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Food Histories of the Toysan People


Ben Hong
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Judiefoodie, welcome to this thread. It is good to see so many of us coming out and finding others with the same background.

Just to start a little group project, ask your older immigrant relatives, parents what area of Toisan they come from. A prominent town or market place should suffice. From that one can deduce the region they hail from on a good(?) map. (I have been trying to Google a map of Toisan). This exercise should serve to illustrate how small our little Toisan is and how much interaction there was among clans- marriage, commerce, and other liaisons. I have always said that if my YenYen were alive, she could probably place most of your parents and grandparents, after meeting and talking with them. Who knows, I may be related to a few of you!!??!!

To start, my last (clan) name is Hung (Hoong) or Bear. My home village was name Dai Gong Li, about 6-8 miles west of the town of Chek Sui (Chixi in Mandarin) and 12 miles north of the port of Kwong Hoi (Guanghai)

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yeah, the ones in the restaurant are never as good as moms! I kind of remember that my mom boiled sweet potatoes and mixed that in with the dough for the gai loong and it became even more golden brown and delicious than everyone else's.

Please keep us updated on your attemps at making them. Hom Gai Loong (Hom Sui Gok) are not as easy to make as they look. If you don't do it right the dough will burst. I've heard some elderly Toisanese ladies say you need to add sweet potatoes to prevent that from happening. I've also learned that sugar in the dough helps, too.

Re: different Toisanese names for dim sum items, can anyone think of other examples? At home, we knew "char siu cheung fan" by the name "gai cheung tay".

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Sugar in the gai loong doh? Ick...wouldn't that be too sweet for the savory filling?

Re: Toisanese and Cantonese. I always mix my Toisan wah and my Gongong wah together. It doesn't sound right. If you talk to me long enough, you'll notice my mixing. It's a product of hanging with Cantonese and Toisan folks. Well, Nonya and Toisan.

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judyfoodie, WELCOME ABOARD!  :biggrin:

So far on this thread, we've been saying" Toisan" , "Toysan", etc. But in Hoisaon wah, , my family always said" Hoi Saon".  I think Toisan is Cantonese pronunciation.There are also regional differences in this dialect . . .  I say Hoi Saon, Ben may say "Hoi San", etc. . .  :unsure:

I need to check with my mother about our village: Hoi Saon,  Lung Pan, Oi Gong Huay.

Family name: Choy

We need to make a list of the dishes our parents made. Then we can pool our recipes!

I haven't had goy lung for a long time. I wonder if my Mom is up to teaching me this while I am Po-Po sitting . . . :hmmm:

Thanks for the warm welcome. If you get to learn how to make Gai loong, you'll have to share the recipe with me please! It was one of my favorites growing up and I so miss my mothers gai loong. I also love the Hom Tee which was chock full of chinese sausage, dried shrimp, scallion and bits of preserved turnip. The stickiness of it was crazy how it would glue itself to your plate and later your palate but well worth the work! If anyone has a good recipe for that I would most certainly welcome it. :smile:

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Judiefoodie, welcome to this thread. It is good to see so many of us  coming out  and finding others with the same background.

Just to start a little group project, ask your older immigrant relatives, parents what area of Toisan they come from. A prominent town or market place should suffice. From that one can deduce the region they hail from on a good(?) map. (I have been trying to Google a map of Toisan). This exercise should serve to illustrate how small our little Toisan is and how much interaction there was among clans- marriage, commerce, and other liaisons. I have always said that if my YenYen were alive, she could probably place most of your parents and grandparents, after meeting and talking with them. Who knows, I may be related to a few of you!!??!!

To start, my last (clan) name is Hung (Hoong) or Bear. My home village was name Dai Gong Li, about 6-8 miles west of the town of Chek Sui (Chixi in Mandarin) and 12 miles north of the port of Kwong Hoi (Guanghai)

Hi Ben,

I have to dig out my ToiShan map but my fathers family is from Bok Suy (white water). And our specific hamlet is Look Hong. But we were always told that we id ourselves by saying we are :

Bok Suy Lo Hom - Hom family from the white water area.

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I find that amusing 'cause my parents do the us vs. them thing of Toisan and the rest of China.  Everyone's north of us so therefore they're northerners!

I think with Toisanese, and Cantonese people in general, they tend to look down on the other Chinese regions' culinary traditions. They think everyone else's cuisines taste like crap! lol

While I think ToiShan/Cantonese food is the best in China, you have to admit those Shao loong baos (soup dumplings) from Shanghai are incredibly delicious. Also when I was in Beijing they had these chive filled pattys that were so incredibly tasty. Street food in Shanghai really kicked butt too. I had so much fun wandering the streets and spending a few pennies for delicious scallion pancakes or vegetable baos.

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Aiiieee!  You're kidding!  Really?  Hmm.  That's interesting.  I think you'd have to be very careful though.  Too much and the dough will get too dark and sweet.  Ick.

Just a touch of sweet potato to give the dough a very subtle sweetness and golden glow. Try it out!

