Christmas ‘Tong Yuen’ 2018

Christmas is here, and for the Chinese a few days before Christmas Day, it’s Happy Solstice Day. During this time, many Chinese around the world would make rice balls, also known as tong yuen or tang yuan (in Chinese). You could say it’s like Thanksgiving for the Chinese people, an important tradition. The rice balls are made out of glutinous rice flour in the form of play dough, and they are made into many small round balls. Amongst the many small rice balls, a very few large ones are made where some of them have fillings in it such as crushed peanuts, black sesame and red beans. I’ve never been a fan of the ones with fillings. I’ve always preferred my rice balls plain and simple. Colourings are also added to make the rice balls look bright and colourful. Rice balls are always made with close friends and families together as it symbolizes the importance of closeness and bonding.

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Some Chinese are very peculiar about the ’roundness’ of the rice balls. They believe that the more ‘perfectly’ round the rice balls are, the stronger the closeness and bonding there is. Just like with my mother, she would always inspect the ’roundness’ of my rice balls. And if any of the rice balls are not as round as it should be, she would sigh loudly and re-rolled them until they were perfect to her, even if it meant re-rolling every single (200 plus) rice balls.

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rice ball 2013 caterp.

Afterwards, the rice balls are boiled twice in boiling water. The first round is to give them a wash. And in the second and final round, rock sugars, ginger and pandan leaves (pandanus amaryllifolius) are added into the water to give it its final flavour. When it’s done, share and serve the rice balls in  small bowls. Those are the ingredients I would add to the ‘soup’ base, but there are also other flavourings used such as brown sugar or rice wine.

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I’ve written a couple of posts on Chinese rice balls which you can check out or even learn to make.

How to make Chinese Rice Balls

Chinese New Year 2014

The Story of Nian

Chinese Rice Balls

Happy Solstice Day!!!

Photo credits to Suzanne Yeang, Chloe Wong, Irene Soo, Lydiana ‘Wewe’ Siti and Phen.

Happy Chinese New Year – The story of Nian

Happy Chinese New Year 2015 to all. cny12cny157As many know, Chinese New Year is a time where majority of those of Chinese descendants, come together with their family and friends to celebrate. It is a festive period involving lots of good company, food, money giving, traditional entertainments, and lots of laughter.cny158And of course, we cannot forget about the Chinese rice balls, which is eaten during festive seasons like Chinese New Year, New Year, and for some, during the Christmas season as well. cny153cny154cny152cny155cny156cyn15110996581_10152697485545662_7816092254273855384_nThe colour red have always been a symbolic colour for Chinese New Year. According to an old Chinese myth that I know, there was once a beast with the body of a bull and the head of a lion called, Nian. Every beginning of the year, Nian would come out from the mountains where it was living and terrorize a village. It would eat their crops, and if there were any villagers in the way, it would eat them too. One day, a strange man came to visit the village and told the villagers that the beast can be defeated by loud noises, bright firelights, and the colour red. So the villagers would hang and display bright red lanterns and fire crackers everywhere. In the end, Nian was terrified that it returned to the mountains and was never seen or heard of again. That is why Chinese New Year is filled with loud noises and firecrackers. And in memory of Nian, there is the symbolic and well known lion dance.

There are several versions of the Nian myth, but they are all similar in a way with how it ends.   cny150cny15

Photo credits to Suzanne Yeang and Irene Soo. Thank you, Ladies, for the wonderful photos, as usual. And special thanks to Irene for always taking mouth-watering photos of the rice balls. I know nobody who can make rice balls as perfect as she can. Looking forward for more to come.

Gong Hie Fatt Choi to everybody.

Other posts on past Chinese New Year and rice balls:

https://puiyinwl.wordpress.com/2013/01/01/happy-new-year-first-post-of-2013/

https://puiyinwl.wordpress.com/2014/02/02/chinese-new-year-2014/

https://puiyinwl.wordpress.com/2013/04/01/how-to-make-chinese-rice-balls/

 

 

A Penang Story – Part 1

So it all began with this photo I saw posted by a friend on Facebook.

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To most of you, this might seem like an ordinary photo. But for me, it’s so much more. It reminds me of my other home, Penang, in Malaysia. The photo is recent, and the location of where it was taken was at a famous shopping mall nearby where I used to live when I was residing in Penang. It was where I used to go almost everyday to have my meals, meet up with friends, and do my shopping. It’s been 11 years since I was last there. When I saw this photo, I immediately became homesick. It sure hit me hard.

There are 13 states and 3 federal territories in Malaysia. But out of them, Penang is the most different state. The people, the community, the lifestyle, the environment, is somehow different from the other states/territories. If you live in one state and then move to Penang, you will automatically feel the difference. A good difference. After being magnetized by the photo, I decided that I wanted to share with you my tour of Penang via my personal thoughts, views, knowledge, and experience, with also the help of some of my Penang friends with the visuals. Instead of presenting everything in one post, I am going to divide them into categories. My tour will include some of my favourite local food where you can’t find ANYWHERE else in the world, famous streets, art, stories and gossips (both local and personal), a haunted hill and war museum, and a history of an Englishman.

Enough said. Let the tour begin.

Malaysia is a multicultural country. There is Malay, Chinese, Indian, Sikh, and Eurasian. Therefore, the food in Malaysia is also multicultural. Some have a combination of Malay and Chinese, while others may have a combination of Chinese and Portuguese. But in the end, no matter how many cultures there are, in food and people, it all comes together as one, Malaysia.

msia24The Penang flag.

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I lived in one of those tall condominiums by the seafront back when I was residing in Penang from the beginning of 2003 till end of that year.

msia6msia20komtar Penang’s iconic tall building.

