The Teochew Store Blog / food
1990s Hong Kong is best remembered as a wealthy financial hub and the centre of the Chinese film industry. People often overlooked that pre-1997 Hong Kong was also, after Thailand, home to the world's second largest Teochew diaspora that numbered about 1.2 million. Just how large was the contribution of the Teochew people's contribution to Hong Kong's prosperity?
The Teochew Store recommends: An Introduction to the History and Culture of the Teochews in Singapore
An Introduction to the History and Culture of the Teochews in Singapore - a rare English language book on Teochew culture. Available for purchase on Amazon.
"Penned in three sections covering a wide range of topics from history and architecture to customs and the performing arts, the 164-page book published by World Scientific is one of the few of its kind in English." - The Straits Times
A review of the book can be read here.
汕头橄榄台 is an app produced by the Shantou Radio and Television Station (STRTV, 汕头市广播电视台). It serves as a platform to access local news on official announcements, current affairs, food and other activities. Both iOS and Android versions of this app can be downloaded for free from its official site
No storefront, but only a handcart, two gas cylinders, eight wooden tables and some plastic chairs. That’s all they have to earn a living.
The owner of all these “treasures” is an old couple, 60-year-old Chen Shilong, and his 56-year-old wife Zheng Zhu. They sell rice noodles at a road intersection, opposite the Zhongshan Park in Jinping District in Shantou.
The couple came to Shantou with their children 20 years ago from the countryside of Jieyang...
The traditional Teochew rice dumpling is called the zanggiu ("dumpling ball"). It is unique as it comes in three types of taste: salty, sweet and sangpeng, that is a combination of both salty and sweet.
In Swatow there is a stall that has been selling its rice dumplings since the 1920s. Known as the Lao Ma Geng Zanggiu, after a nearby old temple, the stall is a household-name in Swatow. This week we bring to you a video showing how its rice-dumplings are made (read more for steps and list of ingredients)
An authentic Teochew dish that is rice in collagen – jellied pork skin. It is inexpensive and highly suited for the dry autumn-winter spell.
一道富含胶原质的潮州菜 — 潮州肉皮冻。经济实惠，最适合在干燥的秋冬季节食用。
As the mid-Autumn festival approaches, The Teochew Store has invited Tan Pia Hua 陈冰桦, a food lover and blogger from Teochew, to share her original recipe to make your own special taste Teochew-style mooncake.
一年一度的中秋佳节又要来临，The Teochew Store 潮舖 特别邀请了潮汕资深美食达人陈冰桦，教大家如何自制潮式月饼。
The great joy of being a Teochew is the buffet of delicious food that we get to eat. Teochew plain porridge served with pickled vegetable, chai-poh eggs etc etc, char kway teow, braised goose (or duck), steam promfret, pork trotter jelly, all kinds of kuehs… our taste buds are spoilt for choice.
A popular dish for Teochews both in Swatow and overseas is the traditional Teochew oyster omelette or-luak 蠔烙 (literally “pan-fried oysters”). It is simple to prepare, delightful to eat, and certainly needs no introduction. But well, here is anyway a video about a famous or-luak stall in Swatow with 50 years of history:
For anyone inspired to try to serve up a plate yourself, here’s the recipe from allreceipes-Asia :
Ingredients Serves: 4
2 teaspoons fish or soya sauce
2 tablespoons tapioca flour
1 tablespoon rice flour
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon chilli paste
6 to 8 large fresh oysters
salt and pepper
Prep:10min › Cook:15min › Ready in:25min
In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with fish sauce and set aside.
Mix the tapioca flour, rice flour and a pinch of salt in 125ml water to make a very thin batter. In a large wok, heat 1 teaspoon oil until smoking hot. Pour in the batter and let it set.
Pour the eggs over and when it is almost set, mix everything together. Make a well in the centre by pushing the egg and batter mixture to the sides of the wok. Add the remaining oil and stir in the garlic until fragrant. Add the chilli paste and oysters. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss until heated through.
