Tag Archives: Chinatown

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.

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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.  

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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! 

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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.

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

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

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Ground Beef & Cilantro Egg Drop Soup

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

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

 

Ingredients:
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
Salt
White pepper (optional)

 

Directions:

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.

 

Variations:

  • 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.

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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!

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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!

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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! 🙂

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.