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Ben Hong

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Posts posted by Ben Hong

  1. The best markets in TO are Kensington market ( where you can even get "killed-on-the-premises chicken), Old Chinatown (Spadina and Dundas area) where you can get anything fresher than anywhere else in the city, fish that swim, crabs that scramble, little old ladies peddling produce picked out of their plots that morning, exotic fruits and veggies at about 1/2 of the prices that anywhere else charges. Why go anywhere else. Doh!!

  2. I absolutely LOVE offal of any type, any species. Ngau jap is a favourite. My mother used to make a pig stomach soup that I used to fantasize about during the 18 years we were separated. It was a whole stomach stuffed with rice and black peppercorns and cooked with other "stuff" that I can't remember.

    Dejah, are you sure that the "octopus" you bought off the hook at the bbq racks was not cuttlefish?

    A story from the "loh wah kiu" days of railroad building:

    The villages of Toysan were experiencing a huge exodus of young men to Gum Shan to work, to find their fortune or other destiny. The situation was perilous for all; hard toil, beatings, exploitation, murder, racial prejudice, etc. etc. Some mothers were reluctant to let their sons go off to an uncertain future.

    There was a particular young man who was bound and determined to seek his fortune in Gum Shan and left over the misgivings of his parents. A few months after he left home, his first letter described the hard work and other hardships they all endured. Yes, he encountered abuse from the "white" bosses and foremen, but he thought that at the base of it all, the white people "loved" their Chinese workers, for whenever they slaughtered a pig or cow, they gave all the "best" parts to the coolies... the guts, the feet, the heads, the liver, tails etc..........

  3. aprilmei, I believe that the red nam yu is not normally made with soy beans, but with a fermented rice. Nam yu is generally not chili-fied, but the red colour is traditional. Nam yu is indispensable with a lot of moist cooked or stewed Chinese dishes. For stir fried veggies I use fu yu.

  4. The relatively small Toysan district of Guangdong province contributed 99% of the workers for two goldrushes, several railroads and countless lumber camps on both sides of the 49th parallel during the 1800s and early 1900s. The migration of Toyshan men became so pervasive that almost all of the villages in Toysan had several "gum shan lo", or "gold mountain men". Toysanese was the absolute dominant dialect spoken in North America until the recent (1970s on) immgration of people from Hong Kong (Cantonese) and later, from Taiwan and the mainland (Mandarin). I remember well the older folks advising recent arrivals who spent some time in Hong Kong and learned Cantonese, to drop the "language of the sing-song girls of the HK brothels" and speak like real people. :rolleyes: As for Mandarin, don't ask!! :blink::raz:

  5. In North America, bok choy are much, much larger. The white leaf stalks are sometimes 2-3 inches across at the base and sometimes they are a foot or more long. What you see pictured is what we would call choy sum on these shore. I come from a long line of peasant stock who worked the fields of Toysan , everyone of my relatives would agree with me :rolleyes: .

  6. Great thread, Dejah. Even though my mother and others are buried in different places, Kirkland Lake, Ont. is where we all try synchronise visits to "walk the hills" (hung san) with all the remaining Chinese (damned few left) in town. You see, that's where my Grandfather and all his "lo wah kieu" cronies are buried and some of them date back to the railroad and head tax days. We observe all the rituals and bring all the foods that your family does. Eating at graveside was abandoned after one attempt due to that time of year being the height of breeding season for mosquitos and blackflies.

    One year, a young miscreant who loved to tipple a bit was asked to help in the preparation for the event. Somehow he substituted the real contents of a Johnny Walker Black Label with tea for the "offering". Another older gentleman did the "offering" at several graves because of his friendship with the occupants, and as was their ritual when his friennds were alive, he poured one for them and one for himself. Well this normally avuncular old guy had a real loud bellow when the situation demanded it and his penchant and ability to use his extensive vocabulary of profanities and swear words took on mythical proportions. On that day all kinds of personal records were broken in decibels registered and variety of language used. It was truly a legendary day.

