Hakkasan Restaurant » Chinese culture http://hakkasan.com Hakkasan Restaurant serves Michelin Star awarded Cantonese Cuisine Wed, 21 Feb 2018 23:27:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1 The history of tea http://hakkasan.com/blog/the-history-of-tea/ http://hakkasan.com/blog/the-history-of-tea/#comments Mon, 11 Apr 2016 17:32:51 +0000 http://hakkasan.com/?p=8076 Tea plays an integral role in Chinese society, and has done for thousands of years. It is believed that China introduced the rest of the world to tea via the renowned Silk Road trade route that connected the huge country to Russia and the Middle East (and from there to Europe). In fact, its production […]

The post The history of tea appeared first on Hakkasan Restaurant.

]]>
Tea plays an integral role in Chinese society, and has done for thousands of years.

It is believed that China introduced the rest of the world to tea via the renowned Silk Road trade route that connected the huge country to Russia and the Middle East (and from there to Europe). In fact, its production has been prominent in driving economic development, such is its financial worth and global popularity.

Additionally, tea drinkers were traditionally seen as the academics and cultural elites of society (although tea consumption is now a practice enjoyed by all), and it is still regarded as hugely important medicinally, with many positive health benefits.

The discovery of tea some 5,000 years ago is often attributed to Emperor Shennong, whose name means the Divine Farmer, and who is considered the ancient Chinese Father of Agriculture.

According to Chinese legend, Emperor Shennong and his court decided to take a rest under a Camellia sinensis plant, a plant native to the Asian continent, to enjoy some boiled water. It is said that dried leaves from the Camellia drifted into the boiling water creating an aromatic infusion that intrigued the emperor so much so that he took a sip, therein marking the first ever discovery of the beverage that would become the most popular in the world, second only to water.

During the Sui (581-618) and Tang (618-907) dynasties, tea was primarily used for its medicinal qualities. There was much exploration and study into the health benefits of tea. Indeed, the first references to these health effects were recorded by Emperor Shennong himself in The Divine Farmers Herb-Root Classic that tea infusions were useful for treating a variety of disease conditions. Its high price meant that most people were unable to afford it, and it was most often given as gifts to aristocracy or tributes to the emperor.

In the 700s, Lu Yu, an orphan who was raised by scholarly Zen monks, wrote the first definitive book about tea. He spent his life according to the Confucian tradition, pursuing poetry and literary classics. His book on tea gained the emperor’s patronage, and other Buddhist monks carried his tea service style to Japan where it evolved into the Japanese art form that is still performed today.

It was in the Song Dynasty that tea evolved from a medicinal plant to an everyday beverage. Whipped powdered tea prepared from tea cakes made from compressed tea powder became fashionable during this time, but disappeared completely from Chinese culture after the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368), along with many other aspects of the previous dynasty. The act of drinking steeped tea from leaves became popular, and it is how people continue to drink it today.

Hakkasan Abu Dhabi, Hakkasan Dubai and Hakkasan Shanghai launch Afternoon Tea, a unique perspective on traditional afternoon tea with classic desserts and dim sum accompanied by Chinese tea and Champagne.

The post The history of tea appeared first on Hakkasan Restaurant.

]]>
http://hakkasan.com/blog/the-history-of-tea/feed/ 0
Shēngxiào and the Year of the Monkey http://hakkasan.com/blog/shengxiao-and-the-year-of-the-monkey/ http://hakkasan.com/blog/shengxiao-and-the-year-of-the-monkey/#comments Tue, 05 Jan 2016 16:53:53 +0000 http://hakkasan.com/?p=5350 Chinese New Year is widely associated with the ancient Chinese zodiac Shēngxiào. With similarities to some aspects of Western astrology, Shēngxiào, or “birth likeness”, attributes and relates an animal sign to each year in a cycle of 12 years. According to some historians, the animals connected to the Chinese zodiac were brought from China via […]

The post Shēngxiào and the Year of the Monkey appeared first on Hakkasan Restaurant.

