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Friday, January 31, 2014

That Food Cray!!!

I have to end my Chinese New Year week by giving a shout out to Nicole Fung of the blog That Food Cray!!! She is the nicest person! I was researching a topic, left a brief note on her instagram pic and she replied. The reason I'm making a big deal about this, is that she has over 44K followers on instagram. Usually when bloggers get that big, they don't respond. HaHaHa So it was refreshing to get a response and a point in the right direction. Thank You Nicole!

Nicole currently lives in Hong Kong and owns the foodie blog That Food Cray!!! I spent one evening, just looking at her posts. Love Asian cuisine? Wanna see how McDonalds does burger & fries in Hong Kong? Have you ever eaten a shinsu apple flavored KitKat? Did you know Godiva put together a mooncake candy box for mid-Autumn festival? Want to see the newest Laduree and Pierre Hermes themed boxes? Subscribe to Nicole's blog! Nicole covers Asian cuisine and food from around the world. She also reviews places to stay. I had to tell you guys about her blog. It's truly a fun read and she's so down to earth. I love her instagram page. One can learn so much. Definitely check her out!

All pictures are property of Nicole Fung. 
Click on the pictures to view the blog posts for each.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

10 Lucky Chinese New Year Foods

Hello A Very Sweet Blog friends! This is Chic 'n Cheap Living and I'm grateful that Kim has me over to share a few fun and favorite foods for the Chinese New Year holiday. I learned a lot as well while writing this piece and I hope that you can also appreciate the symbolism and treats for this celebration! What are the memories that you associate with the holidays? For many ethnically Chinese people celebrating Chinese or Lunar new year, it is the mix of voices old and new at a party, the clink of glasses (or mahjong tiles!), and the delicious smells of traditional New Year foods. There are similar traditions in Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and of course China. Since many people can no longer receive red packets full of money (only for the unmarried adults or kids!), their favorite parts of the holidays are gathering with family and friends and eating auspicious foods.

Chinese New Year decor by Chic n Cheap Living

There are several types of food that are considered especially lucky to consume during Chinese New Year and they all have different meanings. Here are ten of the most common Chinese New Year foods:  

1. Tangerines, Oranges, and Mandarins Oranges (or orange colored fruit in this case!) are readily given and received during Chinese New Year because "orange" sounds similar to "gold" while "tangerine" sounds like "lucky" in Chinese. My husband loves mandarins and we go through a box a week (so it's a good thing supermarkets are selling more varieties at this time of year!)

 Chinese New Year mandarins by Chic n Cheap Living  

2. Whole Fish. Fish is cooked and eaten on New Year's Eve because its leftovers signal abundance or surplus in the New Year.
3. Dumplings (my favorite, any time!). Did you know that dumplings are similar in form so silver ingot pieces of money? The preparation also symbolizes packaging luck! It is commonly eaten in Northern China.

4. Tray of togetherness. This appetizer dish consists of eight different snacks. Similar pronunciations are again key here since "eight" sounds similar to "prosper". Typical snacks may include preserved kumquats for prosperity, longans for sons, and red melon seeds for happiness.

 Chinese New Year snacks by Chic n Cheap Living  

5. Noodles. Long, uncut noodles represent long life and noodles may also be eaten on other occasions like birthdays.
6. Nian gao. Nian gao, which is literally year cake is popular because "gao" sounds like heights - achieve new heights in the new year!  

7. Sweets. Sweet treats also symbolize a sweet life. Bring on the pineapple cakes, red bean mochi and other goodies!

Chinese New Year love letter snacks by Chic n Cheap Living  

8. Long leafy greens. Long leafy greens indicate a wish for a long life for your parents.  

9. Bakkwa. This popular Southeast Asian snack is essential a pork or beef jerky. It is a popular treat to gift for those without a sweet tooth.  

10. Raw fish salad or yu sheng. Yu Sheng is also popular in Southeast Asia and eating it is supposed to bring good luck in the new year.

References from here and here. Pictures by Chic 'n Cheap Living taken in Singapore

I would like to thank Chic N Cheap Living for this yummy and beautiful post! I learned so much! Thank You!
I recently stocked up on oranges & tangerines. I'm cooking fish & greens. I have sweets! So I'm partly ready! HaHaHa
I'm not Asian, but it's fun participating in and trying new things :) Look for a sweet post tomorrow!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

10 Asian Films To See

Hello A Very Sweet Blog readers! This is Rowena and I blog over at rolala loves. I'm absolutely thrilled that Kim has asked me to share some of my favorite Asian films with you all here today in honor of the upcoming Lunar New Year. My love affair with Asian movies began at a young age since I grew up in a Chinese household. 

