Wakey-wakey!

Wakey-wakey!

Looking at the high-rises in Shanghai, it’s hard to believe that not long ago, China was an agrarian society and the Chinese lived by the rhythm of changing seasons in nature rather than on the catwalks in London, Paris and Milan. To stay in tune with the seasons, the Chinese divides its traditional calendar into 24 solar terms with each of the points matches a particular astronomical event or signifies some natural phenomenon. Last Friday, March 6, marked the third solar term, or Jing Zhe (惊蛰 ) this year. It literally means the spring thunder is waking up the insects that have been hibernating underground. I certainly felt hopeful that winter is finally coming to an end! To nourish the body for the spring awakening, the Chinese recommends a diet high in plant-based proteins and vitamins and low on meat. We believe a carefully followed diet in spring will ensure a healthy liver for the rest of the year. So, for those who shunned alcohol in January to detox your liver, try eating lots of soy beans, tofu and spinach next...
Sending off the Kitchen God in style

Sending off the Kitchen God in style

No take-out menu this week, as tomorrow is the “Small New Year” or 小年 (Xiao Nian) in the Chinese lunar calendar and we will send off our Kitchen God, 灶王爷 (Zào Wángye), to Heaven. The Kitchen God protects the family’s welfare as well as the kitchen, and is an important deity where the family’s fortunes are concerned. Throughout the year, he “sits” in front of the stove and keeps a tab on what the households get up to, and then reports their good deeds and misadventures back to the Jade Emperor 玉皇大帝 (Yùhuángdàdì). Depending on what’s in the dossier, the Jade Emperor will dish out rewards or punishments to the families accordingly. Since the Kitchen God’s words carry all the weight on a family’s fortune in the coming year, people take the farewell ceremony seriously. When I was growing up, my grandmother would light incense sticks and place them on a shelf directly above our stove, together with sweets, pastries, oranges and a red paper-horse as an offering. Back then, we didn’t have a picture or statue of the Kitchen God in our house, so I had to imagine this deity sitting “up there”. My grandparents would plead with him to “say more good things [to Jade Emperor], and do not say bad things”. To make his journey back comfortable and speedy, my grandmother made the red paper-horse for his ride, and would burn it at the end of her ceremony to signify the Kitchen God’s departure. The sweets are offered with ulterior motives: eating something sweet can make him “honey-lipped” (i.e., it might make him say good things);...
A Month Left till Chinese New Year

A Month Left till Chinese New Year

It’s only a month (minus a day) till the Goat trots onto the scene!  Do you know why the Chinese years are represented by 12 animals?    Well, it all started long long ago with the Jade Emperor in the great beyond in the West. He found the mortals on earth were mixing up years and couldn’t keep track of birthdays properly, so he came up with a brilliant idea to use animals to represent years. He announced a great race for all animals with the winning 12 to represent 12 years. Find out what happens next, click here. To celebrate, we Chinese, and many other eastern Asian countries like Vietnam, Korean and Singapore, all break into national feasting. If you’d like to get a taste of what that is like on a smaller scale, come to one of our two Chinese New Year supper clubs right here in Marylebone. ONLY 2 spaces left for each dinner, book...