Japanese Ramen’s Kodawari

                 When you travel to Japan or visit a Japanese restaurant, you may know or actually taste a bowl of Japanese Ramen. It is a very popular noodle dish among the world now. You may find several authentic Japanese Ramen chain restaurants all over the world. You even could say it is one of the symbols of Japanese culture. “Kodawari” is a unique and special word in Japanese that you hardly can find a synonym for it in English. It means “the uncompromising and relentless pursuit of perfection”. (Hagan, 2017) This custom is in every Japanese traditional craftmanship. It is also very important feature in the Japanese Ramen’s craftmanship. Japanese Ramen is different from Chinese Ramen; however, it is served in Chinese cuisine restaurants in Japan. It is considered a Chinese originated dish. As this noodle dish become more and more popular among Japanese people, more and more Japanese-Ramen-only noodle shops were opening up. In addition, Japanese people has their own “Kodawari” on this dish, which they adapted from Chinese but created their own flavors and culture. It is very interesting to find out how Japanese ramen evolve from the originated Chinese Ramen and its unique characteristics; how Japanese people value the Japanese Ramen.

         According to the article “Japan’s Ramen Romance”, noodle dishes in Japan were adapted from China about 1500 to 2000 years ago. After several centuries’ transformations and evolvements, there were over 60000 Chinese restaurants where ramen is an indispensable item on the menu. This number is way beyond 30000 establishments that serve traditional Japanese soba (buckwheat noodles) and udon (thick noodles made of wheat flour) back in 1999 (Ayao, 2001). The ramen became popular because of a sudden change of climate in 1945. Japan has a rice-based culture. However, Japan recorded its worst rice harvest in 42 years and lost the war colonies in China and Taiwan in 1945. The bowl of wheat noodles gained prominence. (Lu, 2018). So, what is Japanese Ramen? Literally from dictionary, “Japanese noodles of wheat flour, usually served in broth with pieces of vegetables and meat” (Collins Dictionary). It is different from soba and udon as it is in yellow color. The noodles are usually made of flour, water salt and a special type of mineral water (kansui). (“Basics of Japanese Ramen, Its History and Types”). Different from Chinese Ramen, the noodle is not limited to “pulled noodles”. When you are in China, ramen noodle restaurant is usually about “hand pulled noodles”, such as Lanzhou Ramen. However, Japanese Ramen noodles can be prepared in advance and made by machine. The soup base is mainly made from chicken, pork and fish stock. Usually, the soup is made of shiitake mushrooms, katsuobushi (skipjack tuna flakes), kombu (kelp), niboshi (dried baby sardines), beef bones, and onions. (“Basics of Japanese Ramen, Its History and Types”). The toppings of the traditional Japanese Ramen include sliced pork (叉焼 chāshū), nori (dried seaweed), menma (a kind of bamboo shoots), and scallions. There are many variations of Japanese ramen nowadays, but the main kinds can be divided by soup variations: shoyu (soy sauce), Tonkotsu (pork bone), miso ramen (fermented soybean paste flavored), shio ramen (salt ramen) and Tsuke-men (dried noodle). The toppings usually are the same for each flavor, but nowadays, more and more Japanese Ramen has its own toppings. Different regions have their own characteristics of Ramen. For example, Sapporo Miso Ramen, Hakata Tonkotsu Ramen, Kitakata Ramen, Wakayama Ramen, Onomichi Ramen and many other famous regional Ramen (Gurunavi, 2018). Different regional culture backgrounds add the variety and uniqueness of Japanese Ramen.

