Feb 4, 2011

a bite of spring

Yesterday it was "Happy Rabbit Year!" Today is the First Day of Spring! Soon you will see our trouble is, our holiday season is too long!

Today being the first day of spring may sound a little funny, especially if you live in New England. It's an important day on Chinese calendar, but it's a day marked based on movement of the sun, and therefore, the First Day of Spring is always on February 3rd, 4th or 5th (most of the time on the 4th) on the international calendar, which is pretty much a solar calendar. On this day, the sun has finished 25% of its journey between winter solstice and summer solstice. So, no matter where you are, whether it's warmer or colder, the sun announces the start of spring based on its own term. In fact, the sun is always right. Look what a nice sunny day we had after a blizzard week!

In many Asian cultures, on the First Day of Spring (as well as some other important day), spring roll is always in the menu. In Northern China (and largely in Southern China too), the spring roll  can be made in many ways, with many ingredients, but the key ingredient is always bean sprout. Bean sprout is one of my favorite vegetables. It goes well with almost anything, meat, shrimp, sausage, toufu... But even when it's made in the simplest way, I love it all the same. In Northern China, the tradition of eating spring roll on the First Day of Spring is called "taking a bite of spring". To me the sensation of chewing on fresh, juicy bean sprout indeed feels like spring.

The spring rolls I made today were very simple. I had bean sprouts immersed in newly boiled water for a few minutes, took them out, seasoned them with only salt and sesame oil, and wrapped them in Vietnamese rice wrapper. My favorite wrapper is what my grandma made with wheat flour and bean flour mixed. Unfortunately I didn't inherit the skills, and bean flour is hard to get nowadays, even in China. But I love rice wrapper too, and it's very easy to use - immersed in water for a few minutes and it's good to eat.  

Earlier today, before I had a chance to take a bite of spring, I took a sip of spring too! It was some Tong Cheng Small Orchid green tea, brewed in my plum flower Yixing and poured into my newly obtained Petr Novák's tree bark teacup. This combination gives me a lot of spring feelings. I love teacups that feel rough in hands and smooth on lips. And I love botanical themes. The tree bark teacup is perfectly what I want! The size is perfect for my tea drinking routines too. When having green tea with this 180ml yixing, I usually leave 1/3 of the tea in teapot, and this teacup holds the other 2/3. When having oolong, I use a 100-150ml teapot most of them time, and this teacup can hold all the tea poured out of the teapot! Most of the time when I buy tea ware, I consider functions (size, strainer, spout...) first. But it's so nice to find some tea wares that both touch my heart and have the right physical parameters!

The Yixing is handmade with aged Duan clay - usually when I see a nice teapot handmade with good clay, I don't feel I have to buy it. There are too many good yixing teapots and other good tea wares, and I won't be able to afford a lot of them. But plum flowers always mesmerize me. This one is engraved by a Yixing engraver whom I've admired for some time. Finally, I just couldn't let this teapot go, because the engraved plum flower follows the style of a Qing dynasty painter whom I adore, and the engraved poem is so beautiful and it's by the same painter. This poem is the type that there is no way to translate. Basically it's about one's love of tea and plum flower :D

1 comment:

Lelia said...

This time of the year in the great (gray) Northwestern states anything that tells me spring is actually coming is quite uplifting. And being told that it is actually here is even more exciting. What a winter....I love spring rolls and the idea of using them to celebrate spring! I could do this each winter ahem spring! They could replace my attachment to the very small bulbs that come out first.