]]>
Chinese New Year is widely associated with the ancient Chinese zodiac Shēngxiào. With similarities to some aspects of Western astrology, Shēngxiào, or “birth likeness”, attributes and relates an animal sign to each year in a cycle of 12 years.

According to some historians, the animals connected to the Chinese zodiac were brought from China via the Silk Road route, the trade route that connected the West to the East. However, others believe that the zodiac predates Buddhism and has its origins in the early Chinese astrology that used the planet Jupiter as a constant due to its 12 year orbital period around the earth.

While its exact origins are inconclusive, there are many different legends and folk stories relating to the Chinese zodiac, varying from region to region much like the country’s diverse cuisine. The most popular of these stories, which differs depending on who is telling the story, is known as “The Great Race”.

It said in one version that the Buddha, or in some stories the Jade Emperor, sent an invitation to all of the animals in the kingdom to attend a Great Race which would decide the twelve animals that would be included in the zodiac.

Cat and Rat were good friends so they decided to travel to meet the Buddha together. As they were both bad swimmers, and the race included crossing a mighty river, they devised a clever plan to ride to victory on the back of the strongest of the animals, Ox, across the rapid and dangerous currents.

Just as they were in sight of the shore, Rat pushed Cat into the river, before jumping to shore ahead of Ox and winning the race. This explains why the cat hates water and is the sworn enemy of the rat.

The third animal to cross the river was Tiger. Though ferociously powerful, Tiger was defied first or second place by the powerful river’s currents.

Rabbit took fourth place, who had been blown to shore on a log he had climbed on after he had run out of river stones to hop across. This animal is recognised as extremely lucky.

It was Dragon who had blown the giant puff of air which essentially blew Rabbit’s log to shore. As one of the only flying animals, Dragon told the Buddha that he could have come first except that he had to stop to make rain for the people and creatures of the earth. He had then taken pity on the tiny rabbit, and had blown him to safety.

Horse arrived next, although hidden on his hoof was Snake, whose sudden appearance gave Horse a fright, thus making him fall back giving Snake the sixth spot in the zodiac while Horse came seventh.

Not long after, Sheep, Monkey and Rooster came to shore. The three animals helped each other to cross the mighty river on a raft discovered by Rooster. Together, Sheep and Monkey cleared the reeds and got the raft to shore. Because of their joint efforts, Sheep, Monkey and Rooster became the eighth, ninth and tenth animals of the zodiac respectively.

While Dog was the strongest swimmer, he couldn’t resist the temptation to play in the river, although he excused himself to the Buddha saying that he needed a bath. Because of this, he took eleventh place.

Just as the Buddha was about to call it a day and close the Great Race, a squealing was heard from the shore. Pig had gotten hungry and stopped for a snack and a short nap. Even though he was late, he had arrived before the end of the race, so he took the final twelfth place.

The first day of the Chinese calendar in 2016 is Monday 8th February, welcoming the Year of the Monkey.

Those who are born in the Year of the Monkey are naturally curious, mischievous and clever. Forever playful, monkeys are the masters of pranks and practical jokes. Their intentions are always good, although they can hurt feelings due to their spirited tendencies.

This year also heralds a fire year. The Taoist theory of the Five Elements describes the interaction and relation between yin and yang using symbols representing dynamic processes. Fire symbolises embodiment, definition, action, movement and design.

The Fire Monkey is the most active and aggressive of the monkeys. A person born in this year will be naturally dominant, gravitating towards leadership roles and excelling in competitive sport. Flamboyant and charming, the Fire Monkey will have a large social circle and won’t be afraid to take risks.

The Year of the Monkey, especially the Fire Monkey, is a year that anything can happen. Its playful influence means that there’s no use making plans. It’s a year of accomplishment, with a lightning fast pace and motivation. The monkey increases communication, humour and wit, meaning that adversity will be overcome with grace and ease. It also means that those who dare to be different can be extremely successful.