When trace-back the history of Japanese Ramen, you will recognize that it is a story of immigrants’ “Kodawari”. Back in 1840s, China lost the war and forced to open up the Guangzhou and Shanghai’s port to Britain. Japan finally changed from near-isolation in 1854, due to the Japan-U.S. Treaty of Peace and Amity, and also the Treaty of Amity and Commerce of 1858. Mostly, the cities along the sea side are the first ones that did businesses and trading. Many Chinese people came to Japan and employed by these trading houses (Ayao, 2001). China was also defeated in the Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895), therefore, many Chinese students came to Japan. In order serve these people, immigrants from China created Shina soba and Nankin soba in these harbor cities in Japan. The author of the “Japan’s Ramen Romance” stated that “Foreign culinary cultures are often introduced by immigrants who have left home for any number of reasons- war, political instability, poverty and so on….Ethnic foods influence traditional local cuisine and vice versa, bringing forth new hybrid dishes”. Therefore, the mix of culture created the term of Japanese Ramen. Wang Wencai, a Chinese chef who fled Russian Revolution and went to Sapporo in Hokkaido in early 1920, was the one that credited for first use the term “Ramen” in this dish. As this dish was so popular and attracted many people, Wang eventually had to drop the time-consuming, hand-pulled method. He was doing the traditional Chinese Ramen – the hand-pulled noodles, at first. But after the restaurant bought a noodle-making machine for less time making noodles, it created the difference and uniqueness of Japanese Ramen (Ayao, 2011). You could say the first Japanese Ramen was created in Sapporo. Sapporo has this rich historic background, and the influences were still there. Sapporo is known for its “Sapporo Ramen”. Many other Ramen shops all over the world ordered noodles from noodle making small factories in Sapporo, for their “Kodawari” on noodle-making machines and their noodle-making techniques.

America’s influence had a huge impact on Japanese Ramen. After the creation of the first Japanese Ramen, it was a period of time that Japan had a severe food shortage. It was also the period of time that Japan was defeated in the war and occupied by United States. In order to solve the issues on food shortage, Americans started to import massive amounts of wheat. This history created a culture- making Ramen noodles and eating at a black-market stall (Lu, 2018). According to the author of “The Illegal Ramen Vendors of Postwar Tokyo”, “Black markets had existed in Japan throughout the war. However, they became increasingly essential during the last years of the war and throughout this period of occupation. With the government food distribution system running about 20 days behind schedule, many people depended on black markets for survival. The black-market stalls are called “Ameyokocho” and located underneath an active train line and announced their presence with the distinctive sound of “charumera” flutes and sold ramen from a “yatai” (Lu, 2018).The “yatai” menas a moving cabinet, containing a stove to boil the soup and water, and with wheels. Americans were regulating the outdoor food vending as the wartime ban, huge amount of flour for ramen was secretly diverted from flour milling countries. The black markets were under the control of the “yakuza”, Japanese local mafia. The “yakuza” extorted the vendors for protection money (Lu, 2018). After the regulation loosened up, more and more Japanese Ramen stall appeared. Back then, Japanese cuisine did not have a dish that contained rich fat and strong flavors. Japanese people then recognized that the Ramen is a stamina food. Many people had a feeling of “being stronger” after eating a bowl of Japanese Ramen. It was not surprising that Americans aggressively advertised the “nutritional superiority of wheat and animal protein, endowing ramen with a nutritious reputation and a welcome change for a population weary of rationing”. (Lu, 2018). As the economy had not recovered, the Japanese Ramen stalls’ business model was the few that still work for ordinary people to start up a small business entrepreneurship. In addition, ramen became a symbol of urbanization. As more and more people worked in the city and came out late in the night, many employees huddled the “yatai” in a bombed-out city. A Japanese Ramen “yatai” is casual, relaxed and cheap. It is also comfy and full of stamina and energy for an after-work stomach.