Turn onto a serving platter and garnish with coriander sprigs. Serve with bottled chilli sauce mixed with vinegar to taste.
Variations of the or-luak are found in neighbouring southern Fujian (where the Hokkien people live), and the dish is a symbol of the importance of the sea to the lives of the Teochew and Hokkien populations in coastal Southeast China. When the renowned Confucius scholar Han Yu was banished in the 9th century from the Chinese Central Plain by the emperor to become governor of Teochew (at that time a frontier region of the Tang empire), he discovered the Teochew diet of oysters and other exotic seafood and was so fascinated that he composed the poem “Helpful Verses for Yuan Shiba Introducing Food in the South” 《初南食貽元十八協律》to inform his friend Yuan Shiba about them. In what was the prolific poet’s first and only poem with food as the subject, he noted how the Teochews enjoyed food prepared with salty and sour condiments, and dipped in pepper salt, pepper oil and orange sauce (but made him burst into sweat and turned his face red), and confessed that apart from the snake, everything they ate were new to him. For the Teochew people however, the appearance of oysters in our diet traces back even much further.
One day in the late 1950s, an archaeological team from the Guangdong Administrative Committee for Cultural Heritage made an unexpected finding when they chanced upon a shell mound in the remote village of Chenqiao (陳橋), some two kilometres west of Teochew city. Composed of tens of thousands of marine shells, including oyster and clam, it stood at a fairly remarkable height of 1.4 metres. The villagers did not think much of the derelict heap, but for the trained archaeologists this was a treasure trove. Found in many parts of the world near coastlines, lagoons, tidewater flats, rivers and streams, shell middens are not random formations but cultural deposits created by our human forefathers during their transition from the hunter-gathering to sedentary lifestyle 4,000 to 10,000 years ago. As they adapted to living in more confined spaces, their diet was diversified to encompass all everything edible within reach, and shellfish that can be easily collected from shallow waters became an important food source.
And right on cue, investigations at the Chenqiao site unearthed more skeletal remains of cow, pig, deer, fish and turtle (i.e. prehistoric dinner leftovers), and a range of man-made stone and bone tools such as adzes, hatchets, choppers, hammers, pries (for opening the oyster shells) and pottery shards. Even more exciting was the discovery of the fossilised remains of ten human beings, dubbed later by local archaeologists as the “Chenqiao people”. Unfortunately little information has been published about them. Apart from the estimation of their age to be 5,500 and 6,000 years old, it is also reported they included male and female, and young and old, suggesting they were members of a family.
So the next time when you pick up a pair of chopsticks to eat a plate of or-luak, know that you are not indulging in good food, but also continuing a tradition, the Teochew family tradition.
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#1. The homeland of the Teochew people sits on the Southeast coast of China, near- equidistant between Hong Kong and Taiwan, although through large-scale emigration from early 19th to mid-20th century close to half of all Teochews now live in more than 40 countries and territories overseas. If Teochew is a country, it would through its land area of about 10,000 sq km be the 169th largest in the world (after Lebanon), and through population of approximately 25 million (inclusive of all Teochews worldwide) the 50th biggest (ahead of Australia).
#2. Historically Teochew existed as a prefecture in imperial China that was created in 413 CE. Originally called Ngee Ann ("Righteous Peace") Commandery 義安郡, it was first given the nameTeochew 潮州 (literally the "Tidal Prefecture") in 592 CE. Teochew prefecture became defunct after China became a republic. Its centre of administration was shifted in the latter half of the 20th century from the Teochew prefectural city (listed by its Mandarin name “Chaozhou” on maps) to its port of Swatow 汕頭 (Shantou), causing Teochew to be referred now in mainland China as "Teo-swa".
#3. The traditional Teochew society’s basic social unit is the extended family defined by paternal lineage, and not the nuclear family or individual. The head of a household is the grandfather, and accordingly first cousins are considered siblings and addressed as brothers and sisters. Care and protection of members, as well as perpetuation of lineage are held firmly as its core purposes. In order to fulfil these, husband and wife in many families in Teochew adhere strictly even in the present era complementary gender roles, whereby the responsibility of the man is all external engagements, while the woman has complete charge of domestic affairs.
