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Food Histories of the Toysan People


Ben Hong
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Dejah: Hoi saon, Toisan or Hoisaan is where we come from. Ngai Kui , kui= district (parish?), Lung Pan Toon (toon=village), Oi Gong Hu (hu=market). These are very specific and accurate locaters.

You probably don't remember/know this but in rural China, all villages have to have access to a market place, which is usually a cluster of stores and commercial operations. This is where the local farmers come to sell their produce, people come to pick up the mail, get their rice milled, and maybe even meet for yum cha, etc. etc. Because everyone walked, these markets , "hu" or "hui", usually serve only a small number of villages, at most 10-12, and maybe 3-4 clans, all within walking distance.

As for halibut trimmings, I have the local supermarket fish guys putting aside the napes and cheeks. I can usually get them el cheapo. There is absolutely nothing like the long muscle fibres of the halibut cheek for mouth feel and sweetness. And yes, I do them like your mother's way, mostly. :wub:

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I'm curious if many Toysan eGulleter's are aware of something relating to the various Towns and Communities most located along the Pearl River Delta located a short distance from Hong Kong and Canton spoke variations of Cantonese that were easily identified by many Hong Kong Chinese. I remember going shopping with friends who easily identified where the various sales people had emigrated from by their dialects and once it was established that you knew something about the area it seemed that you suddenly were treated as family

This was a topic that I discussed last week with my two associates who started with me in Hong Kong, one is a third generation Hong Kong born from a Toysan Family who roots in the Restaurant/Food business go back many generations, the other was originally from Shanghai who moved to Hong Kong in 1960 at 9 years old.

They both reiterated that the majority of Restaurants both European and Chinese in Hong Kong were staffed mostly by people who generally came from Towns where they mostly apprenticed with people or family, friends etc from the same area. Even when you shopped at Markets or Stall's for almost anything it seemed that many people preferred to shop in places where the felt more comfortable with people who were familiar with their origins. In many different types of business it wasn't unusual the find several teenagers learning the trade who the business provided room and board with a minimal wage whose family had sent them to learn about the business for several years. This was true even with Seamen, Factory Workers even Teachers where the origins were important to most communities.

Apparently this became less and less common during the late 1970's and 1980's since more people were then 2nd generation Hong Kong residents, who often were better educated and urban with less contact with the Towns and spoke Hong Kong Cantonese.

Irwin

I don't say that I do. But don't let it get around that I don't.

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I'm curious if many Toysan eGulleter's are aware of something relating to the various Towns and Communities most located along the Pearl River Delta located a short distance from Hong Kong and Canton spoke variations of Cantonese that were easily identified by many Hong Kong Chinese. I remember going shopping with friends who easily identified where the various sales people had emigrated from by their dialects and once it was established that you knew something about the area it seemed that you suddenly were treated as family

This was a topic that I discussed last week with my two associates who started with me in Hong Kong, one is a third generation Hong Kong born from a Toysan Family who roots in the Restaurant/Food business go back many generations, the other was originally from Shanghai who moved to Hong Kong in 1960 at 9 years old.

They both reiterated that the majority of Restaurants both European and Chinese in Hong Kong were staffed mostly by people who generally came from Towns where they mostly apprenticed with people or family, friends etc from the same area. Even when you shopped at Markets or Stall's for almost anything it seemed that many people preferred to shop in places where the felt more comfortable with people who were familiar with their origins. In many different types of business it wasn't unusual the find several teenagers learning the trade who the business provided room and board with a minimal wage whose family had sent them to learn about the business for several years. This was true even with Seamen, Factory Workers even Teachers where the origins were important to most communities.

Apparently this became less and less common during the late 1970's and 1980's since more people were then 2nd generation Hong Kong residents, who often were better educated and urban with less contact with the Towns and spoke Hong Kong Cantonese.

Irwin

I think lots of Chinese were taught that family is the most important thing in the world and we must always help each other out. When my grandpa owned a shoe factory, he hired many workers from his home village and offered room and food for them. My grandma also rented the apartment out to her home village sisters and relatives. I was raised in the first six years of my life by my grandma's friend from the same village when my grandma had to leave for Canada. I don't know why I do not have any village accent even though many of my grandma's friends have a really strong accent.

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There are certainly variations of Toisanese spoken within the Chinese community here in Brandon. The older generation are able to tell which village newcomers are from once they start talking. To me, THEY talk with an accent. :wink:

What Irwin said: "They both reiterated that the majority of Restaurants both European and Chinese in Hong Kong were staffed mostly by people who generally came from Towns where they mostly apprenticed with people or family, friends etc from the same area. " is certainly true with our family. We had sponsored many young cooks from our village. One reason is helping them to immigrate, but more importantly, they spoke the same dialect, so training is easier.

These young men can cook REAL Chinese food; it was the westernized items and sanitation that they needed to learn. :laugh:

Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

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What Irwin and everyone is speaking of is the Toisan way, even the Chinese way. People helping people who need a little assist along the way, especially if there is a connection whether it's familial, regional, etc. is almost "genetic" to the older civilizations whether they be Egyptian, Jewish or Chinese. I have been the recipient of such generosity many times in my life, a clan member taking me in as a youth, a relative "bringing" me over as his son, a job interview offered because of a relationship, etc.

Perhaps, as Dejah illustrated in her example of sponsoring village members, that was how North America got populated by only Toisanese in the early days of the Chinese immigration.

There is a very, very important Chinese word that describes the whole process; guangxi in Manadarin or guanhai in Cantonese. In my work I have given seminars on how to use guangxi/guanhai effectively in doing business in China.