    After all the eating and reminiscing was done, the men seize the opportunity to see if the luck they prayed to their departed relatives for was granted and played a few hours of mah jong. :raz::rolleyes::laugh:

    Oh BTW, that young tippler who made the switch won a substantial lottery prize a few years later. All I can say is that there must have been some interpersonal dynamics going on in the spiritual world that we'll never understand. :biggrin:

  7. Ditto what everyone else said about types and preparation. These two veggies in particular require only basic, minimum preparation and seasoning, otherwise distracts from their delicacy. That means absolutley no spices at all, only soy or oyster sauce, oil and garlic for me. Miso? :huh:

  8. Sue-on, great looking joong (smack, drool, :biggrin::wub: ). I have the greatest admiration for anyone younger than 80 years old keeping that tradition, and skill. In looking at your joong, I notice that your family's are longer than what my female relatives made. Ours were about half as long and, I'm judging, a bit thicker through. Each village and clan has slightly different wrapping styles. But, to be sure, they all taste fantastic.

    BTW, we just came back from the Toronto region after about 9 days of visits and family "do's". In old Chinatown (Spadina, Dundas) I found and bought some joong made exactly the way Mother and Aunties used to make. Bought six of them for the late night hungries.. I have found that the ones made by the Vietnamese women to be skightly different than what I'm used to.

  9. A long time ago, I posted this story on a thread about best meals that one has had.

    I am a lifelong hunter and am happiest when I am with my dogs in the woods chasing grouse, woodcock and other game. One day about 20 years ago, I was a bit "turned around" in the woods and frankly became a little concerned and a whole lot annoyed at my predicament, especially after 7-8 hours of rain and sleet. To make a long sorry story short, I eventually wandered back to my truck acouple of hours after dark, where in a ravenous frenzy, I dug out the lunch my mother or wife had packed for me...three gorgeous, plump, greasy, meat filled JOONG!! :biggrin: One for my dog and two for me. If that doesn't rank as the best meal I've ever had, it certainly was the most appreciated. :wink::smile:

    Even though it was October, my Mother took the time to make the delicacies as she knew that I love them so.

  10. Andrea, I believe that scallops, especially the dried stuff has more intensity of taste than anything out there. My mother never liked to use msg much, so when she made soup, she used a few dried scallops to give it "umami". But like most people on this thread, I've never heard of scallop sauce.

  11. I would hazard a guess that the majority of the Asian, especially the Chinese community in Toronto is first generation. The start of the 40 year surge in Chinese immigration was in the late sixties, with the liberalization of the Canadian immigration laws, reaching a crescendo in the decade leading up to the repatriation of Hong Kong. This massive tidal wave of immigrants from HK was the first time in the history of human migration where the new arrivals were, as a group, wealthier and better educated than the resident host country. Socialogically, this speaks immense volumes.

  12. 500,000 East Asians, the majority of which are Chinese, is a very conservative figure. There are propbably that many Chinese in Toronto. My work involves frequent contact with my extensive network of trade and diplomatic people from the "orient", ie: China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, etc. Most of the diplomats would agree with Susruta when he says that Toronto could give Hong Kong a run for the money in the culinary field. And, these guys are serious about FOOD. I know. :wink::rolleyes::smile:

  13. Once in a while this thread comes up and every time I see it, Ossie's takeout is mentioned and praised. I take no issue with the general quality of the food (good), but I do take issue with the prices. As a long time former resident of Charlotte Co. in NB, let me tell one and all that "THE" place to eat deep fried seafoods is COMEAU's a few miles/kms east of Ossie's. Their fried clams (and everything else) would kick some serious culinary butt anytime, anywhere. Oh, be sure to fast for a day or two before darkening their door. :rolleyes:

  14. "Wok hey", that elusive, ephemeral , aroma, and taste quality that is detected when a fine dish is presented by a master cook at the peak of his skill. I tried to explain that in a thread on the China board, and no one knew what I was speaking of.

    Danjou, you know food. :smile:

  15. After much searching I have finally found the species name for the herb I was trying to describe. It is : perilla frutescens, P. crispa. The picture and description can be see at www.gov.on.ca/OMAFRA/english/crops/facts98-033.htm

    I work slow but sure :rolleyes::biggrin:

  16. Herbacidal: Hong Kong has always had a reputation as a catch basin for all who "escape" from something. When the Brits wrested it from China after the first Opium War, it was no more than a pirates' nest and a den of opium traffickers. That reputation carried on into modern times, well past the Communist revolution in 1949. One of the main reasons why HK became such a "gung ho" city was because of the influx of a large number of wealthy and influential mainlanders displaced by the Communists. Of course the influx of mainlanders, not only from Guangdong, but from all of China continued up to the "repatriation". Now HK is the desired destination for all and sundry functionaries, politicos, influential people, etc.

