Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Overseas Chinese-Part II..海外华裔华侨...世界の中国系、華僑たち..

This post which is part of the 'Year of China' 2010 themed series of posts, will be continuing with the Overseas Chinese series, this time focusing on the Chinese in the West. This includes Chinese of North America, Europe, and Australasia.

The Chinese make up roughly 4% of Canada's and America's population as well as roughly 3% of Australia's and NZ's population. These include Chinese whom may have come from Southeast Asian countries and not China/HK/Taiwan as well as Chinese whom re-immigrated from another country to these countries.

The Chinese once again typically do well economically and socially in these Western societies as a whole, owning businesses and entering prestigious and elite schools disproportionate to their population. For instance, i heard that the ivy league universities in America now have an unwritten policy of raising the bar higher for Asians to enter as there are simply too many qualified Chinese/Asians and they already make up alot of the student intake at these ivy league institutions. In Australia, the Chinese also are disproportionately represented in the top selective high schools as well as elite university courses and in professions such as Taxation, and Accounting/Business, the Chinese tend to get into the big firms in large numbers.

Once again, like in the case of South east Asia, the Chinese in the West not only are better off economically and academically, they also have made some significant inroads into the areas of politics and entertainment in recent yrs in the West, making more progress relative to other Asian groups such as Koreans and Japanese. For instance, in America, there's Lucy Liu, Zhang Ziyi, Gong Li, Lisa Ling, Jackie Chan, etc and currently 2 Chinese-American cabinet ministers in Obama's Cabinet ( i think!) whilst in Australia, there's Alice Pung, Masterchef Poh as well as current winner Liaw whom is also Chinese-Australian..

I heard in France, the Chinese also dominate the newstand business in Paris as well as have a firm foothold of small firms in France...

There are of cos also Chinatowns in big cities across the Western world and even Chinese restaurants or Chinese-owned stores can be found in the smallest towns across the Western globe..

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Overseas Chinese -Part I...海外华裔华侨...世界の中国系、華僑たち..

This post is another 'Year of China' 2010 themed series post. This time, I shall be introducing readers to the array of Chinese communities residing overseas.

In the first part, we shall be dealing with Southeast Asian Chinese, the biggest overseas Chinese community by historical length as well as overall numbers.

First off, this is an old table from Wikipedia on the rough statistical numbers of Chinese people residing around the world. (Please note the numbers are outdated given that I know for a fact that Taiwan now has 23 million people already and Malaysian Chinese number roughly over 7 million currently.)

Rough Estimate of Total Global Chinese Population:
1,310,158,851 19.73% of global human population(estimate)

Regions with significant populations:

Majority populations:
People's Republic of China
Hong Kong
Republic of China (Taiwan)
Minority populations
United States
United Kingdom
New Zealand
South Korea

As you can see, in Southeast Asia, in terms of percentage-wise, Singapore has a Chinese-majority population, making it the only country in the world to have so, besides China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan which are in the 'Chinese sphere'.

The country with the second largest Chinese percentage population is Malaysia (where I am from), 24-25% of the total population. Then comes Thailand which has around 11% Chinese population and then Vietnam and the Philippines which each have roughly 1.5% Chinese population. Of cos, in terms of absolute numbers, Indonesia has the largest overseas Chinese population, being over 7.5 million strong. But in terms of percentage-wise (which is the most important factor to measure), they only make up less than 2% of Indonesia's total population.

However, due to very low rates of intermarriage between Chinese-Indonesians and Malay-Indonesians, the Indonesian-Chinese have retained more of their Chinese customs and culture as well as sense of identity as compared to Thai-Chinese, whom despite making up 11% of the population, and possibly even higher if Thai-Chinese mixed bloods were counted in (some say that up to half of all Thais can trace back their lineage to some Chinese blood!) have become so assimilated through the highest rate of intermarriage in South East Asia between Chinese and Thais as well general cultural assimilation that Thai-Chinese have in general less Chinese identity and culture as compared to Indonesian-Chinese or even Filipino-Chinese.

The Chinese in Southeast Asia are on the whole economically more empowered as compared to the indigenous population, and this is true be it in Thailand to Malaysia, Singapore to Indonesia.
For some reason, the Southeast Asian Chinese are overall much wealthier and form the bulk of the economic elite as well as hold a disproportionate percentage of the country's economy all across Southeast Asia. Therefore, if you looked at the richest list of Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, etc for example, the Chinese tend to make up at the very least half of that list despite only proportionately being only 2%-24% of the population.