Asian cinema has never been as popular as it today and has gained much recognition at many prestigious film festivals throughout the world. Some like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon have enjoyed international success, winning over 40 awards including an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. 

You may not even know it but many critically acclaimed Western directors draw heavy inspiration from a number of very influential and celebrated Asian filmmakers. In fact a number of Hollywood films are remakes of Asian favorites like Old Boy (Old Boy, The Departed (Infernal Affairs), The Lake House (Il Mare), Shall We Dance (Shall We Dance), The Ring (Ringu) to name a few. 

Subtitled Asian productions are quite accessible these days. You can watch them on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and Asian entertainment video sites like Dramafever or Viki. These films are a selection of some of my favorites across a few genres. If any of these interest you, don't let subtitles intimidate you and give one a try! Don't forget to let us know what you think if you do. And if you've watched any Asian films before, do share your thoughts and favorites.

1. A Bittersweet Life : 2005 | South Korea | Director: Kim Jee Woon | 
Watch the trailer

A stylishly gripping gangster tale which may be one of the best in the noir genre. Lee Byung Hun who may be the sleekest gangster ever pulls off an emotionally charged performance as a mob enforcer who finds himself in terrible jeopardy after an act of mercy. This ultimately leads him down an extremely violent path of vengeance. 

2. A Good Rain Knows : 2009 | China/South Korea | Director: Hur Jin Ho | Watch the trailer

Dong Ha (Jung Woo Sung) and May (Gao Yuanyuan) who were once close as students in America, cross paths again in Chengdu, China. As they are reacquainted, old feelings are rekindled. Dreamily filmed against a picturesque backdrop, this film which is like a love letter to the city of Chengdu, presents an examination of the emotional journey in which a romantic relationship re-develops.

3. Chungking Express : 1995 | Hong Kong | Director: Wong Kar Wai | 
Watch the trailer

Like many others, I fell in love with auteur director Wong Kar Wai's work after watching this film which is comprised of two separate narratives. In the first, officer no. 223 (Takeshi Kaneshiro) hopelessly pursues mysterious woman (Brigitte Lin) following a breakup with his girlfriend. The second features a lovelorn officer no. 663 (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) and the charmingly quirky waitress (Faye Wong) at a lunch counter he frequents who becomes infatuated with him. The impressionistic colors and languorous camera work along with an intoxicating soundtrack make watching it quite an experience. 

4. Eat Drink Man Woman : 1994 | Taiwan | Director: Ang Lee | Watch the trailer

Before Ang Lee directed Brokeback Mountain and The Life of Pi, he made this heartwarming drama centering around a widowed Chinese master chef (Sihung Lung) who prepares a magnificent weekly banquet for his 3 single adult daughters. This poignant tale filled with surprises you won't expect is a wonderful exposition of family dynamics and cultural expectations. And the delectable presentations of Chinese food are food porn at it's best.

5. Heavenly Forest (Tada, Kimi wo Aishiteru) | 2006 | Japan | Director: Takehiko Shinjo | Watch the trailer

This film features an incredibly powerful and heartrending love story that made me bawl my eyes out. It's told with humor, heart and gorgeous cinematography. Aoi Miyazaki is absolutely captivating as Shizuru who develops a crush on her friend Makoto (Hiroshi Tamaki) as they bond over a shared love of photography. She disappears from his life after they take a photo at her request for a photo contest in which they both share their first kiss. Two years later he receives an invitation to her photo exhibit in New York...

6. Hero : 2002 | China | Director: Zhang Yimou | Watch the trailer

This is an artistically epic feeling martial arts film with visually stunning action sequences, costumes and scenery. The cast and performances are solid. A man called Nameless (Jet Li) gains an audience with the ruthless king of Qin and relays a series of tales which may or may not be true of how he took down the 3 assassins; Broken Sword (Tony Leung), Flying Snow (Maggie Cheung) and Long Sky (Donnie Yen) who targeted the king. After listening, the king counters with his account of events before the sobering truth is revealed.

7. In The Mood For Love : 2000 | Hong Kong | Director: Wong Kar Wai | Watch the trailer

This is probably Wong Kar Wai's most acclaimed film. A deeply stirring tale of love and longing that is both aesthetically and dramatically arresting. Set in in Hong Kong during the 1960's, two neighbors form a bond after discovering that their respective spouses are having affairs. The nostalgic atmosphere adds to the sense of melancholy and restrained passion. Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung Chiu Wai both deliver beautifully nuanced performances. She also has one of the most amazing film wardrobes ever, never repeating any of the resplendent qipaos (Chinese style dress) she wears in every scene she appears in.

