents/grandparents approach ripe old ages and we all want to ensure that their last wishes are fulfilled. This is a much larger topic for discussion that I’ll leave for a future post as it is unlucky to be talking about death around Chinese New Year!

Regardless of how life is going, I can always count on the annual Chinatown Parade to get me motivated and inspired to blog and connect with people again about learning the traditions of our elders. The Chinatown parade has become one of my favourite events of the year. This year, 50,000 Vancouverites spent their Sunday afternoon welcoming the Year of the Snake, and like last year, I walked with my fellow Hoy Ping Benevolent Association members. I’m always so proud of all the youth-based Athletic Clubs which somehow remain strong in every Chinese benevolent association. The youth train all year round to perform the lion dance, hoisting giant lion heads and crouching low to the ground. At the Chinatown Parade, I’m always impressed with how great they are at entertaining the crowd, especially the kids and elders who stretch their arms out for a chance to stroke the lion for good luck. Here are some pics of the parade from where I was ….

Following the 2.5 hour parade, attendees crowded the restaurants of Chinatown. Needless to say, Newtown Bakery, a cornerstone of Chinatown was packed full of people waiting to get their steamed buns!



Once people finished filling up on steamed buns and congee, the second round of festivities began. Many of the lions were lured back out by the lettuce hanging above the doorways of businesses in Chinatown and in return the lions dance to bring good fortune to the business, while firecrackers, drums, cymbals and gongs could be heard loudly throughout the neighbourhood to help chase away evil spirits. Again, these impressive performances drew big crowds and lots of camera flashes.

There were many other festivities happening in Chinatown that I didn’t get to either because it was too crowded or because of time, most notably being the Sun Yet San Garden. Nonetheless, there is still plenty of time to catch a glimpse of the giant living (literally!) snake sculpture in the Garden’s pond until the end of April.

On Chinese New Year Day my sister and I also went to visit the International Buddhist Temple in Steveston which was also a great experience, but unfortunately, I am approaching my bedtime so I will have to leave that for my next post! I hope you enjoyed my pictures from the Chinatown Parade! 🙂

Chow Fan, Chow Fan

I’ve slowly been getting more and more responses from people interested in participating in the Intergenerational Chinese Community Kitchen Program! Unfortunately, we haven’t started just yet as many of the seniors have been busy going on outings as the summer programs at Strathcona Community Centre have been ramped up. We’re working on the logistics of when both the seniors and the kitchen will be available so hang tight!

In the meantime, as the number of interested participants grow, I’m putting together an email list to keep everyone up to date once a schedule is put together.
If you want to be added to the email list, just send me one at I’d be happy to hear from you!

Even my 2 year old nephew likes to cook Chinese! As he sings in the song, he’ll even wash the dishes =)  He sings in Cantonese but an English translation follows in case you want to teach a little one you know. Enjoy!

Translation of lyrics:
Chow Fan, Chow Fan
Add some soy sauce
Add an egg
A bowl for you
A bowl for me
Finished eating and full
You wash the dishes!

Fresh Choice Kitchens, Community Kitchen and Zhong zi time!

I know I’ve been neglecting the blogosphere for a long time, but after feeling better from some health concerns that bogged me down, I’m thankfully full of motivation again and back in business!  🙂  And a lot of business I did indeed! Aside from healing, here’s what I’ve been up to lately.

Recently I discovered a great local organization in our backyard run by the Greater Vancouver Food Bank, called Fresh Choice Kitchens. Fresh Choice Kitchens is a resource and advocate for EVERYTHING community kitchen related. They run the Downtown Eastside Community Kitchen (DECK) program, provide a wealth of information and workshops on starting and running your own community kitchen and (happily!) share their knowledge and experiences in running community kitchens. I went to participate in the Community Kitchen Roundtable, where community kitchen leaders in Vancouver and beyond meet and share successes and challenges to their programs. If you’re not involved in a community kitchen program, but are thinking about starting one, I highly recommend the Community Kitchen Leadership Workshop. I had a blast hearing about others’ aspirations and experiences, and cooking together. Everyone was so supportive of my idea to start an Intergenerational Chinese Community Kitchen in Chinatown that it left me feeling motivated and inspired!