As the ramen became more and more popular, it was a blooming food industry. More and more varieties and creative flavors of Ramen had been developed. Each chef has their own understanding of Ramen, and each one has his or her own “Kodawari”. However, traditional Japanese Ramen chefs does not pay much efforts on their “Kodawari” on changes or creativities; they are more focused on the depth on each aspects of original Japanese Ramen. First of all, is the “Mein”, the ramen noodle. You may find many advertisements saying “The noodles are made by own” (自家製麺). The chef’s “Kodawari” is on the “resistance to the teeth” in Japanese ( 歯答え). You may say it depends on how long you boil the noodles in the hot water. To the Ramen expert, the ingredients of the ramen noodles and the balance of flour, water and even the salt play very important role to the “resistance to the teeth”. Many Ramen chefs will order noodles from far away to have the perfect kind of ramen noodles. They have the “Kodawari” on the ingredient origins. Kagawa province, Fukuoka province and etc. are the provinces that famous of providing the flour for Ramen makers. There are few noodle factories that were famous for their craftsmanship that located right in these provinces. They have their own “Kodawari” on the flour, or even the water. I have heard about that they select a kind of spring water to make the noodle, which is in the mountains and hard to fetch. I have heard about a special case for the “noodle shape”. Usually the noodles transverse section is a square or a rectangle. However, some chefs’ “Kodawari” demands the transverse section to change shapes. This is for better balance on how the noodle absorbs the broth and affects the resistances when you are chewing. You may notice a saying, “the soup is the soul of a bowl of Ramen”. There three main kinds of soup base in Japanese Ramen, chicken broth, pork bone broth and fish broth. Each kind has its variation, but all cost a lot of time to make the soup base rich. It also cost years to develop your own secret receipt for a balanced soup base. I have watched several Japanese TV shows regarding the Ramen soup. Some of them use rare and expensive ingredients and cook by days to only use its broth. Fish is tuna or salmon, pork bones are black hogs’ bones, and endless other spices, secret ingredients. Toppings are also made by each Ramen shop itself. Chefs can have creative “Kodawari” on the toppings: the balance between the fat and lean on sliced pork (叉焼 chāshū) and what other kinds of the vegetables can fit with the soup and noodles. After all the efforts on the ingredients and flavors, the technique on cooking ramen is also a key point. A huge amount of Japanese Ramen restaurants has open restaurant and you may watch how the chef cook the Ramen. I believe you will be  surprised or amazed how they do “draining the hot water from the noodle” (湯切り). Sometimes, the chef will directly swing the noodle in a drainer net and drain hot water on the floor. It is a technique as it is hard to not get burn from the boiling water. The experts on Ramen has the “Kodawari” on how the noodles cool down and dry up during this technique. There is another technique of cooking the soup. You may see these huge wooden stirring sticks used by the chef to stir the soup. The direction of stirring and how often to stir and soup is also a key “Kodawari” that a Ramen chef care about.

         “Kodawari” needs time, patience and efforts. As for the owner of Kunimoto Mengokoro, the Kunimoto chef starts working from 8 am to 11:30 pm, six days a week.  For him, it is not about creativeness of a new type of Ramen, but how to make traditional Japanese Ramen to the perfection. After the restaurant is closed, Chef Kunimoto still needs to cook and prepare all the ingredients and clean the kitchen. For him, the Japanese Ramen is all he has. He devotes everything he has to this ramen.  He said that, “As it varies people to people for judging whether my Ramen is delicious or not, for me, I must dedicate myself in to this Ramen bowl (“What Owning a Ramen Restaurant in Japan is Like”, 2016). All his “Kodawari” is in this bowl of Japanese Ramen.

Works Cited

Ayao, O. (2001). Japan’s ramen romance. Japan Quarterly, 48(3), 66-76. Retrieved from https://login.proxy.library.emory.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.proxy.library.emory.edu/docview/234912694?accountid=10747

Basics of Japanese Ramen, Its History and Types. Retrieved from https://hubjapan.io/articles/japanese-food-ramen-history-and-types

Gurunavi. (2018, February 26). 11 Types of Japanese Regional Ramen for the Epicurious Traveler. Retrieved from https://gurunavi.com/en/japanfoodie/2018/02/regional-ramen.html?__ngt__=TT0fbc8b4ae006ac1e4aee4aXLU5W-KThzrwD-k81rUtK9

Hagan, C. (2017, June 26). Kodawari. Retrieved from https://medium.com/mistletoe-intern-life/kodawari-31cc4692c922

Lu, H. (2018, August 24). The Illegal Ramen Vendors of Postwar Tokyo. Retrieved from https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/how-did-ramen-become-popular


The Summons of the Soul- Jenny Zong

The Summons of the Soul

Oh Soul, come back! Why you go far away?

