Our family has embarked on virtual travels to various countries and regions. To explore these countries and their cultures, we have followed along with the festivals, cooked and eaten traditional foods, learned of traditional handicrafts with hands on exploration, along with many activities to immerse ourselves. Chronicled here are some of these activities.

Follow along with us as we explore World Cultures - subscribe by email

Followers

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Chinese Myth: The Legend of the Ten Suns (Book review & Sun related activities)

Xi He & Her Ten Suns
According to Chinese mythology, there were once ten suns, one for every day of the Chinese week. Each day, their mother would send one of her sons from the Valley of the Light in the East off to march for the day to Mount Yen-Tzu in the West. In this way, each sun walked across the earth for one day a week. The suns became bored of spending the day alone, and rebelled by choosing to walk across the earth together. The earth could not bear the intensity of the heat, and it, and its people, began to die. The emperor pleaded to Di Jun, the suns' father, to call back his sons. Di Jun tried but was ignored by his sons, and therefore called upon Hou Yi, the best archer to discipline his sons. Finding it impossible to reason with them, and not being able to bear to see the earth die, Hou Yi shot nine of the suns, leaving one to light the earth.

The legend of the Ten Suns is one of the oldest Chinese Myths, dating from the Shang dynasty (1523 BC - 1027 BC). There are several versions that differ only slightly, and it's the beginning of Hou Yi's many adventures in Chinese mythology (he features prominently in the moon festival, coming up in the fall).



Ten Suns: A Chinese Legend retold by Eric A. Kimmel

The legend is retold in this book with colorful illustrations and easy to follow story telling. All three of us enjoy reading myths and legends in story book format, and this book does not disappoint. It's also a great introduction to Hou Yi's character, a hero who will come up again in Chinese mythology (a little reminiscent of Hercules in Greek mythology). It's a great book to read at the end of the day, as the sun goes down. 













7 Ways to Explore the Sun

With summer fast approaching (where did the time go?), why not follow up from reading this book by exploring the sun. Two years ago, we spent a summer day filled with sun related activities. I didn't take pictures of them all (as it turns out), but below are some descriptions, and links, if you'd like to try them out.

The ten suns began their long daily walk in the east, and you can rise with them and paint the dawn. 

Painting the sunrise. This was our year ''in France'', and in impressionist style, we painted au plein air. We packed our art supplies, tables and chairs in the trunk the night before, and in the morning, I had hot chocolate prepared for them. We hopped into the car, and drove a few minutes looking for a spot where we could truly see the sun rise. The girls painted for nearly 30 minutes, and were constantly surprised at how quickly the sun rises, and the skyline changes. Along with a canvas, paint, and paintbrushes, don't forget a bottle of water, a small dish, and a rag to rinse the paintbrushes between colors.








You can also follow the suns' westward march

Trace your shadow. Mark a spot on pavement or any surface you can use chalk on by tracing your feet. On an hourly basis, stand on the same spot, and have someone trace your shadow (in a different color if you have the chalk). Watch as your shadow shifts, shortens and grows. Notice your shadow at noon, and compare it to the early morning. The shorter your shadow is, the more intense the sun is.

Make a sundial. We made a very simple stick sundial. We cut twelve sticks (for the hours of 8am to 6pm), a longer one to be used as the gnomon (the upright stick that casts a shadow) and eleven shorter sticks to mark the hours. Each stick was painted with a band of yellow paint - to make it cheery, and to see the time marked on it better. We stuck the longer stick in the ground, in a sunny spot, and beginning at 8am, following the shadow cast by our gnomon, we planted one of the shorter sticks after writing the time on it with a permanent marker. We set the kitchen timer to go off every hour, and when it went off, we headed for our sundial and added another stick. Once the time was set with a stick, we headed to our shadow spot and traced Elle's shadow (above). Learn Play Imagine has a tutorial for a simple sundial here and you can also find a free printable and directions to make a sundial at BBC.

And see what you can do when you harness the heat and rays of the sun.