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I will be hitting the motherland with my family and the family of the girlfriend this summer, and we will be going to Toisan and the relevant family villages. I know this is a longshot, but I always try to make any trip more food related - are there any restaurants in the region that are representative of Toisan cuisine? This can be anything from white tablecloth to hole in the wall. Any regional delicacies that they don't really have in the US due to lack of ingredients or demand? Thanks!

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I also love the Hom Tee which was chock full of chinese sausage, dried shrimp, scallion and bits of preserved turnip. The stickiness of it was crazy how it would glue itself to your plate and later your palate but well worth the work! If anyone has a good recipe for that I would most certainly welcome it.  :smile:

Hom Tee? What type of dough was it? What it like a clear dough when it was finished - could you see the filling? Describe, please... :smile:

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

Toisanese Unite!

Nice to find a clutch of Toisanese here. After reading this thread, I thought I'd be interesting to ask my mom about her ancestral home village (TEUN). We are from: My father's side -- Hoy-San, Dai-Sun-Lei (Big-New-Village) -- and mother's side -- Hoy-Ping, Wo-Hing-Lei.

She began to reminisce about condiments from her youth (1940s). How 'real' soy sauce was an epiphenomenon of blackbean fermentation process. And how 'real' oyster sauce was made. I'm curious to know if there are any people still making soy sauce or oyster sauce with these techniques (as opposed to Kikomans or Lee Kum Kee)? Could there someday be a flowering of Artisanal Oyster Sauce anyone?

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How 'real' soy sauce was an epiphenomenon of blackbean fermentation process. And how 'real' oyster sauce was made. I'm curious to know if there are any people still making soy sauce or oyster sauce with these techniques (as opposed to Kikomans or Lee Kum Kee)? Could there someday be a flowering of Artisanal Oyster Sauce anyone?

annoy_ken, would you care to share what your mom said about how soy and oyster sauces were once made, and how they're differnt from current production techniques? I'm quite interested to know... Thanks.

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With my limited comprehenshion of Chinese, my family told me they came from Guandong (Canton.) Is that Toysan? The family dialect certainly is Toysan.

The topic and pictures sure brings back memories. How I've forgotten them. Like some of you, I had asked my parents to show me how to make some of their specialties but they, too, chased me out of the kitchen. I remember how making most of the authentic dishes was such a big production. Friday nights, my mom would prepare something to be finished off on Saturday. I would be responsible for carry the heavy arborite table top from the basement and placing it on top of the kitchen table so they can roll out the dough for dumplings.

I would be allowed to press the dough in the steel dough presser and my brother and I would press the dough so thin (we sat on the contraption) that my mother would sigh in frustration and ask us not to help anymore.

My mom still makes the leaf-wrapped "doong" boiled in a makeshift cooker made of a large square oil can and charcoal filled old cement block. She'd cook this under the backyard porch and I'd cross my finger that the house wouldn't light on fire!

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With my limited comprehenshion of Chinese, my family told me they came from Guandong (Canton.)  Is that Toysan?  The family dialect certainly is Toysan.

Guangzhou or Guangchou or Kwangchou is the name of the capital city of Kwangtung or Guangdong Province, the southeast Chinese province that abuts on Hong Kong. Toysan, Hoisaan, Taishan, Toisan is the county of Guangdong province that is about west and southwest of Macau. This is t6he hjome district of 95% of all the Chinese in North America, and elsewhere, prior to the late 1960s. By your transliteration of "doong" you are Toysanese.

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With my limited comprehenshion of Chinese, my family told me they came from Guandong (Canton.)  Is that Toysan?  The family dialect certainly is Toysan.

Guangzhou or Guangchou or Kwangchou is the name of the capital city of Kwangtung or Guangdong Province, the southeast Chinese province that abuts on Hong Kong. Toysan, Hoisaan, Taishan, Toisan is the county of Guangdong province that is about west and southwest of Macau. This is t6he hjome district of 95% of all the Chinese in North America, and elsewhere, prior to the late 1960s. By your transliteration of "doong" you are Toysanese.

Looks like we caught another one! :biggrin:

The cooker you described sounds very interesting, Max. Any chance of a picture?

It sure beats steaming up the whole house, althought that's good in the winter when the air is so dry.

Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

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With my limited comprehenshion of Chinese, my family told me they came from Guandong (Canton.)  Is that Toysan?  The family dialect certainly is Toysan.

Guangzhou or Guangchou or Kwangchou is the name of the capital city of Kwangtung or Guangdong Province, the southeast Chinese province that abuts on Hong Kong. Toysan, Hoisaan, Taishan, Toisan is the county of Guangdong province that is about west and southwest of Macau. This is t6he hjome district of 95% of all the Chinese in North America, and elsewhere, prior to the late 1960s. By your transliteration of "doong" you are Toysanese.

Looks like we caught another one! :biggrin:

The cooker you described sounds very interesting, Max. Any chance of a picture?