8. Love In A Puff | 2010 | Hong Kong | Director: Pang Ho Cheung | Watch the trailer

A witty, smart and fun romantic comedy set in Hong Kong two years after the country passed a public smoking ban. Cherie (Miriam Cheung) encounters Jimmy (Shawn Yue) during a smoke break in a public alleyway and they begin an awkward courtship. This film boasts a good deal of foul language, local references and jokes that may be lost in translation if you don't understand Chinese but that takes nothing away from the overall charm of the interaction between the main characters that feels very genuine and intimate. It's largely dialogue driven and works well thanks to the likable leads and their candid conversations filled with wry humor.

9. The Good, The Bad, The Weird | 2008 | South Korea | Director: Kim Ji Woon | Watch the trailer

A highly enjoyable Korean style western set against the Manchurian desert during the 1930's. The Weird (Song Kang Ho) steals a treasure map from a government official. The Bad (Lee Byung Hun) is sent after him to retrieve it. The Good (Jung Woo Sung) is a bounty hunter tracking both of them. A chase filled with unexpected humor and surprises ensues for the map with the Japanese army and Chinese bandits getting into the mix.

10. The Man From Nowhere : 2010 | South Korea | Director: Lee Jeong Beom | Watch the trailer

A well plotted action thriller with heart starring Won Bin as Tae Shik, a reclusive pawn shop owner who develops an unlikely and touching bond with his young neighbor (Kim Sae Ron). When the girl and her drug mule mother are kidnapped by drug dealers, Tae Shik embarks on a violent rampage to save his only friend while his dark past comes to light. I also have to say that Won Bin looks good even while disheveled and covered in blood and is a master at conveying emotion through his eyes and body language.

Rowena, you are truly a doll! THANK YOU so much for putting together this awesome list of your favorite Asian movies. I'm going to Netflix right now to fill up my DVD que. HaHaHa  I can't wait to watch them! I've only seen a couple of Asian movies: Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (you mentioned above), Memoirs Of A Geisha, Curse of The Golden Flower and The Joy Luck Club. They were all very good. I encourage my readers to watch international films. Embrace them. You'll be surprised at how easy subtitles are to read. There's so much you can learn. I'm going to expand my knowledge by watching Asian, French, Spanish and Italian films. Add Rowena's Top 10 favorites to your viewing list :).


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

How Commercial Is Chinese New Year?

It's becoming VERY commercial! I came across Godiva's 2014 Limited Edition Lunar New Year Box of Chocolates w/Red Envelopes the other day. A 20 pc box costs $50 and a 32 pc box costs $120. That made me conduct a search to see if there were any OTHER products on the market for Chinese New Year ...Year of the Horse. I couldn't believe my eyes! Chinese New Year is definitely being commercialized (along with other holidays)! Why did I not think so??? My question to you, is how do you feel about the commercialization of holidays? I think some items are nice, but some can be cray cray. I tried to include some "nice" items on the board below.

On another note...If you would like to read your 2014 Chinese Horoscope (I'm a rat! LOL) click HERE and scroll down. I scheduled all my blog posts this week. Our weathermen are talking about SNOW today and the possibility electricity may go out! You guys have to realize, New Orleans hasn't had snow in YEARS! I had to haul ass to the grocery store and stock up, literally along with everyone else in New Orleans. They've shut down all our schools, roads, businesses and everything. Follow me on instagram, to see if it ever snows! It's probably going to be ONE snowflake! HaHaHa Oh well, at least I get to stay home. LOL >.< I'll keep you guys posted on Twitter and Instagram if anything happens. Have a great day!

6. Laduree Year Of The Horse (only in Hong Kong) 7.Clarisonic PLUS Year Of The Horse (here and UK here

Monday, January 27, 2014

Chinese New Year Traditions

Hi Friends! It's Jo again from White Roses and Coffee. Thanks to Kim who invited me to talk more about Chinese traditions. In the last post, I shared some Chinese pregnancy superstitions. Chinese New Year is just around the corner (Jan 31) so I will be talking about customs and taboos revolving around Chinese New Year. This time of year is not only about delectable food but there is also a hefty list of taboos which affect the Chinese all around the world. I've already written a post on some of the CNY traditions on my blog last year but I'd like to add in more which have been passed on to me from the matriarchs of my family. There are tons of them -so please brace yourself! LOL!

Clean The House 
Having a clean home is crucial if you want good energy and prosperity in the New Year. 