Brew sun tea. Gather some herbs and edible plants, a good handful, crush them a bit with your hands, and place in a jar. Mints, thyme, lemon balm, are all nice herbs to use. You can also use a couple bags of your favorite tea. Fill jar with water, and cover with cheesecloth (to keep the bugs away). Set out in a spot that gets sun for 3 to 5 hours, and let it brew. Strain and enjoy, with ice and maybe a little bit of sugar.

Make sun prints. This activity takes longer than a day for the full effect, but you might notice a small difference by the end of the first day. Take some colorful construction paper, and create a pattern or design over it with odds and ends - bottle caps, foam shapes, rocks, leaves, etc. Leave in the sun. As the paper sits in the sun, it begins to get sun bleached, however when you remove your objects, you should see the image of the shape as that part of the paper retained its color. You can see a picture of how this looks at Cafe Mom.

Make a solar oven and cook your lunch. We warmed up english muffin pizzas (the cheese melted well) in our ovens and finished off with smores for dessert. 

Find instructions to make a shoe box solar oven with this Instructable.




Make cyanotype prints. To do this project, you'll have to buy special cyanotype paper, which are sold at most photography stores and some craft stores. The results look spectacular, and it's very simple. You place shapes on the paper, and expose the paper to sunlight. You can find a tutorial and the science behind it at the ArtClub.

Related products (affiliate links):





I've linked up this post to these great blog hops of reviews and activities for Children's books at Children's Bookshelf, the Kid Lit Blog Hop, and Read.Explore. Learn

You can find more multicultural activities at the Culture Swap
Books are a wonderful way to experience new worlds and ideas. Our house is filled with books, most of which are borrowed from our public library. Public libraries are an incredible resource, making books accessible to everyone, and we highly encourage everyone to discover theirs. If you are hoping to build your own home library, I've made it easy by linking book titles to Amazon.com. Please note that I have become affiliated with them, which means that if you make a purchase, you are also supporting this website.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Chengyu: Lord Ye's Love of Dragons


Lord Ye's Love of Dragons

Lord Ye lived in ancient times, and was known for his love of dragons. His home was filled with his dragon collection, found in jade sculptures, wood carvings, silk paintings, and embroidered bedding and clothing.

A celestial dragon heard of Lord Ye and his love of dragons, and decided to honor him with a visit. The dragon descended to Lord Ye's home, wrapping its tail around the house and sticking its head his bedroom. Lord Ye was far from honored - he was completely horrified! He ran from his house wanting nothing to do with the real dragon.

This idiom represents a person who loves the idea of something rather than the reality of it.

Discuss: Have you ever been excited about the idea of something but lost interest when presented with it? Have you ever wanted something, more than anything else (like a toy, or a pet), but once you had it realized it wasn't as much fun as you thought it would be? Are ideas sometimes preferable to real life objects or situations?

An idiom is an expression that is not meant to be taken literally. For example, in English, we often use the expression "It's raining cats and dogs". Obviously, we don't take this expression literally, we come to learn that it means it's raining hard outside. 

Though the Chinese have many proverbs and idioms, Chengyu are formalized idioms, usually using only four characters and relating to folktales, classical literature, and historical accounts. The four characters typically state a moral, and in order to properly understand their meaning, it is important to know the story behind them. There are at least 5,000 Chengyu. 


To learn about Chinese idioms is to gain another insight into the Chinese culture, their mores, and their history. We will be learning Chengyu, and their related stories, regularly for the rest of our "year in China". I believe the insights we'll gain will highlight many universal facets of human nature within their cultural context.


Monday, May 27, 2013

Our Weekend In a Nutshell


We've been dog sitting a 15 year old friendly dog, during a grey, foggy, rainy week. Our ''bathroom outings'' and dog walks have been cursory, not being used to going out in the rain a minimum of four times a day. We were so happy to welcome the sun on Sunday morning - and Skippy appreciated hours of fresh air.

For our rainy Saturday, we treated ourselves to an afternoon at the movies to see ''Epic'', which the girls enjoyed. We came home to spend some time playing games and drinking a jazzed up Chinese chocolate milk drink (topped with rock salt cheese) with friends. 