It sure beats steaming up the whole house, althought that's good in the winter when the air is so dry.

My mom seemed amused when I asked that she show me how to make "doong." Come June, I will see how she makes it and try to include a picture of my mommy squatting by her homemade stove under the porch. Hopefully, she'll be wearing her hand-crocheted vest for added Toysan authenticity! :laugh:

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My Mom was talking about making this year's batch of "doong" today.

Are those the ones you boiled for "8" hours? :raz: (The question I asked in my first post on eGullet)

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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Waa!Haha~ I'm so happy to have found this thread! So many memories of my PoPo cooking her batches (huge, stuffed plastic bags of each variety enough to feed 5 other families for a week) from morning 'til late at night in each go. All the smells of lap cheong, doong guu, chong, dou see, haw mai ji, ham yuu ji; and she'd always fry up a batch of prawn chips for me when she had to fry other things! I remember her gok was slightly sweet too. And no other woon doi goh is ever good enough for me now, she'd always put a half of a hung jo on top (it's been too long since I've heard anyone call it that!). My mum spent most of her youth in HK where she lost her accent and the "old ways"(so I understand Cantonese and Toisan wah), but my PoPo would always let me help her in the kitchen. She let me watch her prep all the ham and showed me different ways of how to wrap each type of tay so they wouldn't fall apart, how much filling I could put... My little fingers couldn't handle the bigger ones and she'd let me make baby ones for myself instead. :wub:

She's back in HK now, but very much alive and kicking. I remember when she was 90 she'd walk around Burkeville (on Sea Island) twice every day, work non-stop all day sewing, cleaning, cooking and still have energy to chase me around the house when I was misbehaving. :laugh:

I was always proud because I was the only child of all the other Chinese families that could understand Toisan wah. This was in the 80's in Richmond, where being Chinese at all was a tough shtick. I've only been back to our village once when I was young, and I loved how every night my uncle had to chop the wood for the stove and boil the water for our baths. And the first night we got there a ton of the surrounding villagers joined us for dinner. Must get someone to scan those pics of the stove for you all. Thank you so much for this thread! I will check back on our geographical specs, but I'm the grandchild of a Wong. :wink:

Edited by hayasaka.k (log)
Run the earth. Watch the sky.
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My Mom was talking about making this year's batch of "doong" today.

Are those the ones you boiled for "8" hours? :raz: (The question I asked in my first post on eGullet)

I remember :laugh::laugh:

I've made some interesting friends since my doong webpage was posted.

Going to boil this year's batch outside.

(Gotta start searching for baggy pants and crochet vest)

Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

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Che wan fan la~

Lol, I also had lots of Taiwanese friends in high school so I'm a hodge-podge of Chinese. I seem to be the rare traditional CBC (Canadian-born Chinese), meaning that can't read simplified like my CBC friends that take Mandarin in university, or read enough traditional like the recent immigrants, only understand certain terms in one of the three languages but can't interchange in my head to explain in any of the others. My entire brain will switch languages, it doesn't think-translate-speak. :wacko:

I also experience a lot of culture shock (especially food-related) because no one culture is fully ingrained. The first time dining with my 2nd-gen-CBC boyfriend's family is something I will never forget. I must have looked so horrified! Some things still pop up now and then that upset me. lol

My dog really only listens to me because everyone else can't remember which commands are in which language. I could never keep pets for long in my childhood (I tried to keep chicks and ducklings) because they would invariably end up in the dinner soup. :sad:

Okay, my dad says PoPo is from "4 9 kuy". Does this mean anything to anyone?

Run the earth. Watch the sky.
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Okay, my dad says PoPo is from "4 9 kuy". Does this mean anything to anyone?

4 9 is a district in Taishan. There is a way to search out your home village if you know the market closest to the home village. I believe the link is found in either of the 2 links below.

This site has some good info:

http://www.apex.net.au/~jgk/taishan/menu.html

This site has a great forums section where you can get questions answered. I believe there are some maps as well.

http://www.taishan.com/english/index.htm

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Che wan fan la~

Uh Oh... hayasaka.k you are in and out between Toisanese and Mandarin. :wink:

Sounds like you have a loving family. How wonderful!

Eat = Che [Mandarin], Sik [Cantonese], Hec [Toisanese]

My wife is a daughter of a Wong and a Yee. Both are very common Toisanese surnames. My parents-in-law lived in Hong Kong for about 10 years before moving to the USA, so they picked up a lot of Cantonese as well.

When I first conversed with my PIL, I found it a bit difficult to pick up what they were saying. Later I came to the realization that they were conversing in half Cantonese and half Toisanese. (They thought they were speaking Sung Wah) They were going in and out of both and didn't realize it. To add a bit more complexity, they were saying things that were a mix of Toisanese and Toisanese transliteration of the English terms. e.g. Grant Gai (Grant Street), Mmm Tai TV (don't watch Television), Nee Hec Noo Doh? (you want to eat noodle?)

Edited by hzrt8w (log)
W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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