To someone growing up in Asia in the 1960’s “boiled peanuts and a movie” is what “popcorn and a movie” is to the American moviegoers. As a child going to the cinemas in Singapore, I would always encounter boiled peanuts peddlers pushing large steaming kettles, mounted on tricycles, bursting with peanuts selling their fare. My friends and I would purchase packages of boiled peanuts in newspaper cones and bring them into the theatre. We would crack the peanuts noiselessly, as the moist soft shells split easily, and discard them on the floor. At the end of the show the floor would be full of peanut shells and I used to enjoy stomping on the shells making crunching noise as we walked out. But this reminiscing also brought out my feeling of disgust for how filthy that habit was. I’m glad that this practice doesn’t exist anymore.
If you’ve been a reader of food blogs during the last year it is very likely you’ve encountered the Foodbuzz banners. They’re hard to avoid. More than one thousand food bloggers are already Featured Publishers of Foodbuzz. And the main Foodbuzz site is currently one of the top ten Internet destinations for food and dining. The Foodbuzz team has already reached this level of achievement even before the official launch of their Featured Publishers community on October 13th.
I was living in Shanghai two years ago when two of my friends from New York came to visit. It was their first visit to China and everything was novel. On the evening of their arrival I took them to the rooftop terrace at a café called New Heights. We had a few drinks and watched the “light show” on the buildings across the river in Pudong. We then headed to dinner at Jade Garden, a Shanghainese restaurant, where I ordered braised bran dough (烤麩). You see my friends are rather well informed when it comes to dining, and rightly so because they frequently venture into New York’s many ethnic restaurants and travel extensively overseas. But they had never heard of bran dough and found it a rather curious dish. It contained tiny pieces of sponge-like dough braised in soy sauce and other ingredients. They weren’t quite sure what to expect initially, but I was confident it would be love at first bite. I was not wrong.
I routinely read Asian news reports on several Chinese language Web sites, and this Friday morning was no different. But on that morning as I read the alarming and ever expanding number of news reports on tainted Chinese dairy products, I started feeling a growing unease at my regular consumption of Chinese food products. After an announcement on September 21st by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore that melamine was detected in the White Rabbit Creamy Candy from China, the candy was pulled off the shelves in many Asian markets. The Manufacturer finally announced a recall in China on Friday. As it happens White Rabbit Creamy Candy is one of my favorite candies. I’ve enjoyed them since my youth in Singapore and continue to purchase them here in New York’s Chinatown. After discarding my White Rabbit candies at home I wonder how I can keep my food supply safe.
Photography by Ron Boszko
In Chinese cultures the Mid-Autumn Festival is the most anticipated holiday after Chinese New Year. It is celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth month of the Chinese lunar calendar, which fell on September 14th this year. While my family celebrated on that day with a traditional family gathering and an evening of sumptuous food and mooncakes, I am using this opportunity presented by FoodBuzz to celebrate again with my “extended family” in my new neighborhood of Harlem USA.
The word is out! There was a reason why I’ve been working so hard at making these mooncakes. Take a look at what I myself and other bloggers will be doing this weekend. Come back on Sunday, September 21, and read all about it. There are more mooncake flavors to come!
Following in the footsteps of the Omnivore’s 100 quiz Diana Kuan, at Appetite for China, has created a “100 Chinese Foods to Try Before You Die” list. Diana listed 100 food items of Chinese or Asian origin to see if you’ve tried. It is probably not fair for me to take this quiz as I grew up with many of these items, and continue to explore them whenever I travel to Asia or China. But it is a fun list! So here it is… I scored 92 and there are two items that I wouldn’t be caught dead trying.
After I published my homemade mooncake post, my dear friend Lee Chin Hock, who is now living in Hong Kong, left a comment on my Facebook post. He sent me links to a story and pictures of a collection of “innovative” mooncakes that are all the rage among the young and hip in Hong Kong.
All my friends thought I was out of my mind when I told them I was going to make homemade mooncakes. Well you see mooncake is one of those things better left for a professional bakery to make. Making them is time consuming and can be very tricky to handle. But the idea of making them at home intrigued me, and I was determined to make an attempt for the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival this year. In fact I wanted to experiment with more modern and innovative flavors. So, I got on Amazon and ordered two mooncake molds and made my very first homemade mooncakes: Earl Grey Tea Mooncakes with Egg Yolk and Pine Nuts.
A few days ago I received a bagful of freshly picked long beans (豇豆) from a friend’s rooftop garden. They were bi-color, crisp and just absolutely gorgeous. Legumes are at their peak during late summer, and I was once again reminded of how we’ve lost the custom of eating locally grown food in season.