Waking up to the first ray of sunshine in nearly a week on Sunday morning, I headed outside and tackled an overgrown blackberry patch I'd been eyeing warily for the past three years - and I won! We may actually be able to access and enjoy some of those berries this summer. We puttered around the yard, Elle planted some flowers, we practiced some Jianzi, all the while with Skipper at our heels.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Recipe: Popular Chinese Drink ''Cocoa with Rock Salt & Cheese ''


This weekend, for our taste of China, we thought we'd try out something less traditional - something trendy and popular: Happy Lemon's Cocoa with Rock Salt & Cheese. 


Happy Lemon's Cocoa with Rock Salt & Cheese
Photo Credit: Rachel Alcantara

Happy Lemon is a fast food like drink spot that originated in Hong Kong, and is now found throughout China, and different parts of Asia. It's very popular, with people lining up for their drinks, and in particular, the cocoa drink with its famous salty cheese topping. 





Some friends were coming over (with Cantonese red bean buns), and we thought we'd try it out with them, one of whom is a chocolate milk devotee - there is in fact a section in his fridge devoted to chocolate milk, and he is gifted gallons of the stuff for his birthday every year. We had to have a purist try out this concoction!


Cocoa with Rock Salt & Cheese

Adapted from Pepper Ph
Serves 2-3*


  • Chocolate Milk
  • Ice
  • 1\3 cup, whipping cream, chilled
  • 1\2 cup cream cheese spread, at room temperature
  • 1\4 cup sweetened condensed milk, chilled
  • Himalayan pink rock salt (we used fleur de sel, because we had it on hand, and it's a large grain salt we've used as a topping for desserts in the past)

*I didn't notice the serving suggestion of 2-3 and made this recipe for 6 - I think more topping would have been better.

Pour chocolate milk into glasses at about halfway, then put enough ice to bring it up to fill the glass 3\4 full. Do this before making the topping, as the intent is to have the milk slightly watered down.

Whip the whipping cream until it is the consistency of thick syrup - keep an eye on it - you don't want fully whipped cream. Add the cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk, and whip until smooth and creamy. 



Add 2-3 spoonfuls of cream topping to your chocolate milk. Sprinkle with salt. Serve with a spoon, and enjoy!


The consensus:great drink! The bite of salt complements the sweetness of the cheese topping and cocoa; the creaminess of the topping makes the chocolate milk a delicious, decadent and filling treat. 

Our friend was worried that this topping would ruin his chocolate milk - and was quite surprised to find himself loving it. We'll definitely be making, and enjoying, this again!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Chinese Toy: Jianzi {Make Your Own Shuttlecock Tutorial}

Shuttlecock kicking, or Ti Jianzi, is a popular traditional folk game. Originating from the Han dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD), it grew in popularity over the years, with shops specializing in shuttlecocks during the Tang dynasty (608-907), and formal competitions held during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). These days it is a popular past time in China, and is becoming more popular abroad. There is even an international federation that holds world championships in shuttlecock kicking. 


Couple playing Ti Jianzi
Photo Credit: Janus Jacquet
A shuttlecock is made by affixing feathers to a weight. For hundreds of years, they have been made at home, by wrapping an ancient Chinese coin (the kind with a hole in the middle) with goose or chicken feathers. You can also buy modern versions made with plastic discs.


Shuttlecock
Photo Credit: Fang Hsieh
To play Ti Jianzi, a shuttlecock is kept in the air as long as possible by catching it with either your feet, knees, shoulders - any body part except your hands, though most often with the heel of your foot. You can play it alone, or with others, kicking it from player to player.


Make your own shuttlecock


We started off by making our Jianzi the old fashioned way: with feathers, washers (not sure where to find ancient Chinese coins) and twine. Tying it all together was a feat of imagination. Twine, twist, knot, go in, go under. I ended up doing my own, Elle's, and finishing off Pea's. We took them outside, and started playing Ti Jianzi. Although we had a great time, after about twenty minutes, the washers were hanging from the feathers, and since they were bundled together with no rhyme or reason, it was not easy putting it back together. 


