small IMG_9490 Over a hundred and fifty visitors braved the cold and snow on 4th and 5th February 2012 to visit the Chinese Food Culture Weekend organised by Ming-Ai (London) Institute at the Bruce Castle Museum. It was an opportunity for Ming-Ai to promote the findings of the British Chinese Food Culture project with another well-known local organisation in Haringey, North London to share with the general British public. The two days event successfully attracted many local people of all ages to explore some aspects of Chinese culture.

The Ming-Ai project team had carefully prepared activities and exhibits to entertain visitors across three spaces of the castle. On Saturday 4 February, Mr. Kamsang Law kick-started the event with a humorous and informative talk on Chinese tea. Streams of visitors filled up the lecture room so quickly that extra chairs had to be brought in. He outlined the origin of the word ‘tea’, the different varieties available as well as their medicinal properties. He explained the meanings of a tea ceremony as he demonstrated the technique of brewing, pouring and drinking tea. At the end of the talk, the visitors eagerly tasted a hot and freshly brew of green tea.

small DSC00404Many tea-drinkers followed Mr. Law to the activities room to try their hands at Chinese calligraphy. Curious visitors of all ages, nationalities and abilities practiced holding a Chinese calligraphy brush and writing some simple words. The first word demonstrated was the Chinese word for ‘one’. It may only be one horizontal stroke, but there is an art on how to produce a beautiful stroke! More activities were taking place in the Old Kitchen area, where volunteers led an origami (paper folding) session to an enthusiastic group folding cranes and swans. Visitors can also learn and practice Mandarin in the Mandarin corner and to view a display of Chinese tea set.

Despite of, or because of the snowfall from the previous evening, fifty new visitors arrived at Bruce Castle Museum on Sunday 5 February. The London based Chinese artist Ms Wen Wu led the activity session on Chinese painting. She demonstrated painting bamboo trees and leaves in the Chinese watercolour with excellent results from the participating adults and children. Other activities available to try out were origami and making dough figurines. Participants could place the colourful dough in moulds or be more adventurous to go free hand, such as rose petals and cars.

small DSC00445_2To keep the energy level of the visitors going, Ming-Ai supplied the event with prawn crackers and vegetarian spring rolls. Lee Kam Kee generously donated 2012 calenders and receipe booklets as souvenirs for visitors. Further photographs are available on the project website and facebook account: www.facebook.com/Ming.Ai.Institute.

If you enjoyed the British Chinese Food Culture weekend, or you have missed it, there is a further free public event this month.

On Saturday 25 February 2012, Ming-Ai has been invited to participate in the National Maritime Museum’s “Traders: The East India Company & Asia”. From 11am to 4pm there will be a showcase of the oral history project alongside exhibitions from the National Archives, the Brick Lane Circle, London Metropolitan Archives, the Institute of Genealogists and the FIBIS. The National Maritime Museum is on Romney Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NF, close to Cutty Sark DLR and Greenwich train station.

The British Chinese Food Culture Project charts how Chinese food has changed over the centuries in Britain including interviews with fourteen current and retired Chinese chefs, restaurateurs, food importers and home cooks. Research was made into the origins of British Chinese dishes, such as chop sueys and discusses how available ingredients and equipments at the time resulted in adapting dishes until imports were made more viable. A list of food idiom in both English and Chinese and food dictionary can be viewed and further contributions are welcome!  To submit your food idioms, recipes or funny stories on Chinese food in Britain, email projects@ming-ai.org.uk.

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Written by Yatwan Hui, Project Media Officer

Photos by Chungwen Li & Ricky Law 

17 February 2012, London