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review 2018-01-06 21:55
Fun with a side of crazy...
China Rich Girlfriend: A Novel - Kevin Kwan

This is probably more accurately a 3 1/2 star book but I found myself very invested in the subplot concerning Astrid and Charley (in large part because they're being played by Gemma Chan and Harry Shum Jr. in the upcoming movie) and even when the story does go entirely off the rails it's at least entertaining. These stories are basically Dynasty with bigger bank accounts and set in Singapore/Hong Kong and once I understood that and stopped looking for anything deeper (like a cohesive narrative or character development) I was better able to enjoy them. Fun, light reads, good for a lazy day. :)

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review 2017-12-30 15:00
16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 10 - World Peace Day: Words of Wisdom
The Power of Compassion: A Collection of Lectures by His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama - Dalai Lama XIV,Derek Jacobi

The Dalai Lama speaks about the Four Noble Truths, maximizing your inner strength, dealing with anger and death, the power of compassion, the challenges facing humanity today (including globalization, warfare, environmental protection, overpopulation), and the great world religions' core tenets (as oppposed to their elements that primarily responded to the needs of the historic societies in which they emerged).  As we're about to begin another new year, a perfect reminder of what matters (or should matter) to us -- and what doesn't -- and simple small things that each of us can implement in our own lives every day ... and short of His Holiness himself (who didn't originally set down these texts in English), there couldn't be any better person to read his words than Sir Derek Jacobi.

 

    

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text 2017-12-29 21:01
16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 11 - Dōngzhì Festival

Tasks for Dōngzhì Festival: If you like Chinese food, tell us your favorite dish – otherwise, tell us your favorite dessert.

 

Alright, I admit I haven't made these in a while (so the pretty pics aren't mine), but the Chinese recipes are from a cookbook I brought from a trip to Hong Kong, and which I used to cook Chinese meals for my friends after my return, and the dessert recipe was a runaway success in our family for years after I'd discovered it in one of the first cookbooks I ever owned.

 

(Note: metric conversions are rounded to the nearest semi-decimal.  Trust me, they work well enough on that basis.)

 

Chinese Food

Cha Shiu Buns

Ingredients:

Yeast Dough

1 tsp dry yeast

1/2 tsp sugar

1/2 cup (ca. 120 ml) warm water

6-7 oz (ca. 170-195 g) plain flour

 

Pastry

10 oz (280 g) yeast dough (see above)

3 oz (ca. 85 g) sugar

1/2 tsp ammonia powder

1/4 tsp alkali water (or just salted water)

1-2 tbsp water

1 tbsp oil

4 oz (ca. 110 g) flour

1 tsp baking powder

 

Filling

6 oz (ca. 170 g) roast pork (= cha shiu)

1 tbsp finely chopped chives or spring onions

 

Gravy

1 tsp oil

1 tsp white wine

1/2 cup (ca. 120 ml) stock

1 tsp oyster sauce (optional)

1 tsp light soy sauce

1 tsp sugar

2 tsp cornflour mixed with

    1 tbsp water

 

Preparation:

Yeast Dough

Dissolve the dry yeast and sugar in warm water and leave for 10 minutes to prove.

Stift the flour on to a table and make a well in the centre to pour in the yeast solution.  Work in the flour to knead into a soft dough.  Place in a greased mixing bowl and cover with a towel.  Leave to prove for 10-12 hours.

 

Pastry

Place the yeast dough, sugar, ammonia powder and alkali water in a big bowl.  Add the water and oil to the mix into a thick cream.

Sift the flour and baking powder together on a table and make a well in the centre.  Pour in the yeast cream. Slowly work in the flour and knead into a soft dough.

 

Filling

Dice or shred the cha shiu.

 

Gravy

Heat the oil in a hot wok (or frying pan).  Sizzle wine and pour in the stock.   Season to taste and thicken the gravy with the cornflour solution.  Remove wok (pan) from the stove and stir in cha shiu and chopped chives / spring onions to mix well.  Dish and put into refrigerator to chill.

 

To complete:

Roll the soft dough into a long strip and cut into 24 equal portions.  Flatten each portion into a small round.  Place a tsp of filling in the centre of the round, then draw in the edges and form small pleats to wrap up the filling.  Stick a small squre piece of grease proof paper to the bottom of each bun.

Arrange the buns in a steamer, then steam over high heat for 8 minutes.  Remove and leave to cool.  Steam a second time for 2 minutes, then serve hot.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Lemon Chicken

Ingredients:

2 boneless chicken breasts, about 6 oz. (ca. 170 g) each

2 lemons

1 beaten egg

1 cup (ca. 235 ml) cornflour

oil for deep frying

2 parsley sprigs or chunks of broccoli

 

Chicken Marinade

1 tbsp ginger juice

1 tbsp white wine

1 tbsp light soy sauce

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp cornflour

1 pinch of pepper

 

Seasoning

1/2 cup (ca. 120 ml) stock

1/4 tsp salt

3 tbsp vinegar

2 tbsp sugar

1/2 tsp sesame oil

1 tsp wine

1 pinch of pepper

 

Gravy Mix

2 tbsp custard powder

1/2 tsp cornflour

3 tbsp water

 

Preparation:

Wash and trim the parsley / broccoli and set aside for later use.

Mix all the ingredients of the marinade.

Slice the chicken breasts into large thin pieces, then immerse in the marinade for 30 minutes.

Toss the chicken in the beaten egg, then coat evenly with the cornflour.

Heat the wok (or frying pan) until very hot and pour in the oil to bring to the boil.  Slide in the chicken to deep fry until golden brown.  Drain, cut and dish.