The post Shēngxiào and the Year of the Monkey appeared first on Hakkasan Restaurant.

]]>
http://hakkasan.com/blog/shengxiao-and-the-year-of-the-monkey/feed/ 0
The Mid-Autumn Festival http://hakkasan.com/blog/the-mid-autumn-festival/ http://hakkasan.com/blog/the-mid-autumn-festival/#comments Fri, 21 Aug 2015 15:03:10 +0000 http://hakkasan.com/?p=4540 The Mid-Autumn Festival is arguably one of the two most important festivals in China. The other, Chinese New Year, is widely recognised and acknowledged globally, with people around the world flocking to their city’s Chinatown to watch brightly coloured dragons dance down the streets to the sound of crashing cymbals. In contrast, the Mid-Autumn Festival […]

The post The Mid-Autumn Festival appeared first on Hakkasan Restaurant.

]]>
The Mid-Autumn Festival is arguably one of the two most important festivals in China. The other, Chinese New Year, is widely recognised and acknowledged globally, with people around the world flocking to their city’s Chinatown to watch brightly coloured dragons dance down the streets to the sound of crashing cymbals. In contrast, the Mid-Autumn Festival is a more sedate celebration, primarily observed in mainland China and Vietnam, and little is known about this romantic festival further afield.

The Mid-Autumn Festival is held on the night of the full moon on the 15th day of the eighth month of the Chinese Han calendar, within 15 days of the autumnal equinox. This year the festival falls on Sunday 27th September. Because of its association with the moon – the festival is said to be held on the night of the brightest and fullest moon – the Mid-Autumn Festival is sometimes referred to the Moon Festival or Harvest Moon Festival, and its history dates back to the traditions of moon worship in the ancient Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 BC).

The modern Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations are centred on family and reunion, with many gathering outdoors to eat mooncakes and look up at the moon. Historically, however, the festival was a time to enjoy and give thanks for the harvest, and Morris Berkowitz, who spent a long time studying the Hakka people, conceives that the original Mid-Autumn celebration began with worshipping the Mountain Gods after the harvest was completed.

As with many of the celebratory Chinese festivals, there are ancient folklores surrounding the festivities. The story of Chang’e and Hou Yi is the most widely accepted tale about the origin of the Mid-Autumn Festival, and it is this story that is the most often told, although the version differs slightly from location to location.

Chang’e and Hou Yi

A long time ago there were 10 scorching suns in the sky that burnt all the plants on Earth and killed lots of people.

The protagonist of the legend, a young man called Hou Yi, used his bow and arrow to shoot down nine of the 10 suns, thus saving everyone and everything. Upon hearing of Hou Yi’s tremendous and brave story, the queen of heaven, Wagmu, gave Hou Yi a bottle of elixir that could make him become an immortal.

However, this bottle of elixir would only work for one person. Although Hou Yi did want to become a god, he decided he’d rather stay with his beautiful wife Chang’e, such was his love for her. Instead of taking the potion, he went home and presented it to Chang’e, asking her to keep it for him.

Hou Yi had gained notoriety after shooting down the nine suns. More and more people wanted him to be their master, and he readily accepted most of them as his students.

Unfortunately, not every student of Hou Yi had good morals. Feng Meng, one such student, had noticed Hou Yi giving the elixir to Hou Yi and wanted to get his hands on it for himself, so one day when Hou Yi was out hunting Feng Meng pretended to be ill to stay at home. He crept over to Hou Yi’s house and demanded Chang’e hand the elixir over. Knowing that she could not defeat Feng Meng with strength alone, Chang’e drank the elixir herself. The moment she drank it, she flew out of the window and up into the sky towards the moon.

On realising his wife’s fate, Hou Yi was so grieved that he shouted Chang’e’s name to the sky, and was amazed to see her looking back at him from the moon. After hearing that Chang’e had become a goddess, people offered sacrifices and prayed to her for good luck and peace.

The post The Mid-Autumn Festival appeared first on Hakkasan Restaurant.