All your household has come to do you honor; all kinds of good noodles are ready:

Egg noodles (鸡蛋面), Dried Straight noodles(挂面), pulled noodles (拉面), mixed all with sliced noodles (刀削面) ,

Bitter, salty, sour, hot and sweet: there are noodles of all flavors.

Red soy sauce flavored pork chop cooked tender and succulent (红烧大排),

Sweet and sour blended in the ribs topping (糖醋小排),

Stewed intestine (大肠)and fried frog legs (牛蛙), served with spicy sauce;

Eel deep fried covered in salty sauces, boiled shrimp (虾仁爆鳝), ladle the boiling oil with green onions;

Braised chicken, seethed pork livers (猪肝), high-seasoned, but not to spoil the taste;

Peanut butter and vinegar with a hint of salt,

Jade like wine, honey-flavored, filled the winged cups.

Ice-cooled soy-milk, strained of impurities, clear wine, cool and refreshing;

Here are laid out the patterned ladles, and here is sparkling wine!


The poem that I am imitating is the piece called “The Summons of the Soul” Chu Ci, by Qu Yuan. Qu Yuan is a famous Chinese poet known for his love and patriotism. I have learned his most famous piece, “Li Sao”. In addition, our group project did some research on Qu Yuan. I was interested in exploring why he particularly included food descriptions in this section of his “summons”.

“The Summons of the Soul” depicts various dangers surrounding the wandering soul. To encourage its obedient return, Qu Yuan provided detailed descriptions of magnificent sensual pleasures which would be available as a reward to such behavior (from Hawkes, David, translator and introduction (2011 [1985]). Qu Yuan et al., The Songs of the South: An Ancient Chinese Anthology of Poems by Qu Yuan and Other Poets). As “summon” emphasizes how food is enough to “summon” one’s soul, it reflects the famous saying of “Bread is the stall of life.” (“民以食为天”)

After imitating this piece, I discovered some similarities and differences of the Chinese cuisine between the previous dynasty and the modern days. Chinese people still eat most of the food nowadays. Especially for the desert mentioned, I believe the “Fried honey-cakes of rice flour and malt sugar sweetmeats” is the Sugar Cake that I love. (炸年糕/炸糖糕) However, I am curious about the soup of Wu, in which the poet describes as having a sour and bitter blended flavor.  I think it is the Sour and Spicy soup nowadays. (酸辣汤).

Further, while writing in Qu Yuan style, I noticed all these imperative sentences he used. The “summons” style is mainly made up “callings”. This style provokes feelings of anxiety and desperation, while triggering hunger. Such emotion resonates with readers deeply.

I dedicated my piece to noodles, focusing specifically on describing popular Shanghainese noodle dishes. Each sentence of mine matches the style of the original piece. Moreover, each noodle dish is similar to the descriptions by Qu Yuan, including the flavors, the ingredients, and the cooking methods of the noodle toppings. For example, the original piece wrote “Stewed turtle and roast kid, served up with yam sauce,”.  In response, I wrote “Stewed intestine (大肠)and fried frog legs (牛蛙), served with spicy sauce;”. It was easy to find noodle toppings from modern days that would be similar to the meat dishes mentioned by Qu Yuan. Hence, I was reminded of how the culture in Chinese cuisine can be timeless.

As the emotional relationship between Qu Yuan and food echoes mine, I begin to comprehend how food is essential to Chinese culture. Food is always huge part of any festivals, and even the daily conversations involves food. For instance, most Northern Chinese people greet each other by saying “Have you eaten?”. People from my home are always being very “picky” about “meals never make do”. (”不能将就”). As I visualize, imagine, and resonate with the poet’s depictions and emotion, I finally understand that power of cultural connection brought by food. It is indeed enough to “summons” the soul.