What I miss the most is the food. Sure, there are Malaysian restaurants around the world. But it is never the same as home. I’ve tried many Malaysian dishes in London (where I am living), and the food never tastes the same. The food isn’t bad either, but it just doesn’t taste like home. It’s not as authentic, even though they say it is. In some restaurants, they even have the names of the food wrong. I don’t know how I’ve survived 11 years of no home food. I’ve even tried cooking some of the dishes, but they just don’t taste the same. I guess I just have to wait for some of my Malaysian friends to come and visit so that they can teach me the authentic way. Below are some of the food that are so authentic that it’s hard to find anywhere else in the world except for home.

msia12Char Kuey Teow, a noodle dish cooked in light and dark soy sauce, with egg and seafood.

msia11Noodle dish with meat or seafood dumplings. Most Malaysians like to have their dishes with iced/hot tea or coffee with milk.

msia22msia8Noodle dish in soup. This is an extremely rare dish to find in any western countries. The closest I’ll ever get to tasting the real deal is a pot noodle version from London Chinatown 😦msia14A typical noodle cafe. msia15A noodle stand.

msia7Not just is this dish rare to find in western countries, but so is the fish. I call this fish the white fish.

msia13When I saw this photo while looking through a friend’s Facebook album, I almost cried. This is my all time favourite Malaysian dessert. It is made out of rice flour and thick coconut milk. It is layered, and I have a way of eating it. I don’t like eating it as it is, or taking a bite off it. There has only been ONE way I would eat it, and that is by layers. I would gently peel off each layer and eat it. I don’t know why. It’s the only way I will eat it. There’s no other way. Every time I see this dessert, I would immediately think of my childhood. msia17Another all time favourite. Biscuit with dried coloured icing on top.

msia16Of course, how can I forget about the rice balls.

My other posts on rice balls:

https://puiyinwl.wordpress.com/tag/how-to-make-chinese-rice-balls/

https://puiyinwl.wordpress.com/2013/01/01/happy-new-year-first-post-of-2013/

https://puiyinwl.wordpress.com/2012/09/20/chinese-rice-balls/

msia1A typical Malaysian breakfast. It is a very simple dish. Bread with butter and sugar spread on top. Bread can be toasted or not, up to you. I prefer it toasted.

msia3Roti Canai, flat bread with spicy sauce.

msia21Traditional prawn curry in deliciously thick sauce. My goodness.

msia23A typical stall selling traditional desserts.

msia10Durians, also known as the smelly fruit to some. Like marmite, either you like it or you don’t. msia5Inside the durian. It does leave a strong odor on your hands afterwards. They are very expensive here in London Chinatown. Crazy expensive.

msia9Chinese buns. It is usually used for celebrations or prayers.

That’s it for the first part. To be continued.

A huge thank you to Irene Soo and Suzanne Yeang for the wonderful photos.

Chinese New Year 2014

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It is Chinese New Year 2014, the year of the horse. Many Chinese, including those of other nationalities from around the world, will be celebrating the lively, colourful, and joyous festival. It is also the time to be with family and friends. Where I am, in London-town, every year, the festival is celebrated in Chinatown and Trafalgar Square, London’s famous landmarks. Roads between Chinatown and Trafalgar Square will be closed for Chinese entertainment to take place, such as parades, acrobatics, traditional dance, singing, martial arts, Chinese celebrities appearances, and not to forget the dragon/lion dance.

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Chinese New Year delicacies. cyn5  cyn2 cyn3

My favourite part of Chinese New Year is eating the Chinese rice balls. Here’s the link as a reminder for those who have forgotten about Chinese rice balls https://puiyinwl.wordpress.com/2013/01/01/happy-new-year-first-post-of-2013/ 

https://puiyinwl.wordpress.com/2013/04/01/how-to-make-chinese-rice-balls/

My best friend’s mother in Malaysia recently entered a rice ball competition where she had to be creative with using rice balls in the form of art.1491268_428654217262698_1698682218_o

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I would like to thank Irene Soo and Chunkha Phen for the photos.

Happy Chinese New Year to my dearest fellow bloggers 🙂

Gong Hei Fatt Choi 2013

Happy Chinese New Year everybody. In other words, Gong Hei Fatt Choi (in Cantonese) or Gong Xi Fa Cai (in Mandarin). The year 2013 is also the year of the snake. Not only is Chinese New Year celebrated in Asia, but also in Chinatowns around the world, especially in London’s Chinatown. Whether it’s sunny, raining, or snowing, nothing would stop the Chinese New Year from taking place in London Chinatown. There are lion/dragon dance, fire crackers, Chinese stalls, and performances by famous Chinese singers and musicians.
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During Chinese New Year, most family members and close friends would give one another ang pows, also known as red pockets, with money inside. The colours and the designs on the ang pows represents good luck, and the red is to wade off evil. The amount of money in the ang pows are usually given in lucky numbers. For instance, no one should give any amount that has the number ‘4’, because the number itself is considered bad luck in Chinese.

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Yee Sang, also known as raw fish salad, is a traditional dish that many Chinese have during Chinese New Year. The dish consists of strips of raw fish, usually salmon, mixed shredded vegetables, and some sauce. The dish symbolizes good luck and fortune, and it is usually eaten in a large group. Everyone would hold a pair of chopsticks, and then they would mix and toss the ingredients together, and as they do so, they would shout out good wishes. It is believed that those who manages to toss the ingredients higher than others will have more good luck and fortune.

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(Photo of people mixing and tossing the Yee Sang)cyn1

Gong Hei Fatt Choi to my readers/bloggers. I wish everybody a happy, joyous, and prosperous New Year.

(Special thanks to Erica Khaw, May Lee, and Wewe for some of the photos).