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Chinese Food Comes To New Zealand

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Chinese Food in Australia and New Zealand

Winter Volume: 2009 Issue: 16(4) page(s): 16, 17, and 18

After reading about Chinese restaurants in New Zealand, many wanted to know how many Chinese live there now, what access do they have to Chinese food, who the first Chinese were to emigrate there and when, and what were the first Chinese foods known to local New Zealanders? One of the first to arrive may have been Chew Chong, a chap born in 1827 in what was then called Canton. When he left China, one report says he spoke English emigrated to Victoria, Australia, and about a dozen years later, that is in 1867, he went on to Otago, New Zealand. There he became a merchant, fungus exporter, and finally, a butter manufacturer.

Records show that in 1843 there were only sixteen Chinese people in New Zealand. By 1951, there were about five thousand Chinese living there. Unlike the Chinese in several other countries, they were not all Cantonese, but rather a diverse group from many different Asian locales including but not limited to China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaysia. They kept coming, but not in huge numbers, and by 1986 they numbered thirteen thousand. Census records show, that by 2001, the Chinese population grew to more than one hundred thousand, three-quarters of them born overseas. At that time, they were three percent of the country's total population.

When Mr. Chong arrived for reason different than most other Chinese immigrants who came to mine gold; he did not. Rather, he was a pedlar who dealt in scrap metal who later wandered north to Otago where he settled down. There, he saw wood ear fungus growing profusely, bought lots if it, and shipped it to China. He also dealt in a few artifacts; they shipped back to him with the monies earned.

Exploring other business opportunities, Mr. Chong learned that New Zealand butter was often bad when it arrived in countries such as England and Australia. He knew a factory to make it was needed, so in 1885, he erected a creamery, the Jubilee Butter Factory. Thus, he became an important person in the dairy business, and he improved it appreciably.

Clearly, he had little to do with Chinese food, in part because he married Elizabeth Whatton, daughter of a local settler. She was not Chinese. They had eleven children, four died very young. Though he did sell some Chinese items, he was not known for that.

So who did provide locals with an interest in foods from Chong's home country? That was done by later immigrants who came many years after he did. Perhaps the two most important people were Chinese ladies who began influencing, showing, and writing about Chinese food for local New Zealanders.

One was Maria Lee, an early Chinese-Kiwi cookbook author whose fifty-page stapled pamphlet was titled: Maria Lee's Kiwi Chopsticks. On its cover it says "Over 40 exciting new Chinese ways to cook New Zealand Food." Another book had a spiral binding and was published in 1958. It was titled: 50 Chinese Dishes for New Zealand. Both were published in Wellington, the capital of the country that is today, a city with a sizable Chinese population. The Maria Lee item is a pamphlet published by the Seyip Association. We only located a republished edition; it was done in 1970. One source said its first publication was 1958, but we can not verify that. Both books taught locals about the foods of China, New Zealand-style, better known there as Chinese-Kiwi-style.

The latter book, authored by Nancye M. King, has recipes written as a single narrative paragraph in chapters titled: Fluffy Rice; Soups; Meats; Poultry Dishes; Seafood; Egg Dishes; Vegetables; Snacks and Tidbits; and Sweet Dishes. The recipes in both of these books are the very first New Zealand–Chinese cookbooks we could locate. Both are about Cantonese foods, and both can be seen in the Jacqueline M. Newman Chinese Cookbook Collection in the Special Collections area of Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, Long Island, NY.

The King volume has humorous line drawings done by by Musaphia, and no picture on its cover. The Lee book cover shows Maria Lee tending a wok, probably making a stir-fry tofu dish. She is wearing a very western-looking apron. Both covers, printed in red, black, yellow, and white, are reproduced in black and white on their pages.

In 1979, a paperback published by the company that published the King volume, Price Milburn, put out a book called Best New Zealand Dishes. This recipe book, collected and edited by Winifred M. Goddard, has only one Chinese recipe. It is the last recipe below. Called Chicken Chinese Style, note its next to last sentence, and, there is not very much Chinese about it.

Other popular cookbooks we have perused then and since, includes the popular Simply New Zealand, published in 1999 by New Holland Publishers (NZ) Ltd. It does not have a single Chinese nor a Chinese-influenced recipe. Why not, probably because Chinese soujourners in New Zealand and in Australia found a rising tide of prejudice against them so publishers did not publish any of their recipes.

The Chinese were the third racial group to emigrate to New Zealand, after the Maori, and the Europeans. It took many years until this lack of acceptance began to diasppear; and it dod so slowly. Promised 'equal justice as others did receive' by the Otago Provincial Council, those Chinese we met felt this promise was never fulfilled. Without it, the acceptance of Chinese food was very slow. In 1896, a poll-entry-tax for the Chinese was increased to one hundred pounds. It was not repealed until almost the end of World War II. But times are changing; now some thirteen percent of people living in Aukland are Asian.

In 1986, New Zealand abolished its white-only immigration preference policy. These days, locals speak about the history and culture of Chinese New Zealanders pre-1987 and post-1987. One reason for this division is that more than fifty thousand Chinese immigrants came to New Zealand between 1986 and 1996; and more have come since then. Five years from now, that is by 2015, it is estimated that New Zealand will be almost ten percent Asian. At least one-third of them will be Chinese.