How Noodles Represent Who We Are (Jenny Zong)

Noodles, as many of Italians and Chinese’s soul food, definitely represent who we are. It reflects what history that you had, what region you are in, what city you are from, what kind of culture background you have.

Noodles always contain rich historical background. When you know about Chinese noodles, you will be noticed how they evolve through the time. As the authors from the “Noodle, traditionally and today” mentioned, Chinese noodles have a long history, from Han dynasty, and how they evolve throughout the time. At first, it was only as cake (饼), and then, shui yin (水引) and bo tuo(馎饦). The improved methods and techniques of making noodles improved, therefore, the Leng tao ( 冷淘) and other variable flavors appeared. When I was reading about Song (宋) and Yuan (元) dynasty period, these noodles name sounds familiar: fine dried noodles (挂面), vegetable raw noodles (素面), five spicy noodles (五香面) and eight treasures noodles (八珍面); I believe I had them in my life. For Italian Pasta perspective, the pasta history aligns with the history of Italy. Like the author of “Table Practices and Manners” mentioned in the chapter “Pasta and the Italians: a single and multiple identity”, “Italy has played a leading role in the history of establishing and disseminating the culture of pasta. Two traditions merged on Italian territory: the ancient Roman……and the Middle Eastern”. Pasta also evolves throughout the time. From the same chapter of this book, the new techniques of industrial production of pasta brought out many new pasta products alongside the traditional ones.

I believe, noodle to Chinese people and pasta to Italian people are kind of similar: it means identities. From the lessons we learnt and the readings we read; different regions produce different noodles. Why they have different noodles? The uniqueness of the region (weather, main crops, historical background) produced the unique culture of noodles. From the reading of “Dan Dan Noodle”, it is the “perfect antidote to the grey humidity of the Chengdu Climate”. For pastas, different pasta style came from different region, like the author of “Table Practices and Manners” mentioned, ancient Roman culture developed fresh pastas, like lasagna, cooked in the dry heat of the oven; Middle Eastern culture developed long and thin pastas that could be dried more easily and stored longer, then cooked in water. From what type of noodle that people usually eat defines where you from. From personal perspective, I usually eat fine dried noodles, which are eaten mostly by Yangtze River Delta Region, where my hometown is. I believe the wide spread of consuming noodles and variation of the noodles make noodles the basic main dish in both countries. Each region or Each sub-culture can arrange and create their forms of their noodle dish.

To define noodles in my own view, I will define noodles as: the long, thin strings, cut from the soft dough of flour and water, cooked in water. Usually come with soup or gravy. Unlike the definition from Oxford Dictionary, “A very thin, long strip of pasta or a similar flour paste, eaten with a sauce or in a soup.” I would not use pasta to define. But similar to mention about what it came with. Noodles in China could be dry or in the soup. I believe this is very straightforward, simple and basic definition of noodles. I believe noodle itself is in the same way: in my point of view, noodles is straightforward: as everybody who knows about Chinese culture knows about noodles; simple to cook: as you only need to boil the water and get ready for the soup or gravy, very basic main dish in my life.

I found this picture interesting to explain what noodles represent who we are:

Here is the kid who is eating the most popular kind of instant noodles. It is in the news blog telling “31% of Chinese tourists pack instant noodles when they travel”. (from https://qz.com/802004/31-of-chinese-tourists-pack-instant-noodles-when-they-travel-an-alibaba-baba-survey-shows/). I believe this picture shows that kids also in love with noodles; when Chinese travel, the most popular comfort food is instant noodles. The author of “Noodle, traditionally and today” mentioned about that instant noodles might impact people’s health. It might be true that they are constrained as it is not healthy, especially for the kids, but it is delicious and it is a cup of hot soup with noodles! It is the best you can get when you are travelling.


Echo’s Kitchen Table – Chinese-Western Mixture Style (Jenny Zong)

I am staying with my friend, Echo Wang, in New York City right now. She is my elementary school’s classmate and we keep our friendship through all these years. We are from the same town, Shanghai. We share similar life experience; we spent our childhood in China, and we studied in United States for our college.  The merge of two distinct culture influence our kitchen tables. I want to study how her kitchen table is different from mine and how the cultural significance influences her kitchen table.

