The lost art of Chinese cooking

Winding up two weeks spent squaring at Diane’s parents house in Edmonton, Alberta, Diane and I anticipated her mom spending two days cooking a specialty item hardly made by anyone under 60 anymore. In the spirit of an Anthony Bourdain episode in Penang where he visited someone who cooked an obsolete dish practically gone from existence due to the time and effort involved, we ate an item known by different names, depending on who does the speaking. Known as Joong in Cantonese, Zoongi in Mandarin and Bahtzang in Taiwanese, it’s basically sticky rice and a host of interesting items wrapped in a green leaf similar to a banana leaf. Understanding the ingredients takes some poking around and I believe the main items are Chinese sausage, peanuts, pork fat, dried split mung beans, dried shrimp , duck eggs and chestnuts.

Requiring patience, planning and some skill to make it taste right, the ingredients are usually soaked and then rolled into something like a tamale, carefully strung together with string, boiled, boiled again and then left out to absorb in all the flavor for a few hours. Although recipes abound on the Internet like everything else, I’m told you need to be a Chinese mother from the generation before mine to master the art of making them. Either way, the result is always favorable and we’ll be transporting several dozen down to Calgary for our next squatting stop at Diane’s sister’s house. Naturally, it’s off to a good-bye dinner at our favorite Chinese restaurant tonight where Peking Duck will be the highlight. Granted it’s nothing like the hawker stands I already can’t wait for but it beats the crap out of Walnut Creek’s overpriced garbage that passes as “modern Asian Fusion”.

California's version of Asian

California’s version of Asian

Unfortunately, it appears were about to get a rude reminder why living in Alberta is not always a fun. Enjoying two straight weeks with temperatures in the low 20s every day, they predict one of Western Canada’s famous temperature plummets on Friday whereby the high temperature will go from 27 and sunny one day to 14 with cold rain the next. (That’s more than 30 degrees in one day for the metric challenged). Unprepared for anything requiring more than a t-shirt and light jacket, it looks like we’ll be visiting the movies a lot until we return to Vancouver for the last week of our pre-Penang squatting trip.

Knowing it’s impossible to get a month of perfect weather in Alberta even during the week before summer starts, I’ll look back once we step off the plane in Kuala Lumpur on juky 1st, sniff the torrid heat and humidity and probably wish I was back in the cold rain. Well, for a few minutes anyway. Here’s a few pictures of some Edmonton. Hey, it’s not summer festival season so what do you expect?

Anxiously waiting for the end of the month, I’m enjoying the time in Canada but it feels like we’ve been here forever already and I’m ready to fast forward to the plane ride. Assuming our banker can open an account as planned, I’m preparing mentally for the culture shock, heat and incredible gastronomic adventures of Southeast Asian food. Utilizing a two-week guest pass at local gym to stay fit, we wound up going for free because the gym couldn’t figure out how to use my U.S.Visa card and simply gave me a three visit pass.

imageMeanwhile, as I pulled in my stats this morning, I noticed another milestone of 19,000 page views. Obtaining this number in just under 9 months humbles and surprises me given that we’ve not yet started the real expat part of the blog. Once again, Diane and I appreciate everyone that takes the time to read, comment and come along with us for the journey.  Hoping to entertain with true life narrative stories while also gaining valuable contacts and information, we encourage anyone that likes to chat or help newbie expats to please let us know. We’re trying to gather all our contacts from the last year or two and organize things into some sort of coherent list. Proving more difficult than expected, I’m still trying to master life on an IPad.

Cheers from the capital of Alberta.

Coming; Calgary, Alberta; the third stop of the Western Canadian Great Squat Trip

9 thoughts on “The lost art of Chinese cooking

  1. nonsmokingladybug

    I just started to learn to cook Chinese and I am glad I found your blog. I am looking forward to your future posts and might give you a warning that I WILL ask some stupid question. For this I already ask for forgiveness 🙂



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