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There’s are a lot of fruit in Chinese cuisine which leads to delicious meals but did you ever wonder why? Well, Jacqueline Newman has done the research on why! Check it out below!

Chinese Food Symbolism: Fruits (Part I)

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Foods and Symbolism

Spring Volume: 1996 Issue: 3(1) page(s): 16

Fruits are temple offerings. Did you ever wonder why? What about oranges? Did you get any this past Chinese New Year holiday? Were they fresh? The Chinese love fruits, they like them big and beautiful, and they prefer fresh fruits, though sugared ones are common at this time of year. Fresh fruit at the New Year symbolizes life and a new beginning. Sugared ones are a wish for a sweet year. Traditionally, the pomelo, mandarins or what we call the tangerine or clementine, as well as limes, bananas, pineapple, and water or winter melon are seen as temple offerings. And speaking of traditions, during the harvest festival, the Lunar New Year, and other special occasions, fruits are common gifts, as well as common offerings.

The orange is a prayer or wish for good fortune. That is why it is probably the most common food offering. As a harbinger of wishes for good luck, they are often eaten on the second day of the New Year. Why not the first, because once an Emperor distributed oranges to his officials on the second day of the New Year. Thus you are also wishing for officialdom if you eat them on this day.

The mandarin and other fruits in the citrus family have other interesting roles. For instance, after her wedding, the bride is given two of these fruits by her new in-laws. She is to peel them the evening of the nuptials and share them with her husband. These two fruits are symbolizing a family wish that the bride and groom share a happy and full life together. Also, the name of the mandarin in Cantonese also means gold, clearly a dual wish here adding hopes for a life loaded with prosperity.

I was told that in the north of China two types of dried fruits are placed under the marriage bed, both wishing for many offspring. These are dried lychees and dried longans. The reason for these particular items, the words for them also mean "to have children quickly."

Melons and the pomelo are symbolic of family unity, they hold out the wish that the family will, like the moon, stay round, large, whole, and also united. Families love to share them and many other fruits. That may be why they buy large fruits and share them together.

Pomegranates have special family meaning, too. They symbolizes fertility; this fruit is full of seeds. A picture is often a wedding gift, a special picture with one of these fruits shown half-opened. The meaning is a hundred seeds, or more completely, a hundred sons. The word for seed is zi, it is also the word for sons.

The pomegranate is one fruit not used for sacrifice. The reason, it is considered to be too seductive. If you see a pomegranate on an old sash or cap of office in an ancient painting, the meaning has nothing to do with the seeds of this fruit, rather, it is saying or maybe praying to keep the title or rank from generation to generation in the same family. As in the two meanings for zi, what we call a homonym, only in this case it the word shi which also means generation.

Banana, found on some offering altars are there for other reasons. This fruit's leaves are one of the fourteen precious items to scholars. So on the offering table or altar, you are finding a wish for education, brilliance in work or school, or a related thought.

Apples have meaning, too. They symbolize peace. The word for apple in Chinese is ping, the homonym of ping is peace. Should you wonder what a homonym is, think of the word bear, the big four-legged animal and then think bear as in to bear fruit. Now the blossom of the apple is different; it stands for beauty. If you see one in a picture along with magnolias, the meaning is a hope that your house be honored and rich (with beauty).

Apricots are symbolic, too, they can stand for or mean a beautiful woman. But beauty had best not be to give your husband a red one. If you did, it would tell him that his wife is having an affair with a lover.

The loquat in Chinese is called pipa, which is the name of a Chinese musical instrument. Now this fruit ripens in early spring. So young boys out with less than honorable women were said to be running with loquat blossoms. Peaches portend longevity, and one almost always sees them in the hand of a man. That could be because the peach blossom advises of a somewhat loose lady. One rarely sees these two fruits together. though in real life less han honorable women could be out with young boys.

Pears symbolize something else. For example, lovers should never share a pear because the word for pear is identical to the word for separation. Many fruits are shared, but never is the pear divided with a husband, a lover, or a friend. And, whatever you do, don't give pears as a gift, especially on the 15th day of the 7th month; if you did, you would be wishing a separation from or to someone loved.

