Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Hey Toronto! Lets Celebrate Chinese Spring Festival!

Hey folks, I’m celebrating Spring a third time! Yup! I will be celebrating on Sunday April 5th, 2015 with Qing Ming Festival, a little-known Chinese Spring food festival in Toronto, yet it is widely celebrated in China. Did you know that Qing Ming takes place exactly 106 days after the WInter Solstice? This is just one of several ways I celebrate the beginning of the new season. 

Don’t you love the many exciting ways of celebrating Spring in Toronto in 2015?
My early childhood spring celebrations were quite different growing up in Toronto in the 1960s and 1970s. Despite becoming the token Chinese family in the Annex neighbourhood upon my parents’ decision to move there from the old Cabbagetown area in the mid-1960s, our young family observed this festival with very traditional practices that made our family stand out. 

Like many fellow Canadians, my childhood springs were marked by March Break, or Spring Break, followed by Good Friday and Easter Sunday with one big hollow chocolate Easter bunny shared with my siblings. Qing Ming Festival falls between these two holidays and it made us “unique” because of the food my mom would make, and items my dad would pick-up from the Chinese BBQ shop with all those funny meats in the window display! 

Qing Ming is a little-known Chinese Spring festival. It’s not yet as appealing as Harvest Moon Festival, nor as commercial and mainstream like Chinese Lunar New Year. In the Cantonese dialect, Qing Ming literally mean ‘pure’ and ‘clean’. Many of the early Toronto settlers from 1878-1970s, who had ancestors connected with building the Canadian railroad, were buried either in Mount Pleasant Cemetery or somewhere back in the old country called Southern China. Traditionally, it is spring cleaning of your deceased relatives’ graves in the countryside of China. We have descendants on both side of the family, and they are all buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery. If you’ve ever tried traipsing through this cemetery after the winter thaw, it is mucky challenge, especially when you have three kids in tow and bags of cooked food and drinks as offerings. So my parents made a pact:  mom makes the white-cut chicken and use it as an offering at home in April, and then we visit the cemetery in the summer once the ground is dry. It’s the very traditional food practices that made us cringe. Imagine a boiled white chicken with its head and feet intact, cooled off, and placed on a platter in the open doorway of your home door. Placement is important. The chicken should face inward. Yes, any bystanders strolling by, will see the chicken’s butt. My siblings (and of course I was not exempt) must slowly bow from the hip three times as a sign of respect, with our hands clasped together with burning intense sticks. One consolation: we get to eat this #nomnom chicken AND a white sticky rice cake from the bakery! This is Act I, followed by Act II which I will share on Sunday April 5th, 2015 Chinatown food tour as we celebrate Qing Ming, all its quirky rituals, superstition and traditions. 
Our family’s tradition are very similar to the Mexican holiday between October 28-November 2nd, Dia de los Muertos aka Day of the Dead in Spanish. It is just as celebratory in terms of families bringing food and offerings to the cemeteries for the departed relatives and friends. If you love Chinese roasted pork, char siu, chicken, steamed buns, and wicked food history... this is a fabulous way to greet Spring!  

As a long-time resident who has travelled but still lives in Toronto, I am now witnessing Toronto live up to its First Nation reference as Toronto, the meeting place...a meeting place of festivities! We now see different cultures embracing each others’ food history and food practices and we’re witnessing growing curiosity to try new fascinating foods plus the willingness to share. So on Sunday April 5th, 2015 exactly 106 days after the long winter solstice, I am going to share the wonders of the special treats my dad would get from the Chinese BBQ shop, and bakery. I can guarantee you that you’ll come away with new pair of eyes, palate and mind. Join us on by booking your spot(s) on this intimate food tour with Chinese brunch of hosted dim sum and tastings along the way at the various  via Facebook A Taste of the World ! Tour capacity is 11 spots to keep it an intimately fun event. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Butting Heads over which Chinese New Year Hashtag to use? #YearOfTheGoat #YearOfTheRam #YearOfTheSheep

Happy Asian New Year!

Gung Hei Fatt Choi.... in Cantonese!
Gong Xi Fa Cai.... in Mandarin!
Chuc Mung Nam Moi.... in Vietnamese! 