Her table will be a good example to study. She just moved into her apartment this week. She needed to prepare her kitchen table from scratch. All her shopping choices for her kitchen, which reflects her cultural identities will be interesting to study. From “Eating Culture- An Anthropological Guide to Food” by Gillian Crowther, “Through making spatial and temporal comparisons and applying cultural relativism”, it “highlights the importance of local responses to global food system and their ability to reinvigorate and maintain distinct cultural identities through food.” (p.23) As Echo is a girl from China and living in USA, she is a good example to examine how her local responses to Western or global food system, and how she reinvigorates and maintain distinct cultural identities through food. I will use the participant observation as my main anthropological method to study. Then I will use the interview method to ask for her own insights and opinions.

According to “Eating Culture”, participant observation method involves helping with food getting, preparing ingredients, cooking, cleaning (p.21). Therefore, I went with Echo every time she went to a grocery store. I helped every dish that she cooks and also helped to clean afterwards. For food getting, we went to typical American style grocery stores 3 times and then we went to a Chinese style grocery store once. All the food from the American style grocery lasted for 4 days and then we went to the Chinese grocery store. For typical American style grocery stores, she picked chicken breasts and steak for meat; spinach, celery, tomatoes, green pepper and French green beans for vegetable; oat milk, eggs and butter for dairy products; figs, strawberries and cherries for fruits. The food that prepared from these ingredients are mostly Western style dishes: salt and pepper on the beef steak, salt and pepper on the pan-fried chicken breast, scrambled eggs, raw celery. Two dishes that were in Chinese style dish are garlic flavored French beans or sliced green pepper and fried tomatoes with scrambled eggs. The ingredients that she chose were abundant and basic in Western or global food systems. Her cooking style of all these ingredients were in Western style. The only difference was in the cooking of vegetables. Chinese people do process almost all veggies in frying pans. She put some oil and fried the sliced garlic first and then put the French green beans and sliced green pepper in. She did not choose the way that Americans usually cook – steam or boil the vegetable and then put some seasoning or butter on it.

Steak, Green pepper, Scrambled Eggs and Cherries

After several days without any Chinese style seasoning and ingredients, Echo and I went to a Chinese grocery store. She went straight to the seasoning aisle and noodle aisle. She took all the seasonings that almost every Shanghainese family have: two different types of soy sauces, vinegar from Zhejiang Province, sesame oil, red spicy oil and corn starch. She also spent a lot on the meat section, especially for pork, beef shank and chicken hearts. These are the rare ingredients in other grocery stores. She also shopped in the frozen food section, got some Chinese style buns, dumplings and prepared Gyudon (Japanese style beef on the rice). After the shopping, she prepared the dinner with variable Chinese dishes. However, I noticed the western style dish is still on her kitchen table: the way of cooking the meat. Chinese style of cooking the chicken is usually pan-fried. However, she chose to boil the chicken breast. She did not use the Chinese seasoning for the chicken. Then, she cooked noodles for the main dish.

Chinese seasoning we bought

To summarize the findings which I observed from her kitchen table, I recognized that she was influenced by Western style cuisine. She always cooked the meat with salt and pepper; she enjoys eating raw vegetables. Even with Chinese seasoning, she will not choose to flavor the meat with it. However, she also cannot live without any Chinese dishes in her cooking. There must be one Chinese dish on the table. It can be noodle or the way of cooking the vegetables. After cooking, we all washed the dishes. She uses the Chinese way of cleaning the dishes – no dishwasher, but hand wash. She uses the Chinese dish cloth, which her parents brought from Shanghai to her, to clean the dishes. The biggest difference from my family is that she does not use any dish detergent, but only the hot water to rinse.