Of course the English word is the very descriptive: Networking or networks

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Hi all,

A newbie requesting some quick help. I am a 50+ ABC from NY metro, and making my pilgrimage to TaiShan end of this week, as well as other major cities. Can anyone help identify through words or map or diagram, my parents village, "Fore Sew Toon", or burnt down village?? I speak enough Toisanese to get by, but can't read or write. I do have a host in my traveling party from an adjoining village, and a letter of introduction from an old uncle (my parents are deceased). Please email me directly at: TommyOng@optonline.net. Thanks to all in advance for their interest and help.

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I'm going to be in Toysan this summer on vacation with the family, we are going to be staying in the "Taishan Garden Hotel." Can anybody reccomend any good nearby restaurants or food activities? It's on Namen Road West, in Taishan City. Thanks!

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I'm going to be in Toysan this summer on vacation with the family, we are going to be staying in the "Taishan Garden Hotel." Can anybody reccomend any good nearby restaurants or food activities? It's on Namen Road West, in Taishan City. Thanks!

I hope you and Tommy will both take lots of PICTURES and NOTES!!! (of food and otherwise) while you are vacationing in Toisan. That will be a real treat for people like me who have never been back. One of these days I WILL go.

Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

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Ditto what Dejah said about pictures.

As for food, my memories of the sitdown style restaurants were not very good. You see, my last trip there was ten years ago and some of the restaurants there were still very much in the "communist" mode, ie: "iron rice bowl" mentality. The food was great but the service was ABYSMAL. So bad, that once in mid meal the waitress took off without a fare thee well because her shift was over. This was after she berated us for coming in an hour before closing time. :hmmm: . I am positive that things must be better now.

When I travel anywhere in Asia, I usually "go native" and eat at the stalls and kiosks which serve great food at small prices. There is a caveat though when and if you want to go that route. I used to carry my own chopsicks, a small pocket knife and a spoon, and I never, ever eat anything that isn't piping hot out of the wok or stove. Enjoy the fruit stalls but use your own knife to pare or peel your own fruit. For cold drinks, aways drink bottled water , sodas or beer. Beware of ice cubes. As a final advisory, take some Immodium along, just in case your precautions fail. But really, enjoy yourself by trying various foods and snacks.

Toisan City or Taicheng used to be a beautiful city, but the times I was there, the whole place could have used a coat of paint. They tell me facilities and attitudes have improve a thousand times with the advent of private enterprise and tourism. There is an absolutely gorgeous lake in the middle of the city with a long beautiful traditional crooked bridge spanning parts of it. When I was there, fishermen were still poling their boats and casting nets. You can reach almost all points of Toisan within an hour's drive of the city.

There is a typical Chinese wet market every few blocks. That was where I really felt that I was among my own people. They all spoke my dialect, Toisanese. The people were all raucous, crude, blasphemous, scatalogical, profane...but they were MY people :biggrin: Everywhere I went was like I walking around in a family reunion. It's ah sook this, dai gaw that, sen sung everywhere. If you are like me who grew up outside that type of society, you will experience no feeling like it. It was the first time since I left my home village in '49 that I felt completely comfortable - I wasn't a visible or auditory minority; I can blend in in every way and be comfortingly enveloped by familiarity.

Try to learn a few words of Toisanese before you go.

Edited by Ben Hong (log)
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I am going this Friday and be back 5/1. Of course, I love to cook and eat. The southern cuisine might be very familiar to me, but I am looking forward to try the cuisine throughout China. Of course, being a good Jook Sing, w/ a technical background, I do love my toys=cameras etc. I will be capturing the 2 weeks on my Nikon D1, digital SLR and will figure out how to share those with my new friends in this forum. Any suggestions how to post them with minimal effort?

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I am going this Friday and be back 5/1.  Of course, I love to cook and eat.  The southern cuisine might be very familiar to me, but I am looking forward to try the cuisine throughout China.  Of course, being a good Jook Sing, w/ a technical background, I do love my toys=cameras etc.  I will be capturing the 2 weeks on my Nikon D1, digital SLR and will figure out how to share those with my new friends in this forum.  Any suggestions how to post them with minimal effort?

Tommy, Please take pictures of all the food you get to try (and if you can, the food at the next tables :wacko: ). This will be particularly useful for us to see how the same ingredients are prepared in different regions of China.

If it hasn't been said already, WELCOME to "eGullet's China". :biggrin:

Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

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Tommy, Please take pictures of all the food you get to try (and if you can, the food at the next tables  :wacko: ).

That's what a Nikon and a 1000mm telephoto lens is good for! Spying on what people eat even in a restaurant across the street! :raz:

Edited by hzrt8w (log)
W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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  • 7 months later...

I just read this small collection of articles on the history of "chop suey" provided by the Chinese-American Museum of Chicago. Fascinating! The "chop suey" lecture slides are particularly interesting, and included pictures of some beloved chop suey, chow mein, egg fooyong and in later era moo shu pork and kung pao chicken.

http://www.ccamuseum.org/Food.html

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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I just read this small collection of articles on the history of "chop suey" provided by the Chinese-American Museum of Chicago.  Fascinating!  The "chop suey" lecture slides are particularly interesting, and included pictures of some beloved chop suey, chow mein, egg fooyong and in later era moo shu pork and kung pao chicken.

http://www.ccamuseum.org/Food.html

That looks so interesting! I just bookmarked it for good reading, as I will be very busy for the next few days. Thanks for posting it.

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