It's Wednesday February 18th, 2015 and it is the final  day of the Year of the Wood Horse in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. So tonight is the Lunar New Year's Eve, whether you're Chinese or Vietnamese, and hopefully, it's a big family dinner gathering, if all of your family members are in the same city and province of Canada. On Thursday February 19th, 2015 we welcome the Lunar NewYear. The Year of the Wood Goat. Or the Ram. Or the Sheep. 

Did you know that the Chinese character for the upcoming year is "yang", which can refer to any member of the caprine subfamily aka ruminant horned animal?  

Over the last few years, we have witness increasing debates and interchangeable use of the word goat, ram and sheep. So which of these hoofed creatures should be used in the lunar New Year mythology? 

Folklorists from the Nanjing Museum say that beginning tomorrow, the Chinese Lunar New Year is NOT the Year of the Ram nor Sheep, but the Year of the Goat! Are there differences between these adorable hoofed creatures? 

According to Wang Tao,  a folklorist from Nanjing Museum, based on records and cultural relics, the goat appeared more often than a sheer or ram. 

Xu Longmei, an associate researcher from Nanjing Museum says that the Chinese Zodiac originated from the Han culture. The Han group lived in the central region where goats were taken as common livestock. Meanwhile, sheep were mostly found in mountains, tundra and desert, where other ethnic group reside. 

Talk to Fang Binggui, a folklorist based in southeast China's Fuzhou City, the image of the Zodiac Yang is open to regional interpretation. Often sheep is depicted in the north while goats in the south. 

Here's a bit of food for thought. According to Wikipedia the adult female Sheep is called an Ewe, meanwhile intact male sheep is a Ram. 

So how will I settle this without butting heads as we have this food-for-thought discussion at our 8th annual 12-course Chinese New Year banquet on February 20th, 2015?  Well, I had Ontario goat milk on my homemade granola for breakfast, I might treat myself to a curried goat patty over lunch, and then savour lamb chop with a salad sprinkled with sheep milk cheese at dinner.  By the way, the goat/sheep milks and the goat/lamb meats are all #Ontario raised ;-) 

***   Breaking News for Fans of Metro Morning on CBC Radio   ***

Tune your radio to 99.1FM on Thursday February 19th, 2015 at 7:25 AM EST ! 
 I'm scheduled to be interviewed by Metro Morning host, Matt Galloway !!! 

Bon appetit and Happy Lunar Asian New Year! 

#AsianNewYear #ChineseNewYear #TĂȘt #YearOfTheGoat #YearOfTheRam #YearOfTheSheep #LunarNewYear 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

2015 Chinese New Year's Sights & Sounds

Pssst! Can you hear it? What’s that racket? 

Click here to hear 6 seconds of exciting Chinese New Year
sights & sounds captured on Instagram
(Note: click same image and then click PLAY button)
Isn't it exciting to hear these wonderful sounds and view some of the dazzling sights that are signs of the fast approaching 15-day Chinese New Year’s festivities?

Happy New Year!

Gung Hei Fatt Choi  in Cantonese or ....
Gong Xi Fa Cai  in Mandarin or ....
Chuc Mung Nam Mui  in Vietnamese!

Each of these Asian New Year’s greetings are some more unique signs of the fast approaching 15-day festival to end all festivals. If you count the preparatory week prior, it gets even more  exciting and gives more reasons to rejoice!  Celebrate the Year of the Goat/Ram/Sheep with Culinary Historian, Guide & Founder, Shirley Lum of A Taste of the World while peeling back the layers of history in Toronto’s second Chinatown on intimate food tours and/or hosted multi-course banquet. You will experience equal portions of food-for-thought, palate and full-sensory experiences as Shirley shares old and new customs, traditions, and superstitions behind the festive food and drinks!  We can’t wait to share these amazing rich experiences with long-time locals, newcomers and visitors who have three exciting weeks to immerse themselves in this festival. 

Folks who love the thrill of going behind-the-scenes to better understand the food preparations and decorations for the festivities,  will absolutely want to join us on the Prep Tour scheduled for February 15th, 2015. People who want to see the curtains go up, will love the Lion Dance Celebrations the weekend on February 21st & 22nd; and then there’s the grand finale, the Lantern Festival, on February 28th, 2015.  If you’ve done our tours, you’ll want to come back for our 8th annual 12-course banquet. This year is even more special, as one lucky person’s spot will be sponsored by Karim Bhaloo of Dominion Lending Centres - Edge Financial! 