These are the dishes after we went to the Chinese grocery store – Mayi ShangShu (rice noodle with shredded pork), Fried vegetable and baked sweet potatoes

After all the observation, I conducted a short interview with her. I mentioned about the way of western style meat cooking on her kitchen table, she commented that she learned from her US friends that this is a healthier way. She believes that less oil, less seasoning in the diet is a healthier way of cooking protein. She also really enjoys eating raw vegetable after she came to US. She mentioned that there were not much of vegetable choices on campus for her; the most abundant ones are salads. She was not used to it at first, as she wanted cooked vegetables in Chinese style. She was surprised how she mixed Chinese and Western style of cooking in her dishes, when I told her how my family usually cook the similar dish in Shanghai. Echo also pointed out a very interesting point: she studied in Britain for a year. She put oat milk in her black tea now, while Chinese people will not add anything in the tea. The mixture of the culture influences every bit of her kitchen table now.

Echo and I have similar culture background. We both enjoyed a lot of her cooking – the mixture of Western style and Chinese style. The local food sources influenced us to cook for Western style cuisines, but we still eager Chinese style cuisine. The mixture of two culture significances hugely make up Echo’s kitchen table. I believe, it is the unique style of food cooking among Chinese students who study abroad in Western countries.

Works Cited:

Crowther, Gillian. Eating Culture: An Anthropological Guide to Food.University of Toronto Press, 2013.

Siyue Zong (Jenny)- #1 post – Shanghai Style Spring Rolls

Shanghai Style Spring Rolls

You may hear about spring rolls before. It is a very traditional Chinese dish. According to China International Travel Service, the Spring Rolls appeared way back in the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420 AD). In the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368- 1912 AD), there was a custom of “biting spring”, which means welcoming spring by eating spring cakes. The practice was believed to ward off disaster and evil. Spring rolls were included in imperial court snacks(from http://www.cits.net/china-travel-guide/spring-rolls-.html)

In my hometown, Shanghai, my family only prepare the dish during the Spring Festival every year. For me, it is a symbol of the start of a new year. All my family gather for a huge dinner in my house, watch the “Spring Festival Live” together and watch or light up the fireworks together. We have approximately 20 or more dish to serve that night, including fish, shrimp, pork, and dessert. We have cold dishes first, in smaller plates set on the table before everybody arrives. Then, we start to heat-up our deep-fry wok and serve the Spring Rolls. I believe, spring rolls are the first hot dish to serve on the Spring Festival.

My mom is making the Spring Rolls

My family’s Spring Festival Dinner!

As ordering food online and food delivery become more and more convenient, my mom can order the pre-prepared food online so that she will not be super exhausted after the meal. However, spring rolls are the ones we always make by ourselves. The preparations for making the Spring Rolls take for hours. First, you need to have wraps. When I was little, my grandma used to make the Spring Rolls wraps by herself. The wraps are made of flour and water. We do not put eggs. The balance of the flour and water is very tricky. The batter is the key. Put some of the oil on a flat pan and spread the batter out evenly to form a circle. Remove the round Spring Rolls wraps from the pan and refrigerate them. My grandma’s Spring Rolls wraps are thin and in the prefect round shapes. I miss the grandma made Spring Rolls wraps. I also miss my grandma. As it takes a lot of efforts, my mom buys the pre-prepared wraps now.

After you make the wraps or you have the wraps ready, it is the time to prepare the stuffing. Shanghai style stuffing is very unique. We use shii-take, pork slices, spring bamboo shoots and Napa cabbage to make the savory ones; we use red bean paste to make the sweet ones. The savory Spring Rolls are my favorite. Everything in the savory Spring Rolls is sliced into matchsticks-like shape. You roll the stuffing up inside the Spring Rolls wraps and then deep fry them. When the Spring Rolls turn to gold color, they are ready.

To me, the gathering of me and my mom to make the Spring Rolls together even make the dish more special and more “delicious”. We always roll the Spring Rolls together. We chat about everything. I feel much closer to my mom and I really enjoy that period of time. I always help to bring the plate with right-out-of-wok ones to the table. I always call out “The Spring Rolls are coming!” and then everyone will sit in their seats and begin the big dinner. The scene of the Spring Festival to me is the hotness in the kitchen, the golden Spring Rolls in the plates, and everybody sitting around the table with  the happy faces when they are eating the Spring Rolls.