Furthermore, even societies where the Chinese have assimilated in better, the Chinese also make up a disproportionate percetange of the political ruling class as well as the entertaiment industry as idols to be emulated. For instance, in Thailand and the Philippines, the political elite are disproportionately represented by those with Chinese blood. I only knew about this after doing some research. In Thailand, it was reported that during the time of Thaksin (the former Thai PM whom also had Chinese blood in him, apparently being of half Hakka descent) seven out of the ten cabinet ministers had some Chinese blood in them. Even currently, the current Thai PM Abhisit has Chinese blood in him as well, coming from a wealthy Thai-Chinese family. The opposition leaders also apparently all have at least some Chinese ancestry as well! Furthermore, out of the top 10 Thai banks, i heard 7 are owned by Thai-Chinese with many being Hakka (despite Thailand having a Teochew majority).

In the Philippines, the National Father Jose Rizal also had Chinese ancestry in him and many famous Filipino actors and actresses have Chinese blood in them. In fact, when i first fell in love with Filipino entertainment, I was really taken aback at the number of Chinese-looking faces (most are mixed Filipino-Chinese)...examples are too many to count, Kris Aquino, Angel Locsin, Christian Bautista, Dennis Trillio, Toni Gonzaga, Kim Chiu,etc. In fact, many I don't even have to check up on their background as they simply look too Chinese and especially when I see sometimes their family members being interviewed on TV, some of whom look even more Chinese, its obvious they have some Chinese blood in them, even if a couple of generations back.

This was the case with Thai stars as well, with Tik Jesadaporn and Ken coming to mind as well as Ice Saranyu...they look so Chinese..Tik's brother looks like a Singaporean-Chinese and Ken looks like he could have easily come from HK!

Besides holding economic power as well as political and entertainment power in some countries, the Chinese in Southeast Asia have also influenced the food of many Southeast Asian cuisines deeply which I found deeply interesting. For example, did you know that Southeast Asia didn't have noodles in the past?! I didn't know that until this past year or so, when I discovered through some initial research that noodles was introduced to Southeast Asia by the Chinese immigrants meaning that countries like Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines did not have noodles in their cuisines before the arrival of the Chinese. So, dishes like pad thai, mee goreng, pansit, were directly brought in by the Chinese. Furthermore, other quintissential dishes like nasi goreng indonesia and teh tarik were also introduced by the Chinese but transformed and adapted to local conditions over time. How cool is that?!

Even famous dishes such as adobo in Philippines must have been influenced by the Chinese given that a key ingredient in that is soy sauce, which is a Chinese invention and used widely throughout all Southeast Asian, and indeed East Asian countries. Other food such as tofu which is used in Southeast Asian cuisine would also have been introduced by the Chinese given that tofu was also invented by the Chinese. The fact that you can find some common dishes in some SEA countries also indicates they may well have been brought in by the Chinese, dishes such as Bee Koh Mui (Black sticky rice in Coconut) which is found in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines as well as Tikoy which is again found in all the above countries and all have similar sounding names, being the Hokkien name, given that the majority of Chinese in Southeast Asia are Hokkien people, and NOT Cantonese people, contrary to popular belief.

Interesting facts hey?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Penang Hometown Trip 2010:-)...

The following are some photos taken when I was back in Penang, Malaysia, my hometown in July:
Above: Malaysian-style curry and spices...

Above: Nyonya Kuih (Nyonya Snacks/Dessert Delicacies)

Above: Mantou (Chinese plain buns) with curry crabs...yummm..loved the mantou..
Above: I loved this dish, it was some kind of soup with yam in it..i was craving for yam so much before returning to Penang, so i got my fix of yam on that night!..hehe...
Above: Malaysian famous Curry Fish Head...yes this dish only has a large fish head with vegetables, nothing else..
Above: Another hawker style feast with pipis, bee hoon, mud crab ( i had alot of crab on this trip back, would've cost me an arm and leg if i were to have it here outside)..
Above: A simple meal of malaysian-style dry wantan mee and my fav hawker drink when bck in penang, the hearty and healthy barley 'pheng' which is iced barley drink...had this in balik pulau, went there for durian season and also to visit this 'little village' on Penang Island..i've never visited before i think..

Above: Dried Fish...Balik Pulau...
Above: Haagen-Daz Ice-Cream...
Above: My favourite and most visited korean restaurant in Penang..been here for more than 10 years, since my highschool days...:-)
Above: Taiwanese food at Queensbay Mall...this was surprisingly good...full of goodness and rich in the 'hearty and home-cooked' department, if you know what i mean...
Above: Self-Explanatory. Ha..