Squeeze out the juice of one lemon and mix with all the seasoning except the wine.

Heat another wok (or frying pan) and bring 2 tbsp of oil to the boil.  Sizzle the wine, then pour in the lemon mixture and season to taste.  Mix the custard powder and cornflour with the water, then stream into the sauce to thicken.  Blend in the last tbsp of oil and mask over the chicken.

Slice the other lemon and arrange on or around the platter with the parsley / broccoli.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dessert: Sherry Cream

Ingredients:

1 lime (or small lemon)

75 g (ca. 2 1/2 oz) icing sugar

125 ml (ca. 4 fl oz) sherry (preferably Amontillado or Oloroso)

300 g (ca 10.5 oz) double cream or crème fraîche (not: sour cream!)

2-3 drops of essence of vanilla or orange

a few slices of orange

 

Preparation:

Brush clean the lime / lemon in running water, then dry and julienne the peel (cut into thin tiny slices).  Squeeze out the juice of the lime / lemon and blend with the icing sugar until the sugar is dissolved.  Then mix in the sherry.

Whisk double cream / crème fraîche until foamy, then slowly mix in the lime juice and sherry blend, as well as the essence of vanilla / orange.  Fill cream into large serving bowl or small dessert bowls, sprinkle with lime / lemon peel juliennes, and decorate with orange slices.

 

(Note: This also works with port or madeira, if your taste runs more that way.)

 

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text 2017-11-22 19:04
16 Tasks for the Festive Season --9
1421: The Year China Discovered America (Audio) - Gavin Menzies

Square 2: Book themes for Bon Om Touk: Read a book that takes place on the sea, near the sea, or on a lake or a river...

 

I love this book!!

 

In 1421, just before a period in their history of isolationism, the Chinese treasure fleet circumnavigated the globe, carefully mapping their progress. Shortly after their return, the emperor had the archives expunged of the now 'unnecessary' information that the fleet had gleaned. 

 

 

1421 is Gavin Menzies attempt to prove that the Chinese had already beaten Columbus and Magellan to the punch --and that in fact, they had used maps that were based on what the Chinese had found out. The tale of how he went about his painstaking research is interwined with what he has learned, and continues to learn, and both are absolutely fascinating. 

 

 

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review 2017-11-13 18:16
Not a Strong Showing by See
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane - Lisa See

Trigger warning: descriptions of infanticide 

 

I think that if Lisa See had cut down on some of the historical elements and developed her characters more I would have liked this. I do think that part of the problem was the overly abundant coincidences in this book. And I also think that the ending was written before the beginning. One of my professors used to tell us when we are writing, to not be so focused on the ending, but on the beginning and the middle. The ending was a great gut punch, the middle and ending of this book, not so much.

 

See focuses on the Akha people (the Akha are an indigenous hill tribe who live in small villages at higher elevations in the mountains of Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, and Yunnan Province in China). I bring that up, cause a casual reader may be confused by this (as I was at parts). I felt I had to do a lot of look up words/research while reading this book which I just wasn't in the mind-set to deal with at this time.

 

The main character is Li-yan (FYI I had to go and look that up since her real name is mentioned only maybe twice in the book, she is referred to as Girl [a good 50 plus percent of the book] or Tina [eh maybe 10 percent of the book] throughout the book.

Li-yan is the daughter of the village midwife and is expected to marry well and become a midwife as well. Her life changes though after a strange dream and then meets a young boy at the market.

 

Li-yan starts to see her people as backwards due to their traditions (parts of this story are very grim so be careful with reading this one). Li-yan realizes that she doesn't want to follow in her mother's footsteps and is going to do what she can to get placed in secondary and third schooling so she can be someone outside of her village. She also dreams of marrying a young boy from her school and having lots of children with him.

 

Li-yan's life gets off course though when she has a baby out of wedlock which means the baby should be put to death when born (not a spoiler, in synopsis) when Li-yan goes against tradition, she finds herself living a life outside of her village. 

 

The writing is just okay. I think that other reviewers have noted that there is a lot of historical information in this one and there is. I think that See decided to do what she did with her "Shanghai Girls" books and decided to have a book that covers a lot of historical events. It just loses something I think in this telling when you have a character remarking on something that I don't think in the moment they would find to be momentous. 

 

Also, I have to say, that for how "backwards" the village where Li-yan is shown and their traditions, I had a hard time believing these same people would so willingly part with them.


I also hope you like reading about tea, cause this book includes every little detail about them and I got bored. I love tea! I just don't want to read pages upon pages about how it is picked, smelled, how it should be brewed, etc. 

 

I think that the book starts off pretty slow. We begin with Li-yan relaying a dream to her family and going tea picking. You don't get a good idea of what is even going on for a good 15-20 percent of the story. See jumps around a lot (enjoy that) and goes into 

Li-yan's family, her best friend's family and some (not all) of the villagers. We get historical dumps (that is what I am calling them) throughout the story by Li-yan or other characters. Nothing quite gels together. 

 

I think for me, the moment when I totally lost interest was when Li-yan realizes the man she gave up a lot for is not what she thought. I just had a hard time buying her realization considering she ignored everyone that tried to tell her about him before. 

 

I also hate how we jump over things that I think would have been interesting. 


The book jumps back and forth between Li-yan and her daughter. I think the book would have been stronger if both POVs would have been told in the first person. Instead we get first person POV from Li-yan and just excerpts from Li-yan's daughter via her mother, teachers, and even therapist at one point. I never got a chance to know her and I really didn't feel drawn to her as a character.

 

After the 25th coincidence (kidding, but not really) the book ends. 

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