So we made our new and improved versions :) using a piece of fabric to bundle it all together. This way, when it does need fixing - as any homemade toy that's been kicked about is bound to need - it will be quite easy.


You will need:
  • four to five feathers
  • two 1'' washers
  • twine
  • fabric, cut into a 3"x3" square

  1. Tie the two washers together.
  2. Wrap around the washers with twine.
  3. Tie the feathers tightly together near the base with twine, leaving only a small amount of the bottom tips - you want the ends to be long enough that the bundle feels secure, yet not so they're jutting out sharply.
  4. Insert bundle of feathers into the washers, place in the center of your square of fabric.
  5. Gather the fabric up over the washers, and secure tightly, very tightly, with twine around the base of the feathers. I took the twine, tied it once, wrapped it around the base, tied it again, wrapped it around once more, then triple knotted it. 

Then get outdoors and play!


We "played" for over an hour, which for Pea to remain outdoors and active (other than hiking) is something close to a miracle. And by "playing" I mean attempting to kick the shuttlecock, and occasionally getting it on the first try, and sometimes even getting it with the right amount of force to the person it was aimed at. More often it zoomed past someone, sending one of us scurrying to get it. Elle's enthusiasm had her kicking it as though she were trying to kick a football across a field, and I, being the natural athlete that I am, kept covering my face and cowering when it came in my direction. When Hubby joined in, who it turns out played hacky sack as a kid, the success rate did improve, resulting in the shuttlecock remaining in the air, on occasion, for two foot strikes! 


I can see why this game was used in military exercises - it requires concentration, agility, and good hand-eye coordination. 

Clearly we need a lot of practice - and with summer coming, and knowing the girls enjoyed this so much, we will. Practice. And I'm sure it will continue to be a source of much laughter!


You can find more cultural and historical activities at the following linkups:

You can find more creative and kid friendly activities at the following linkups:








Chengyu: Waiting by a Tree for a Hare


Waiting by a Tree for a Hare

There once was a farmer working his fields, when he saw a hare run by. The hare seemed frightened, and accidentally ran into a tree stump, breaking its neck. The farmer left his field for the day, took the rabbit home to cook it for supper. Pleased with such easily available meat, he decided that instead of working hard every day in his fields, he would sit by the tree stump, and wait for another hare to run into it. He did this for the rest of the season, waiting fruitlessly, while his fields, having been neglected, became overgrown with weeds.  

This idiom warns against waiting for luck to provide you with what you need, rather than doing what is necessary to obtain it. 

Discuss: Have you ever had a stroke of luck happen that made your life easier? Did it change the way you behaved afterwards? What repercussions might there have been if you waited around for that lucky incident to re-occur?

An idiom is an expression that is not meant to be taken literally. For example, in English, we often use the expression "It's raining cats and dogs". Obviously, we don't take this expression literally, we come to learn that it means it's raining hard outside. 

Though the Chinese have many proverbs and idioms, Chengyu are formalized idioms, usually using only four characters and relating to folktales, classical literature, and historical accounts. The four characters typically state a moral, and in order to properly understand their meaning, it is important to know the story behind them. There are at least 5,000 Chengyu. 


To learn about Chinese idioms is to gain another insight into the Chinese culture, their mores, and their history. We will be learning Chengyu, and their related stories, regularly for the rest of our "year in China". I believe the insights we'll gain will highlight many universal facets of human nature within their cultural context.

Chinese Idioms - Chengyu

An idiom is an expression that is not meant to be taken literally. For example, in English, we often use the expression "It's raining cats and dogs". Obviously, we don't take this expression literally, we come to learn that it means it's raining hard outside. 

Though the Chinese have many proverbs and idioms, Chengyu are formalized idioms, usually using only four characters and relating to folktales, classical literature, and historical accounts. The four characters typically state a moral, and in order to properly understand their meaning, it is important to know the story behind them. There are at least 5,000 Chengyu. 