Forbidden Words
On the first day of Chinese New Year, you are not allowed to say "die", "break", "gone", and "poor". 
These are considered unlucky words. Keep positive at all times. 
Refrain from using the word "four" because in Chinese, it means "to die". 

 Don't Cry
Never cry on the first day. This applies to everyone. If you cry on New Year's Day, you'll be crying all year long. 

Don't Buy Any Reading Material
Do not buy any reading material, especially books, because "book" is a homonym for 'lose'.  
Bookstores are not opened during the first few days of CNY. 

Trash = Treasure
Trash is treated like treasure. You may only throw away the trash on the fifth day of CNY. 

According to Chinese mythology, there is a monster named "Nian". He's half-lion and half dragon and would eat humans. In order to scare him away, the people would use firecrackers. This has become a prominent CNY tradition. 

 Stay Up Late
Children are encouraged to stay up late on the eve of the New Year. 
This is to "guard the years" for their parents so that the parents can live longer. 

 Release Animals
It is also recommended to release bird, fish, or any animal in captivity. This is believed to bring good luck throughout the year.  One should also refrain from slaughtering animals on the first day of CNY. 

 Don't Nap
To prevent laziness, one should not take a nap on New Year's Day. 

Pay Off All Your Debt 
Old debt is like a bad omen for New Year. Do not lend or borrow any money. 

No Knives. No Scissors.
Refrain from using knifes and scissors as it is believed that it may cut off fortune! 

Red Envelope Rule
Do give red envelopes (stuffed with money) to children and unmarried adults. 
You only do this if you are married. This is to "spread the luck" to whomever receives it. 

Do Not Give Any Taboo Gifts 
This includes clocks (escorting someone to the grave), green hats especially to men (means infidelity), pears (sounds like separation), shoes (sounds like a sigh) and handkerchiefs (used in funerals). 

 Do Not Cut Your Hair
Nothing should be cut during Chinese New Year. Whatever you do - wait til after the new year for that trim! 

Do Not Wash Your Hair
Don't wash your hair as the Chinese word for hair is a homophone for "wealth". 
Therefore, the Chinese believe that it will wash away the good luck for the upcoming year. 

Do Not Wear Black Or White 
It's reserved for funerals. Red is the lucky color. New clothes signify a new start; new change...whip out that new blazer! 

Buy A New Pair Of Pants
The word "trousers" is a homonym for wealth. 

Eat Your Sweets! 
Stock up on candies so you can have a SWEET year. 

Oranges and Tangerines
Oranges and tangerines are popular during CNY. They symbolize good luck and prosperity. 

Eat "Nian Gao" (Year Cake) 
It symbolizes that one should "grow higher in each coming year". 

Eat Noodles
Eat LOTS of noodles and make sure they are not cut. Slurp up all the stringy goodness! 

 Do Not Eat Congee
One should not eat congee as the first meal. 
It's considered that only poor people have it for breakfast which means you will be poor throughout the year.

 Vegetarian Food
The first meal on CNY is vegetarian food. Consuming meat is considered bad luck. 

 Don't Argue. Don't Shout.
Like Thanksgiving dinner, everyone sits together for dinner on New Year's Eve.  
During this time, it's imperative that everyone should not argue or shout at each other. 

 Eat Fish
Eat plenty of fish and abalone because they contain the words "yu" which means abundance. 

 Don't Break Glassware
One should not break any glassware during CNY as it signifies potential arguments within the home. 

Don't Break Chopsticks
Breaking chopsticks is considered bad luck because it signifies the breaking of relationships. 

Full Rice Container
...and last but not least, it is bad luck to have a empty rice container.  
Make sure you fill it up before the celebration.

Of all these superstitions, there is one that bugs me up to today. It is that a married daughter is forbidden to visit the house of her parents. This is believed that it will cause economic hardship for the family. I think this is ridiculous but I still obey it. Gosh, if only my mom wasn't so superstitious - life would be so much easier! Anyway, hope you guys enjoy reading this! If you see Chinese people during this joyous holiday, make sure you wish them "Gung Hay Fat Choy" which translates to "Have a Prosperous New Year". Thanks for reading!

 Gung Hay Fat Choy = Have A Prosperous New Year
Year Of The Horse 2014

written by: Jo of White Roses and Coffee // pictures added by: Kim of A Very Sweet Blog
picture credit: instagram (names on picture)
Thank You Jo for writing such an informative post! You did an awesome job and I thank you! 
Several years ago, I incorporated Chinese New Year traditions into my life. They really helped me. 
They're excellent practices, that can benefit anyone. 
It's CNY Week on A Very Sweet Blog! 
Stay tuned to LEARN more...
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