Symbols in fruit and other foods are fascinating. Allow me to end with a tripartite Chinese image wishing you (with a peach, a pomegranate, and a finger-lemon) a long life, many sons, and every happiness.

History of Food: Lychee Fruit
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Since Lychee is this years lucky fruit I thought we should learn a little more about this history behind it!

Lychee: The lychee is also a spiky red fruit, a bit bigger than a cherry, with a pit surrounded by an inedible peel and somewhat translucent milky flesh. It is very high in Vitamin C and is juicy and sweet with a pleasing hint of tartness. It’s mostly eaten fresh but can also be canned. It can be found in many frozen yogurt places in the U.S. as a popular topping. It is also a popular flavor for many Asian drinks, snacks, and dessert products.

It is a tropical tree native to the Guangdong and Fujian provinces of China, where cultivation is documented from 1059 AD. China is the main producer of lychees, followed by India, other countries in Southeast Asia, the Indian Subcontinent and South Africa. A tall evergreen tree, the lychee bears small fleshy fruits. The outside of the fruit is pink-red, roughly textured and inedible, covering sweet flesh eaten in many different dessert dishes.

What are some of your favorite Lychee treats?


Fruit in Chinese Food
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As I slowly eat my way through the Windchimes Menu I realized that there were a lot of dishes that included an ingredient that typically isn’t part of a main dish: Fruit. I was curious why this was such a staple in Chinese food ranging from Orange, Mango, to even Pineapple. I dug around to see why this was an important ingredient to some of my favorite dishes and here’s what I found:

One way chefs create new dishes is to make use of fruits in season. Doing so produces dishes with new color, texture, and flavor. When fruits are not in season they need not despair, but use them dehydrated. They can and do use fruits such as raisons, dried apricots, sugared preserved fruits such as jams, and even canned and frozen fruits.

In southern cooking, such as that around Guangzhou, chefs make use of local fresh fruits frequently using peaches, lychees and longans. Perhaps because of influences from neighboring south sea islands, they also find and use pineapples, bananas, coconuts, and rambutans. In the mid-Yangtze valley in and around Shanghai, Hwaiyang and Yangzhou, chefs use fresh apples, dates, and pears and their preserved relatives. In the north, around Beijing and Shandung, apples, apricots, pears, persimmons, and dates are popular fresh and dried. And in the west, chefs from the Hunan and Sichuan provinces add fruits to their spicy dishes including oranges, longans, and lychees to satisfy their yen for sweet in their dishes. Occasionally sweet dishes without spiciness are even used departing from the routine flavorings in this region.

Since Chinese do not make clear demarcations between medicinal herbs and fruits or vegetables, in their cooking they also use herbs such as dried san tza which are crab apples or go ji better known as Lyceum Chinese. Both of these herb-fruits have a slight sweet and an acidic taste; people like them because they are good for you and highly nutritious.

So, next time you are in check out some of the dishes that include fruit and think about how great it is to be able to have this dish all year round!

Food for Thought: Chinese and Japanese Cuisine
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Here’s a great expert from an article about Chinese and Japanese food culture in the United States:

Chinese food has been part of American food culture for as long as most of us can remember, thanks to the pioneering emigrants who opened early Chinese restaurants. The chop suey and chow mein our grandparents associated with Chinese food, however, were created to please the American customer. Real Chinese food ranges from the elegant simplicity of Cantonese cuisine to the fiery flavors of Sichuan fare, and there are no canned sprouts involved. The tofu of China is of the very firm, porous style, sturdy enough to stir-fry. Fermented black beans, which are actually black soy beans, supply a wonderfully funky flavor that goes well with a little sesame oil and chile. Toasted sesame  and hot sesame oils are both meant to be used as flavoring agents, not cooking oils. Seafood and vegetable dishes are often flavored with a drizzle of nutty sesame oil to give them a meaty quality, so try doing the same with your own seafood and vegetable creations. Sesame paste is used in sauces and dressings, and when I can't find the Chinese variety (made from toasted sesame seeds), I substitute tahini (made from untoasted sesame seeds), to make Chinese style noodle sauces and dressings. Try stirring some with soy sauce, sugar and vinegar and drizzling over salad or a stir fry just before serving. Dried vegetables, like dried mushrooms or cabbage, are important flavors in the Chinese kitchen, and I use dried mushrooms to add heartiness to vegetable stocks and stir fries.

