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We are quickly approaching the start of the lunar new year. On February 16, 2018 the year of the dog begins.
It has been a long time since I have written a blog post for Western Chopsticks. It might be that the Monkeys made for an erratic year for me. Or maybe the erratic year was because I never posted in honor of the Monkeys last year. The superstitious me, thinks that might be the case!
Now we are close to hearing the Rooster crow! Fire Rooster presides over the coming year which begins on January 28, 2017.
According to the Astrology Club:
“The Year of the Rooster will be a powerful one, with no middle of the road when it comes to moving forward. This year, impressions count. You’ll want to look your best and be clear on your intentions concerning love, money, and business. Stick to practical and well-proven paths to ensure success, rather than risky ventures.
Remember: In a Rooster Year, all of the Chinese animals can reap great rewards by tapping into Rooster traits. Loyalty, commitment, hard work, family values, and top-notch appearances are just some of the characteristics that will be rewarded this year.”
I am the midst of cleaning and preparing for the new year. Buying new clothes to look our best, tidying up living spaces, changing the water filter (I do frequently, but want a fresh flow of clean water in as we usher in the Rooster), and of course washing the Kitchen God and preparing a fresh altar to insure a happy home and lots of good food to eat.
I’m taking part in the wave of philanthropy that’s sweeping the nation and the world. The fight against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.
I still miss her so much. There is so much that I wish she were here to witness. Three things especially come to mind. I wish she were here to see the fantastic young woman that Kam has turned out to be. I wish she could see Veronica and what a truly terrific mom she is, and I wish she could have met the sweetest and smartest little boy in the world, her great grandson, Calvin.
I think about my mom a lot since I have been here in Hong Kong, because she would have been the best expat woman here. All the society events and all the afternoon teas and beautiful clothes and volunteering and playing mahjong with the other expat women. She would have loved to be a member of the American Woman’s Association. She would have loved the once-a-year tea at the US Consulate and meeting the Consular General of Hong Kong. She would have thrived and loved every minute of living here. She would have been a far better expat woman in Hong Kong than I have been. These are not the areas in which I excel, but they are so my mom. Drat that ALS, she would have loved to live this life through us, and I would have loved telling her all about it.
The Ice Bucket Challenge is sweeping the world. Today, in Hong Kong, there were photos on the front page of the South China Morning Post of Hong Kong leaders taking the challenge for ALS. So many high-profile leaders all over the world: President Obama, the Kennedys, Matt Lauer, Martha Stewart. And so many ordinary compassionate folks and people that have been personally touched, all coming together to support research to cure this horrific disease.
Needless to say, the challenge is a bit personal for me, and it seems fitting that on the anniversary of losing my mom to ALS that I take the challenge and honor her memory in fun and hope that someday we will defeat this disease.
This one is for you mom!
Okay friends and family…. I am calling out five of you., Let’s get this chain of fun and goodwill going! Kam Thomas, Gay Reichle, Andrea Bryan, Patti Hansen and Diana Gray…….I am challenging you!
Stir-Fried Fuzzy Melon with Ginger Pork recipe comes from page 232 Stir-Frying To The Sky’s Edge by Grace Young. Check out Wok Wednesdays on Facebook, a group of over 500 members cooking their way through Grace’s fantastic cookbook.
As a Weight Watchers leader, a common summertime theme was to get members to try a new vegetable as there are many fresh options for vegetables available. I was always astounded by the limited vegetable palate of most members. Sometimes trying the zucchini was an adventure.
For me, I struggled to find vegetables that I had not tried and incorporated into my cooking repertoire. Asian vegetables opened a whole new world of things to try. Strolling through the enormous Asian markets in Minneapolis with my favorite Asian cook, Ari, was fascinating. I learned so much. What to buy, how to cook, frozen vs. fresh, canned vs. frozen. Little did I know that her help in Minneapolis would improve my cooking in Hong Kong. And, Wok Wednesdays has guided me along the way in finding new ways to prepare and cook the common Asian vegetable.
I have seen the fuzzy melon in the wet markets in Hong Kong. It is available year round. The fuzziness is not detected until you touch. It is a little prickly, but not too bad. These melons were tender and a bit on the small side. I selected two, and they were the perfect amount for the recipe.
I did not peel them. My mistake but when I realized the recipe called for peeling, I tasted the uncooked piece, and the skin was tender and not bitter, so I proceeded. I actually think that visually, the dish, I think, is more appealing with some or all of the skin unpeeled.
It is amazing how far protein can go in a stir-fry dish. With only two ounces of pork in the dish, it was still very flavorful and filling. I thought the fuzzy melon was very close to zucchini. It had great texture, and the ginger was very nice with the pork and the melon.
Ok, I met the summertime challenge of trying a new vegetable. Actually, I meet that challenge a lot living in Hong Kong. Fuzzy melon was new for me. It was nice, and I would cook with it again. Maybe in a soup or fresh on salad. What could be next in tasting new and different things? Durian? Not likely at this time, but one never knows.
Barbeque Pork Lo Mein was a quick and easy dish that delivered great taste. This recipe comes from Grace Young’s Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge page 273 and is part of the Wok Wednesday’s online cooking project that can be found on Facebook.
