A lot of people knocking about here in HK and also on the mainland, seem to think that all things Chinese are only for or should only be undertaken by Chinese people.
Take Chinese cooking. Saturday afternoon I had a little lunch party chiefly to warm up my living room with a bunch of 37 degree bodies, and rustled up some Sichuan food to increase everybody’s inner temperature.
As I was making dumplings a Chinese guest said: “I’m so impressed that you can make dumplings!” I wasn’t surprised. Since I set up my Sichuan cooking classes and catering, I’ve been told countless times how “impressive” it is that I can chop up some vegetables and cook them in a certain way. The ones who aren’t impressed seem almost appalled. “You can’t cook Chinese food!”
“Because you’re not Chinese!”
Then there’s the language, which every foreigner living in Hong Kong has been told dozens of times by helpful locals is “too difficult for them” (but apparently not for Filipino and Indonesian maids and overseas Chinese, six generations away from the motherland, who are expected to learn Cantonese by symbiosis as soon as they touch down on HK soil.)
Many HK people, when they’re not laughing their heads off or applauding like sea lions in Ocean Park when I say for example “hello” in Cantonese, seem affronted by the fact that I teach Cantonese to foreigners.
“You can’t teach Cantonese to people!”
“Because you’re not Chinese!”
“But Chinese people teach English?”
“Well, that’s different.”
I wonder how Chinese people living abroad or even here in HK would take it if westerners kept complimenting them on their sandwich-eating skills, or expressing surprise over the fact that they were even familiar with the concept of sandwiches, a non-Chinese food. I wonder if they would think people were mad if they kept telling them never to attempt to learn English as it’s too difficult (for them but not other people), or even, if they were thus inclined, would find the applauders and “don’t learn it”-advisors a teensy little bit patronising?
Why is it that the whole world is expected to know about Hollywood stars, but any foreigner having heard of Lau Dak Wah (Andy Lau) whose mug has been staring down from every billboard and out of every magazine and film poster and whose dreary voice has been droning saccharinely from the radio for the last 20 years gets a round of sea mammal applause?
Why are most of the chefs in pizza restaurants in HK Chinese, but me being able to squeeze some minced meat into a dough wrapper “impressive”?
I wonder: Do Chinese people whether in HK or on the mainland, think that Chinese things are so inaccessible and complicated that only Chinese people can understand them? Or is it that the Chinese are so used to looking down on their own culture that nobody else could possibly be interested? Or do they want to keep the language, cooking and Canto-pop stars to themselves?
It’s hard to tell. But as much as I like compliments and ego-boosting, I think personally I would prefer that people just treated me like a normal human being instead of clapping and carrying on every time I utter a word in Chinese or express a knowledge of anything iconic in a city I’ve been living for more than 18 years. Sometimes when I say: “How much is this” or ‘do you have anything in red” people carry on as if I were a dog being able to ride a bicycle while talking on its mobile. It gets boring.
A bit of a nadir, I suppose, was last December when I jumped into a taxi holding some heads (?) of garlic. The taxi driver: “Wah! You even know how to buy garlic!”
Yes, fancy that.
Anyway, here, once and for all, is a recipe for how to make … TA-DAAAA!
450 grams of minced pork (You can get it ready minced from thesupermarket!!)
a lump of fresh ginger, about the size of three thumbs. Crush it and put it in half a cup of cold water
1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine (vodka or brandy will do)
1 teaspoon salt
black pepper (8 turns of pepper mill)
chopped chives or spring onions.
You can get dumpling wrappers from traditional dried noodles shops.
Mix the pork, egg, salt pepper and wine in a bowl and add the ginger-water gradually (without the ginger) to make a nice paste
Put one teaspoon of paste on a dumpling wrapper and fold the edges together like a pleated skirt. Boil water and chuck 10 to 15 dumplings in at a time. When they are all floating on the surface, they’re done.
And for a fantastic dip:
3 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons chilli oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 cloves of garlic, crushed (add garlic just before consumption)
So easy even a westerner can make it!