Tag: food

NSW History Week 2011: EAT (Chinese Australian) History

The theme for this year’s NSW History Week is EAT History – the edible, appetising and tasty history of food. Not surprisingly there are a number of events highlighting the connection between Chinese Australian history and food. It may not be possible to attend them all, but here’s a listing of all the ‘Chinese’ events.

Saving the La Perouse Chinese Market Gardens

Organisation: Chinese Heritage Association of Australia Inc
History Week Event Type: Talk/Lecture
The heritage-listed Chinese Market Gardens at La Perouse have been producing food for over 150 years. The adjacent Eastern Suburbs Cemetery Trust wants these seven hectares of Crown Land for extra graves. For the past three years there has been a battle to retain the Chinese Market Gardens. Guest speaker Christa Ludlow, National Trust (NSW) Landscapes Advocacy Committee member.
When: 3 September 2011
Open: 2:30pm
Close: 4:30pm
Where: Sydney Mechanics School of Arts
280 Pitt Street (between Park & Bathurst Streets)
Sydney, NSW 2000
Cost: $10.00
Members/Concessions $5.00.
Refreshments included.
Are bookings essential?: Bookings essential
Website: http://www.chineseheritage.org.au
Name: Kathie Blunt
Email: dblunt@bigpond.net.au
Phone: 9449 2453

King Fong’s Chinatown Food Tour

Organisation: Chinese Australian Historical Society Inc.
History Week Event Type: Tour
Cross generational merchant, King Fong, will take you through the streets, eateries and grocery stores of Chinatown to showcase the different types of Chinese cuisine and imported delicacies which marked the growth in richness of Sino-Australian food culture. Join King Fong afterwards for Yum Cha at a local restaurant. Bookings essential, 30 places available only.
When: 6 September 2011
Open: 10:15am for 10:30am start
Where: Sydney’s Chinatown
Corner Dixon and Hay Streets
Haymarket, NSW
Cost: $5.00
Optional lunch $18.00
Are bookings essential?: Bookings essential
Website: http://cahs.wordpress.com
Name: King Fong
Email: clifford.to@kellogg.ox.ac.uk
Phone: 9452 3761

The Chinese Market Gardens of Ryde in the Early Twentieth Century

Organisation: Ryde Library Service
History Week Event Type: Talk/Lecture
Before we can EAT History we have to grow history. This illustrated talk will examine the story of the Chinese market gardens and gardeners from the earliest references to them in this area in the 1890s through to the middle of the twentieth century.
When: 6 September 2011
Open: 1:30pm
Close: 3:00pm
Where: Ryde Library
Corner Pope and Devlin Street
Ryde, NSW 2112
Cost: Free
Are bookings essential?: Bookings essential
Website: http://www.ryde.nsw.gov.au
Email: rydelibrary@ryde.nsw.gov.au
Phone: 9952 8352

From Canton to courage: Australian Chinese in Parramatta and beyond – exhibition floor talk and seminar

When: 6 September 2011
Open: 9.15am
Close: 1.00pm
Program: Daphne Lowe Kelley, ‘The Chinese Australian experience: an overview’
Jack Brook, ‘Nineteenth-century Chinese Australians in Parramatta’
Brad Powe, ‘Sharing family stories’
Carloynne Wark, ‘Sharing family stories’
Where: Parramatta Heritage Centre, 346A Church Street, Parramatta

From Canton with courage 6 September 2011 (pdf, 389kb)

Potatoes in the Rice Cooker: Oral Histories of Asian-Australians Cooking at Home, Work and Play

Organisation: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Technology Sydney
History Week Event Type: Workshop
History Week comes alive with a workshop focused on real experience and oral history. Potatoes in the Rice Cooker will include short lectures on histories of Asian-Australian food encounters and the sharing of personal stories, objects, belongings, photos and recipes to do with the dynamics of the kitchen and the table around the preparation, cooking and eating of food in families, workplaces, recreational and community spaces.
When: 7 September 2011
Open: 9:30am
Close: 1:00pm
Join us for lunch at a local restaurant afterwards!
Where: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Technology
Building 10, 235 Jones Street, Broadway
Ultimo, NSW 2007
Cost: Free
Participants are invited to lunch at a local restaurant at their own cost.
Are bookings essential?: Bookings essential
Name: Dr Elaine Swan
Email: Elaine.Swan@uts.edu.au
Phone: 9514 3819

The Sydney Markets

Organisation: City of Sydney
History Week Event Type: Talk/Lecture
Allen Yip’s family has been associated with the Sydney Markets dating back to the 1880s. Join Allen as he talks about the history of the markets and his personal experience of this unique part of Sydney. Allen’s talk will be followed by a screening of the short film Out They Go, which beautifully captures the Sydney Markets in 1975 before it moved to Flemington. Presented with the Chinese Heritage Association of Australia Inc.
When: 7 September 2011
Open: 12:00pm
Close: 1:00pm
Where: Haymarket Library
744 George Street
Sydney, NSW 2000
Cost: Free
Are bookings essential?: Bookings essential
Email: library@cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au
Phone: 8019 6477

