Long Life Chinese Herbs

Long Life Chinese Herbs

 

PART I: INTRO

According to the Webster dictionary, the word “herbs” is defined as “any such plant that can be used as medicine, seasonings, etc” (Webster Dictionary). However, “herbs” associated with Chinese medicine should not be narrowly understood: it is a more comprehensive term including various ingredients such as animals, seashells, minerals and anything found in nature can be used medicinally. Moreover, traditional Chinese herbs sometimes play crucial roles in cuisine as well. To explore the usage of herbs in Chinese culture both as food and as medicine, our group traced the historical origin of herbal medicine and conducted fieldwork in Philadelphia Chinatown.

Part II. HISTORY

In primitive times, humans found out that some of the herbs could be used for curing diseases during hunting and gathering society. In Chinese history, the earliest recognized herbalist was Shennong (divine father), a mythic god-like figure who lived around 2800 BC (Wikipedia). Shennong tested hundreds of herbs and imparted his knowledge of medicinal and poisonous plants to the farmers. He also wrote Materia Madica (Shen Nong Bai Cao Jing), the oldest book on Chinese herbal medicine, to classify more than three hundred flora and fauna. A large number of herbalists augmented his works. Among them the most distinguished was Li Shizhen, an herbalist lived in Ming dynasty. The Compendium of Materia Medica (Ben Cao Gang Mu) complied by Li Shizhen is still used today for consultation and reference.
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There are two major methods of applying the Chinese herbs: making a decoction, a tea that must be simmered for hours, or making large honey-bounded pills.
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Unlike the western medicine, these two ways of applying Chinese herbs are regarded as unpleasant and sometimes unacceptable. The teas are time-consuming, smelly and awful tasting while the pills are sticky and difficult to chew. Thus, modern forms of applications that are more acceptable have developed. There are two popular forms to replace the traditional applications. The first one is extract powder that we have found in Chinatown, Philadelphia (which would be further discussed in the Fieldwork section); and the second form is small tablets or capsules. Both of the modern ways of applications are easier for people to accept.

Furthermore, Chinese natural herbs are usually used for three major functions. To begin with, herbs can treat acute diseases and kill bacteria or virus. In general, these acute ailments are treated for 1-30 days. Second, herbs can heal chronic illness such as respiratory disorder, allergies, and immune system deficiency. These illnesses need more than 6 months to be effective. Moreover, herbs can help to maintain daily life health by keeping the balance (yin and yang) of human body. In some cases, herbs are taken daily and for an indefinite period. This is typically the situation when there are genetic disorders or permanent damage that cannot be entirely reversed, problems of aging, and ailments that have been left for too long without effective treatment (naturalherbs.com). For instance, Lin Daiyu in the novel, The Dream of the Red Chamber, has taken ginseng tea or other medicines daily since her birth due to permanent illnesses.

It is a common mistake to believe that everything natural that comes from the earth is safe and beneficial. This certainly is not true (natrualherbs.com). Centuries ago, traditional Chinese herbalists such as Shennong would test the herbs on themselves and have poisoned themselves with herbs in order to document the true natures of herbs. Additionally, the usage of herbs alone is discouraged even though the herbs used in formulas are safe. It is better to visit herbalists or doctors before taking any herbal medicines and they will adjust recipes and treatment after physical assessment. We visited two doctors in Chinatown and Chutong accepted health examinations by the doctors, which will be reported later.

Although Chinese herbs are usually taken as medicines, they also can be used either as seasonings or main ingredients in cuisine. Cantonese dishes, especially the soups, often contain Chinese herbs to provide more nutrition. There is no exact line between how herbs are used as medicines and as food in Chinese culture.
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Part III. FIELDWORK

On Saturday afternoon, we have visited four herbal places in Chinatown. In chronological sequence each represents herbal food shop, herbal pharmacy, and two Chinese medical clinics.
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The food shop Heung Fa Chuen (杏花邨) locates close to the grand gate of Philadelphia Chinatown (費城華阜). On the menu of Heung Fa Chuen we found various items with herbal ingredients. They offer herbal drinks like chrysanthemum tea (菊花茶) and selfheal tea (夏枯草茶). Other herbs such as black sesame, red bean, green bean and peanut are available ingredients to top in sweet soup and tofu pudding. When asked why customers would pay extra to add these herbs to their food, the owner of the shop answered, “Some people like these (the herbal ingredients listed above) because they make the soup more flavorful. Some others add herbs to make their food more nutritious.” Indeed according to Chinese herbalists, black sesame, red bean, green bean and peanut all have medical functions when ingest properly. But as indicated by the shop owner, some people may have chosen herbs topping simply for their fragrance and taste. In addition, it has happened in history that people ate herbs (defined broadly as above) to alleviate hunger or even fill the stomach. For example, in Respond to Yan Chen[1], the Qing Dynasty minister Fucheng Xue stated,