Which leads me to the second topic at hand. This past month I have been visiting the Strathcona Community Centre a lot and seen the many seniors programs held at the centre, particularly for Chinese seniors, who comprise of much of the surrounding neighbourhood. Naturally, I spread my community kitchen idea to the many seniors at the centre to see what they think, and they too are keen to pass down their culinary knowledge to young people. So, this summer, we’re starting a pilot program of the Intergenerational Chinese Community Kitchen! If you, like me, are a CBC (Chinese Born Canadian) who grew up eating Chinese food, but now have fears that you will never be able to eat those foods again, you’re the perfect candidate! If you just want to learn how to cook traditional Chinese food, you’re welcome to join us too!

What do you want to learn how to cook? What did you grow up eating? Let me know and we’ll have a knowledgeable Chinese senior teach you.

Last week, I got my mom to show me how to make zhongzi. A labourious but delicious food in Chinese culinary tradition which consists of glutinous rice and sweet or salty fillings wrapped in big bamboo leaves then boiled or steamed for several hours to cook. I won’t tell you the origins of why we eat zhongzi or give a recipe, those can be found a plenty on the Internet. Because of the wide diversity of ingredients and methods for making zhongzi, I wouldn’t want to give a recipe anyway. Even the shape of how they are wrapped varies depending on which region! Regardless, I thought I’d show you how my mom and I did ours.

No matter what your zhongzi looks or tastes like, first and foremost is the preparation of the bamboo leaves. The leaves can be bought across Chinatown, generally in the herbal shops, though you won’t need to search for them when it’s zhongzi season as they will be displayed right out front. When shopping for leaves, look for big thick leaves free of any rips or damages. Some people find it easier to wrap with small leaves. To prepare the leaves, they need to be soaked overnight, then boiled and drained, then some people soak them again. My mom even brushes each leaf to make sure they’re clean and malleable. When the leaves are wet, you get a taste of that aromatic tea smell that will help flavour the rice of the zhongzi.

Our fillings included glutinous rice, fatty pork, Chinese sausage, salty duck egg yolk, dried shrimp and either peanuts or split yellow mung beans.

Clockwise from top: glutinous rice, seasoned fatty pork, dried shrimp, boiled peanuts, salted duck egg yolks, Chinese sausage and split yellow mung beans

Our fillings tend to be quite simple but you can put just about any filling you like from Shiitake mushrooms, chestnuts and bamboo shoots to fancy fillings such as dried scallops and abalone. The selection and preparation of the fillings is where you find a big divergence in how the zhongzi is made. Some use rice where the individual grains can be seen after cooking, whereas some become a glutinous ball or wrapping around the filling. Some soak and season the rice first. Some cook the fillings first. Some marinate. You get the idea.

Next comes the wrapping part. Again, the size and shape varies based on preference and region. They can be flat and rectangular, long and cylindrical, short and pyramidal. Here’s how my family wraps our zhongzi.

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Wrapping zhongzi takes lots of practice and skill. Mine were pretty lop-sided  =/  It also reminded me of when my sister and I went to China in 2010 and visited Zhou Zhuang, often called the “Venice of the East”, where there were food shops galore filled with small local eats. Zhongzi is abundant since it’s portable and compact and one elderly woman was catching lots of attention with her impressive zhongzi wrapping skills.

And I shall leave you with that.

Remember that if you want to participate in the community kitchen and learn how to cook traditional Chinese food, email me! or simply leave a comment here. Happy Eats!

Hoy Ping Benevolent Association Dinner & BBQ Pork “Fly” Rice Recipe

So this past weekend, my yenyen, sister and I attended the Hoy Ping Benevolent Association dinner and we met lots of people. Since there was a big audience (about 450 people) at the dinner, my sister and I decided to seize the moment and appeal to the young people in the room. We asked our good friend, the chairman of the Hoy Ping Association, to allot some time for us to go on stage and speak to the crowd. Although the room was loud and not too many people were listening, we had a rare opportunity to chat with NDP-MLA Jenny Kwan, Vancouver City Councillor Raymond Louie and Councillor Kerry Jang. I also hung out with the association’s Kung Fu club as they showed a great slideshow of the team’s part in the Chinatown Parade back in January. And it seemed our appearance on stage worked. In the last 15 minutes of the dinner, Janet approached our table to chat! Thanks Janet!