]]>
http://hakkasan.com/blog/the-mid-autumn-festival/feed/ 0
Seasonality in Chinese cuisine http://hakkasan.com/blog/seasonality-in-chinese-cuisine/ http://hakkasan.com/blog/seasonality-in-chinese-cuisine/#comments Mon, 08 Jun 2015 15:44:17 +0000 http://hakkasan.com/?p=4190 Chinese cuisine is as diverse as its many regions and inhabitants. Traditional northern Chinese food is glutinous and meat-heavy, with an emphasis on dumplings, either steamed or deep fried in hot oil, and sticky-sweet braised braised pork belly or shoulder. Szechuan cuisine is famous for the tingling, numbing heat of Szechuan pepper, while Guangdong is […]

The post Seasonality in Chinese cuisine appeared first on Hakkasan Restaurant.

]]>
Chinese cuisine is as diverse as its many regions and inhabitants. Traditional northern Chinese food is glutinous and meat-heavy, with an emphasis on dumplings, either steamed or deep fried in hot oil, and sticky-sweet braised braised pork belly or shoulder. Szechuan cuisine is famous for the tingling, numbing heat of Szechuan pepper, while Guangdong is known for its dim sum and Beijing for its Peking duck. A multitude of skills and techniques are utilised, from searing hot wok frying at exact temperatures to slower, gentler methods of roasting and poaching.

Chinese cuisine also reflects the changing seasons. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, there are specific ingredients and flavours that should be eaten each season to counteract the changing weather. This relates in some way to the ancient Chinese philosophy of yin yang, suggesting that the complementary forces in the world need to be balanced to maintain harmony. This theory extends to seasonal ingredients and methods of cooking: natural harmony is achieved by eating or drinking foods that are similar in nature to the environment.

Derived from the yin and yang philosophy, many foods are described as hot or cold (or somewhere in between). This is used to describe the ‘energies’ of the food and drink rather than their specific temperatures, and it is a concept used widely in China.

Spring

Spring is the season of new birth and growth. It is important during this time to eat cool and sweet foods as opposed to the warming foods of winter, such as spinach, celery, onions, lettuce, mustard leaf, wheat, dates, peanuts, coriander, bamboo shoots and mushrooms.

Summer 

In summer, plants grow fast and people act more energetically. The Chinese suggest eating ‘yin’ or cooling foods during these months. However, if the temperatures climb, it is recommended that cold foods are consumed, such as bitter gourd, watermelon, peach, strawberries, tomatoes, mung beans, cucumber, pumpkin, ginger, lotus root, lotus seeds, wax gourds and Job’s tears.

Autumn

In the autumn, trees start to shed their leaves and fruits mature. During these months, the Chinese cook with neutral and sour foods, such as sesame, honey, pineapple, pear, loquat fruit, sugar cane, banana and white fungus.

Winter

Living things start to slow down to save energy during winter. Some animals hibernate, while humans conserve energy and concentrate on building strength. Warming or ‘yang’ foods that are high in starch and calories should be eaten during this time, such as red meat and dark coloured foods to restore chi. Mutton, goose, duck, Chinese yam, glutinous rice, dates, eggs, longan fletch, black fungus, leeks and nuts are all warm foods that are eaten to stave off the cold in winter.

The post Seasonality in Chinese cuisine appeared first on Hakkasan Restaurant.

]]>
http://hakkasan.com/blog/seasonality-in-chinese-cuisine/feed/ 0
Lantern Festival http://hakkasan.com/blog/lantern-festival/ http://hakkasan.com/blog/lantern-festival/#comments Tue, 24 Feb 2015 15:09:27 +0000 http://hakkasan.com/?p=3675 The annual Lantern Festival is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the first month in the lunisolar year, and marks the final day of the Chinese New Year festivities. During the festival, people get together to celebrate the beginning of Spring by lighting lanterns, watching fireworks and eating yuanxiao (or tangyuan), sweet stuffed glutinous rice […]

The post Lantern Festival appeared first on Hakkasan Restaurant.