To learn about Chinese idioms is to gain another insight into the Chinese culture, their mores, and their history. We will be learning Chengyu, and their related stories, regularly for the rest of our "year in China". I believe the insights we'll gain will highlight many universal facets of human nature within their cultural context.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Recipe - Making Chinese Steamed Buns

Yesterday, in celebration of last week's Cheung Chau Bun Festival, we made our own lucky buns, Baozi, which are sweet Chinese steamed buns.


These bread buns are most often found with one of three different filings: red bean paste, lotus paste, or black sesame paste. They're easy to find at Asian grocery stores, and store bought ones need only to be steamed to be enjoyed. It's a quick and easy snack the girls enjoy, so we have bought a few and stored them in the freezer. The girls enjoyed these homemade ones so much, in fact preferred them to the store bought ones (Elle wants to make some every week...), I don't think we'll be buying many more.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Our Weekend In a Nutshell


It's the end of our long weekend, and it's been productive and relaxing. It was an especially long weekend for us since the girls had an inservice on Friday, and we enjoyed it with our friends and family. My mother, who had been away, stopped by with my sister for a belated Mother's Day tea; my in laws arrived on Saturday and stayed with us for the weekend, and we had a barbecue Sunday afternoon with our friends. My 3 year old nephew was so much fun, and kept Pea and Elle busy and active. 

We had sunny, if not warm, weather and spent a great deal of time outdoors. Of course, with company coming, there was no longer any putting off the yard work, so we put the girls to work - Hubby and I helped out of course :)

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Book review: Buddha

Since yesterday was Buddha's birthday, and buddhism something the girls know little about, we read the picture book "Buddha" by Demi as an introduction. 


Buddha  by Demi is a picture book biography, in story format, of the spiritual leader. 
Using Demi's characteristic illustrations laced in gold, the story spans from the prophecies told prior to Siddhartha's birth, to his passing at age 80. 
This book was perfect as an introduction to Buddha and the very basics of Buddhism for the girls (aged 10 & 14), since it included Siddhartha's childhood, the life and thoughts that led him to choose the pursuit of the Truth and become the Buddha, the basic tenets of Buddhism, the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path, and two of Buddha's parables. 
Pea was captured throughout, which I believe is due to her interest in spirituality. Elle (10) was captured by the illustrations, but did feel the book was long and seemed to glaze over 3/4 of the way in - it might have been better to read it in parts, over a couple of days, as it is text heavy. 


What can your family do to celebrate Buddha's birthday? 

* You can make lucky ''Peace'' steamed buns with this recipe
* You can cook up vegetarian Buddha's Delight with this recipe
* You can paint a lotus flower, the Buddhist symbol of purity 

I've linked up this post to these great blog hops of reviews and activities for Children's books at Children's Bookshelf and the Kid Lit Blog Hop
Books are a wonderful way to experience new worlds and ideas. Our house is filled with books, most of which are borrowed from our public library. Public libraries are an incredible resource, making books accessible to everyone, and we highly encourage everyone to discover theirs. If you are hoping to build your own home library,I've made it easy by linking book titles to Amazon.com. Please note that I have become affiliated with them, which means that if you make a purchase, you are also supporting this website.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Happy Birthday Buddha!

In China, Buddha's birthday is celebrated on the 8th day of the 4th month, which, this year, falls on May 17th. It is known as the Buddha Bathing Festival.


Giant Buddha in Leshan City, Sichuan province
Begun in 713, the statue took 90 years to carve
It is the largest carved stone Buddha in the world
It is 71 meters high and has 3 meter long fingers
Photo Credit: Phil Parsons
According to legend, when Buddha was born, nine dragons sprayed the baby with water to bathe him. Today, across Buddhist temples in China, devotees pay their respects to Buddha by bathing statues of him in bowls of water. They burn incense and bring food offerings to the monks, they chant and they pray. 


Photo Credit: Mayu Shimizu
Devotees also eat bitter, green cookies. They are intentionally unpleasant, representing the Buddhist principle of living through hardship to enjoy better things.