“八旗兵丁,不惯米食,往往由牛录章京领米易钱,折给兵丁,买杂粮充食。”

In summary, he said the Manchurian army were not used to eating rice. So they depended on Za Liang-a mixture of cereal, corn, buckwheat, soybean, sweet potato, peanut, green bean, and sesame for food consumption. Of course it is not likely that people go to Heung Fa Chuen and order extra herb toppings to expel hunger. But the example does add a third motivation to consuming herbs. From visiting this food shop, we conclude that the line between food and medicine could be drawn in terms of motivation of consumption. When herbs are consumed to complement nutrition, it could be considered as medicine; when herbs are served against hunger or out of gastronomical preferences, it belongs to the category of food.
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After we left Heung Fa Chun, we turned left onto Arch Street and visited the herbal pharmacy at the corner. If not for all the Chinese characters on the pill cases, we would have mistaken the store with CVS or Rite Aid. This store features a lot of herbal medicine one could easily find in a regular pharmacy in China. Unlike fresh/dried/crushed herbs found in Heung Fa Chuen, here herbs appear in a more modernized form. In most cases they are highly condensed and candy-coated. It was not busy on a Saturday afternoon, so we chatted with the pharmacist. He told us that 90% of the customers are Chinatown residents or Chinese students from neighboring universities. To further explore our topic, we asked him whether they sell any food ingredients in the store. He looked at us with a strange smile and said, “Well, most people won’t be here unless they are sick.” According to him, herbs are consumed as medicine when an illness has occurred. In other words, herbs are medicine when herbs they as cure. Otherwise it cannot be labeled as medicine because it does not remedy any sickness. We are skeptical about his argument. If the function of herb decides which category it belongs to, then the judgment largely depends on the definition of “illness”, not herb itself anymore. Turtle jello (龜苓膏Guiling Gao)for instance, is served as a Cantonese snack dish, not a medicine. Yet it claims to cleanse, nourish “yin”(陰), and improves circulation. If the imbalance of “yin” and “yang” can be counted as illness, then technically turtle jello is a medicine as well, which is against our empirical experiences.
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Our final stop was the two medical clinics. To look less suspicious, we decided that Chutong would pretend to be a real patient-and was there to treat acnes. Doctor A felt Chutong’s pulse and prescribed packets of condensed fluid. Some of the ingredients include: honeysuckle, chrysanthemum and radix bupleur. Interestingly, we later noticed that on the pockets printed a tiny line-The Chinese Herbal teas. Doctor Lin, on the other hand, did more careful check-up for Chutong’s acne. He practiced the traditional four methods of Chinese medicine-Observe, Smell, Ask, and Feel the pulse (望闻问切). His prescription came in pockets of mixed herbal powder a convenient substitute for fresh/dried herbs. When we were waiting for Doctor Lin’s assistance to mix the herbal powder, we chatted randomly with people in the clinic. We asked why they chose Chinese medicine over western one, and the answers can be summed up in four categories. Almost everyone mentioned that Doctor Lin is trustworthy and well respected in the area. A lot of people said they were used to Chinese medicine and believe it has fewer side effects on their body. Some claimed that they found it really convenient that Chinese medical clinics do not require appointments. And a few explained that they were here solely for balance of health. It is amusing to associate the last answer with the Pharmacist’s theory. If the fourth group of people came merely for balance of health, i.e. not sick, should we define the herbs they get as food rather than medicine? Now we think that there should be more divisions than “food” and “medicine” when categorizing herbs according to function. At least there should be “health care” to cater the needs of those who enthusiastically pursue the balance of “yin” and “yang”.
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Although we failed to obtain a solid conclusion on what determines the line between herbs as food and herb as medicine. We did acquire two potential factors: motivation and function. The nuance between the factors is that “motivation” is a subjective perspective, i.e. why people take the herbs. Meanwhile, “function” is more objective in describing the actual effects of herbs. However, the two criteria are not always in accordance. The turtle jello for example, is often taken as food motivation wise, but benefits balance of health as a function.

