Tag Archives: Community Kitchen

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!

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 d3chow@gmail.com. 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! d3chow@gmail.com or simply leave a comment here. Happy Eats!

Everyone’s Kitchen

This post is to mark the beginning of a never-ending journey through kitchens. Everyone’s kitchen. But mostly the kitchens that never get seen in magazines or in the Home & Style section of the newspaper, and kitchens that rarely present dishes that look like those in Martha Stewart Living. This is a journey to document traditions, culinary techniques and cuisine that is passed through generations by oral history and that is fast becoming extinct. As wonderful as they are, I’m not interested in the Bobby Flay’s or Gordon Ramsey’s, I’m interested in learning how to cook the dishes I ate while growing up in my Chinese home. How to wrap zongzi, concoct mysterious medicinal soups and use a wok. What do we eat during summer and winter solstice and how to make these dishes? I’m interested in the original teachers of our lives. Our parents and grandparents. My current goal is to develop an intergenerational community kitchen program, and from the people I’ve spoken to, there’s definitely interest.

Lately, in my efforts of getting connected to Chinese seniors, I came across a biweekly luncheon program at the Strathcona Community Centre where a group of Chinese senior women cook for 80-100 other seniors. I’ve been going to help, chat and learn from them. Here’s what the kitchen looked like in it’s frenzy and  some of the delicious food that was made.

Over 100 chicken legs!

Vegetarian Buddha's Feast

New Year's sweet rice cake with red dates