slurping up two noodly picture books

Shanghai Noodles via The Daring Gourmet

by Janet S. Wong

Noodles for breakfast,
Noodles for lunch,
Noodles for dinner,
Noodles that crunch,
Noodles to twirl,
Noodles to slurp–
I could eat noodles
all day! Burp!

~ from Good Luck Gold (© 1994 Janet S. Wong). All rights reserved.

Pardon my burp, but I’ve just polished off a bowl of warm, steamy ramen — really hits the spot on a rainy Spring afternoon. Just like Janet, I love noodles at any time, any place; even just seeing the word “noodle” makes me happy.

Whether you’re talking about ramen, pho, guksu, pancit, lo mein, wonton, udon, yakisoba, saimin, japchae, chow fun, dandan, somen or any form of pasta — it’s all good. There’s nothing more comforting or satisfying than slurping up those long chewy strands of goodness with gravy, sauce or soup.

Saimin via The Tasty Island

It’s almost like every time I eat a noodle dish I’m tasting part of my childhood — a savory bowl of saimin with teriyaki barbecue sticks at the Fred Wright Park carnival, Crispy Gau Gee Mein from Waimalu Chop Suey, cold guksu with my two grandmas at Seoul Inn, somen salad at beach picnics, or the wonderful Chinese noodles with char siu and vegetables my Auntie Ellen always made for family holiday potlucks. And how could I forget those simple but restorative bowls of chicken noodle soup my mom ladled out whenever I was sick?

Since March is National Noodle Month, I thought it would be fun to look at two recently published noodle picture books. Both are steeped in Chinese culture, both feature a young girl named “Mei” learning about noodles from an elder, and in both stories noodles are an important part of a birthday celebration. Grab your chopsticks and let’s start slurping!

*   *   *

Continue reading

[cookbook review + recipe + giveaway] Chinese Fairy Tale Feasts by Paul Yee, Judy Chan and Shaoli Wang

Imagine a sumptuous Chinese banquet with thirteen enchanting fairy tales on the menu — centuries-old stories of gods, ghosts, noblemen, monks, peasants, farmers, and merchants all motivated by some aspect of food — having or not having it, growing, cooking, relishing, transforming it.

Each tale is served alongside a tempting recipe and lovingly flavored with gorgeous folkloric illustrations (a visual feast in itself), making this literary banquet something to savor with family and friends across generations time and again.

Chinese Fairy Tale Feasts: A Literary Cookbook (Crocodile Books, 2014), is a delightful trifecta of tales by master storyteller and award-winning Canadian author Paul Yee, mouthwatering recipes by Judy Chan, and charming illustrations by Shaoli Wang. While this book is perfect for celebrating the Lunar New Year this week, it’s equally satisfying any time you wish to nourish the mind, heart, body, and spirit.

This is the third in the literary cookbook series following Fairy Tale Feasts (2009) and Jewish Fairy Tale Feasts (2013) by Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple, books that have my name written all over them, as they explore and illuminate the fascinating connections between stories and food. As Jane Yolen says in her Foreword for Chinese Fairy Tale Feasts, the ability to make things up, to tell stories, distinguishes us from other animals:

And the connection between food and stories is profound and clear. Both are infinitely changeable, suiting the needs of the maker and the consumer.

Continue reading

friday feast: celebrating fall with a janet wong giveaway!


Happy Poetry Friday!

We’re falling big time for Janet S. Wong today with a special Autumn Giveaway. That’s right — one of you lucky munchkins will win the prize pack pictured above — paperback copies of The Rainbow Hand: Poems About Mothers and Children, Good Luck Gold, Declaration of Interdependence: Poems for an Election Year, and Behind the Wheel: Poems About Driving!

This bounty of goodness represents a wonderful cross section of Janet’s inspiring, funny, heartwarming, conversational, honest, always accessible verse. What I especially love about Janet’s poetry is how she’s able to extract meaning and relevance from almost anything — every situation, ordinary or extraordinary, and tell it true. When you hear the voices in her poems, you feel as though you’ve definitely met that person before, or that she’s talking about you, and you wonder, how did she know? has she been reading my mail? has she always lived in my back pocket?