]]>
The annual Lantern Festival is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the first month in the lunisolar year, and marks the final day of the Chinese New Year festivities. During the festival, people get together to celebrate the beginning of Spring by lighting lanterns, watching fireworks and eating yuanxiao (or tangyuan), sweet stuffed glutinous rice dumplings. This year the Lantern Festival falls on Thursday, 5th March.

Lanterns

The main event of the Lantern Festival is the lighting of the lanterns, and this activity originated during the reign of Emperor Hanmingdi (58-75 BC). Historically, the lanterns owned by the majority of the common people were simple with very minimal design. Only the emperor and noblemen had large ornate lanterns. However, during the Tang Dynasty (618-907), the most prosperous period in Chinese history, the Lantern Festival was celebrated on a much larger scale, and it is at this time that the festival evolved into a country-wide party. It is said that during the reign of Emperor Tangxuanzong, 50,000 lanterns were lit in Xian City, the capital of the Tang Dynasty.

The lanterns are almost always red, as the color is symbolic of good fortune and prosperity in China. Nowadays, the lanterns vary in shape and size, occasionally created in the form of animals, insects, flowers, people and even machines and buildings. Others depict scenes from popular stories teaching traditional values. In Taiwan, the lanterns represent brightness and birth, which is why women who want to be pregnant often walk underneath hanging lanterns while praying for a child.

Origins and customs

The festival, although not a nationwide public holiday, is one of China’s more significant dates, and it can be traced back to the Han Dynasty more than 2,000 years ago.

There are many alternative stories and beliefs relating to the Lantern Festival’s origins.

One story suggests that the holiday is attributed to Taiyi, the ancient god of heaven. The belief is that the God of Heaven controlled the destiny of the human world. He had sixteen dragons at his beck and call, and decided when to inflict drought, storms, famine or pestilence upon humans. Emperor Qinshihuang, who first united China, held the first Lantern Festival to ask Taiyi for good weather and fortune.

Another common explanation for the Lantern Festival is rooted in Taoism. One story centers on the Jade Emperor, whose favorite crane flew down to Earth and was subsequently hunted and killed. The Jade Emperor was furious, and planned a firestorm as retribution. However, the emperor’s daughter was kind and warned the villagers first. A wise man from a neighbouring village suggested that the villagers hang red lanterns outside their homes, make bonfires and light firecrackers, to give the illusion that the village had already burned to the ground. On the day of retaliation, the Jade Emperor was tricked into thinking the village was ablaze, and the villagers escaped without tragedy.

Lantern riddles (cai deng mi)

An essential part of Lantern Festival celebrations include guessing lantern riddles. These riddles are attached to the lanterns and are often very challenging, some similar to English riddles and others based on the construction of Chinese characters or referring to traditional poetry. The person who answers the riddle correctly usually wins a small prize.

Yuanxiao

Throughout the festival, people eat yuanxiao (or tangyuan), and the Lantern Festival is sometimes referred to as the Yuanxiao Festival. The sticky rice flour dumplings are sweet, often stuffed with red bean paste, sesame paste or crushed peanuts. The name tangyuan in Chinese has a similar pronunciation to tuanyuan which means ‘reunion’, so people believe the dumplings signify union, harmony and happiness for the family. It is also believed that the round shape of the yuanxiao and the bowls in which they are served symbolise family togetherness, and eating the dumplings may bring happiness and good luck in the New Year.

The post Lantern Festival appeared first on Hakkasan Restaurant.

]]>
http://hakkasan.com/blog/lantern-festival/feed/ 0
Chinese New Year, the Year of the Sheep http://hakkasan.com/blog/chinese-new-year-year-of-the-sheep/ http://hakkasan.com/blog/chinese-new-year-year-of-the-sheep/#comments Tue, 10 Feb 2015 12:54:15 +0000 http://hakkasan.com/?p=3643 Chinese New Year, known as the Lunar New Year or the Spring Festival, is one of the most auspicious dates of the Chinese calendar. It is celebrated at the turn of the Chinese lunar calendar, and therefore the date differs each year. This year Chinese New Year falls on Thursday, February 19th, although traditionally festivities run […]

The post Chinese New Year, the Year of the Sheep appeared first on Hakkasan Restaurant.

