#28ChineseMemories Day 3: Crispy Rice, or Noong

Image credit to SOMMAI of freedigitalphotos.net
Image credit to SOMMAI of freedigitalphotos.net

This is a very fond childhood memory for me: after dinner, my grandmother used to carve up the slightly burnt rice at the bottom of the rice cooker and have me and my siblings squeeze the crispy rice into balls to eat.

We call this noong in Taishanese and whenever I go home to Virginia to see my parents, I always request for noong at the end of a meal. There’s just something about the crispy crunchiness that brings back those childhood days when I bite into noong. What makes noong even better is some lapcheng aka Chinese sausage. Mmm!

I have tried to make noong in my own rice cooker, but to no avail: my parents say that they usually do the “cook” cycle on the rice cooker twice in order to produce some noong at the bottom. However, this is not a guarantee that there will be noong.

I hope one day to introduce noong to my own kids!

#28ChineseMemories Day 2: When Did I Learn English?

A picture of me as a baby with my dad and my sister Lisa.
A picture of me as a baby with my dad and my sister Lisa.

From the moment I could talk (whenever that was) until Kindergarten, I spoke Taishanese, my parents’ dialect from their part of China. I spent most of my time with my family and relatives, and, at that point, nobody in my family except my sisters and older brother knew English too well. So all of our family gatherings were in Taishanese.

Then, I entered into Kindergarten, and, well, I don’t recall how exactly I learned English considering my limited exposure to it prior to entering school. I’m not sure if my siblings helped me learn or if I just naturally picked up on the language.

I just know that I made friends in Kindergarten and did well enough to go on to the first grade. Now that I think about it, perhaps I learned a little English through family friends or my parents’ employees at the family restaurant. However I learned, I luckily didn’t have any issue acclimating to English.

These days, I speak primarily English with my siblings and cousins, and a mix of Taishanese and English with my parents (aka “Chinglish”).

#28ChineseMemories Day 1: Lunar Birthdays

I had a hard time trying to figure out the hashtag for this month’s theme, but I knew that I wanted February to be about my Chinese heritage and memories from my childhood of being raised in a bi-cultural household. Since I had a great time blogging last month about life lessons learned so far, I figure I will continue with daily blog posts and monthly themes. Let’s see how this one goes…

(By the way, my birthday went well! Was surprised that I had an unplanned party at lunchtime!)



Yummy noodles to eat on a lunar birthday! Image credit to tiverylucky at freedigitalphotos.net
Yummy noodles to eat on a lunar birthday! Image credit to tiverylucky at freedigitalphotos.net

I am not sure when my parents first told me about lunar birthdays, but within the past ten years I became more interested in learning each year when my lunar birthday was.

My parents follow two calendars: our Gregorian calendar and the lunar calendar, which is used primarily these days to determine holidays and festivals, such as the Lunar New Year. When my siblings and I were born, our parents (and relatives and grandparents) knew our lunar birth date and noted that date for future reference.

Every year since birth, though, my parents have told me that it’d be “very difficult” for any of  us to keep track of our own lunar birthdays since some years there are thirteen months in the lunar calendar.

So I always ask my mom, every year in January: when is my lunar birthday?

This year, it just so happened that my lunar birthday fell on January 30th, the day before my actual birthday. My mom said to me, “It is very rare for your lunar birthday to be so close to your actual birthday!” How lucky that it also happened to be my 30th birthday!

Traditionally on lunar birthdays, my parents tell me to go out and eat noodles, which symbolize long life; a hard-boiled egg, which symbolizes fertility and good health; and chicken, which symbolizes love (please don’t quote me on these interpretations, since at the moment, I don’t quite remember my parents’ words on these symbols and online research is not yielding much information).

I hope to soon learn the lunar calendar so I can calculate my future lunar birthdays and for my future children.