Chinese Food Trail

Organisation: Marrickville Library and History Services
History Week Event Type: Talk/Lecture
King Fong, President of the Chinese Historical Society, will explore the history of Chinese settlement since the 1850s. His talk will explore the significance of food in this history, from market gardens to Chinese grocery stores.
When: 8 September 2011
Open: 11:00am
Where: Marrickville Library
Corner Marrickville & Petersham Roads
Marrickville, NSW 2204
Cost: Free
Are bookings essential?: Bookings essential
Email: info1@marrickville.nsw.gov.au
Phone: 9335 2174

Robert Ho on Cantonese Cuisine in Sydney

Organisation: Chinese Australian Historical Society Inc
History Week Event Type: Talk/Lecture
Early Chinese migrants came mainly from Canton and brought with them the distinctive Cantonese style of cooking. Cantonese cuisine has therefore become the symbol of Chinese food to westerners. Drawing on his life experience, Chinatown Master Chef Robert Ho will talk about Cantonese cuisine in Sydney since the 1950s. Attendees will also make history – the traditional village style “Poon Choi” (Basin Feast) will be served first time in Sydney!
When: 11 September 2011
Open: 11:30am
Close: 1:30pm
Where: Hingara Chinese Restaurant
82 Dixon Street
Haymarket, NSW 1240
Cost: $25.00
Are bookings essential?: Bookings essential
Name: Anna Lee
Email: annalee@workready.com.au
Phone: 0412 334 398

‘Faat tay’ – new year prosperity cakes

To celebrate Chinese New Year, here’s a recipe for new year cakes known in Taishanese as ‘faat tay’ . ‘Faat’ is the same word as in the traditional new year greeting ‘gung hei faat choi’. ‘Tay’ is the Taishanese word for cake. If you make these and then tell your average Australian what they are called, expect unfriendly jokes about how they are, in fact, ‘farty’ cakes. Or maybe that was just my cultured colleagues at the archives. And my five-year-old.

The recipe is simple (and vegan – no eggs, butter or milk) and they’re quick to make. As well as the name, expect comments about the topping – instead of icing, faat tay have black sesame seeds and faat choi (black moss or hair moss) on top.

Made the proper way – the way it’s done in the village – the cakes are steamed in a wok over a wood-fired stove (see the picture below). Since I don’t have an old-style Chinese stove at home, or an enormous wok, or the lovely little pottery dishes that the cakes are steamed in, I’ve had to improvise. I’ve also had to improvise with the recipe too. I’ve seen recipes for similar new year cakes in recipe books, but they included ingredients like yeast and eggs, which this recipe doesn’t.

You should be able to get the faat choi and black sesame seeds (haak jee ma) at your local Chinese grocer. You only need a tiny bit of faat choy for each cake, but you might just have to buy an enormous bag of it.

Faat tey cooking the traditional way in Taishan, Chinese New Year 2006


225 g self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
150 g Chinese brown slab sugar (peen tong), broken into pieces
6 tbsp oil
225 ml water, plus water to use when steaming cakes
black moss (faat choi)
black sesame seeds (haak jee ma)

Special equipment

bamboo steamer
24 small patty pans (cupcake molds) or Chinese teacups


1. Dissolve the peen tong in the water. Either heat them together on the stove or boil the water and leave the peen tong in it until dissolved. Set aside to cool.

It’s best if you can break the peen tong up first – try whacking it with the handle of a heavy knife or chopper. The sugar can take a while to dissolve, so it’s best to do this step well before you plan to actually make the cakes.

2. Sift flour and baking powder into a bowl.

3. Stir sugar water and oil into flour mixture.

4. Mix well, and beat to get out the lumps if necessary.

5. Bring some water to boil in a large wok.

6. While the water is coming to the boil, put batter into patty pans. Depending on the type of patty pans/teacups you use, you might want to grease them with some oil to stop the cakes sticking. Put patty pans into bamboo steamer in the wok and cover.

7. Steam over a high heat, with water at a rapid boil.

8. When the cakes are about half done but still sticky on top (after about 2–3 minutes), sprinkle a small amount of faat choi and black sesame seeds on top.

9. The cakes are cooked when a skewer comes out clean, and the tops have ‘popped’ (they should crack). It will take between 5 to 10 minutes. The cakes will not be brown because they are steamed.

10. Remove the steamer from the wok and let cakes cool.

Other similar recipes

Similar recipes for steamed cakes can be found here:

  • Steamed rice flour cupcakes, in S.C. Moey, Chinese Feasts and Festivals: A Cookbook, p. 73
  • Sponge cupcakes, in Cecilia Au Yang, Dimsum (ISBN 7-80653-083-5), p. 98
  • Steamed sponge cake, in Grace Young, The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen: Classic Family Recipes for Celebration and Healing, p. 46