Buddhist Monks
Photo Credit: Eye See
Buddhism came to China 500 years after it began in India. Many of the monasteries and statues were destroyed during the cultural revolution, however since the reforms of the 1980s, much has been restored. There are an estimated 100 million followers of Buddhism in China.


Monastery of Ten Thousand Buddhas
Photo Credit: Simon Whitaker
The foundation of Buddhism are the Four Noble Truths:

  1. The truth of suffering 
  2. The truth of the cause of suffering 
  3. The truth of the end of suffering 
  4. The truth of the path that frees us from suffering 

You can find more information about Buddhism at United Religions Initiative

What can your family do to celebrate Buddha's birthday? 

* You can read about Buddha's life with this book by Demi
* You can make lucky ''Peace'' steamed buns with this recipe
* You can cook up vegetarian Buddha's Delight with this recipe
* You can paint a lotus flower, the Buddhist symbol of purity 


Giant Buddha at the Po Lin Monastery in Hong Kong
Photo Credit: Michael Hansen

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Chinese Language in all its Forms - Imagery of Chinese Characters

Although there are dozens of dialects and subdialects in China, most of which are unintelligible to each other, Chinese writing has been simplified and standardized since the 1950s, and is the same used throughout China. There are approximately 10,000 characters, however in order to be considered literate (or in order to read a newspaper) you must know at least 3,000

One of the aspects of Chinese script that I find fascinating is the imagery and/or ideas behind some of the characters, and how certain characters were chosen to be added together to represent another word. For example, for the character "to rest", the character for person is combined with the character for tree. The imagery associated is a person leaning up against a tree to rest from hard work or a long journey. 

I put together three printables (the images are the links) with characters that have interesting imagery behind them, and encouraged the girls to draw the images corresponding with the character. The characters, as with spoken Chinese, usually have more than one meaning, which is understood within context.


The character for "Home" uses the characters for pig and roof -- in fact, a pig under a roof, because a house is a home when you have a pig to feed your family.


The character for "Morning" uses the characters for sun and armor, with the imagery of a sun rising over a soldier's helmet. 

Knowing the imagery behind the words gives a bit of insight into the culture, at least historically. The idea that every house needs a pig, or that the morning is in context with a soldier. When you think of "home" - what comes to mind? If you were to paint a picture of the "morning" - what would you paint?








Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Cheung Chau Bun Festival

The Cheung Chau Bun Festival is an annual festival held on the small island of Cheung Chau, in Hong Kong. The festivities include floating children, and a mad scramble up 60 feet for "lucky" buns.


"Lucky" Buns
Photo Credit: Tangerine Violets
This festival was traditionally a rural festival, held by the fishing communities to pray for safety from pirates and plague. They dressed as different gods and paraded along the streets to frighten off evil spirits. These days it's a celebration of Chinese culture, that coincides with Buddha's birthday. Tens of thousands of people attend.

The festival lasts for a week, and for three days everyone becomes vegetarian. In fact, even the MacDonalds replaces their hamburgers with mushroom burgers!

Activities abound throughout the week, including lion dances, stilt walking, much drum and cymbal beating (to ward off evil spirits), acrobatics and opera.

Photo Credit: Laszlo Ilyes
Near the end of the festival, they have the Piu Sik (Floating Colors) parade. This procession is a reenactment of the original ceremonial processions that were done to ward off the plague. In the Piu Sik parade, along with lion dancing and gongs, children of 5-6 years old are dressed up as deities and, balancing on invisible poles, seemingly float above the parade.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Beyond the Great Wall - Exploring Traditional Miao Batik with Crayon Resist

There are 1.5 billion people who live in China, and approximately 92% are Han Chinese, that is ethnically Chinese. Most of this blog explores the Han culture. However, in the outer regions of China, beyond the great wall,  various ethnic "minorities" abound. In fact, there are 56 officially recognized ethnic "minorities" in China, which accounts for about 125 million people.
Photo Credit: Beth Burdick
The Miao batik textiles are beautiful with intricate designs, traditionally dyed blue, since the blue dye could be done in cold water. This cloth is mostly used for dresses and skirts, though also for the home as quilts, curtains, tablecloths, etc.

