Saturday, September 13, 2014

America Makes The Best Traditional Chinese Mooncakes!!

Traditional Cantonese Mooncakes Madein America

Tonight, I finally finished my last piece of the box of moon cakes that I bought last Sunday in celebration of the Mid-Autumn Festival!  Like turkeys to Thanksgiving, moon cakes are the center pieces for the Chinese during our Mid-Autumn Festival that can't be without. Unlike turkeys, moon cakes aren't sold year-round,  Chinese bakeries only sell moon cakes once a year, and we only get to buy and eat them once a year.  These moon cakes generate lots of money for the bakeries during Mid-Autumn Festival because every Chinese buy them and give them as gifts to their business partners, their bosses, their employees and literally anybody whom they want to maintain a good relationship with.  My brother-in-laws used to bring boxes of moon cakes to my parents when they were dating my sisters.  Any boy who doesn't bring a couple good boxes of moon cakes to his girlfriend's parents are considered to be  a loser whom her parents will relentlessly nag their daughter to dump.  So moon cakes are actually more important to the Chinese than turkeys are to the Americans.  After all, no American parents are expecting their daughters' boyfriends to gift them turkeys during Thanksgiving to judge whether they are good catches for their daughters.....

Moon Cake Date Paste Filling With Walnut

Made in America, each of the four moon cakes was plastic wrapped and packaged in a beautiful tin box. I had discarded the plastic wrap so I could take a better photo of the moon cake.  This is from a combo box with 4 flavors.  The filling inside this particular moon cake  is date paste with pieces of walnuts. The four Chinese characters for this particular flavor is part of the design of the crust.

Cantonese Mooncakes made in America

I think the idea of the moon cake is quite similar to America's pecan pies.  It's quite sweet and we usually consume only 1 quarter each time; with a  cup of hot and freshly brewed Chinese tea or green tea.  Usually only the high quality of tea leaves are used because  moon cakes are pricey and they should only be paired with pricey tea.  When I was a kid, I used to just put the entire quarter in my mouth.  But my parents would lecture me every time when they saw me do that saying I was wasting my moon cake.  Moon cakes are supposed to be consumed like red wine, slowly, so the mouth is given plenty of time to really taste the flavor.  

Different regions in China actually have very different moon cakes.  This style is the traditional Cantonese style from the Guaugdong Province in Southern China.  My grandparents in Hong Kong say this style of moon cakes has pretty much stayed the same since they were little kids in China. Every time when I look at a moon cake like this, I feel a connection with my ancestors whom I never met because even though  my great grandparents had  been long dead,  they actually were eating the same kind of moon cakes 100 years ago in China, as I'm nowadays.

When I was a kid, there was once upon a time when moon cakes were handmade in small quantities by  family run bakeries in Hong Kong.   But like everything else in the late 80s and early 90s, the production of moon cakes was outsourced to factories in China for mass production. The quality and taste then deteriorated.  The quality got even worse in recent years since the emergence of a huge demand of moon cakes from the Chinese people within China.  There were many years we didn't eat our traditional moon cakes in Hong Kong.  We just passed them on to be re-gifted to someone else.  Our family think just because we're picky eaters,  it doesn't mean other people don't like them....Then one day when I was in a Chinese grocery store here in Los Angeles,  I saw many Chinese people loading boxes of moon cakes onto their shopping carts.  Out of curiosity, I asked why they bought so many.  They told me they bought them to mail to their relatives in China.  I asked them why because they were all  made in China to begin with.  They then told me while pointing at certain piles of boxes, "Yeah, don't buy those brands, those are not as good, they are imported from China, but we are buying an American brand that makes the moon cakes 100% here in America!! We had tried all the brands, this American brand is the best!!"

So I got one box to try out, and I have to say, sometimes it's very beneficial to talk to strangers in a grocery store, particularly the Chinese immigrants, because they know where to get good food.....

moon cakes gift box

American made moon cakes are of course a lot more expensive than the ones imported from China. This box cost US$35, while many made in China brands cost under $20 per box.  But you get what you pay for.  These are the best moon cakes I've had for many years. I also bought several boxes and shipped to my family. They also love them.  Now, we are helping America to reverse the trade deficit, however small the impact is.

Chinese Moon Cakes Gift Idea

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Happy Mid Autumn Festival To Myself!!!

As of right now, my family back in Hong Kong is celebrating our thousand-year-old festival, the Mid Autumn  Festival.  It's always a public holiday because it's a festival where people have parties at night and the kids for once can stay up past 12am.  I used to look forward to the festival when I was a kid because there was always lots of fun and lots of food. This festival happens on every 15th day of the Lunar Calendar Month of September, which is tomorrow for me here in America.  It's a big and important holiday to the Chinese, just like Thanksgiving is important to the Americans.  I haven't celebrated this festival for over 10 years because I always had to work and it always passed me by quietly without me even knowing.  For years, I had not paid attention to this sort of thing.  But this year, it's the first time I am sitting at home in my living room while my husband is away on his business trip that I suddenly remember all the years when I celebrated this day in Hong Kong with my family.  