The Asian and/or Chinese New Year’s Eve will be on Wednesday February 18th, 2015. I can’t believe how fast the Year of the Horse has galloped by, and the Year of the Wooden Goat/Ram/Sheep is about to trot in on Thursday February 19th, 2015! 

 Can you smell the heady aromas of festive pastries at the bakeries and grocery stores? Are your eyes getting blinded by the array of red and gold trinkets? 

Here are more details to get you excited! 

18th Annual Chinese Lunar New Year Food Tours (3 unique periods/ways to immerse oneself):

(A) Preparations for Chinese New Year’s Eve Tour:
 Sunday February 15, 2015 10:00 am - 1:00pm 

Enjoy equal portions of food for thought and palate over hosted dim sum aka Cantonese brunch! Culinary historian Shirley will review chopsticks & tea pouring etiquettes over Chinese horoscope book for Year of the Goat and sampling dishes of varying flavour, aromas and textures. Bring along eco-bags for anticipated shopping as you enjoy the Asian grocery store, bakery and  to pick-up ingredients to prep in cooking/decorating restaurant supply store for essential decorations & replenish pantry; bakery for symbolic pastries) 
Fees (include food + non-alcoholic drinks; $CAD): Adult $50.00 SR/ST (ID)$45.00 Child (3-12yrs old) $35.00 

(B) Lion Dance Celebration of the Year of the Goat Food Tours

Saturday & Sunday February 21, 22, 2015  10:00 am -1:00 pm

 Over hosted dim sum aka Chinese brunch, culinary historian Shirley Lum will share the interesting history and uses of the Lion Dances and give pointers for fabulous photographs on the streets.  Bring along eco-shopping bags for anticipated shopping as we taste along Asian grocery store tour to pick-up ingredients to cook/decorate/to be gifted; and enjoy bakery tastings of symbolic pastries.  
NOTE: Do NOT eat prior to the tour.  
Tour Capacity:  11 spots per tour
Fees (incl food + non-alcoholic drinks; $CAD): Adult $50.00 SR/ST (ID)$45.00 Child (3-12yrs old) $35.00 

(C) Lantern Festival Food Tour aka Grand finale of 15-day CNY festivities

Saturday February 28, 2015 10:00 am - 1:00pm 

Over hosted dim sum aka Chinese brunch, culinary historian Shirley Lum will share the interesting history and uses
of all those pretty lanterns as the 15-day festivities wraps up. Find out what the Year of Goat/Ram/Sheep will bring for your Chinese animal sign over a delicious yet healthy brunch. Bring along an eco-bag for anticipated shopping as we pop into an Asian grocery store, bakery and BBQ shops along the tour to pick up ingredients to cook/decorate for the Lantern Festival.  NOTE: Do NOT eat prior to the tour.  

Tour Capacity:  11 spots per tour
Fees (incl food + non-alcoholic drinks; $CAD): Adult $50.00 SR/ST (ID)$45.00 Child (3-12 yrs old) $35.00 

8th Annual Chinese New Year Banquet (12-course)
Friday February 20th, 2015  6:00- 8:00pm  
Location: Taste of China Seafood Restaurant, Toronto
Fees: $60.00 per person (4 spots left as of February 14th)

Pre-Registration  or call (416) 923-6813

  ~  MENU ~ 
* Crab Meat & Fish Soup
* Sauteed Jumbo Shrimps on a lush bed of lettuce
* Phoenix Nest with Seafood Medley & Vegetables 
* Whole Crispy Chicken with flavoured Salt/pepper + Crunchy Shrimp Chips 
* Pork Chops with House BBQ sauce on Sizzling Platter
* Four Treasure Braised Vegetables
* Double Lobsters with Ginger, Garlic & Green Onion & Garlic
* Whole Steamed Fish 
* E-Mein Longevity Noodles
* Yeungchow Fried Rice 
* Sweet Dessert Soup
* Chocolate creation by Shirley aka @SChocolateMagic

Thank you Karim Bhaloo of Dominion Lending Centres - Edge Financial 
for generously sponsoring one lucky guest's dinner spot ! 

Join us in welcoming in the Year of the Goat/Ram/Sheep 

Savouring the unique flavours of Chinese New Year! 

Pre-Register Your Spot(s) Now 
(416) 923-6813