Unfortunately, in all the excitement, I forgot to take pictures… Please forgive me, I’m still trying to get used to blogging and taking pictures of everything I’m doing. But hopefully my BBQ Pork “Fly” Rice recipe will make up for it. 🙂

This recipe is the first Chinese dish I ever learned to make. When we were growing up, my mom would go play mahjong on the weekends (and as you probably know, serious mahjong games run for at least 4 hours) and had to make a quick meal for us before she left and it was often BBQ fried rice. Aside from the BBQ pork, all the other ingredients are already often found in most Chinese kitchens, or at least ours anyway.

These days, fried rice has entered the realm of westernized Chinese food, being lumped into the same camp as sweet and sour pork, chicken chow mein and egg rolls, but not so! Fried/sticky rice is served at big banquet meals, albeit at the end. At more formal dinners, rice and/or noodles is served at the end as a filler after you’ve enjoyed the real dishes of sea cucumber, crab, duck etc. So, this dish can be made in a snap for a quick meal, like I did last night, or to accompany a formal dinner.

BBQ Pork “Fly” Rice
2 cups (muk) rice
1/2 lb BBQ pork
1/2 an onion (red or white, doesn’t really matter) or 1 shallot or 3 scallions
1/2-1 cup frozen peas
8-10 frozen tiger prawns (or fresh, but it would be a waste)
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 tsp hoisen sauce (often called oyster sauce)
1 1/2-2 tblsp of oil ie. vegetable or grapeseed, not olive oil or peanut as these have too much flavour
Wash 2 cups of rice in cold water and cook. The most common way to cook rice these days is in a rice cooker, but if you have a ceramic pot, it supposedly tastes better, you would just have to time it. For fried rice, the best is actually to use old rice because freshly cooked rice sticks together. If you’re using freshly cooked rice, make it as early as possible, then fluff with chopsticks and cool the rice for as long as possible.

While the rice is cooking and cooling, defrost the frozen peas and tiger prawns, I just do this in a bowl of water and it doesn’t have to be completely defrosted, just enough so there’s no ice and they’re free. Dice the onion/shallot/scallions, whichever you’re using, and the BBQ pork. Once the prawns are defrosted, drain the water then peel and cut into 1/2-1 inch pieces. Drain the peas once they are defrosted. Set up all your ingredients so they’re convenient as you’re cooking.
Once the rice is cooled and ready to go, take out your wok. Ideally you use a wok since it’s superior to the frying pan due to it’s size, efficiency and versatility, but if a frying pan is all you’ve got, it’ll do. Just use the largest once you’ve got.
Heat the wok and oil over high heat.
From this point on, you will be adding each ingredient one at a time, tossing or “sautéing” and allowing each ingredient to cook in between, with the rawest ingredients added first. The order is as follows:
1. Onions – cook until it smells so good you’re tempted to reach into the wok with your bare hands for a taste… or until slightly golden.
2. Tiger prawns – prawns are cooked once they turn orange. DON’T cook them all the way or they will be tough and stringy by the time you’re done. Cook them until you start to see some orange.
3 & 4. Peas & BBQ pork – just toss ’em around so they heat up and the flavours of each ingredient are distributed. After a while, you may begin to notice that the bottom of the wok is sticking, this is because of the sugar from the BBQ pork burning. Turn down the heat to med-high. My idea of med-high is 7-8.
5. Rice – dump all the rice into the wok and using the blade of your spatula, break up any clumps.
6. Hoisen Sauce – drizzle over top and toss until the sauce is evenly distributed.
7. Egg – this is the part that makes it fried rice and is the last step. Pour the egg over top and toss vigorously. If you let it sit for too long, the egg travels to the bottom of the wok and cooks by itself, resulting in scrambled eggs. What you want is for the rice to be coated in egg.
Keep tossing until the egg is cooked and the rice doesn’t look wet with raw egg.
If you’re not eating the rice right away, I like to keep it warm in the rice cooker, but fried rice to me is like pizza, it can be enjoyed hot or cold. 😉 
This is the first time I’ve ever taken pictures while cooking and giving directions for it so feedback is welcomed and strongly encouraged! Also, if you try the recipe out, please let me know what you thought of it, or if you made any modifications. I’d be happy to hear from you!