#4. Besides the family clan, the Teochew personal identity is rooted in one’s place of ancestry. This refers to the village, and also the county, where the family clan resides. Teochew prefecture had eight counties during the late Qing period. Accordingly overseas Teochew organisations usually name themselves as the "association of eight counties" (poih ip 八邑), which are namelyHai-yor 海陽 (renamed Teo-an 潮安 in 1914), Gek-yor 揭陽, Teo-yor 潮陽, Jaopeng 饒平, Pholeng 普寧, Huilai 惠来, Thenghai 澄海 and Hongsun 豐順.
#5. The Teochew region has been inhabited by humans since about 8,000 years ago, a period that dates far longer than China’s supposed 5,000 years of history. This is shown by archaeological artefacts comprising stone tools and a pottery shard discovered on the offshore island of Namoa 南澳. A coherent collection of evidences belonging to a series of archaeological cultures dubbed the "Teochew Prehistoric Trilogy”, including the largest prehistoric kiln site ever found in China, reveal the occurrence of indigenous progression from the Neolithic Stone Age to Early Bronze Age between 4,000 and 3,000 years ago.
#6. All the cities, towns and large villages in Teochew are located by the coast, or along the region’s four major rivers, namely Hang-kang 韓江, Iong-kang 榕江, Liēng-kang 練江 and Ng-kang-ho 黃岡河, or their tributaries. This is because more than two-thirds of terrain in Teochew are occupied by undulating mountains and hills and until the previous century water was the main mode of local transport. Communications between Teochew and other parts of China and foreign lands were also conducted primarily by sea.
#7. The Teochew saying “whatever language you speak depends on which river water you drink” aptly depicts the classification of spoken Teochew into several dialect clusters corresponding to the region’s different river catchment areas. However the Teochew vernacular is in essence a single language that is closely related to the native speech of adjacent southern Fujian, known commonly as Hokkien or Taiwanese, or formally as Minnan. The Teochew-Hokkien family of vernaculars is exclusive and not mutually intelligible with other forms of spoken Chinese. It is also observed by linguists to possess ancient elements that pre-date the Han dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE). Apart from the vernacular form spoken in daily life, the Teochew language has a classical literary form traced to the 7th to 13th century Tang and Song dynasty era. This can be heard in Teochew opera performances. About half of all Chinese written characters can read differently in Teochew in two or more ways (colloquial and literary). This phenomenon is called dual-reading.
#8. The golden age of Teochew was in the Song dynasty when it was one of the wealthiest areas in China. An agricultural revolution drove a rapid population expansion, while the export of fine porcelain on the Maritime Silk Road transformed its prefectural city into a leading centre of commerce. Even in the early part of this prosperous period, Teochew was lavished with comparison as the home of Confucius and Mencius by the sea (海濱鄒魯), and many aspects of Teochew fine culture, including architecture, wood carving, porcelain craft, embroidery and music, were inspired.
#9. Nothing delights a group of Teochews more than sitting around a table to share a few dishes of Teochew cooking. Seafood and green vegetables are always served, while emphasis on freshness and authentic taste of ingredient, perfect balance of sweetness and saltiness, as well as colour and presentation provide the secrets to achieve the Teochew taste. The touch of the Teochew people to regale the gastronomic senses was already memorialised as early as the Tang dynasty in a poem composed by the eminent poet Han Yu, and till today Teochew food is widely recognised as one of finest representation of Chinese culinary.
#10. Harmony in relationship with nature and man sits at heart of the Teochew understanding of well being. In all things beauty is seen in simple exquisiteness, and not grandeur or opulence. In daily life, this is best exemplified in the Teochew custom of the drinking of kanghu tea 功夫茶. In a plain ceremony, the host prepares and serves the elixir of life in miniature teacups over several rounds, invigorating not only the body and mind of his guests, but washing way also all differences in class and opinions.
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