February 13, 2013

Chinese New Year_The Year of the Snake

I pretty much grew up eating Chinese food.  My parents took me to a restaurant in Southport, England where we'd have Chinese banquets and I learned how to use chopsticks.  I think I mastered them when I was about seven and insisted on using them when we got Chinese take-out on a Friday night.  At that age, having Chinese at home was one of the highlights of my week.

When I was studying in Manchester, I used to live close to Chinatown and would often frequent the local Chinese supermarkets and stock up on spices, prawn dumplings and teas.  As a university student, we'd often go to one particular Chinese restaurant, Tai Wu (which has unfortunately changed into a Chinese buffet), after we'd been on a night out.  It was the most wonderfully busy and hectic place, with little old ladies pushing metal trolleys overflowing with piping hot dim sum in bamboo steamers.  Even at 1am, Chinese families and their young children would be eating there.  On some nights, it seemed like every other table was speaking in Mandarin, and we took this as a good sign that we were getting the 'real deal'.  And we were.   

Even though I have no personal relation to China, I have still celebrated Chinese New Year for the past few years.  I have put on Chinese feasts for friends and family, or gone out to the local celebrations being held.  This year was no exception.  We ventured out on 'New Year's Eve' to Bao for my first dim sum experience since arriving in LA.  We selected a few of the usual suspects: har gau (steamed prawn dumplings) and shumai (steamed minced pork and prawn dumplings).  They were slightly bigger than the ones back home which made it all the more enjoyable.  So much so, we ordered a second steamer of prawn dumplings (they are my favourite after all).  The new discovery on this dining venture, though, was the milk buns.  The waitress kindly gave us some to take away on the house.  Neither of us had tried them before, and personally, my dislike of milk turned me off to the idea of them.  
We got in the car and I sneaked a peek inside the take-away box.  What we were greeted by was something we never expected nor had ever experienced before: a rush of warm air and the smell of sweetened dough permeating around us.  Even though we were fit to bursting, the buns smelled like heaven and had to be enjoyed there and then.  The soft, cloud-like dough cocooned a delicate, sweet custard that melted in my mouth.  Neither of us could actually believe we hadn't come across them before.  Needless to say, the four little morsels didn't make it much further than a few blocks away from the restaurant.


Har gau 

Milk buns

On Chinese New Year's Day, we went to the Hammer Museum where they were putting on a small celebration complete with traditional Chinese music performances, a discussion about Chinese cuisine in LA and interactive tables for Chinese character writing and paper lantern crafts.  We got there fairly early and headed straight for the lantern-making station.  I queued up to obtain the red and yellow strips of cardboard and the 'how-to' instructions that we needed.  We pitched ourselves on a timber bench under a tree and set to work.  Surrounded by a sea of children building their lanterns with ease, PC's look of concentration (and determination) on every minute detail was something I've never seen in him before (see photo below).

It was a really fun, enjoyable task and the results were pretty good even as a first attempt.  Next year, we're planning to host a Chinese New Year dinner party and get everyone to have a go at crafting their own colourful lanterns.












2 comments :

  1. Love the lanterns - will you do us a 'how to' video for next year please!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Of course :) I will try to get something posted asap. xo

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