Immigration, Assimilation, Ethnicity and All That Jazz

Archive for the ‘food’ Category

“Real” Chinese food poll

Posted by chinesecanuck on February 12, 2009

Since many people argue that foods like beef and brocolli or sweet and sour pork/chicken aren’t “real” Chinese foods, because they were “invented” in the west, what about foods found at restaurants in Hong Kong which use non-Chinese ingredients?  Are those foods real?  In other words, are egg custard tarts (sweet, egg based custard in tartlet shells – very popular at dim sum), Hong Kong style milk tea (strong black tea with condensed/evaporated milk), yeen-yeung (half coffee, half HK style milk tea), etc “real”?  


Posted in China, food | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

What did you eat for lunch in elementary school?

Posted by chinesecanuck on July 31, 2008

I’ve read, heard and seen many stories/movies about kids of immigrants bringing ethnic foods to school, only to be made fun of.  This is interesting to me, because when I was in school in the 80s and 90s, I rarely saw anyone bring ethnic food, not even newly arrived kids.  At my elementary school, which was part of the Catholic school board (and therefore, non-fee paying), everyone brought sandwiches.  I think I saw rice ONCE, and that was in Grade 4.  The closest thing we had to ethnic-based lunches were in the sandwich fillings.  Some of the Hong Kong kids, both immigrant and locally raised, had, for example, char-siu (barbecue pork) sandwiches rather than, say, ham and cheese.  Even then, it wasn’t every day.  That’s why I never understood those stories/experiences.  No one I know ever was made fun of because of their lunches, probably because their lunches didn’t seem so exotic.

Is this something unique to the elementary school I went to?  Or is it, again, more of a class thing than an ethnic thing?

Posted in culture, education, ethnicity, food, school | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Hong Kong Diners (aka Cha Chaan Teng)

Posted by chinesecanuck on July 22, 2008

Have you ever been to a Hong Kong style diner? Seems like most non-Chinese have never heard of these places, unless they’re very close friends with someone of Chinese descent (and has some connections to the “old culture”). Diners eat with a knife and fork and it’s somewhat lower-end fusion, but in a very unique way. Menu offerings include:

  • Pork chop and rice casserole
  • Pastas (almost always spaghetti and macaroni. You can even get macaroni in soup for breakfast)
  • Buns (western style, but catering to the Hong Kong palate)
  • Sandwiches
  • Breakfast foods, including ham, eggs and toast.

Of course, a cha chaan teng isn’t complete without offering Hong Kong tea (very strong black tea, evaporated milk (or condensed milk) and sugar) and yeen yeung (half coffee, half Hong Kong tea). In Toronto, you can find cha chaan tengs in Markham and Scarborough, though there aren’t too many in the older Chinatown area downtown.

Have you been to one?  What do you think?  Why don’t people outside of the HK community know about these places?  I’ve never seen them reviewed in too many non-Chinese publications.

Posted in Cantonese, China, culture, ethnicity, food, Hong Kong | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

What exactly is a Banana?

Posted by chinesecanuck on April 17, 2008

Racialicious has an interesting post on Bananas today.  And I don’t mean the fruit. I mean people who are “yellow on the outside, white inside.”  But is there only one kind of Banana?  Or are there several?  Can a FOB (is this term even accurate anymore?  Shouldn’t it be FOP or Fresh off the Plane?) be a Banana?  I mean, most Hong Kongers and Koreans, at least those who live in a western country have had some training in western classical music (usually in the form of piano or violin).  Would even the most old country of Hong Kongers or Koreans there be at least a little banana?  Or is classical music no longer a western “thing”?  After all, most white/multigeneration Canadians/Americans (dont’ know about Aussies, Kiwis or Brits) don’t send their kids to piano at a young age.  In fact, the only white kids I know who started piano at say, age 5 or younger are of Eastern European descent (and no more than third generation). Do you have to date a white person?  Take certain courses? Play hockey, if you’re Canadian?  What about all those Hong Kong Canadians who not only send their children to old line private schools, but also seek membership at country clubs that would have blackballed them decades ago?  Maybe a better term for them is YASP (“Yellow” Anglo-Saxon Protestant…of course, they aren’t ethnically Anglo-Saxon, but we’re talking about a cultural perspective here.  I mean, Grace Kelly was Irish Catholic, so she wasn’t WASP either.)