[1] Xue, F. (n.d.). Respond to Yan Chen.

 

Fortune cookie

By Binglei Yan, Mengnan Zhang, and Tram Nguyen

A history of Fortune Cookies

The origin of fortune cookie is “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside a cookie”

Jennifer Lee

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Modern-day fortune cookies

The inspiration for modern-day fortune cookies may come from a Chinese legend. Between the 13th and 14th Century, the Mongols occupied China. The Chinese Resistance against the Mongol occupation encountered problems of communication due to the country’s vast size.The legend says that Chinese troops hid secret messages inside the mooncake to coordinate the resistance. On the night of the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, the Chinese rebels threw of the Mongol oppressors and established the Ming dynasty.

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Chinese mooncake: the first fortune “cookie”?

However, the above story only remains a legend. Fortune cookies are most likely of Japanese origin. In the 19th century Kyoto, Japan, a cookie called tsujiura senbei (“fortune crackers”) was made and shared similar features with modern day fortune cookie. This Japanese cookie contained a fortune, called an “omikuji” and was often sold in Buddhist temples. Tsujiura senbei are a little bit larger than the modern fortune cookies; they are flavored with sesame and miso rather than vanilla and butter.

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Tsujiura senbei and its omikuji fortune

So where did the modern day fortune cookie actually originate from? Both Chinese and Japanese immigrant populations in America have claimed to invent fortune cookies. The debate is so heated that it fueled a court battle in 1983, where the judge decided that the modern fortune cookie was first made in San Francisco before World War I. However, the cookie’s actual national origin was not decided upon and remained ambiguous even today.

While there are some plausible theories regarding the origin of fortune cookies, many researchers agree that fortune cookies were invented by Japanese immigrants in the early 20th century America. Probably the most credible claimant was Seiichi Kito, the founder of the Fugetsu-do baker. Kito said that he modified the Japanese recipe of tsujiura senbei to create the fortune cookies that can satisfy American tastes. He then sold the cookies to restaurants in Los Angeles.

However, during World War II, thousands of Japanese people, including those who made fortune cookies, were locked up in internment camps. Many Chinese bakeries wanted to fill the vacuum and took over the manufacturing of fortune cookies. As Chinese food became increasingly popular on the West Coast, meals were often accompanied by fortune cookies. By the end of World War II, fortune cookies were almost exclusively being served in Chinese restaurants in California.

That is how fortune cookies end up in Americanized Chinese food restaurants today.

The Lucky Chinese Cookie Factory

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Our group visited the Lucky Chinese Cookie Factory on January 31st. Situated on the less crowded 9th street, the factory is sandwiched between a pizza shop and a hair salon. In the beginning, we assumed that it must be a large factory; however, it is only a small room with piles of cookie boxes, three old machines, and a counter near the door entrance. Not allowed to photograph the machines, we took pictures of various types of fortune cookies on the counter. The cookies have strawberry, chocolate, coffee, and mixed flavors; there are also X-rated and plain ones on display. All cookies were sold in low prices; the most expensive X-rated type was $3.25 per package.

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Before coming to the factory, we prepared some interview questions for the workers and the customers there.

For workers:

  1. How long have you been working here?
  2. How long has the factory been opened?
  3. Do you know the origin of fortune cookies?
  4. How are the fortune cookies here distributed?
  5. How many fortune cookies can the factory produce everyday?
  6. Do you like to eat fortune cookies?

For customers:

  1. Have you had fortune cookies at any other restaurants besides Chinese restaurants?
  2. Do you know the origin of fortune cookies?
  3. Do you like to eat fortune cookies?
  4. What do you think about fortune cookies after visiting here?
  5. Have you ever tried fortune cookies with other flavors besides the plain one?

(Our set of questions for the customers was not used because the two customers we met could not speak English or Mandarin)

On that day,there were only four workers in the factory, and we interviewed three of them (they all share Chinese origin). Our first interviewee was a middle-aged woman; her answers to our questions were very general. She said she has been working in the factory for many years, and the factory has been opened for many years. She believed that the origin of fortune cookies could be either China or America. According to her, the fortune cookies made in the factory are distributed to everywhere in America, and the workers can produce even ten thousands of cookies per day. She also mentioned that she did not like to eat fortune cookies. We then tried to interview a middle-aged man; however, the man refused to answer our inquiry by saying that he was too busy with his work. The last person we interviewed was the salesman who greeted customers at the counter. Lucky for us, his answers were much more specific than those of the middle-aged woman. Although he has only worked in the factory for two months, he knew that the factory has been opened for thirty years. He thought that fortune cookies must have been brought from China by Chinese people and then spiked in popularity in America from Los Angeles. His answer was not correct though. The salesman also said that the fortune cookies of the factory were only distributed to Chinese restaurants in the Philadelphia area. Everyday, they could make 3500 fortune cookies. It is interesting that the salesman loved eating fortune cookies before, but after working at the factory, he no longer liked them.