Japanese food has become synonymous with sushi and tempura, but those popular dishes are just the beginning. Slow simmered stews, grilled skewers of meats and vegetables, savory pancakes and endless noodles are just a few more. The Japanese gave us silken style tofu, the slippery soft kind that is usually floated in the miso soup I love. Miso is just one of the many fermented and pickled foods developed centuries ago as a way to preserve food that endures today and enhances the flavor of so many Japanese dishes. Tamari, shoyu, rice wine and rice vinegar are other fermented, deep aged flavors. Use tamari and shoyu for salt in darker colored dishes, and substitute rice vinegar—with its wonderful tang—for white or red vinegar in dressings.  Most of us might never have tried seaweed if not for sushi or miso soup, but sea vegetables are a way of life in Japan. I like to crumble nori over salads, add soaked arame to soups, or add a piece of kombu to simmering beans, which is said to make them more digestible, and certainly adds minerals.

Both China and Japan are known for their use of very fresh ingredients, whether it's dispatching freshly caught fish right into the pan, or frequent shopping trips to pick up the freshest produce. As a chef and eater, I appreciate this practice, as well as their convention of stretching a small piece of meat by stir-frying it with lots of vegetables and accompanying it with rice and noodles for a satisfying and filling meal.

Recipes to Try at Home: Cantonese Noodles
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Have you ever wanted to venture outside the typical meal? Do you want to impress someone with a new dish or just want to try to make one of your favorite dishes at home? Well, you’re in luck! Today I’m posting how to make one of our favorite dishes Cantonese Noodles!

The recipe comes from The Little Spice Jar website. Check it out below:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 12 ounces Hong Kong style egg noodles

  • 8 scallions

  • 2 teaspoons oyster sauce

  • ¼ cup low sodium soy sauce

  • 2 teaspoons sugar

  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic

  • ¼ – ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

  • ½ teaspoon salt

  • 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

  • 2 tablespoons high heat oil (such as canola, vegetable)

  • 1 ½ cups mixed veggies (such as coleslaw style cabbage, shredded carrots, and bean sprouts)

DIRECTIONS:

  1.  Bring a large stockpot of water to boil. While the water is boiling, separate the greens from the whites of the scallion. Cut into one-inch pieces then quarter the 1-inch piece vertically so you end up with thinly julienned scallions, set aside. In a bowl, combine the oyster sauce, soy sauce, sugar, minced garlic, red pepper flakes, salt, and 1 teaspoon of sesame oil, stir to combine, set aside.

  2. When the water comes to a boil, add the noodles and allow them to boil for 2-4 minutes (according to package directions). Drain and rinse under cold running water.

  3. Heat a large wok or a 16-18 inch skillet over high heat. Let the skillet heat for several minutes until it becomes SCREAMING HOT. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of sesame oil and 1 tablespoon of canola oil. When the pan becomes very hot and the oil starts to shimmer, add the noodles in a thin even layer. Grab the handle and carefully swirl the pan so the oil evenly coats all the noodles. Allow the noodles to cook for 4-6 minute or until they become crispy.

  4. Flip the noodles over using a large spatula. Do this carefully, don’t worry if you cannot get all of them to turn at once. Do it in portions if necessary. Drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon of sesame oil and 1 tablespoon of canola oil around the perimeters of the pan and again, lift the skillet with handle and swirl the pan to allow the oil to distribute. Let the noodles fry for an additional 3-5 minutes. Remove the noodles to a plate.