Weekend Qingming Celebration

Thanks to the great sunny weekend, the Qingming kickoff at Mountain View Cemetery went smoothly. The ceremonies performed by different Chinese Benevolent Associations were held at the Chinese Pavilion. And thanks to The Chinese Benevolent Association, the Lotus Light Charity Society, the PTT Buddhist Society and the City of Vancouver, two new 10ft. tall ceremonial burners were unveiled May 2nd, 2010, replacing burners that were built in 1901.

Here’s a video of the unveiling of the new burners on May 2nd, 2010.

Ceremonial burners in Chinese culture are used to burn offerings to our ancestors in the afterlife. The offerings come in the form of joss paper, thin bamboo or rice paper that is white or yellow usually with red printings and/or gold foil. Sometimes is made to look like money or back in the day, cut out like a person to represent the offering of a servant. If you’ve ever walked into a knick-knack store in Chinatown, you’ve probably seen it.






There is also lots of food involved in the ceremony. Chicken, eggs, fruit, pastries, rice cake, sweets, liquor and roast pork. A whole roast pig in the case of very large groups and firecrackers are lit to ward off evil spirits.

It was great to see everything in action on Sunday. Here are some shots.

The Hoy Ping Benevolent Association Chairman setting out the fruit and joss paper for the ceremony.

The crowd gathering around the pavilion for the ceremony.

2 roast pig offerings, incense and candles.

Members of other associations began eating some of the offerings to be one with their ancestors.

After everything was done at Mountain View, we went back to the benevolent association headquarters to eat and commence our AGM. Though the festivities were joyful, the AGMs have been a downer for members. Aside from my sister and I, there was only one other person in the room who was in their 30’s, of a crowd of about 200. The next youngest was 48. And this is not a problem that is particular to the Hoy Ping Benevolent Association, it is a problem for Chinatown as a whole. I spoke with the other two young people and we all agreed, if the problem persists, the association will very likely die without younger people getting involved. What do you think would attract younger CBCs? What kind of activities do younger people like to do? What would you like to see happen in Chinatown?

Secret Societies and Qingming celebration

First off, I did indeed go see Jiro Dreams of Sushi last week. Though there is an uneasiness with Jiro’s harsh schooling (even bordering abuse)  of his apprentices, he truly is respected for his masterful sushi skills. You begin to realize why as the documentary progresses, from his delicate palate and knowledge of fish and rice to his perfection in timing and menu planning. The documentary also moves smoothly from scenes of tuna auctions to a food critic describing the intricacies of taste in Jiro’s menu planning. A must see! But be warned, watching this documentary may cause salivating and hunger!

Jiro's egg sushi.

Next, I want to introduce another documentary. A local film to be aired June 3rd at 10pm on OMNI called Secret Societies of Vancouver’s Chinatown (don’t worry, I’ll remind you again closer to the date). Have you ever been to the Chinatown Parade and wondered who the heck all those people in the parade are? Have you ever wandered the streets of Chinatown and heard shuffling mah jong tiles or a band of èrhú’s playing behind closed doors? They are the secret societies that helped build Vancouver’s Chinatown to what it is today. The Chinese Benevolent Association of Vancouver formed over 100 years ago in 1906, helping to find equality for Chinese Canadians from fighting for political rights such as the right to vote and recognition of the role Chinese Canadians played in Canadian history, to providing a space for social activities such as playing mahjong, chess and dragon dance. My family have been members of the Hoy Ping Benevolent Association for a long time, yet this year was the first time I participated in the Chinatown parade!

One of the dragons from our association dancing close to the crowd at the 2012 Chinatown Parade.