Today, this country has a few fantastic Cantonese-style Chinese restaurants almost as good as those in Hong Kong. One such, not where most Chinese live, is in Aukland. It is called the Grand Harbour Chinese Restaurant. One page of its seven-page dinner menu accompanies this article and attests to this. Several Chinese told us that food here is comparable to the best of Hong Kong-Cantonese-style eateries in New York City, San Francisco, Taipei, Beijing, and Shanghai. There are very few Chinese restaurants in New Zealand that feature foods from the rest of China. Many Chinese restaurants here serve Kiwi-style Chinese food that is not really Chinese.

So that you can read and taste Chinese food as did Kiwi folk in early New Zealand, the first four recipes below are from early New Zealand Chinese cookbooks. Their ingredients are given specifying manufacturers and they are written, omissions included. The last recipe is one of, if not the very first Chinese recipe printed in the New Zealand cookbook called: Best New Zealand Dishes. It was published less than ten years later than the first two Chinese cookbooks discussed above. All these recipes are changed slightly, albeit slightly, and then only to be in the style of other recipes in Flavor and Fortune.
Chicken Tag
1 Tegel chicken, a food company ingredient, that is about three pounds
3 Tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped
1 and 1/2 cups chicken stock (made from the giblets)
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 and 1/2 Tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 small can Watties canned peach slices
1/2 cup coconut juice (optional)
4 Tablespoons fresh cream
3 tablespoons clarified butter for cooking
1. Cut the chicken in one and a half inch squares, season with the salt and pepper
2. Brown chicken in two tablespoons of the butter for two minutes; then remove from the an.
3. Heat the other tablespoon of butter in the pan, add onion, and cook gently until it changes color. Add garlic and curry powder and continue cooking for two or three minutes, then put the chicken back in the pan, and sprinkle with the flour; mix well.
4. Add stock, cover, and cook over low heat about one hour or until tender. Add coconut juice, fresh cream and peaches. Arrange nicely on a plate. Serve hot with Twin Peach instant rice.
Egg Scroll
4 eggs
2 pounds minced beef
2 teaspoons Lamberton's soya sauce
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 Tablespoon corn flour (cornstarch)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1. Add soya sauce, pepper, seame oil, and corn flour to the beef, stir vigorously until 'sticky.'
2. Divide minces beef into three equal portions.
3. Beat eggs with the remaining slat and pepper.
4. Heat omeltte pan, grease very lightly with clarified butter (none given in ingredient list) and put three to four tablespoons of the egg mixture in the middle. Roll the pan to coat the surface evenly; keep it over low heat until the ppancake is slightly browned on the underside. Loosen around the edge with a palette knife and turn over to brown the other side.
5. Slide the pancake unto the table. Spread one portion of the minced beef on each, roll up the pancake.
6. Deep fry in hot clarified butter (300 degree F) in Sunbeam cooker/deep fry until golden.
7. Cut each roll into six sections, arrange niucely on a warm plate.
Pingo Pork
1 and 1/2 pound pork loin
10 ounces Watties canned sliced apple
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon Lamberton's monosodium glutamate
4 teaspoons Lamberton's Soya Sauve
2 Tablespoons Glenvale dry sherry
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon Lamberton's monosodium glutamate
3 Tablespoons clarified butter
1. Cut pork into approximately one-inch cubes, add apple slices.
2. Marinate pork with salt, pepper, and monosodium glutamate.
3. Saute pork in three tablespoons clafified butter until golden; add in sherry, soya sauce, dry sherry, lemon juice, sugarm the second teaspoon of monosodium glutamate, and two cups of water. Cover and cook over a very low heat for forty-five minutes; add apples.
4. When meat is sufficiently tender, add in sliced tinned mushrooms, cook for another ten minutes.
5. Remove to plate, serve hot with Twin Peach instant rice.
Kiwi Yang
1 pound mutton
5 stalks leeks
2 ounces carrots
1 seven-ounce can Watties sliced mushrooms
1 ounce vermicelli
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons Lamberton's soya sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons Simix mutton flavourizer
2 teaspoons crn flour (cornstarch)
2 Tablespoons Glenvale dry sherry
1/2 teaspoon salt for vegetables
2 Tablespoons clarified butter
1. Cut mutton, leeks, carrot, and mushrooms into fine strips.
2. Marinate mutton with salt, soya sauce, suar, flavourizer, and the cornflour.
3. Deep fry the vermicelli in hot oil (350 degrees F for one second until crispy, drain, and turn onto plate.
4. Heat two tablespoons clarified butter in pan, add in the cut vegetables, and half teaspoon salt and saute for a few seconds. Push vegetables to one side of the pan and add in the well-seasoned mutton. Saute for three to four minutes, mix with vegetables, sprinkle with sherry. Place over the crispy vermicelli and serve hot.
Chicken Chinese Style
2 cups chicken, cooked portions
3 Tablespoons salt pork or bacon rashers, diced
1 Tablespoon bacon fat or oil
1 and 1/2 cups chcken stock
1/2 cup green pepper, sliced
1/2 cup celery, diagonal slices
1/2 cup leeks or scallions, sliced
1 teaspoon salt
pepper, a dash
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1. Heat fat, add diced pork or bacon and cook until the fat is clear.
2. Add all the vegetables, toss in fat, and cook for five mnutes, do not brown.
3. Add stock, chicken pieces, seasonigs, bring to the bil, mix cornstarch and two tablespoons water and stir until thickened.
Serve with buttered noodles or boiled rice.

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