Tag Archives: traditional Chinese food

A Chinese Holiday Celebration

Our delightful Chinese neighbors invited us to have dinner with them on Christmas Eve.  The dinner party also included another Chinese couple with their high school daughter.  The home was very festive, and was decorated for the holiday, with lights outside, and a tree with gold ribbons and ornaments inside.  The dining table  was beautifully setIMG_1788
with all the food set out.  We were going to be treated to a hot pot meal.  This is rather an Asian version of fondue, and our meal consisted of meat, seafood, vegetables, tofu, mushrooms, noodles and greens.  All were gluten free.  IMG_1790
It is a very social method of eating, with people putting their food choices into the heated broth, and retrieving the morsels after they are cooked.  Utensils included small strainers and chopsticks, with forks provided for those of us less practiced with chopsticks.  The cooking pots are divided, so that the diners have the choice of using a more highly-seasoned broth on one side, or a milder flavor on the other.  Dipping sauce was distributed to each person’s bowl.
Our hostess took much of the responsibility for cooking the selected food for my husband and myself, as well as her children.
Reflecting on the experience, I am struck by how our neighbors have so successfully adopted many American traditions, and yet retained traditional Chinese customs and meals.  They have done it all in a rather seamless integration.

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My introduction to traditional Chinese cooking.

Several months ago, the house next door was purchased by a Chinese couple.  After giving them some time to settle in, I went over with a small welcome gift – a house plant and a bottle of wine.  I was warmly greeted by the wife, who spoke little or no English, and subsequently met the rest of the family – her husband (who does speak English), and their son and daughter, who are in elementary school.  They brought over a gift basket that was very generous.

Over the intervening winter months, we have kept in touch, mostly by email between myself and the husband.  He let us know that his wife was taking English classes, and wondered if I would be available to spend some time visiting with her to give her an opportunity to improve her command of English.   I was excited at the prospect.

This last week, I had my first get-together with them, to discuss a general plan.  We had a pleasant visit, and they gave me a package of Chinese tea, along with a mesh tea-ball.  This week, I had my first actual session.  This relationship promises to be very rewarding – not just for her, but for me too.  She will gain more fluency in English, and have a friendship with a neighbor (she currently has no friends here), and I will enjoy the warmth of her wonderful personality, have a new adventure, and an exposure to some traditional Chinese cooking.  At the end of our visit earlier this week, she presented me with food she had prepared for her family, a dish called zongziphoto 3. It is a traditional Chinese food – a dumpling made with sticky rice, with pork or beans, wrapped in bamboo leaves and cooked with steam.”  She gave me several dumplings to take home and share with my husband.

This photo shows three zongzi still in their bamboo leaf wrappers, and one bamboo leaf that has been removed from the contents.  Apparently, the string can be tied in such a way as to indicate whether the contents are bean- or meat-filled.

The recommendation is to serve the bean/rice photo 1dumpling with a sweetener – sugar or syrup. I thought the dumpling was rather bland, and it did benefit from the addition of agave nectar.
The flavor of the dumpling with the meat was a bit unusual – not at all like other rice and meat dishes I’ve had.

I was interested in finding out more about these dumplings, and spent some time reading about them on the internet – so I’ll have occasion to learn too.

Chinese Food 4She is aware of my gluten free issues, and is eager to cook for me.  I will have to plan on some American dishes to prepare for her.

My neighbor is a charming woman who is very dedicated to raising her children well.  She is very determined to become fluent in English. She listens to CDs, and reads with her daughter.  I’ll report back on my experiences with her from time to time.