Category Archives: Asian

Chinese Superstitions

by American Girl

If I had seven years of bad luck every time I broke a mirror I would be long dead before my bad luck debt is paid off.  A gigantic klutz such as me cannot really afford to be superstitious about many things. The only superstition that I am inclined to believe in involves sleep and doorways.

I have an insanely superstitious Chinese mother. I laughed everything she said off until my freshman year in college. When I moved into my dormitory, my mom took one look at the room and told me sternly that I was not allowed to sleep with my feet facing the doorway. The fact that the door had a full length mirror made it double bad luck. I thought she was being nutty so I forgot about it.

Then I got really sick. Food poisoning, the flu, cramps, the whole deal. It lasted for two weeks until my mom brought me a screen which blocked the foot of my bed from the doorway.

Coincidence? Probably. But I’m sure as heck not going to go around sleeping with my feet facing doorways and mirrors again.

The following are superstitions that my mom has repeatedly tried to nail into our family’s heads from my childhood.

1. Do not sleep with your feet facing the doorway or mirror, as all your good luck will flow outside or be reflected away.

2. Eat all your food, or every grain of rice that you leave in your bowl will become moles/pockmarks on your future husband’s face.

3. Never stick chopsticks upright in a ricebowl. The dead will be offended as this is the way their food is served.

4. Always knock on hotel or unfamiliar room doors before you enter to stay the night as it is a polite way of warning the spirits of your presence.

5. Do not give clocks as presents. The Chinese word for clock (shi) sounds like the word “death”.

6. Do not give umbrellas as presents, as this will cause the receiver to have an unfortunate day.

7. If your eye twitches, you or someone you know will be put in mortal danger. (I almost got hit by a car once and when I told my mom she screamed”I knew it! My eye was twitching, my eye was twitching!”)

8. Do not sweep your house on New Years because you will sweep all the luck away.

9. Marry a man with a small nose and have a poor life.

10. Holding your chopsticks at the far end will cause you to move very far from your hometown for marriage.

11. Pregnant women should never use glue as it signifies a difficult birth.

12. Dropping your utensils during a meal means you will be forced to treat guests for dinner some time in the future.

13. Always greet guests in the living room. Never greet guests in the bedroom, as this will cause them to become sick.

14. Never go straight home after a wake or the dead will follow.

15. Do not have turtles as pets as this will slow down one’s business.

16. The noodles in a soup symbolizes longevity and should never be cut, lest the eater wants a short life.

There are also many Chinese superstitions involving Feng Shui and numbers, but I’ll get to those another time. What superstitions run in your family?

FoodRant #3: WOAH! The art of frying!

By Penang Boy

Thank you Mr. Alton Brown.

I sometimes cook and one thing I know, I suck at frying. I know, I know. Frying is greasy and the food is so bad for you. Why would you want to learn how to fry? Hey! Frying is a work of art. It is as honorable a method to cook as pan frying, roasting and even boiling (which is kinda of a no-brainer.)

Thanks to an episode about tempura on Good Eats which I happened to pay attention to, I have finally, for once in my life, been able to grasp the concept of frying! Woo hoo! I am elated beyond imagination! I am so excited! Now I just want to fry everything!

I have this recipe of my favorite dish from Penang that I always want perfected. It’s one of those foods that you can only find in the streets. They are greasy, oily Fried Belachan Chicken (Fried Shrimp Paste Chicken). I don’t know if the origin is from Penang but there are sure a lot of them in Penang street hawkers. It is absolutely delish and it’s one of my all time favorites (next to Fried Oyster. If you don’t know what is that, stay tune for more Penang food blog entries). I whipped up the recipe myself (Yes, pretty creative) but I have never been able to actually perfect it. It’s so frustrating. I’m pretty sure you all have experienced this. You got the recipe right but your technique is not there. I finally got it! This is actually my fifth official try and I GOT IT!! HAHAHA! SO HAPPY! I AM SO HAPPY! I AM SO HAPPY! THIS IS THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE!!!!!!!

And the result….  Crispy Fried Belachan Chicken! The picture only contains like 10 pieces of the chicken left. I bought 6 chicken thighs. My sister, E, and American Girl kept on eating the chicken as it got out the fryer. Gosh. I was so happy I do not know how to express it in words! Just ask American Girl how happy I was. I just can’t stop being happy.

Well, just for your info, here’s what I learnt. For those who are into cooking, the few tips I learnt are: the fryer has to be perfectly at a constant temperature of 375F. It is also advisable to use alcohol(vodka) to mix the batter as it will not form gluten, which absorbs the grease. The alcohol is actually volatile and will evaporate at a very low temperature so you don’t have to worry about your food being alcoholic. This technique is also useful when you bake. Less gluten, less ‘carb-y’ feeling, lighter taste, oh so goodness.

After my frying experiment, I went on to cook another dish. Nothing spectacular. Just plain old pasta! But… the mushrooms are actually cooked to perfection thanks to an advice from Julia Child. Ah…. cooking techniques are just marvelous! Here’s a picture of my humble pasta.

Ah! I Love Food! Happy Cooking and Eating!