The legend behind the festival has been well known to me since I was in kindergarten.  But for those of you who don't know about it, the above video is a pretty cool illustration of the interesting story that made me stare at the moon all the time when I was a little kid.  Until one day I learnt from my school's science class about the American's landing on the Moon long time ago during which they found no life there,  I went home and literally cried because I was so heartbroken that my fairy tale was shattered.  I used to enjoy looking up to the moon at night, fantasizing  the palace, that ancient lady and the rabbit; and the fact that the Americans landed the moon and found nothing there really crushed my little heart.  Then my father had to comfort me and today I still remember what he said back then, "The Americans were just there for a very short time, they didn't venture far enough on the moon to get to the palace and the rabbit, so they claimed they found nothing there.  Americans are known to draw conclusions too fast and they always are over confident about everything they see. Just because you don't see the Forbidden City here in Hong Kong doesn't mean there is no Forbidden City in China...."   Of course, my dad was lying to me back then and I will never forget how he tried so hard to save my fantasy.

I have to admit that I'm feeling a little lonely now during a holiday that was so important to my upbringing.  But thank God, there is China's Central TV (owned by the Chinese government) that does a Mid Autumn Festival  TV special every year and I can watch it to entertain and distract myself.  This is the show (with English subtitle for every performance with the exception of the chitchats among the hosts that can be fast forwarded,)  from last year though because the current show is still underway.  The show last year was supposed to be a budgeted one because the government was trying to save money and had cut funding on this sort of things...  I can't help but wonder how the show used to be when the government wasn't trying to save money.. This is the first time I saw any programs from the Chinese government TV station...  I find the fashion, the stage design very intriguing.  All the songs promote family values and positive messages and there is no mention of politics of course.  When I was a kid, I heard a lot of bad things about the TV in China, and movies in Hong Kong even made fun of it.   But nowadays, the TV in China is quite different from what I heard of when I was growing up.   Nowadays in China where there are countless cable networks and TV channels that are broadcasting programming and movies from around the world, many with lots of violence and vulgarity even after meeting China's censorship; may be it's not  bad  to have one  government run TV network which is focused on  promoting family values and morals.  But then I do see those first few rows of audience look and act a little strange still....

Friday, September 5, 2014

Tequila & Orange Chicken Breast Fresh & Easy

This pre-marinated Chicken breast is another Ready-To-Cook meat item that I like from Fresh & Easy. The chicken breasts tasted really good and were tender and juicy. The entire container is oven safe and so all I had to do was to put the whole container of chicken breasts into the preheated 375F oven and waited for 22 minutes to eat.  Meanwhile I made a side dish by sautéeing one sliced zucchini with 1/2 tablespoon of minced garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt on medium high heat, then after two minutes, I added one tablespoon of chicken broth and 2 teaspoons of  Teriyaki Sauce  and sautéed for 3-4 more minutes until the sauce dried up and the zucchini became tender, but not over cooked.

Since I'm not into low-carb diets, I had to eat 1 cup of steamed white Jasmine rice with this meal.  I'm sure brown rice is healthier but I don't like the taste and texture of brown rice, and my husband who had been a life long brown rice fan, had given up brown rice after we got married when he realized my Jasmine rice tasted so much better than his brown rice.  I'm such a bad influence on him...  Anyway, one container of the chicken breasts and one zucchini can serve 3 people with as much brown rice or Jasmine rice as needed. The chicken breasts was on sale at 2 containers for $10, each container had 3 breasts.  We froze one container for later this week.  Including the Zucchini and rice, it cost approximately $7.00 to serve 3 people, which is not bad considering I didn't really do much in the kitchen.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

I Need To Watch This Jackie Chan Movie

Jackie Chan is often known in America to be a goofy Kung Fu dude.  But he has always been a singer also.  His songs are very popular in Karaokes in Hong Kong because they're very easy to sing.  This is a song sung by Jackie Chan. What surprised me isn't the fact that he can sing. I always know that.  But I never watched any serious side of him in any movie because he was always like a comedian type of actor to me... He looks pretty serious in this movie, lol.  This is an old movie but somehow I had never watched it or heard of it until now... I'm going to look for it on Netfix... Below is the movie trailer:

Monday, August 25, 2014

Why Am I Worse Off Than My Parents?

Yes, I'm worse off than my parents, financially.  When my parents were younger than I am now, they had kids, they made more money and they seemed to be able to afford to own their own home, to buy  homes for their parents (who were living in rental slump previously), support my grandparents financially and  to pay for our private schools, our tutors, and our vacations, etc.  Yet, they themselves had only 6th grade education. My siblings and I always wonder how come we are not as financially secured as our parents were when they were our age.  Now I realize we aren't the only ones who feel we are "over qualified" with more university degrees than we will ever need.  I realize it's getting a lot more competitive in the entire world, not just in the USA, but in Britain, in Hong Kong, in Singapore, in Japan, in China and everywhere else...  People just get too educated and yet education isn't generating much benefits like it used to.  The education bubble is finally bursting.