Keep reading for our crayon resist project inspired by Miao Batik

Our Weekend in a Nutshell


What a great weekend! The Nova Scotia College of Art & Design held an "Artist for a Day" program, offering so many hands on experiences for anyone interested in trying it out. This is the first time I'd heard of this, but apparently it's their third year. I already have a reminder set up to look into this next year, it was such a great time. I only wish we'd had more time to try out more things - those kids and their need to eat!

Some of the highlights for us included creating our own linocuts and tin soldiers. The girls melted tin with a blow torch, which was then poured into a mold. We didn't have time to try the pottery wheel, but there was a large clay board the girls put their mark on. The most surprising part of the day was that Pea was happy to have her picture taken as Vincent Van Gogh - without hesitation or a roll of the eyes! Can you guess who Elle is?


Mother's day was a lovely, relaxing day. Pea and I spent much of the day in bed reading, and I didn't even feel guilty about it. She also presented me with a hand made book of poetry she wrote, starting with a poem that had tears streaming down my face. Luckily, she threw in that funny acrostic poem - I always knew she thought I was odd, but not marvellously so :)

Hubby prepared delicious food - eggs benedict with asparagus and his famous home fries, and lobster fettuccini for supper. I was thoroughly spoiled, and enjoyed every minute of it.

And that dragon kite? Clearly, our study of China is as much for me, as it is for them!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Making Mu Shu Pork & Chinese Pancakes



Mu Shu Pork, a popular dish from Northern China, is made with pork tenderloin, eggs, cabbage, and a few special Chinese ingredients. It is served with Mandarin pancakes and hoisin sauce.  Essentially, it's a stir fry with a great sauce, served in pancakes and eaten similarly to a taco.

We headed out to a Chinese grocery to pick up a few ingredients: bamboo and wood ear mushrooms, the latter I'd been looking forward to trying out.

I used the recipes for both the Mu Shu pork (here) and the pancakes (here) found at Global Table Adventures. Sasha Martin's site chronicles her family's cultural exploration by cooking an authentic menu from a different country every week. It's a great site filled with interesting information, and great recipes.

As for our dinner, she explains the recipes and photographs the process so well, I won't go over that here. I will however make note of a couple of the ingredients.


Bamboo shoots. You can easily find canned bamboo shoots at most supermarkets, but check out these vacuum sealed spring bamboo shoots. Bamboo shoots have been a traditional part of the Chinese diet for over 2,500 years. It is high in protein, for a vegetable, and full of nutrients. The texture is rather crunchy.


And then there's Wood Ear Mushrooms. Also known as black fungus and Cloud Ear fungus. They certainly look like they belong in a forest, somewhere dank and dark. Or at the bottom of the sea - doesn't a bowl full look like seaweed? (The Japanese call it Tree Jellyfish!) The texture is chewy, so make sure to slice it thinly.

A box of these mushrooms was not inexpensive, but then it turns out, you get quite a bit for your money. The box comes with ten individually wrapped (my environmental consciousness was shocked)packages of dried fungus. The recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups of mushrooms, but I had no idea how many packets I'd need. Most of the writing on box is in Chinese, and gives no ratio from dried to reconstituted. (It does state in English that they "contain eight types of amino acids and vitamins necessary for the human body"). I played it safe and reconstituted two blocks, by filling the bowl with water. Now I have enough mushrooms to make the recipe four times. I wonder if I can freeze the rest?


 After letting the dough rest, Elle made the pancakes, adding the sesame oil and green onions, and rolling them out. As for the Mu Shu pork, other than slicing the meat thinly, kids old enough to slice and dice could help out with most of the prep work, and then it's just a matter of stir frying it together.
We really enjoyed this! The girls loved the pancakes (of course), and had their first ones eaten before I sat down with them. We liked this so much, and I had so many leftover ingredients, that I made an extra batch (without the eggs) to freeze for a quick dinner some other time.


 
Blog Design by Delicious Design Studio