The Making of Fortune Cookies

Fortune cookies were first made by hand. In 1974, Edward Louie, the owner of the Lotus Fortune Cookies Company in San Francisco, invented a machine that could put the fortune paper inside the cookie. In response to the high demand for fortune cookies, Yong Lee created the first fully automatic fortune cookie machine in 1980. The operation of modern fortune cookie is quite simple. Basically, many baking ingredients, including butter, flour, oil, vanilla, and sugar are mixed together. Then batter is poured into cups, which which are then covered with metal plates to keep the batter flat. Next, bake for about 1 to 3 ½ minutes. Vacuums suck the cookies into place, using metal fingers to fold the fortune in half and “smuggle” the fortune inside. The cookies then have a distinct half-moon shape.  They are cooled, packaged, and ready to be sold.

The machines in Chinatown’s Lucky Chinese Cookie Factory are not highly automatic as machines that mass-produce fortune cookies. On the day we visited the factory, only two out of three machines were in operation. The vacuum that was supposed to place the fortune inside the cookie missed its job sometimes (or it could put more than one fortune inside a cookie). When these circumstances happened, the worker sitting besides the machine would immediately remove these “bad luck” cookies.

While a more modern machine can do both the baking and wrapping of the cookies, the baking machine and wrapping machine in the Lucky Cookie Factory are separate items. Workers threw the freshly made cookies in a box and began to wrap them. We also noticed that the fortune from this factory was a little different from the one we normally get at Chinese restaurants. The usual fortune includes a Chinese word, an English quote, and a series of random numbers. However, the fortune from this factory only has the quote and numbers.

Today, people can buy mini fortune cookies machines at a relatively low price to make their customized fortune cookies at home. It is interesting to see how the role of fortune cookies has changed over time. Fortune cookies were something that Americans would expect to enjoy only at Chinese restaurants. However, with the introduction of the mini machines, fortune cookies have been gradually becoming a part of the American families’ diet. Who knows, Americans may prefer fortune cookies over cupcakes and donuts in the future?!

Reflection

After visiting the Lucky Chinese Cookie Factory, we keep pondering over the real identity of fortune cookies. Is it a Chinese food, a Japanese food, or an American food? Who was the actual inventor of the modern day fortune cookies? From our interview, the salesman said that their fortune cookies were only sent to Chinese restaurants in Philadelphia. For most people in American, fortune cookies seem to assume an automatic Chinese identity because the cookies are mainly served in Chinese restaurants. As fortune cookies now begin to emerge in Chinese restaurants in China, some Chinese people wonder on Twitter why this American food appears in China. For people living in China, fortune cookies are foreign and carry the American identity. It is thus hard to say to which nationality the identity of fortune cookies should be associated with. Perhaps as for now, we can agree with one man in the movie “The Killing of a Chinese Cookie” who said that, “The Japanese invented the fortune cookie, the Chinese advertised it, and the Americans tasted it.”

Sources consulted

Borgna Brunner, History of the Fortune Cookies                                                                   Dan Myers, Things you didn’t know about fortune cookies                                                     Jennifer Lee, Solving a Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery Inside a Cookie                                 Jesse Rhodes, Cracking Open the History of Fortune Cookies

 

Egg Tart 蛋挞

These wobbly yellow jewel delights have pleased Portuguese, English, Macaunese, and Hong Kongnese sweet cravings for as many as centuries and as little as decades.  Since introduced, egg tarts have become everyone’s favorites.  These egg tarts today are now an integral part of Hong Kong’s dim sum.  With so many different versions of the egg tart, we started to wonder, what exactly is an egg tart?  


Egg Tart: A Possible History

Before we went on our Philadelphia egg tart journey (courtesy of Yelp’s “top egg tart” list), we searched up the history of egg tarts.  We learned that egg tarts’ history is as complicated as its’ recipe.  One of the theories is that egg tarts originated from the English tart with custard filling, a British classic.  People believe that the British colonization in the Guangdong province influenced the Cantonese cuisine.  The second and popular theory is that the egg tart is a Cantonese take of Pastel de Nata.  This Portuguese favorite is found all over Portugal and even Europe.