My parents also said that when they were young, poor and uneducated, they were able to make good money as long as they were willing to work hard.  But nowadays, there are too many people competing for the same handful number of jobs. Why is this happening?  The world now has 7 billion people and huge number of people from China and India and other countries which used to be in turmoil and where people weren't really working but just were trying to survive from epidemics, wars and political unrest; are now competing for the same jobs that my parents' generation used to have plentiful.  With the advanced technology, computerization and robots, the world today needs much less educated and skilled labor than ever but can stay very productive.  So this is what's happened. It's only going be more difficult for young people to find decent  paying jobs in the future. I can see it just when I am looking at my young nieces and nephews and the millions and millions of young Chinese kids like them.... How in the world are there going to be enough decent paying jobs for them in the future?  My kindergarten nieces and nephews are now already speaking 3 languages fluently because the pre-kindergarten and kindergarten they attend are teaching them.  They are taking computer classes and so many more classes that I had no clue about when I was that age.  Now even my 2-year old toddler niece is starting school next week and my brother tells me it's pre-pre  pre-school....and no pre-kindergarten will accept any student nowadays without a pre-pre pre-shcool that 2-year old kids are supposed to attend.  Is the world going insane now that even babies are going to school?  I didn't start school when I was 4. When I started, I knew nothing, I didn't know how to count even from 1 to 10.   Then I saw my sisters' kids starting school at 3, now my brother's 2-year old daughter is starting at 2 and she can already count from 1 to 20. She was trained early on by  her parents to do that to pass the interview for her pre-pre  pre-school.  I can't believe it....  All the kids in China, are like that now and it's scary and there are millions and millions of them even after many people having observed the one-child policy. These kids are going to kill each other off in the job market in the future.  As much as I feel I'm not doing remotely well compared to my parents, I am thankful that I'm not my nieces' generation...

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Roller Coaster Rides In Hong Kong That I Will Never Dare To Go On

When I was growing up, I spent many many weekends and many family birthdays in Ocean Park Hong Kong. My parents would ground me by not taking me to Ocean Park to see the dolphins or the birds when I did something wrong.  When I was a teenager, my friends and I also went there all the time on our own because getting there only took a short subway and bus ride and we loved to eat at the restaurants there.  I never dared to misbehave whether I was in elementary school or even in high school because of my fear of my parents not taking me to Ocean Park when I was a young kid, or not giving me the money to go there when I was a teenager.  I always saw rides there but I never dared to try any.  It was frightening for me to even look at those rides in person before I could gather the courage to get in the line. I mainly went for the animals, the dolphins, the birds and the food. There was also once a water park there where I also went to swim for an entire day and got sun burnt... But  the water park was  closed only after several years' operation  and was replaced  with new attractions.  This  theme park /zoo combo in Hong Kong never stayed the same and is always changing. My sisters told me the theme park is now building a new water park on site that will  open in 2017.  I can't wait because I remember those good times that I had in the old water park.

Meanwhile,  thanks to the thrill seeking foreign tourists, I get to see how it's like to be on one of those rides without getting on it myself.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Easy To Cook Chicken Kabobs

Fresh & Easy Ready to Cook Chicken Kabab

This is one of  the ready to cook items from one of my favorite grocery stores: Fresh & Easy.  All I did was to pop the pre-marinated kabobs into the broiler for 22 minutes or until fully cooked; and turned once during broiling.  The chicken kabobs were deliciously seasoned and they came out moist and very flavorful. Since I started cooking at home, I had tried both raw meats and pre-seasoned meats from a lot of grocery stores, but they all tasted either very gamy or very salty to me and they really discouraged me from cooking.  These chicken kabobs however tasted so good and fresh.  I paired them with half a container of the $2.49 Trader Joe's Mediterranean Hummus, and also  half a bag of the 98 cents salad bag which was also from Fresh & Easy.  Trader Joe's has exceptionally good Hummus, which I think Gordon Ramsey had bought  for a Kitchen Nightmare episode to humiliate the hummus made by a middle eastern restaurant. 

I love the fact that I can cook fresh chicken kabobs at home without handling raw meat. A pack of 3 skewers are perfect portions for my husband and I.  I hate eating leftovers from previous night so I like perfect portions that feed us well without leftovers.  The total cost of the meal for two is about $10.00 before including the cost of running the broiler, and washing the dishes, and of course the cost of shopping time and gasoline for driving my car to grocery shop...  Sometimes I feel it's cheaper to just go order delivery from the Chinese restaurant.  But then I guess this is healthier...