I’d say I’m a Banana because:

  • Barely read/write Chinese (I speak fluent Cantonese though…..pretty much accentless, because my grandmother took care of me when I was little, and I learned to talk from here)
  • I don’t really have the baby voice/Hong Kong mall rat voice that is really common with women under 40, though I sometimes speak with the equally bad “valley girl” mall rat voice (like, I’m soooooo sorry, okay?)
  • Went to a university that the so-called “majority” sees as being “very white” (ummm, no, the school is NOT “very” white, at least not compared to smaller schools.  It’s only “very white” compared to places like the University of Toronto, UBC and Waterloo.)
  • Took lots of drama and social science courses rather than sciences or even business (I was one of two Asian students in my high school drama classes (out of a class of between 15 and 20) and probably the only one in my year who actually majored in the subject in university.
  • Didn’t highlight my hair in high school (the majority of the Chinese kids who highlighted their hair at my high school were foreign students or recent immigrants).
  • Didn’t (and still don’t) follow Cantopop bands or HK movie stars…unless you count the few days when the Edison Chen scandal hit the news EVERYWHERE
  • My boyfriend isn’t Asian
  • I don’t play badminton (the badminton teams at my high school were OVERWHELMINGLY Chinese…I think there was only like one white girl on the team)
  • I’m not obsessed with big brand names
  • I didn’t live in an area that is “seen” as a Chinese suburb (i.e. Markham, Ontario)
  • Most of my closer friends aren’t Chinese
  • I do volunteer work for non-ethnic-specific organizations

But the following are kind of questionable:

  • I played piano from ages 4 to 17
  • I actually SPEAK Cantonese
  • I’m fairly familiar with Chinese (or at least Hong Kong) culture
  • A manicurist in Hong Kong didn’t believe that I was CBC – she thought that I went to school abroad at a young age (i.e. high school) – probably because of my lack of an accent

I also don’t understand why some people are so critical of the banana (or Oreo, apple, coconut, etc) identity.  A person’s identity is what he/she chooses! And no, I don’t think it’s derogatory, as one of the commentators has indicated.  It’s just part of me.

Posted in Asian, assimilation, China, Chinatown, Chinese Canadian, culture, ethnicity, food, Markham, minorities, Richmond Hill | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Is this dude just being sarcastic?

Posted by chinesecanuck on April 15, 2008

Found this online. Not sure if he’s joking or not…he might be…or he might not.  I actually replied to his post, so I hope it’s approved.  Whether or not it is, here’s my reaction:

I’m all for integration/assimilation to mainstream culture, but only if the mainstream culture isn’t about food that can kill you.  I’m not for assimilating into a diet that is just about awful.  Chinese food found in most North American towns isn’t the “real thing”, which, I guess the poster doesn’t realize (unless, of course, he’s completely joking).  In order to get the “real thing” you have to go to cities with not only a large Chinese population, but also one where the population is somewhat more “sophisticated” or “cultured”.  This means the city should have decent museums, galleries, theatre life, etc…Otherwise, you probably  won’t have the clientele.  In any case, if American/Canadian Chinese food were “real” Chinese food, I certainly wouldn’t be skinny, now would I?  In any case, the stuff is gross.  Please people, note that chop suey is FAKE, FAKE, FAKE (considering it’s mostly MSG anyway).  Egg rolls are fake, but spring rolls are real.  At most Chinese restaurants in Toronto (and Vancouver and San Francisco), spring rolls are dipped in Worscestershire sauce or vinegar (vinegar is more Vietnamese, I think), not plum sauce.  Plum sauce is for barbecued duck.  Real fried rice isn’t cooked with soy sauce and always contains eggs.   You’ll also find lots of steamed dishes, and steamed food is really healthy.  Oh, and outside of the US, fast food containers aren’t cardboard, but foam, foil or plastic.

The only westernized Asian fare that is decent is fusion anyway.  Even Hong Kong style western fare is comme ci, comme ça, though better than American style Chinese food.

Posted in Chinatown, food | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »