A creative streak comes naturally to me. It shows itself in my home decorating, in my bright colored and stylish clothing, shoes and purses, and all the creative avenues that I’ve partaken in – such as sewing, crocheting knitting macramé, embroidery, cross stitching, cooking and cookbook writing, video blogging and for a very long time, about a lifetime ago, Dollhouseminiatures. During that period of creating I won many ribbons for my miniature projects, mostly from scratch.
Does being creative give you the right to call yourself an artist? Suddenly I have that question in my mind.
Are you a creative, do you call yourself an artist?
Over the past 3 1/2 years, I turn the corner on my creativity. I can give credit to Jennifer. It all started when my daughter fell in love with the art of Romero Brito. Spontaneously, I took out my markers (because as a teacher with experience in primary school education, you always have markers. Teaching students a language requires the use of the philosophy that using art to draw concepts cements the vocabulary). I put together a drawing, trying to emulate his work. One month later, after returning from Sri Lanka, the vision of the palm trees on the beaches of the Indian Ocean were still in my brain. So one day without forethought, I sketched a palm tree. It was lame as it was, but it started the whole ball rolling.
A few months later I went to Italy. As a lone female traveler, I decided to go the safe route and take a six-day workshop with an artist in the north of Tuscany. When a friend Peter saw my Italy sketches, he beamed, asking me if I would draw sketches of the tea making process for his book about Tea in China. Was the Pope Catholic, I thought? I jumped at the opportunity. It gave me a focus for my art because at that point when I was flitting around with Zentangle Art and Mandalas and other topics with no real focus.
Peter designed my first Chinese Chop with the characters that said “LiZhi (my name Lichee in Chinese), Artist”.
Could I call myself an artist then? Well honestly no, I couldn’t, although I continue to use the stamp to this day.
Knowing that I didn’t have enough knowledge and experience about watercolor painting, I attended a weekly Kunming art studio for over a year and got a good grip on how to paint realistic art with watercolors. Learning to see the colors, color mixing, shading, shadows, I tried to learn everything. The owner of the studio offered to do a 2-day art exhibition of all of my paintings and sketches (35 in total) — and it was a huge success. Around that time a friend bought one of my favourite Chinese paintings also.
Could I call myself an artist after that? Crazy as it sounds, no, I knew I still had a lot to learn.
Getting back to teacher art and markers, my proclivity is to small, meticulous details with paper and fine liners and pencils and markers and ink and erasers and rulers in drawings (maybe I should have been an architect, and I do love perspective, which I’m not terribly good at until now). But I still wanted to continue to stretch my skill, watching YouTube and Craftsy videos of artists teaching painting or sketching techniques. Also attending sketching workshops in Florida helped to improve my experience. (Do you see the theme here of travel and art in my life??)
Quite recently I developed an interest in having a more loose style. I spent the morning painting with an artist named Dan Whalen, who goes out with the Toronto Urban Sketchers group, because I really like his freer style of sketching and painting. I knew that if I wanted to try to go out sketching on location again, I would have to have that kind of style too. Why, because you don’t have enough time to finish when you’re out, so you need to be quick, and expressive in your sketching, representing the scene in front of you, all before the rain comes or the sun gets too hot or the shadows move.
Just two weeks ago, I met a lovely Singaporean artist, Beng Choo. She is an experienced artist and we have started the Urban Sketchers Kunming group in Kunming China. We meet every Friday morning and have sketched some wonderful ancient Chinese buildings while dodging the rain and the hot sun.
Then binge watching Ian Fennelly videos has really motivated me. Will I go to the Urban Sketchers Symposium in Hong Kong in April and take a class with Marc Taro Holmes because I’m a 1.5 hour flight away, or to Venice in May for 6 days and learn from Ian? I am considering it all. Because my art has moved away from a very detail-oriented style to towards a more expressive style.
In my quest to learn all I can, and with an art school within a 5-minute walk from my home, I just began a 10-week course, ‘Song Dynasty Chinese Painting on Silk’, which uses traditional Chinese black ink and painting techniques but with Kuretake watercolour paints. The process is very slow and detailed, with many steps so far. I have only learned how to paint the outlines on silk with ink and how to mount and stretch the silk onto a wooden frame. My teacher, Peng, says it takes 10 2-hour classes to complete, but that I am a fast learner!!!!
[Starting in 960 and ending in 1279, the Song Dynasty consisted of the Northern Song (960-1127) and the Southern Song (1127-1279). With a prosperous economy and radiant culture, this period was considered as another period of ‘golden age’ after the glorious Tang Dynasty (618 – 907).]
My first painting will be a copy of a Song Dynasty painting of crab apple flowers and my background is a soft beige colour, not this dark, boring colour.
Do I have the right to call myself an artist now? Have l earned that right yet? I guess the answer is I have to feel it in my heart, and my heart tells me that I am able to represent the feelings I have when I do art so much better than when I first embarked on my art journey a time ago. Stay tuned for more on the answer!
I am thrilled that my ebook, pdf and soft cover editions of “Roz Weitzman’s World of Yunnan Cuisine” are finished and ready to share with you on my newly launched website http://www.rozweitzmansworld.com!
It’s been such a fun (and tasty too) recipe writing, cooking, photographing, illustrating and getting ‘Chinese’-creative in the kitchen!
Yunnan is located in southwest China and borders Myanmar, Lao and Viet Nam
70+ Yunnan recipes and beautiful illustrations of the food
- completely made from scratch
- few difficult to find ingredients
- suitable for any cooking level whether you are a beginner or a pro
- most use a simple wok and no fancy equipment
- notes about Yunnan Tea Culture and Tea Brewing
- interesting reads about Local Yunnan Food Culture including a ‘walk’ through a Local Wet Market
- stories about the people in a Local Wet Market, ‘The Bread Couple’ and ‘The Fruit Lady’
- how to cut ingredients the Chinese way with a cleaver
- meal menu plans
- shopping and food prep tips
- suggestions for how to spice it up or ramp it down
- and more!
Why this book?
There any many, many cookbooks out there. So what sets “Roz Weitzman’s World of Yunnan Cuisine”apart?
- No hard-to-find ingredients – everyone has the access and budget!
- No difficult techniques – Yunnan food isn’t tough to make!
- Short prep and cook time – people are busy! Most recipes take 30 minutes or less to make.
- No fancy equipment – all you need is a wok pan, a pot, a wok spatula and a cleaver.
- Single/four-serving – but easily scalable to feed more or less!
- No more boring Chinese Stir Fry!
Available in softcover, epub, mobi, and pdf!
Let me prove to you that ANYONE can cook mind-blowingly delicious and simple Yunnan Cuisine with accessible ingredients.
If you are a beginner: this is the perfect book for you. I will guide you, step by step, from grocery shopping –> prep –> creating inspiring food.
If you are an experienced cook: this is also the perfect book for you. Use my recipes, traditional Yunnan flavors, and methods as inspiration to build upon!
Order this book online , directly from Roz if you’re in China through a Chinese bank transfer or I’ll send to you in mid-July when I’ll be bringing copies to Toronto.
Soft cover book is $22.00 + Shipping or 132 RMB + Shipping
Order this book now!
Feel free to forward this email to someone who likes cookbooks.
For a fruit seller in China, it’s impossible to deny that the hours and the work are demanding. And yet you can see by the smile on her face that Zheng Hui (郑慧), a fruit shop owner in my local market, is a woman who loves her occupation.
Demanding would be an understatement. Her normal workday begins with a drive together with her husband to her distributors in a fruit market in Jin Ma Zheng Chang Village(金马正昌) near Ju Hua Cun (菊花村)each morning at 5am. Her shop closes when the market shuts down at about 8:30pm: 7/365, no days off!
It’s not easy to find good tasting fruit, even though Kunming is very close to the fruit farming areas. Zheng’s challenge is to find the best fruit at the best price. How she does this each day is truly amazing but she has four criteria. She judged the fruit by its colour, its texture, the place of production and the flavour, tasting each and every batch of fruit before buying.
Although the majority of the work rests on her shoulders, Zheng has trusted helpers to assist in managing the daily jobs that keep the attractive shop running so well. It’s simply too much work for one person. Her husband who runs a flower shop in a nearby market helps her out from time to time in the busy hours and her mother-in-law and father-in-law are often there during the afternoons. As a bystander, it’s easy to tell that she has a wonderful relationship with her family whom she says she loves very much.
Coming from Chongqing in Sichuan Province 5 years ago, her incentive for starting in the fruit business was her love of eating fruit. And she decided to move to Kunming to open a fruit shop because in her words, “Kunming has a lot of fruit.” If she is near the source, that is ‘good fruit’, then she could be successful.
In addition to her trusted family, Zheng has some business partners who are fruit farmers and distributors from different places around the Kunming area. Her distributor lives in Lanyi Village and they have been working together for many years. Over time, they have come to trust each other 100%.
With farming and distribution methods constantly improving in China it’s easy to imagine that she could solve her major difficulty soon. Regarding this, she replies, “You just can’t find good quality fruit everyday for my values customers, that’s my big problem.”
To my amazement, there’s a new method of marketing fruit that’s popped up recently, that of selling fruit on WeChat. It’s hard to imagine that buying fruit without seeing it, touching, smelling and maybe even tasting it, but this movement is starting to take hold in certain areas around university campuses.
It’s hard to beat coming to her shop though. Zheng is always happy and smiling and as a regular customer, it makes you feel so good. With her prices fair, her advice honest, and being able to buy delicious fruit and nuts from her, I am fortunate that I found her! It’s quite true when she says the thing she likes most about her business is that it gives her the opportunity to get to know more people and become good friends. Certainly, beyond just being a loyal customer, she’s got a friend in me!
Watch for the second in my series of Chinese Cuisine cookbooks, “Roz Weitzman’s World of Yunnan Cuisine”, to be published shortly on Lulu.com, Amazon.com, iBooks.com and in soft cover through http://www.rozweitzmansworld.com.
As a regular contributor and resident chef of the ezine, GoKunming, the following recipes and articles have been published to date:
Exploring Kunming Bread: Guandu Baba December 24, 2013
Yunnan-Style Sweet & Sour Ribs May 28, 2013
Yunnan Copper Pot Rice April 19, 2013
Yunnan-Style Hong Shao Rou March 19, 2013
Yunnan Mint & Green Onions February 27, 2013
Yunnan-Style Red Beans & Shiitakes January 29, 2013
Yunnan-Style Tomato Salad December 24, 2012
Yunnan Shredded Chicken With Chili Sauce November 29, 2012
Yunnan Spicy Taro & Greens November 11, 2012
Yunnan-Style Pork & Egg Custard October 2, 2012
Yunnan-Style Lotus Root & Pork September 16, 2012
Yunnan-Style Edamame Beans & Garlic September 1, 2012
Every country throughout the world has their own typical or cultural bread. China is no exception with their mantou and baozi, which are rolls of dough steamed in stacked covered bamboo or (now) metal baskets at boiling temperature, sometimes being stuffed with meats or vegetable combinations. But perhaps a fairly unknown but interesting, tasty and most-like Western bread is Guandu Baba.
Baba is a yeast bread, made in my local neighbourhood market near Guandu Ancient Town in a 40 meter square bake shop. But it’s not your traditional Western loaf, cut into slices, but a 10-15 centimetre round, so delicious with a wonderful texture like some Western breads. Since finding Baba, the baking couple have become my friends, sharing our creations in bread making and our little secrets (even though the language barrier is great, we still enjoy our short conversations). When I asked to watch them and know more about this bread process, they obliged.
I have used Guandu Baba for making salty and fruit pizzas as well as my main breakfast food – cut into quarters, sliced in half through the middle, toasted in my small oven, and eaten with butter or jam or cream cheese. At this point I’d bet it’s even delicious with peanut butter.
No matter where you live in the world, if you’re a bread maker, your work starts way before your customers get their hankering for a slice of your bread or toast, and usually even before the sun comes up. My bakers, who come from DongBei in northern China, are no different. Mr. Wang Jing Zhang and Mrs. Bi Yi Min start their loaves rising at 6am and continue to bake and serve their customers until the last of their daily supply is sold – that’s usually 8pm. You could say that bread making is not an easy life. But it’s a rewarding one – as “bakers feed the world”.
It’s said that Westerners eat bread and Chinese eat rice. Of course there is much truth to that in general, however Westerners eat bread more often in loaves, whereas Chinese have just as many varieties of bread products to choose from. What starts off as basic dough, but by changing the shape or changing from wheat to rice flour, produces a huge variety of foods by mixing in or sprinkling on some spices, more or less salt or sugar, other ingredients, such as eggs, or vegetables, or adding or subtracting oil.
(I like to call them) my bakers use one small grill-type round ‘oven’ for their many varieties of bread-type foods. Interesting enough, the temperature of 150C was used for all products, only shortening or lengthening the cooking/baking time…all done without a timer, amazingly!
When asked how she learned to make these breads, Yu Min, replies, “There’s no big secret to our recipes. These are the original green foods, free from chemicals with no food additives and made with pure ingredients. They’re the ones that we’ve been eating since we were little kids.”
The baba dough consists of plain wheat flour, water, yeast and a very tiny amount of MSG. When saying this she puts her thumb and finger together to suggest a pinch! The dough is mixed and shaped into larger than fist sized discs and set aside in their warm, small shop to rise on baking sheets until about doubled in size. The baking procedure is simple. Three babas at a time are placed on bottom of the ‘oven’ – a very lightly greased surface – and using the hand, are flattened. Then the lid of the ‘oven’ is closed. The babas bake on one side for 5 minutes, then are turned with wooden tongs and cooked on the other side for another 2 minutes with the lid closed again. After much discussion about the correct name for this oven, it’s been determined that the oven is called a “Bing Cheng 饼铛”. Voila, fresh, hot, wonderful smelling Guandu Baba!
This dough is also used to make the large flat pancakes with a heavy, long rolling pin, in two flavours. More oil is added and the first pancakes come out of the oven quickly, then are sprinkled with sesame seeds on top, cut into small bits and put into a small plastic bag with a toothpick from snacking as you walk along doing your errands. There’s a lovely, crispy sesame taste to these.
The same pancake is morphed into a spicier snack, with a mixture of chilli sauce, sprinkled with green onion on the top.
The dough that’s wrapped in clear plastic is the original recipe with some oil and eggs added into the dough, and following the same procedure as above, is cooked in more oil and done very quickly.
The morning I was there, they had already made over 30 babas, many other kinds of bread products, and nice warm soya bean milk. And that was at 9:00 in the morning. During the mid day they will make another batch or two of dough and continue to bake more breads throughout the day, keeping their booth stocked with the tasty morsels that the customers have grown to love over the 6 years they have been in Kunming.
I am wondering if they’re going to expand or sell their business. Just last week, they had a woman and her son working together and the baker seemed to be teaching his sister-in-law and nephew how to do what he and his wife have been doing for so long…baking baba and traditional street snacks. It’s quite normal that with two more pairs of hands in the back, their business will improve, just as long as they don’t move or close down that will be fine…that would be a pity for all of the residents of my neighbourhood but mostly for me!
My hats off to this talented couple who, like so many others in the same shoes all over China, work incredibly long hours in cramped quarters with recipes passed down from generations using simple utensils and equipment to feed the masses with ever tasty and predicable breads!
Looking to cook something different for dinner….check out my latest cookbook, Roz Weitzman’s World of Chinese Comfort Food, Illustrated Version at the Apple iTunes Store:
- Recipe: Yunnan-style Hongshaorou
- March 19, 2013
- Recipe: Mint and green onions
- February 27, 2013
- Recipe: Yunnan-style red beans and shiitakes
- January 29, 2013
- Yunnan-style tomato salad
- December 24, 2012
- Recipe: Shredded chicken with chili sauce
- November 29, 2012
- Recipe: Spicy taro and greens
- November 11, 2012
- Recipe: Yunnan-style pork and egg custard
- October 2, 2012
- Recipe: Yunnan-style lotus root and pork
- September 16, 2012
- Recipe: Yunnan-style edamame beans and garlic
- September 1, 2012
I’m so proud to announce the beautiful illustrated version of my latest cookbook, Roz Weitzman’s World of Chinese Comfort Food. Every recipe photo has been wonderfully hand-drawn and illustrated by my talented Illustrator, Nancy Szostak.