  5. Heat the remaining 1 teaspoon of sesame oil, along with the white part of the scallion and let sizzle for just 10 seconds. Add the shredded carrots if using, and let cook for an additional 10 seconds. Add the noodles back into the skillet and toss. Separate the noodles so there aren’t any large clumps. Toss in the shredded cabbage mix, if using and drizzle with the soy sauce mixture and toss continuously for 1-2 minutes or until the sauce distributes evenly over the noodles.

  6. Add the bean sprouts if using and the greens of scallions. Toss to combine and serve immediately.

NOTES:

  1. For vegetarians, you can swap the oyster sauce for dark soy sauce or an oyster flavored sauce (see ingredients some of them actually don’t contain oyster extract at all!)

  2. If you do not have a skillet/wok large enough to fit all the noodles, you can do this in 2 batches (use a ½ tablespoon of sesame oil and ½ tablespoon of canola oil per batch/per side.)

The prep and cook time all take about 15 mins totaling in half an hour. Now if that doesn’t sound easy and . like a complete meal I don’t know what does!

Try it out today and post your images to show how you did!

Unique Vegetables in Chinese Food: Bamboo Shoots
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China is a large continent which in turn brings a lot of different food varieties. One vegetable that is seen in a lot of different Chinese cuisines in Bamboo shoots. What are they you ask?

As the name implies, bamboo shoots are the edible shoots of the bamboo plant, which is native to Asia. They are cut from the plant once they appear above the ground to preserve their tenderness and because if they are left to grow exposed, they will turn a green color. 

Fresh bamboo shoots are available at Asian or Chinese markets, or you can find canned bamboo shoots at most local grocery stores. Fresh shoots need to be boiled until tender, then husked and cut into pieces. Canned bamboo shoots only need to be heated since they are pre-cooked.

You may have eaten bamboo shoots at a Chinese restaurant as they are often part of a stir-fry. You can try them at home in almost any stir-fry dish, including stir-fry beef with bamboo shoots and stir-fry mushrooms and bamboo shoots.

Next time you order your favorite dish from Windchimes thing…does this have Bamboo shoots in it?

 
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Recipes to Try at Home: Spring Rolls
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SPRING ROLLS

  • Yield: 24 spring rolls

  • Prep Time: 10 minutes

  • Cook Time: 30 minutes

  • Total Time: 40 minutes

  • Course: Appetizer, dim sum

Spring Rolls are the vegetarian super light, crispy and tender vegetarian appetizer cousin of the traditional egg roll.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/4 cup canola oil divided

  • 8 cups napa cabbage sliced thinly

  • 2 cloves garlic minced

  • 2 carrots sliced thinly

  • 8 ounces bamboo shoots sliced thinly

  • 2 tablespoons mirin

  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce

  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil

  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch

  • 24 8" square spring roll wrappers

  • canola oil for frying

INSTRUCTIONS

Note: click on times in the instructions to start a kitchen timer while cooking.

  1. Add half the canola oil to a large heavy skillet on medium high heat and add in the napa cabbage cooking 8-10 minutes while stirring until almost all the liquid it releases has cooked off.

  2. Add in the garlic, carrots and bamboo shoots and cook for 1 minute while stirring before adding in the mirin, soy sauce and sesame oil and stirring again then let filling cool completely.

  3. Mix cornstarch with two tablespoons of water.

  4. Lay out the spring roll wrapper, brush cornstarch slurry around the edges to moisten and add about 2 tablespoons of filling in a long rectangle shape, folding in from the sides and rolling the wrappers closed tightly.

  5. Heat 3 inches of oil in a dutch oven to 325 degrees and fry the spring rolls until golden brown (about 2-3 minutes).

Happy Lunar New Year: The Celebration Begins
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Just because the new year has begun doesn't mean you're allowed to rest.

While most countries that observe Lunar New Year offer three to seven days of public holidays, celebrations don't end until the 15th day of the first lunar month, also known as the Lantern Festival. (Lunar New Year in 2019 lasts from February 5 to February 19.)

