Knotting to See Here!

On a rainy Saturday afternoon, one of the rainiest of the summer, the Chinese Club kept away the gloom by spending the hours away learning Chinese Macrame and knots. In the session, we learned how to make a good luck knot and a dragonfly. Catherine led us using the pin method which is the official knotting form, while also explaining how it can be done without pins.

First up was the good luck knot! Catherine carefully led us step-by-step (and often re-step-by-step) in how to make this classic knot. Though it seemed like a mess of holes in a Styrofoam plate and endless loops, with patience and lots of help, something resembling a knot slowly emerged!

Next, the dragonfly! With this one, Catherine helped us learn how to read directions. Quickly, the room became quiet with great concentration. Soon after, laughter as mishaps occurred. Before we knew it, the time was up and everyone left with two completed works of Chinese macrame and knotting.

While the clouds were still dark, the workshop and its accompanying laughter brought sunshine to the afternoon.

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Sugar Painting–And Eating

The latest workshop involved embracing both our science and our artistic side.

Catherine, the CCGKC President, led us in learning the art of sugar painting. As we soon discovered, before you could even get to the design part, we had to first prepare the sugar so that it would be just the right viscosity for painting.

This is no easy task. Catherine led us in a discussion of how to properly prepare the sugar mixture, why weird steps (such as constantly brushing the sides of the sauce pan) were important, how to know if something went wrong, and what possible fixes, if any, there were. She also explained and demonstrated variations on the sugar mixture–some more beginner-friendly than others. With her detailed explanations and the hands-on experience, attendees could leave equipped to try it at home. (The pride you feel when your sugar mixture is just the right color and consistency–it’s a beautiful thing)

Next step: the artistry!

Catherine prepared some templates/examples of some classic, but relatively ‘easy’ sugar paintings. (On a personal note, I quickly learned that ‘easy’ is a relative term.)

Having watched the YouTube videos of the masters previously, I was excited to try my hand at the process. If you have never tried sugar painting before, here were some of my initial thoughts:

  • It’s harder than it looks
  • Oh! All the lines are supposed to be connected, right? So it’s all one piece! Oh, this involves so much forethought and planning!
  • Oooh, you can vary the thickness of the sugar mixture as you draw your piece, that would make it look better, I should really think about that.
  • Aaand, the mixture is too hard already!

Before beginning the process, Catherine informed us that a street vendor could get roughly three pieces out of a small nugget (after it’s melted down, of course). They also have to get those three pieces completed quickly, because the sugar hardens fairly fast–we were even using an altered recipe to slow the hardening process!

Catherine provided easy enough templates and ideas, so we were all able to leave with at least one piece that resembled an animal or an object. However, I at least walked away with a greater appreciation for the creations Catherine had made previously and those who make a living from it. Trying my hand at sugar painting didn’t take away the mesmerizing quality of watching it, instead, it heightened my appreciation.

To ensure that we all walked away with something we could take home (because, let’s face it, our paintings were no Van Goghs), Catherine also showed us how to coat fruit such as grapes or cherries, how to use left over sugar mixture to create hard candy sculptures and also taught us how to make dehydrated plum lollipops–another popular treat.

In the end, all ages walked out with something sweet to take home and some sweeter experiences.

and also taught us how to make dehydrated plum lollipops–another popular treat.

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In the end, all ages walked out with something sweet to take home and some sweeter experiences.

 

Ba Wan Workshop!

On the cusp of summer, our workshop attendees experimented with another Taiwanese street food classic: Ba Wan.

With the direct translation of the word means meatball, these are much more than spheres of meat. The filling includes ground meat, dried mushrooms, bamboo shoots, fried shallots, plus the seasoning that makes it delicious to eat all on its own.

What separates this dish from what we might consider a typical meatball is its skin. The skin is made up of rice flour, water, and cornstarch or sweet potato starch. This skin becomes translucent once steamed and nicely encases the meat.