All the same book of 70 Chinese Comfort Food recipes but with illustrations instead of photos.
Please take a moment to have a look at the ebook at the Lulu website and even write a brief review.
If you try any of these recipes, I would love to have your feedback in my Comment Box:
- Copper pot rice April 19, 2013
- Yunnan-style Hongshaorou March 19, 2013
- Mint and green onions February 27, 2013
- Yunnan-style red beans and shiitakes January 29, 2013
- Yunnan-style tomato salad December 24, 2012
- Shredded chicken with chili sauce November 29, 2012
- Spicy taro and greens November 11, 2012
- Yunnan-style pork and egg custard October 2, 2012
- Yunnan-style lotus root and pork September 16, 2012
- Yunnan-style edamame beans and garlic September 1, 2012
In the FuXian Lake district near Kunming, there are many resorts popping up all on this deep, freshwater lake. It’s a summer resort destination for many tourists from the province as well as around China. The restaurants around the lake serve visitors delicious traditional delicacies native to the area. The most popular dishes are Copper Pot Fish and Copper Pot Rice. The popularity of their food arises from the use of simple, local ingredients (the fish come from the lake and Xuan Wei Ham is locally produced in Yunnan by salting and drying pork legs).
Xuan Wei Ham is used in this recipe and is reputed as one of the most famous hams in China; it’s a rich and tender pork, with a lovely aroma, a beautiful appearance and a delicious taste. Although produced in Yunnan since the mid-1700’s, the history of its popularity goes back 1909 when an entrepreneur in Xuan Wei City in the north-east of Yunnan Province to production into the ham-processing business to make this salt-cured and air or smoke-dried ham. Xuan Wei Ham has been a sought after food product and delicacy ever since it made it’s debut at the Panama-California Exposition from 1915 to 1917. This exposition was held in Balboa Park, San Diego, USA to celebrate the opening of the Panama Canal.
This dish gets its wonderful flavour from the Xuan Wei Ham. You can find deceivingly small copper pot at a Kitchen Market at Da Shang Hui for around 220rmb. Mine is the smallest size and a cute little pot that would be triple or quadruple the price were it bought in North America. Using the proportions here, the finished dish just barely covered the bottom of the pot but nonetheless produced a scrumptious combination, reminiscent of my holiday at FuXian Lake and worth every penny – er…rmb!
2/3 cup oil, divided
1 cup uncooked rice
3 – 4 cups of water, divided
1 cup Yunnan Xuan Wei ham cut into 1 cm cubes, using the fatty pieces as well as the meat
2 large potatoes, peeled and cut in small 2 cm pieces
Coat the copper pot inner wall with 1 tablespoon of oil.
Soak the rice in 2 cups of water for two hours. Drain the water and place the rice in the copper pot.
Heat a wok. Add 2 tablespoons of oil and heat over medium high temperature. Fry the Xuan Wei Ham cubes in the oil until they are crispy and browned around the edges and have a pale-coloured, cooked appearance. Remove the ham with a slotted spoon and put the cubes into the copper pot, leaving the oil in the wok.
Add the remaining oil to the wok and heat to very hot. Dry the potato chunks with paper towel and then carefully add them to the oil to prevent oil splatter, frying and turning frequently until the potato chunks are cooked on the inside and golden brown and crispy on the outside, which will take about 10 minutes. You may need to add more oil.
Put the potatoes in the pot together with the rice and ham and stir, adding 2 cups of water.
Cover the pot and bring the mixture to a boil on a high fire. Once the water is boiling, give the ingredients one stir and turn the heat to low. Then cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the rice is cooked. Check the rice at 10-minute intervals and add more water if necessary.
Remove from the heat, place the pot on a trivet on the table and your delicious copper pot rice is ready to serve straight from the copper pot. Enjoy!