It has been almost 5 years that I did not spend time in China during Spring Festival. I miss the big meal, the warmth in the house, and the time with my family. I talked to my mom couple years ago during the Spring Festival and I said I really miss the Spring Rolls. My mom asked, “Why not you make Spring Rolls by yourself?” So, I actually made the Spring Rolls in U.S.. Although it tasted a little bit different: all the slices in the stuffing were too wide, a little bit salty, some rolls were broken after deep-fried, but I really enjoyed it. The hard work to make the Spring Rolls became a special memory. I believe it is the sign of grown-up and independence. What I want can only be done by myself. I am no longer under my family’s shelter, but an independent person lives by myself. Whenever I think about Spring Festival in U.S., the scene of making my own Spring Rolls will appear in my mind. Spring rolls become the symbol of the strong connection to my family, and also the symbol of grown-up.

The stuffing that I made

My handmade Spring Rolls

My handmade Spring Rolls – when it’s done!

Recipe: How to make the Spring Roll Wrap? https://www.thespruceeats.com/spring-roll-wrappers-694519


1/4 teaspoon salt; 1 cup all-purpose flour; 3/4 cup water

  • In a large bowl, stir the salt into the flour.
  • Mix the water into the flour to form a batter.
  • Cover and let rest for 1 hour.
  • Spray a pan with cooking spray and heat over medium-low heat.
  • Turn the heat down to low and add a heaping tablespoon of the batter to the middle of the pan.
  • Quickly spread the batter out evenly to form a circle 5 to 6 inches in diameter. Continue smoothing out the batter as the skin cooks.
  • Cook the skin briefly, until it is cooked on the bottom and the edges curl slightly. Take care not to overcook.
  • Remove carefully and refrigerate or freeze until ready to use as called for in the recipe.
  • Use these with your favorite spring roll recipe and enjoy.

How to make the Shanghai-Style Spring Rolls? https://thewoksoflife.com/shanghai-style-spring-rolls/

Ingredients: 1/2-pound ground pork; 8-ounce bamboo shoots, ; drained and minced; 1-pound Napa cabbage; 8-ounce Shii-take mashrooms.

  • Mix the pork with the marinade ingredients and let sit for 20-30 minutes. Shred the cabbage and slice your mushrooms.
  • Over medium heat, add 4 tablespoons of oil to your wok. Brown the pork.
  • Then add the mushrooms and cook for another couple of minutes until fragrant. Add the Napa cabbage and stir well.
  • Season with salt, white pepper, Shaoxing wine, and soy sauce. Stir everything together, cover the lid and let it cook over high heat for 2 – 3 minutes, or until the cabbage is wilted.
  • Uncover the lid and add the cornstarch slurry. Stir. The mixture will start to thicken. Lastly, add sesame oil and stir everything thoroughly. Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool completely.
  • The key to wrapping spring rolls is making sure that they’re really tight and not overstuffed. Take out your spring roll wrappers.
  • And place the wrapper in front of you so that a corner is facing toward you. Use about one and a half tablespoons of the mixture per spring roll, spoon it about an inch and a half from the corner closest to you. Roll it over once tightly, tucking the corner under the filling and like you’re making a burrito, fold over both sides. Continue rolling it into a cigar shape. With your fingers, brush a bit of water to the closing corner of the wrap to seal it. Place each roll seam-side down on a tray.
  • To fry the spring rolls, use a small pot or shallow pan (which requires less oil) and fill it with oil until it’s about 1-inch deep, just enough to submerge the spring rolls when frying.
  • Slowly add the spring rolls and fry them in small batches. Cook each side until golden brown and drain on a plate lined with a paper towel.
  • We like to serve our Shanghai Style Spring rolls with some Chinese black vinegar