I purchased my BBQ pork at the barbeques stall near my house in the Central wet market. I also made BBQ pork from Grace’s recips in SFSE page 285. My version was not quite as good as that purchased, but not back for a first attempt. This is a simple stir-fry and a quick meal.
Choi Sum is a dark leafy green available all year in Hong Kong wet markets. I have always prepared choi sum steamed and with a little bit of vinegar, just like a spinach. This recipe from SSFE page 196 is excellent. The oyster sauce really enhances the flavor. You may find choi sum in US markets named Yau Choi. Same vegetable.
Twelve years ago, we took a trip of a lifetime with our daughter and two friends. We traveled from Ho Chi Minh City to Da Nang to Hanoi, Vietnam. We ate fantastic food, and visited magical beaches, museums, ancient ruins, and rural villages. We also met two very good friends, Duong and Toai.
A lot has changed since that first visit. Vietnam is evolving and developing into a thriving country. And, Duong and Toai’s life changed in an instant when their daughter was killed in a tragic bus accident on an icy Idaho road. Trang was the link between our families.She was studying in Boise and that is were we met. She introduced us to her parents and we visited and toured with them on our trip. It is bittersweet that our friendship with her parents was strengthened due to her death.
We met lots of family and friends and also made a trip to visit Trang’s tomb in Hue.
Duong meets with 10 ladies in Hue when ever she can. They have been friends for 49 years. It was an honor to spend the afternoon with them hearing stories and practicing English.
Da Nang is quickly becoming a destination for beach lovers. Resorts line the shoreline. The famous China Beach is a well-used public beach.
Da Nang is a river city. At least three new bridges have been built across the Han river in the last 10 years. Two of the bridges have been designed by Americans. The most impressive is the Dragon Bridge. It is beautiful in day and in night.
Some things have not changed much. One thing that we loved when we visited before was the basket boat. In Da Nang, there is still many basket boats in use.
There is so much more to the story of our experience in Vietnam. Future posts will chronicle. For now, we are enjoying the memory and and looking forward to returning in September.
This recipe comes from Stir-Fry to The Sky’s Edge page 128 by Grace Young
My husband says, “This is the way to do chicken breast.” Steve is not a fan of chicken breast. He eats it because I prepare it wanting to create a more healthy dish. However, this dish requires very little oil and very little corn starch. The dish is very fresh if the asparagus is done correctly. It is easy to overcook. I chose to blanch and then put the asparagus in ice-cold water to stop the cooking. Also, we added our own sauces on the side. I added Indonesian sambal and Steve picked Vietnamese chili sauce to spice it up. As always, very good recipe and great dish to eat!!
This recipe comes from the fabulous cookbook by Grace Young, Stir-Frying to The Sky’s Edge page 204. It is part of the Wok Wednesdays project which can be found on Facebook.
Today, in Hong Kong and China, is the festival for Ching Ming (tomb sweeping day). Steve is home from work, and we just spent a great week touring our new hometown with our first visitors to Hong Kong. We both have spent the morning catching up on email, finishing an online course and trying to organize all the photos we have taken recently.
Luckily, I remembered that I needed napa cabbage for the Wok Wednesday recipe this week, and picked some up on my way through the wet market near our flat. I decided to make the Hakka-Style Stir-Fried Cabbage with Egg (this week’s Wok Wednesday recipe) for a brunch.
The ingredients are simple, and the stir-fry is quite easy and very quick once you complete the prep work.
This is great comfort food and perfect for a light meal. We had leftover stir-fried rice from an outing earlier this week, and it complimented the cabbage dish nicely. I would also do as the recipe recommended; serve with plain white rice.
I have really been enjoying the stir-fried cabbage dishes from all of Grace Young’s books. They are reminicent of the German-style wilted lettuce salads that my mom used to make with leaf lettuce, bacon drippings and vinegar. I did add a sprinkle of rice vinegar to my bowl of the Hakka-Style Cabbage. It was a nice compliment and enhanced the flavors. Steve added a bit of hot and spicy Indonesian sambal (homemade from our dear friend Ari). It was also an excellent compliment to the dish.
The Hakka people are known as the gypsies of Asia. Their histroy has been nomadic. Portable kitchens and quick meals with simple ingredients are characteristic of many Hakka-style dishes. If you would like to know more, see Grace Young’s notes on The Hakka Diaspora on page 102 of Stir-Frying to The Sky’s Edge. Also, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hakka_people for additonal information.
The recipe for this dish came from Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge by Grace Young page 134.
This is an excellent dish and easy to do. Like most wok recipes, your preparation is key to success. I used the dried mushrooms, and they definitely brought texture and added flavor to the dish.
The julienne of the carrots took a bit of time, but the technique that Grace describes in the book is great for getting the job done. In Hong Kong, we have monster-sized carrots. Even the imported carrots from Australia are huge. They are about 2.5 inches in diameter. I was put off by them at first, but tried them for this dish and they are very sweet and tender. The opposite of what I thought they would be.
The dried mushrooms are expensive, but I think it is worth the added cost. In Hong Kong they are in every wet market and medicinal shop. I opted to buy the middle price range. I was very happy with the flavor. The odor is strong on them, both dry and wet. The only problem I had was that there were a few that did not soften as much as the others. I think I will try to use boiling water next time.
Highly recommend this dish and use the dried mushrooms if you can. If you have kids, they will love eating the carrots.