During the workshop, we were able to try different variations of the skin, experimenting with different combinations of cornstarch and potato starch to find the perfect texture most reminiscent of Taiwan. (Insider tip: it was equal portions of both)

The Ba Wan, though delicious in its own right with the skin and meat is truly perfected when adding the ‘special’ sauce. Here again, workshop participants got to try a couple variations and decide what was their favorite.

Then for the best part: time to dig in! By the time the workshop was over, everyone had an opportunity to assemble some Ba Wan, eat till full, and take home left overs!

It was yet another yummy workshop! Join us August 12th for our next food workshop, where we’ll make mango shaved ice, or for our next crafting workshop on July 22nd where we’ll make sugar paintings! Sign up here

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Eeee-Mochi!

You know what would be adorable? A mochi-emoji.

After spending a couple hours learning how to make and tasting all the various fillings and flavors, I am now a mochi fan.

Let me take you through the event (but I won’t spill all the secrets, you’ll just have to attend the next one):

Step one: Combine all the basic mochi ingredients (sugar, water, glutinous rice flour, oil) till smooth then stick in the microwave. Want to guess for how long? Not one minute, not five minutes, but THIRTEEN minutes! (I know, I was shocked too. Not sure I’ve ever put anything in the microwave for that long)

While the microwave is doing its thing, it’s a good time to review all the fillings and flavors.

Mrs. You had them all nicely laid out (& labeled) for us, and gave us details of how to prepare or where to buy each one. While I’m sure there are other ingredients you can mesh with mochi, at the workshop we focused on these: red bean paste, peanut powder, white sesame powder, black sesame powder, soy bean powder, white bean with macha, and white bean with coffee. Are you salivating yet? You should be.

Ding! Ding! Believe it or not, the 13 minutes are up! Now it’s time to mix the mochi!

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The Yous taught us various techniques for mixing the dough. (Including this one–though we weren’t that intense) The one that I would probably use in the future was four chopsticks put together. Now, here’s the next crazy part. Any guesses how long it should be stirred/folded? I won’t keep you in suspense this time–60 turns. You can get a good arm workout while making mochi! While the 60 doesn’t have to be exact, it’s a good number to go by. Another tip that was shared is to slowly pull apart the chopsticks–there should be a thin film if stirred a proper amount.

Whew! Hard work is done, now on to step 2.5!

Prepare the pan! Another tip you might not just get anywhere: You need to put a thin layer of potato starch (corn starch can work too) on a pan to place the mochi. However, you want to cook it in the microwave for 1 minute first. Bet you didn’t know that!

That was pretty easy, now on to step 3!

First, dip those lovely, washed fingers of yours into the potato starch. This mixture is messy and we want to protect those hands of yours as much as possible.

Now, it’s time to make the mochi! If you don’t want any filling, you can just take little drops of the mixture and roll it in whatever flavor you want. It works best to get two metal spoons and stick them in a cup of water. Use one spoon to carve out the mixture, then the next spoon to drop it on the pan/in the flavoring.

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If you want the filling (which, let’s be real, you should), then you do the same as above and plop them on the pan. Then, get a small scoop of your filling and place it on top. Finally use those freshly powdered fingers of yours and stretch the mochi around the filling, like you would a dumpling. And voila! You’ve done it!

Now it’s time to eat up and enjoy!

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Now, that wasn’t too bad, was it? Join us for our next food adventure–June 17th at Grace Fellowship (off of N Oak Trafficway) and learn how to make Ba Wan! You can sign up here.

 

 