]]>
Chinese New Year, known as the Lunar New Year or the Spring Festival, is one of the most auspicious dates of the Chinese calendar. It is celebrated at the turn of the Chinese lunar calendar, and therefore the date differs each year. This year Chinese New Year falls on Thursday, February 19th, although traditionally festivities run from Chinese New Year’s Eve to the Lantern Festival, a festival that concludes New Year, on the 15th day of the first month.

Celebrations

While Chinese New Year is celebrated across China and in many neighbouring territories such as Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Korea, Vietnam and Malaysia amongst others, regional customs and traditions concerning celebrations vary widely.

For instance, a reunion dinner known as Nian Ye Fan 年夜饭 will be held for family members on Chinese New Year’s Eve, but the food served at this meal will differ depending on where in China it is being celebrated, although most dinners will include a whole chicken, symbolising prosperity, togetherness and joy, and a whole fish, symbolising abundance of money. In fact, the Chinese phrase “may there be surplus every year” sounds the same as “may there be fish every year”.

In some countries of Southeast Asia, Chinese New Year is considered to be one of the most important holidays of the year, with the biggest celebrations taking place in Malaysia and Singapore. In Singapore there is an annual street parade, well-known for its colorful floats and performances. Similarly, the Lam Tsuen Wishing Trees in Hong Kong draw many a visitor – local and tourist – to throw oranges up into their branches for good luck.

The Year of the Sheep

The Chinese lunar calendar is associated with the Shēngxiào, or Chinese zodiac. This year is the Year of the Sheep (also known as the Year of the Goat or Ram).

The sheep is recognised as one of the animals of the zodiac that people like the most; gentle and calm, the sheep is unable to walk backwards or sideways and so continues plodding onwards, indicating that 2015 will be a year that people will progress, slowly yet steadily.

The sheep is also the eighth zodiac animal, making it one of the most auspicious signs; eight is one of the luckiest numbers in China, symbolising peace and wealth.

Mythology

According to ancient Chinese folklore, a mythical beast called the Nian would visit a small village in China at the beginning of New Year and terrorise the people, eating livestock, crops and even villagers, especially children. However, it was soon discovered that the Nian hated both the colour red and loud noises. From then on every Chinese New Year’s Eve, families hang red banners from their houses, decorate the streets with red lanterns and let off loud firecrackers in order to scare the Nian away.

Symbolism

Red is the predominant color used in Chinese New Year celebrations. It symbolises virtue, truth and sincerity, and is seen as joyful.

Red envelopes, known as ‘lai see’ in Cantonese and ‘hong bao’ in Mandarin, are often presented at social and family gatherings during Chinese New Year to children or unmarried and unemployed adults. The red color of the envelope symbolises good luck and is supposed to ward off evil spirits.

Typically, the envelopes contain money. The amount of money given usually ends in an even number, as off-numbered money gifts are traditionally associated with funerals. There is also a widespread tradition that money should not be given in fours, or the number four should not appear in the amount (such as 40 and 404) as the pronunciation of the word ‘four’ sounds like that of the word for ‘death’ and thus signifies bad luck.

Hakkasan will be offering all guests who dine from the signature Chinese New Year menu a red envelope containing a gift. This will be accompanied by a red wishing ribbon, and guests will be encouraged to share their wishes for 2015 before hanging the ribbon on the latticed woodwork in the restaurants. These wishes will be shared on the Hakkasan Wishes Instagram page and Chinese New Year website.

The post Chinese New Year, the Year of the Sheep appeared first on Hakkasan Restaurant.

]]>
http://hakkasan.com/blog/chinese-new-year-year-of-the-sheep/feed/ 1