I love the poems in Declaration of Interdependence — it is the perfect way to stimulate discussion about our very interesting why-isn’t-it-over-yet presidential election. In the back of the book, Janet includes some great discussion and writing ideas that really got me thinking, like, “Write a list of the most ridiculous (or scariest or most impractical) ideas you’ve heard from presidential candidates (official and unofficial).” Or, “What would you say to convince someone that his vote counts?” And yes, kids should get to vote!

Continue reading

blog tour stop #3: chatting with grace lin about starry river of the sky


I’m so pleased and excited to welcome back Newbery Honor award-winning author/illustrator Grace Lin to Alphabet Soup and to congratulate her on the publication this week of Starry River of the Sky (Little, Brown, 2012)!

When I featured Where the Mountain Meets the Moon back in 2009, I gave it my highest five spoon rating and hoped it would get a Newbery nod. Her hybrid folklore fantasy (with gorgeous full-color illustrations) felt like a modern classic. How could she possibly top herself?

Three-legged toad

In Starry River of the Sky, Grace once again creates a wondrous tapestry of  Chinese folklore seamlessly interwoven within the main narrative. Lyrical prose, mystery, adventure, suspense, magic, an odd cast of characters, humor and delightful surprises characterize this enchanting companion novel about a young runaway who is “taught by kindness” and finds peace through empathy and forgiveness.

Angry, stranded Rendi begrudgingly works as an innkeeper’s chore boy in the remote Village of Clear Sky. He’s baffled and annoyed by its peculiar, unhappy residents and is troubled by the missing moon and the sky’s nightly moans.

When the mysterious Madame Chang arrives with the gift of storytelling, fortunes begin to change. She challenges Rendi to reciprocate with stories of his own, which gradually reveal who he really is and why he ran away. As he learns to trust the other villagers, Rendi realizes the stories hold answers to his many questions about how to save the dying village and resolve his own familial conflict.


“Master Chao seemed not to notice and brought Peiyi in front of him. He gently pushed her tangled hair from her cherry-blossom-pink face. She stood as still as a carved statue, with only her eyes moving, as her father dipped his finger into the wine mixture and carefully wrote ‘wang’, a symbol of power, with it on her forehead. Rendi watched from the doorway, and a strange, jealous anger filled him.” (Chapter 2)It’s an emotional journey of self discovery for Rendi, but all are transformed by the stories they hear and tell, as new friendships are forged, and moon, mountain, balance and harmony are restored.

The simply told stories are laced with profound universal truths. They circle back and build upon each other, suggesting the interrelationship of all things, adding rich layers of cultural and historical context. Starry River of the Sky is exquisitely crafted, by its own example a paean to the power of story — its ability to enlighten, heal, inspire, unite, and reconcile.

Woodblock-inspired drawings head each chapter.

* * *

Continue reading

a little chinese take-out

Celebrate the Year of the Dragon with these fine reads. No better time to feast on Chinese culture, history and folklore. Ed Young’s brilliant The House Baba Built: An Artist’s Childhood in China (Little, Brown, 2011), just won the 2012 APALA Asian/Pacific American Literature Award for Best Picture Book. Click here to read an excerpt at the publisher’s website.

Here are the books I’ve featured here at Alphabet Soup:

The Great Wall of Lucy Wu by Wendy Wan-Long Shang (Arthur A. Levine Books, 2011).

Dumpling Days by Grace Lin (Little, Brown, 2012).

A New Year’s Reunion by Yu Li-Qiong and Zhu Cheng-Liang (Candlewick Press, 2011).

Why yes, all this talk of China has made me hungry. I always love to celebrate the Lunar New Year with dim sum. This year, we tried Mark’s Duck House, across the street from our usual place, Fortune Chinese Seafood Restaurant. And we actually liked it better! I have no idea why we’d never heard of Mark’s before. Their specialty is Peking Duck, which we’ll have to try another time.

I was happy they had all my dim sum favorites:

Steamed Pork Buns (Char Siu Bao)
Pan Fried Chives Dumpling
Shrimp Crepe (Cheung Fan)
Crab Meat Dumpling
Egg Custard Tart (dan tat)


Of course it’s always fun to read menu boards in Chinese restaurants.

Pig Ear or Duck Tongue to go?

I’m wondering about the Cold Knuckle, too.

Can’t wait to go back!

Dragons signify power and good fortune. 2012 is the Year of the Water Dragon, a period of growth and optimism.

I wish you good luck, good health, and many creative blossomings. ☺


Copyright © 2012 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.