From 1557 to 1999, Macau had Portuguese influence.  Pastel de Nata is a traditional Portuguese custard pastry.  The custard is caramelized to form a creme brulee topping.  It was created over 200 years ago by Catholic Sisters at Jeronimos Monastery in Lisbon.  The first shop outside of the convent to make this pastry is Casa Pasteis de Belem.  Today, this pastry shop continues to specialize in Pastel de Nata and has spread all over Europe creating an international and well-recognized chain there.

Evolving from Pastel de Nata and the English tart with custard filling, the traditional Cantonese egg tart was formed.  Hand held and able to be finished with three or four bites, these pastries are a cha chaan teng and dim sum favorite.  In 1940’s, egg tarts arrived in Hong Kong from Macau and became popular because of cha chaan teng.  Cha chaan teng are
Hong Kong fast food teashops that serve Western style Hong Kong food classics.  Some of these favorites are the spam instant noodles, scrambled eggs with Hokkaido milk on thick slices of toasts, and egg tarts!

There may not be any written and proven history of egg tarts, but there are certainly stories.  These stories are all important and part of the egg tart identity.  Egg tarts are a reflection of the fusion of cultures in Hong Kong today. These egg tarts tell a story of how society progresses and changes as they adopt other cultures into their own.


Our Philadelphia Egg Tart Journey

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We set out our egg tart taste journey by searching for “egg tart” on Yelp (where people mark, comment and rate on local restaurants) and it provided us with a list of bakeries and restaurants that provide Philadelphia’s best egg tarts. We confined our search within bakery stores in Philadelphia Chinatown area, with the hope in making them more comparable. After composing a list of potential stores, we ended up visiting four of them – St Honore Pastries, Hong Kong Bakery, Mong Kok Station Bakery, and Mayflower Cafe & Bakery. They are all clustered around the intersection of Race Street and 10th Street.

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The first thing that surprised us was the high concentration of Chinese bakeries in such a small area.  The second thing followed after our egg tart journey, when we realized how distinct the different egg tart flavors are when comparing them with each other.

We visited Chinatown on January 29th, 2015, on a Thursday morning. Our first stop was St Honore Pastries because the egg tarts there received so much praise as the “best egg tarts” in Chinatown, in Philadelphia, or ever existed. When we arrived there at around 10 am, although there were only two customers in store, the plate of egg tarts on display had already been sold out; we assume as breakfast. While we were told that they would be ready in 10 minutes, we decided to try the so-called “almond tarts” next to the egg tart plate, which looked much like egg tarts, only with white filling. The almond tarts were preserved cold, and had a pleasant flowery taste (although they did not taste like almond).  Shortly after, we got to enjoy the steaming hot egg tarts. One thing we really appreciated was the soft and jiggly texture of both of the tarts, which to some degree made up for the missing of egg and almond tastes. Overall, we rated the egg tarts and almond tarts two stars and three stars (out of five) respectively.

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before………  10 minutes later!

Only a few doors away stands Hong Kong Bakery, our second stop. The egg tarts there are sold at a price of $0.85, comparing with the $0.80 price for egg tarts and almond tarts in St Honore Pastries – we thought because they are larger in size. They were also sold as cold snacks; the texture was harder and more concrete, and the taste was quite sweet.  But we mostly enjoyed it because of the hint of egg we tasted with every bite. We rated it as 3.5 stars because Tina realized with excitement that “this tastes like something I would get in Hong Kong.”

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The third store we went to was Mong Kok Station Bakery, which was bigger and had more customers during our time of visit (most of whom are middle-age males).  This was also getting later in the day, hitting an early lunchtime which could probably explain the increase in customers as we ticked off our bakery list.  Mong Kok Station Bakery sells egg tarts and Portuguese tarts side by side at prices of $0.8 and $1.0.  They also sold coconut tarts, which look completely different from the other two kinds so we decided not to try them. Out of curiosity we asked the salesperson what the difference was between the egg tarts and Portuguese tarts, and she told us the former were made of eggs and water while the latter were made of eggs and milk.  What surprised us most was that we did taste out the ingredients and the difference from them! Besides, both of them were sold as cold; the texture of the egg tarts, while not jiggly, was very smooth, and the Portuguese tarts were perfectly caramelized, not a burn on our tart. We decided that they both worth 5 stars, because of the well refined tastes and texture.

