Monday, January 23, 2012

Chinese New Year

Chinese Food Sign by fab4chiky, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License
  by  fab4chiky 


I have a near lifelong friend with whom I share my passion for food and food culture.  Before we had kids we spent a lot of time exploring Chinatown in Toronto, and the Pacific Mall in Markham.  We were told off by an old Chinese man for daring to ask what a Dragonfruit was.  We marveled at the array of amazing edibles in boxes along busy sidewalks, and old grandmothers sitting quietly with bunches of fresh garlic at their feet, waiting to sell to whomever needed garlic right there.  We stood, dazed by the choices for lunch in the food court of the largest indoor Chinese mall in North America.  We also discovered that if you're going to need a washroom and are afraid of creepy basement corridors with bare bulbs hanging between dusty pipes, go before heading to Chinatown along Spadina Avenue.

Over the years we've celebrated our love of Chinese food (and Asian food in general) in many ways, including a few Chinese New Year inspired feasts that we've both shared with friends and had the pleasure of catering for others.  Now that we have children, we're passing along our passion for these flavours to them.

Yesterday I spent a good part of the afternoon prepping a relatively simple meal of Char Siu (Chinese barbecue pork - in this case tenderloin), Chow Mein (stir fried noodles and veggies), and scallion pancakes.  Not authentic, but as Chef Michael Smith once said (paraphrase alert), "When playing culinary tourist, my goal isn't to be authentic.  My goal is to make dinner."  So while we didn't enjoy any whole steamed fish or lotus bean tarts, we enjoyed some new flavours and dishes.  Okay, so the pancakes weren't as good as I remember, and the kids didn't care for them either, but the pork was a hit, and the noodles were so good that hubby found our son eating leftovers off of Dad's plate after we'd all finished.

And that was the goal for me.  To find some new foods and flavours that we can incorporate into our menu.  Hoisin sauce isn't some weird, foreign flavour now.  Noodles can replace rice (without calls for pasta sauce on them).  "Chinese food" doesn't sound strange.

I think I'd like to continue this through the year, as more culinary festivities come up around the world.  This means I get to research food traditions and play culinary tourist, the kids get to learn about the world around them through food, I get to recreate global dishes using local ingredients whenever possible, and hubby... he gets to enjoy it all.  LOL  Though I think I may skip the Haggis for Robbie Burns day on Wednesday.  Perhaps a nice bowl of Cock-a-Leekie soup instead?

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