Making a Difference–One Biscuit at a Time

At first, I was nervous yet excited about cooking and serving breakfast at the Ronald McDonald House because I was not sure what to expect. Once everyone got together to start working on the recipes selected, all that went away. Everyone was so happy to be there and helpful. With us working as a team and keeping positive attitudes, we were able to make all of our dishes and get them out on time. When the families began to arrive they seemed genuinely pleased with what we had provided for them. We made biscuits and gravy from scratch, a Denver omelet bake, a vegetarian hash, and had plenty of fruit, diffused water, and juice. The families went down the line taking what they wanted and after thanked us several times talking about how good the food was.
There was one lady in particular who was pregnant and eating with her boyfriend that came up to thank Catherine and me personally. She explained she was having a c-section within the next couple of days and the doctor had told her that the better she ate the more milk she would be able to provide for her baby to help it be healthy and strong. She told us that she was really excited about our breakfast because with all the good food we made, from scratch, she knew she would be able to take really good care of her baby. That was the most rewarding moment for me. The fact that something so simple, something I do every day , cooking, could help provide such hope and positivity in the lives of people who truly needed it. It was a great experience and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Roles:
• Catherine: Supervised and aided in cooking and clean up
• Kevin: Cut vegetables and cooked the sausage for the gravy
• Nancy: Cut vegetables and cooked the vegetarian hash
• Lily and her husband: Washed and cut the fruit, as well as, aided in clean up
• Vanessa (Me): Made the biscuits, and finished the sausage gravy, helped supervise and aided in clean up.

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Crestview Elementary Cultural Fair

On the evening of Wednesday, April 26th, 2017, students of Crestview Elementary had the opportunity to interact with different cultures and explore the idea, “We Are One, But We Are Many”. To prepare for the fair, students learned some Mexican folk dances, which they performed for the school. Students also had the opportunity to “travel” around their gymnasium with “passports” to have signed by the various countries represented. The CCGKC had a blast teaching students how to make zongzi out of strips of paper in honor of the story of the Dragon Boat Festival. The school children enjoyed the hands-on craft, the brief history lesson, and the passport signature of their name in Chinese writing.

Festival At Dusk

The Dragon Boat Festival is right around the corner, this summer festivity is always highly anticipated -whether one participates in the races or not.  The Dragon Boat Festival is actually concurrent with 端午節 or the “festival at dusk” or “May 5th day” . This day is a memorial to the Zhou Dynasty poet and minister Qu Yuan ( Link to Wikipedia for inquiring minds ); who even after betrayal and decades of banishment was deeply saddened when his country was conquered.  In his despair,  He drowned himself in a river.

His neighbors and the residents of surrounding villages raced out in boats to reach him, sadly they were too late.  As the sun began to set, fisherman feared his body might be eaten by fish and other aquatic life.  More villagers raced into the waters, some with sticks and drums others with packed rice balls; all returning to the waters as quickly as they could to stand guard over the lost minister.

Every 5th day of the Lunar 5th month, people remember the tragic loss by reliving the races and making packed rice balls called 仲子”zhongzi” to share with all.

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On May 20th, we will be learning more about the Festival of Dusk and making tetrahedron ‘ZhongZi’ shapes.  Sign up today!

WYCO Ethnic Festival

“What is one important thing to know about China that we probably don’t already know?”

In mid-April, we were given the opportunity to host a booth at the WYCO Ethnic Festival. The purpose of the festival is ‘to foster a climate of inclusiveness, promote relationships and contact between people, and educate each other about our common humanity’ and that is exactly what we experienced.

Our club president, Catherine, set up a beautiful display that immediately caught the eye of many passersby. Upon visiting the booth, they were able to learn about our summer cultural workshops, Chinese knots, and even they were lucky, catch Catherine free-handing calligraphy sketches or Prof. Billy Hu writing in Chinese calligraphy.

The festival was hosted at the Kansas City Kansas Community College and consequently there were many college students roaming about asking questions about the cultures represented. Many families were also present with parents encouraging their youth to learn more about each country–like the question that was asked above.

As someone who has grown up not immersed in Chinese culture, I enjoyed the opportunity to learn more as well, specifically about calligraphy and the symbolism of the red paper cutouts (as seen below).

It’s a beautiful thing it be in a room with dozens of other cultures represented, celebrating the uniqueness of each one as well as the commonality that we share. The combination of diversity and harmony was evident in the groups with all ages performing, the stages of life present in those visiting, and the smiles all around.

A huge thank you to the volunteers that helped make this event happen. It was a joy to share some of the richness of Chinese culture to the citizens of Wyandotte County.

 

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