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Our last visit was to Mayflower Cafe & Bakery, where surprisingly we saw many people came as families (with the elders and kids) at a time around 11 am. This bakery sells egg tarts at the common price of $0.8; it also sells coconut tarts for $0.6, and they look like neither the egg tarts nor the coconut tarts from the previous shop. This is the only bakery out of the four that keeps their egg tarts warm (they keep the plate heated before moving it to the counter). The egg tarts themselves were also quite impressive: they looked very shiny and attractive, jiggly in texture but did not fall apart, and had a very natural taste of egg without being too sweet. No doubt, we rated it five stars – the fact that it was heated bumped it up a star!

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Our Interviews and Critique

Before the trip, we designed some questions for the salespeople (who in some case are also the shop owners):

1. Are the egg tarts made in store?
2. How long does it take to make egg tarts?
3. How many can you sell each day?
4. Who are the customers? Americans? Asians? Other people?
5. Where did you come from?
6. What type of egg tarts are sold in your store?

With these questions, we hope to lead them to identify the origins of three factors involved in the selling process – the start (the salespeople themselves), the medium (egg tarts), and the target (the customers) – based on their daily experience and vision.

Out of the four bakeries, the salespeople in the first three answered either a part or all of our questions; those from Mayflower Cafe & Bakery refused because they were too busy. All of them proudly claimed that the egg tarts were made in store. The people from St Honore Pastries and Hong Kong Bakery said it took around half an hour to make egg tarts, while the people from Mong Kok Station Bakery said they would spend 2-3 hours just to make the base! Interestingly, none of them were sure about how many egg tarts they could sell each day, but Mong Kok Station Bakery people made a guess of 80-90 per day.

When it comes to identity, the salespeople from all three bakeries told us that they were from China (国内, or “domestic,” in their words), and when being asked specifically, they said either Hong Kong or Canton. All of them regarded their egg tarts had “Hong Kong flavor,” and the Portuguese tarts in Mong Kok Station Bakery adopted its flavor from Macao. When we asked them who their customers were, they said “both foreigners (老外 or 外国人) and Chinese would come…around half and half.”

We found their answers regarding identity questions particularly fascinating. First of all, even though they gave identical answers for the origins of their egg tarts, from our own experience, their products were actually very different from each other’s in size, flavor, and texture. Despite these differences they could still be classified as “Hong Kong egg tarts” popularized from cha chaan teng as we explained above, but the variations suggest certain level of transformation in recipe, techniques, or ingredients, which could be a reflection of the transformation in social experience, or exchange of cooking ideas that worths further investigation.

The identity story here is not only about egg tarts; it is also about people involved. Between us, Tina speaks English and Cantonese, Xue speaks English and Mandarin, and our conversations with the salespeople were carried in a strange mixture of Cantonese and Mandarin.  We thought, this was probably one of  the reasons  for them to identify us as “insiders,” and naturally use terms like “domestic” and “foreigners” when referring to China and people who are not Chinese. Still it is interesting to notice where they draw the lines between “us” and “them,” and how they identified themselves as Chinese people who were distinctive from “foreigners” in the environment of a Chinatown in an American city.


Reflection

After our research and egg tart journey, we reflected back to our original questions – What is an egg tart and where is it from?  Although we still do not have a concrete answer, we do have a better understanding of the egg tart.  Our interviewing and presenting experiences when asking our peers what they thought of egg tarts, just further made us understand that everyone has their own answers.  With every different response we got, we had to just accept that there is no right answer.

We realized, the egg tart is a representation of an integration of cultures that have formed over the past few centuries.  There will never be the “right” egg tart, since it has evolved over past few years as other cultures adopt and influence the taste, texture, and ingredients of this tart.

The egg tart has become a part of many different cities’, cultures’, and people’s identities.  To the Portuguese, it is their creme brulee.  To the English, is their sweet tart.  To the Macaunese and Hong Kongers, it is their hand held comfort food.  To others, it is a sweet and loveable tart.  Who doesn’t love egg tarts?!  The egg tart has become a staple of Hong Kong dimsum and cha chaan teng diets, but it also has become a part of the city’s national identity.

Today, there are already unique versions of the egg tart and it just further says that food and culture is always changing.  It may be a bold statement to make and we are frustrated that we never found the “perfect egg tart”, but we know that there never was and never will be the accurate egg tart.  So, we are excited to see what versions of the egg tart we will taste in our futures!