Above: Japanese Food at Miraku, G-Hotel Gurney Drive..
Above: Malaysian drinks hawker stall...
Above: Teochew Food in Penang..another favourite restaurant of mine whenever I'm back in Penang...we go to this place for Teochew cuisine whilst we go to another place near Chinatown for Hainan Food..
Above: Durian...yummy..thank god it was durian season when i went back to Penang!
Above: Malaysian style Wantan Mee with the top bowl being Fookchow Malaysian Fishball Soup with Tanghoon...
Above: Malaysian nyonya kuih (desserts)...
Above: Bee Koh Muai...Black Sticky Rice in Coconut Syrup...
Above: Another favourite Penang meal, Lor Mee (Braised Noodles)...
Above: My Favourite Ramen place in Penang...Ramen Yataimura in Pulau Tikus..
Above: My MOST missed food in Penang and something I salivate over whenever I'm thinking of food in Sydney whilst dreaming about Penang food (amongst other countless Penang delicacies!)...Nasi Kandar! I ALWAYS have ladies finger vegetables with tauhu (rough beancurd), curry sauce, with curry sotong..yuMMYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!! PS: Also, in case you're wondering what is that large bowl that i'm drinking off, it's teh tarik, malaysia's national drink..very sweet n nice, u can get it in sydney as well for $3.50 at mamak, chinatown...very expensive as you can tell..

Above: My obligatory Chicken Rice meal at Singapore Airport whenever I transit Singapore..the chicken rice in Singapore is simply heaven...even at the airport:)

As readers can see, its turned out to be essentially a food photo-essay journey, hasn't it? Hope this has enticed readers (whom aren't from Penang, Malaysia) to visit it soon for its world-renowned food!!:-) Hehe...

Saturday, August 14, 2010

8 Major Chinese Regional Cuisines...中华美食8大菜系...中華料理の8大系...

As part of my continuing 'Year of China 2010' theme for this year, this post shall introduce readers to the 8 major culinary traditions of China. The most commonly known 'type' of Chinese food served in the West is Cantonese cuisine. However, Chinese food is made up of many different regions given the vast size of China as well as different ethnic groups and within Han Chinese, different regional Han food.

Below is a summary of the 8 major divisions/provincial food of China which collectively make up the representative array of Chinese food (of cos, these 8 are broad categories and there are various other food such as Mongolian-Chinese, Korean-Chinese food, Henan food, Xinjiang food,etc which also form part of Chinese cuisine, but which are not included in the 8 major categories of Chinese culinary tradition):
1) Hunan

Most ppl, including Chinese ppl, say Cantonese food is the most delicious and most refined, but however, I personally think its because of the number of Cantonese ppl residing in the West historically and the prominence of Hong Kong (a Cantonese food haven) on the world stage.

I personally prefer Hokkien food the most and then Teochew food (which is very similar to Hokkien food) as its the food I grew up with and comfort food for me (Hokkien food being the root of much of Malaysian Chinese and Taiwanese cooking and cuisine).

Chinese food is also broadly divided into two divisions as well being Northerner's food and Southerner's food. Northerners' (Chinese people refer to people whom live north of the Yangtze River as 'Northerner's and those whom reside south of the Yangtze River as 'Southerners'.) are stereotyped to traditionally eat a wheat-based noodle and dough/starch based diet whilst Southerner's are traditionally said to eat a rice based diet. Of cos, most Chinese people you come into contact with as well as Chinese immigrants whom immigrated overseas to SE Asia and the West are mostly Southerners, from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Fujian, Guangzhou, Hunan, Guangxi,etc whilst Northerners would refer to people from Beijing, Tianjin, Harbin, Shenyang, Changchun,etc.

Nowadays, different regional dishes are usually served in combination in restaurants although some restaurants do specialise in serving only one kind of regional cuisine such as only Shanghai cuisine or only Hunan cuisine. There are also generic Chinese dishes which are eaten in all provinces and do not really originate from any one particular province such as 'fried rice', 'chicken and mushroom soup' or 'stir-fried vegetables with garlic'. Examples of dishes which form part of a regional cuisine include Mabo Tofu which is a Szechuan cuisine or Dongpo Pork Cuts which is a Shanghainese dish or Mui Choi Kau Yuk (Braised Pork Belly in Preserved Salty Vegetables) which is a typical Hakka dish.

So tell me dear readers, what kind of Chinese food do you like most??