    So back to your question about the demographic makeup of HK, I would say that people born and bred in Guangdong (Cantonese) are slowly seeing their preponderance dwindle. To be sure, they represent the majority still, but who really cares, as anyone who is fortunate enough to gain access to HK soon becomes a Hong Konger. And, we are all Han.

  17. Fuchsia Dunlop (if indeed it is you), we are honoured to see you amongst us. Your "Land of Plenty" is a masterpiece that will be a reference book in my kitchen. Congratulations.

    As to Szechuan folk in North America, before 1976, I have never met one and I have been here since 1949/1950. I dare say that before 1970 the vast majority of Chinese in North America were Cantonese, more specifically Toyshanese. It wasn't until after the relaxation of Canadian and American immigration laws in the late sixties that we saw more and more people from other parts of China, Taiwan, etc. on these shores.

    Szechuan peppercorns (xantho xylum?) to me is a great flavouring agent. I really don't find it "numbing" or "hot", just a nice spicey flavour. I can't believe the difficulties our American friends are having in accessing them. No use obsessing on them, they are nice to have if you have them to give a dish that uniquely "Szechuan" taste, but they are not absolutely, imperatively essential to any dish.

    I may be all wet, but I think that Szechuan cookery became the rage after the Nixon visit during the days of pingpong diplomacy, when westerners were given some access to China. Among the things that were "discovered" were acupuncture, tai ch'i and Szechuan cooking. The latter fit perfectly with the mistaken impression by mainstream America that all "exotic" foods, whether from mexico, Spain or China had to be spicey and hot. ( I guess the artistry and nuance of Cantonese cuisine was lost on many :raz: )

    During that era of rediscovering China, most visitors were given lavish banquets as they travelled on their official rounds. A lot of people knew about Szechuan cooking before the period, of course, but maybe that was the first encounter for many. I remember reading a few of the "travelogue "articles by a correspondent whose name escapes me complaining of the severe lacks in the Chinese countryside. His biggest complaints at the time were the dearth of toilet tissue and the scorching heat of some of the cuisines he encountered.

    Now that we have a bona fide expert on board, maybe Fuchsia could answer a question that I Have been seeking an answer to for years. It's been said that Szechuan and Hunan cooking are fraternal twins, both born of the same general region, but Hunan cooking has been elevated to a more "formal" status, to be served at formal banquets and other official functions. Also, even if the dish was de facto Szechuan in appearance and taste, it would be called a Hunan dish by the chef, respecting the formality of the situation. Anyone hear of such a theory?

  18. Despite the fact that some people believe that this board should be strictly limited to food and related topics, I am mightily pleased that it is not always so...as illustrated by this very informative thread. Torakris and Hiroyuki, I am grateful for your erudition and abilities to impart some of your deep cultural knowledge to all who read this board. Kudos.

    BTW, my Japanese friends have always called me Kuma-san, as my family name in Mandarin is Hsiung, or Bear. :cool:

  19. In a very basic sense Gary is right, that it is a matter of semantics. However the some distinguishing features of joong that help me tell the difference between it and nor mai gai are: joong is wrapped in wide bamboo leaves and "bound" tightly, so when it is boiled, the sticky rice expands and forms an almost solid lump of rice, the rice in nor mai gai is loose; by it's nomenclature, nor mai gai is always savoury and has chicken, joong can be sweet and come without chicken, and the "joong" that most Cantonese, esp. Toyshanese are familiar with are the ones that come in a uniquely quadrahedral shape.

    The youngest of Toyshanese children can and will tell you the difference between the two. :raz:

  20. I live in New Brunswick, where for over a hundred and fifty years fiddleheads and baked shad are a celebratory feast signifying that we made it through another spring freshet without general inundation. The locally owned McCain's, the food giant with their corporate headquarters in New Brunswick, is generally credited with popularizing fiddleheads, a cherished local delicacy.

    Most people eat fiddle heads boiled or saute'd, then add a dab of butter and lemon juice or vinegar. Being Chinese, I chow fiddleheads with beef and fermented black beans.

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