Welcome to Toisan Pride

Toisanese (Hoisanese is the REAL pronunciation; and Mandarin speakers call it "Taishan" or Taishanese") were among the first Chinese-Cantonese immigrants to hail to the United States from the Guangdong/Guangzhou Province of Southern China in the Pearl River Delta, west of Hong Kong.

Many Hoisanese immigrants came to the U.S. starting in the 19th century to help build railroads, and eventually stayed to establish laundromats, restaurants, etc. and worked hard to build a better future for their families. Some famous Hoisan folks include: U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Chef Martin Yan (Yan Can Cook); Hawaii Senator Hiram Fong, Hong Kong Martial Artist Donnie Yen (star of IP MAN), Actor James Hong, Former California Treasurer Matt Fong; Actress Anna May Wong. For more Toisan/Taishan background history, click on Wikipedia.

Thanks for visiting my blog. Some day, I plan on updating it but Blogger isn't the greatest with blog templates so I appreciate your patience! I welcome comments, stories, photos, Toisanese/Say-Yip history, anything about our wonderful people to toisangirl@yahoo.com.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Wonton Weekends

My 1st Attempt at Making Potstickers!
Last weekend, I tried making my own homemade potstickers (but the “pay” posticker wrapping was store-bought) and had such fun with it. When I was a college student, I used to trek home on weekends and help out at my parents’ “Chopstick Inn” fast food eatery that served Chinese cuisine AND Fish & Chips in Fullerton, California.

In addition to refilling soy sauce bottles and condiments, I’d help chop vegetables and wrap won tons for their Wor Wonton soup. I haven’t made wontons since those days and didn’t write down my parents’ wonton filling recipe. I have good memories of spending time with them while they worked to pay my college tuition. My parents came from a generation of entrepreneurs since most immigrants from Taishan didn’t have formal college educations. So many, like mine, toiled away at convenience stores, restaurants, or laundromats and whatever work they could find.

Dad ran a fruit stand in South L.A. when he first arrived in the U.S. at age 15 and went on to run grocery stores, a steak & salad restaurant, a Philly cheesesteak fast food shop, and Chopstick Inn with my mom. Sometimes I envy that independent spirit of entrepreneurship – it never taught or passed down to me. Instead I became part of the next generation encouraged to earn a college degree in order to secure a stable job (preferably with the government for “good” benefits and the promise of never getting laid off or wondering where your next paycheck came from).

They didn’t want me or my brothers to endure the hardships and emotional instability they experienced as entrepreneurs. My dad even worked at a Discount Dollar Store in East L.A. when I was a kid. He’d bring discount clothes for us and worked hard to earn every dollar so we could own our own home, have clothes on our back, and put food on the table.

But alas, I digress. I meant to write about potstickers and wontons so I could ask for input on YOUR recipes. My dad usually mixed in sesame oil (mah-yu), salt (yem), white pepper, egg (ahn), and some soy sauce (see-yu) into his wonton filling. There might’ve been other stuff like shrimp and water chestnuts, but I can’t remember. So if you have any potsticker or half-moon (fan swuah) or wonton (voon hoon) dumpling recipes, please share. Thank you very much!


  1. As a kid, I made many, many potstickers in my family's restaurant, but performed only the manual jobs, and thus did not have the recipe revealed to me. I was at the end of the line and did the rolling and wrapping.

    Now many decades later it makes sense to me as I had not learned to taste and would not have been able to prepare the proper flavors.

    However, I will do a little research and will respond with the vital ingredients that were used at that time.

    One of the great things about Chinese family cooking (probably applies to all cultures unless you only eat fast food) is that you can eat potstickers, zhoong, etc from 10 different families and you will end up with 10 different tastes.

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  3. Actually I don't think pot stickers are actually Toisanese, or even Cantonese, are they? Pot Stickers being dumplings that are fried and steamed. Or is that steamed, then fried.

    I think those showed up with Mandarin cuisine late 70's, early 80's. Then of course all the Chinese restaurants adopted them as appetizers on their menus.

    Well, anyway, I grew up in Kansas in the 60's and 70's. Our Chinese American restaurant served 'Chinese' food in name only, but we got the real stuff at home.

    The dumplings I remember my mom making started with homemade rice flour dough that she formed into rounds, pressed into flat circle using an oiled shallow bowl. She would then fill it with her pork filling (including water chestnuts and mushroom or am I confusing that with her gee-ngok-weng?), fold one side over the other, making a little flat bottomed purse, sealing the ends together with tiny little folds. Then she just steamed them.

    Thanks for this site. Found it researching the spelling of Toisan for my passport application. Yep, I'm finally making the trek back to the village. I've enjoyed reading the posts and blog and will pass it on to my sibs and cousins who should get a kick out of it.

    1. Hi SeeJay, eee my reply below. Were there many Chinese in Kansas where you grew up?

    2. A handful of families scattered around various small towns and a larger concentration in the larger burgs of Topeka and Wichita.

      Those who we knew were all from Toisan, and all seemingly related to me in one way or another. All in the restaurant business. How we got there is another story.

      Will definitely let you know how things go on my trip.

    3. Anonymous9.2.13

      Dear SeeJay,

      The name of those dumplings you described your mom making are called "ban su." There are actually no Chinese characters which correspond to the words "ban su" and I have never seen a non-Hoisan person make or eat those dumplings, which leads me to believe that the etymology of the word "ban su" is non-Chinese in origin (probably from historical roots of southern Chinese with the so-called "Baiyue" people). Anyway, I'm pretty sure it's a pure Hoisan food for these reasons. It must have minced pork and water chestnuts; other ingredients like mushrooms, dried shrimp, Chinese sausage, etc may be added as you like. What makes these dumplings distinct from other Chinese dumplings is that the ground pork is cooked completely before the filling, giving a different texture to the meat. Also, the dough is actually made from wheat starch. You add boiling water to the wheat starch and it turns it into a gray/see-through looking dough. Then you fill the "ban su" and steam them. I learned how to make them from my grandmother a few years ago.

      Hoisan and loving it!

  4. SeeJay - you're probably right about potstickers not being real "Cantonese" or "Chinese"? but I see them at dim sum restaurants and since my family is a blended Chinese/Japanese family - I eat them quit often. So I naturally tried my hand at making potstickers instead of wontons first - the ingredients eeem similar but cooked differently. Thanks for sharing your mom's dumpling making secret - hope you have a great trip to Toisan!! Please share when you return. And thanks for checking out my blog and sharing it. Aloha, Nancy.