There is a list of superstitious dos and don'ts for the new year but the rule of thumb is to say a lot of "kung hei fat choy"or "gong xi fa cai," and avoid saying things that may sound like a less auspicious word.

During the festival, people will travel around to visit relatives, who will prepare snacks and fill up candy boxes for the visits -- except for the third day of the month.

It's believed that arguments are more likely to happen on that day -- February 9, this year -- called chi kou (or "red mouth"). Hence, most people will engage in other activities like visiting a temple. In Hong Kong, a major spring festival horse racing event takes place every year on the third day.

During the 15 days, married couples have to give out red packets filled with money to children (and unmarried adults) to wish them luck.

The seventh day is renri, or the people's birthday (February 11). when the Chinese mother goddess Nuwa is said to have created mankind.

The highlight comes on the last day, during the Lantern Festival (February 19).

Being the only day when young girls in ancient Chinese society could go out to admire lanterns and meet boys, it's also been dubbed Chinese Valentine's Day.

Nowadays, cities around the world still put on massive lantern displays and fairs on the 15th day of the festival.

Some create more sparks than others. Like Nuanquan, a small Chinese town that puts on a spectacular "firework" show by throwing molten metal against a cold stone city wall.

Kung hei fat choy!

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Chinese Food: A Christmas Tradition
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I was recently was looking over the numbers on Windchimes website and noticed that last month on December 25th there was a large spike in business. I know a lot of America celebrates Christmas on that day and typically spend it with family/friends and home cooked meals. But what if that wasn’t your holiday or you didn’t want to cook? The answer is Chinese food.

This is no surprise. The tradition of going out for Chinese food on Christmas day has been around since 1935 when Jewish American’s were one of the largest non-Christian immigrant groups along with Chinese people. That meant there were new populations that didn’t typically see December 25th as a holiday. While a lot of stores/restaurants were closed many Jewish and Chinese immigrants found something of a shared experience of celebrating who they were together in a safe space.

“Chinese restaurants were safe. There was definitely an era for Jews when they felt insecure about being American and being perceived as foreign, especially since a good, good number of them came from Eastern Europe,” said Jennifer 8. Lee, author of Fortune Cookie Chronicles and producer of the documentary film The Search for General Tso. “They knew at least in Chinese restaurants they wouldn’t be judged about being foreign.”

Today you can find more restaurants open on Christmas this tradition has stuck through and through. It’s even been popularized in movies A Christmas Story. Even though the original film has a few flaws on political correctness the remake of it in 2017 fixed that:

All in all Chinese food is a staple during the holiday season so maybe next year instead of stressing out on what to make why not make a new tradition and go out and celebrate at Windchimes! It’ll be great time!

2019: Year of the Pig
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A New Year means a new Animal in the Chinese Culture. The Pig is the twelfth in the 12-year cycle of Chinese zodiac sign. The Years of the Pig include 1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019, 2031, 2043...

Earthly Branch of Birth Year: Hai
Wu Xing (The Five Elements): Shui (Water)
Yin Yang: Yin

People with Chinese zodiac Pig sign are considerate, responsible, independent and optimistic. They always show generousness and mercy to endure other people's mistakes, which help them gain harmonious interpersonal relationships. However, sometimes they will behave lazy and lack actions. In addition, pure hearts would let them be cheated easily in daily life.

  • Strengths
    Warm-hearted, good-tempered, loyal, honest, gentle

  • Weaknesses
    Naive, gullible, sluggish, short-tempered

    As the Zodiac Year of Birth (Ben Ming Nian) for people of Pig sign, 2019 could be a year full of ups and downs in all respects for them. They could receive support and help from their colleagues and leaders, but might feel stressful under too many regulations. The fortune in wealth is fair. Although they can expect a salary increase and also gain more income from financial products, there could be a lot of unexpected expenditure offsetting the favorable money increase. As for love relationship, single females of Chinese zodiac Pig may have a fairly good fortune and could start a sweet relationship in 2019.