Since I started the new year participating in the parade for the first time and I’m trying to learn more about Chinatown and our traditions, this weekend, my sister and I will be joining the other members to celebrate Qingming. Qingming is a big holiday in Chinese tradition showing our filial piety, dating back more than 2500 years ago in ancient China. Sometimes also called Ancestor’s Day or Tomb Sweeping Day, family members head to the cemetery to bring offerings to the dead such as food, tea and wine and dust the tombs.

A family making offerings for Qingming.

Qingming is celebrated on the 104th day after winter solstice or on the 15th day after the spring equinox, thus following both the lunar and solar cycles. But, the holiday technically lasts 21 days as the dead are said to arrive 10 days before Qingming and return back to the afterlife 10 days after Qingming.

On Sunday my sister and I will be following the Hoy Ping Benevolent Association to the Mountain View Cemetery on Fraser Street (between 31st and 43rd avenue). If you get a chance, in the next couple weeks (March 25 – April 14), I highly recommend visiting a cemetery to see what the celebration looks like. I promise it will be nothing like the cold and creepy gray cemeteries you see in pictures.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Last week, my farmer friend Rob told me about a movie that started this week at Cineplex Odeon in International Village, called Jiro Dreams of Sushi.  The film’s website states,

JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI is the story of 85 year-old Jiro Ono, considered by many to be the world’s greatest sushi chef. He is the proprietor of Sukiyabashi Jiro, a 10-seat, sushi-only restaurant inauspiciously located in a Tokyo subway station. Despite its humble appearances, it is the first restaurant of its kind to be awarded a prestigious 3 star Michelin review, and sushi lovers from around the globe make repeated pilgrimage, calling months in advance and shelling out top dollar for a coveted seat at Jiro’s sushi bar [….] At the heart of this story is Jiro’s relationship with his eldest son Yoshikazu, the worthy heir to Jiro’s legacy, who is unable to live up to his full potential in his father’s shadow.

In Vancouver, eating sushi has become a part of our identity. Even the vegetarians eat sushi! But there’s so much more art to sushi than we think. We see sushi and we see it as food that’s been rolled all together, but there’s a fine art and great skill to producing real masterpieces. I’m excited to see all the beautiful pieces of edible art and how food can strengthen and serve as a source of tension in a relationship.

Hopefully we’ll be seeing this film this weekend. When we do, Rob has offered to help write a review of it. 😉  If you have or are going to see the movie, what do you think of it? Does it make you think of sushi differently? Do you know how to make sushi?

Mah Jong Lesson 1

Mah Jong is a dying game. Most CBCs (Chinese Born Canadians) don’t know how to play, including myself. But I’ve been hearing more and more that playing Mah Jong is good for your memory and for preventing dementia. This weekend, my sister and I took our yenyen to our friends Jenny and Johnathan’s house to play, though I was just watching. In recent years, there have been signs of dementia showing in my grandma, but she was sharp as a tack once they started the game, at times even correcting everyone else! Mah Jong also always goes hand in hand with food. Anytime there is a game, there is a meal. And thanks to Jenny, we were all well fed too. 🙂

Here’s a few pictures of yenyen in action…

Yenyen stacking her wall

Thinking about her strategy

Waiting for others to make their make their move.

I know most of the tiles…

Circles suit

Bamboo suit

Thousands suit


Dragons - Red, Green and White



…and the concept of pong, seung and kong.

Pong = 3 identical tiles

Top row-pong of 8 thousand
Middle row-pong of 5 bamboo
Bottom row-pong of 2 circles.
Seung = a run of 3
Top row-456 seung of circles
Middle row-456 seung of thousands
Bottom row-345 seung of bamboo
Kong = 4 identical tiles.

Kong of red dragon

But beyond that, I’m generally lost, especially on how to win. So Johnathan, the Brit who learned how to play in the past few years, made me a copy of his cheat sheet for calculating points for winning combos. Feel free to use it and let me know if you have any questions. Also, just note that this is only ONE of many ways to determine points.

Mah Jong Scoring (pdf)

Next lesson, we’ll go over some of the rules of the game with some action shots and some food shots too!

Do you know how to play Mah Jong? Who do you play with? Are you interested in learning and/or playing with others? How did you learn how to play?