Learning My ABCs: How to be Chinese 101

Hello, and welcome back to Learning My ABCs! In this post, I will be listing a few things you can do to practice and learn more about the Chinese culture, because just like how anyone can cook, anyone can be “Chinese”!

1. Watch Fresh Off the Boat

I love the show Fresh Off the Boat! Not only is it funny, well-written, and hands down just an all-around awesome show, it’s also super relatable to me since I grew up in a similar situation. Honestly, this show is such a refreshing change in the entertainment industry because it’s one of the few American TV sitcom focusing on Asian culture with real Asian-American actors. Just watch it!!! You can both learn a lot about the Chinese culture and also enjoy a charming family sitcom.

2. Watch WongFu

If you’re like me and you don’t have a TV, you live for the Internet! And for those of you who love YouTube, check out WongFu’s channel. They’ve been making videos highlighting Asian-American culture for over ten years now and their video content and quality is amazing! They have videos that suit your every interest, whether you like comedy, emotion, or drama. Plus, they are super relatable!

Here is one of WongFu’s videos. Watch it, it’s hilarious!

3. Make Some Traditional Chinese Food

Go on YouTube and look up some Chinese food recipes. Use them as inspiration! Because in reality, cooking Chinese food is all about eyeballing and experimenting. My grandparents and my parents never followed any recipes. They went by taste. If it’s not salty enough, add a splash of soy sauce. If it needs a little tang, add a few teaspoons of vinegar. Be creative with food!

Here is one of my favorite Chinese dishes, Sweet and Sour Pork Ribs (but just saying, my grandpa makes it the best):

Also, dumplings and wontons are a staple in Chinese food! Here is a recipe that you can follow to make delicious dumplings. Try eating them with chopsticks 🙂


1/2 cup soy sauce

1 tablespoon vinegar

1 tablespoon finely chopped Chinese chives

1 tablespoon sesame seeds (optional)

1 pound ground pork

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 egg, beaten

1 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

50 dumpling wrappers

1 cup vegetable oil for frying

1 quart water, or more as needed

1. Combine 1/2 cup soy sauce, rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon chives, and sesame seeds in a small bowl. Set aside.

2. Mix pork, garlic, egg, 2 tablespoons chives, soy sauce, sesame oil, and ginger in a large bowl until thoroughly combined. Place a dumpling wrapper on a lightly floured work surface and spoon about 1 tablespoon of the filling in the middle. Wet the edge with a little water and crimp together forming small pleats to seal the dumpling. Repeat with remaining dumpling wrappers and filling.

3.Heat 1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place 8 to 10 dumplings in the pan and cook until browned, about 2 minutes per side. Pour in 1 cup of water, cover and cook until the dumplings are tender and the pork is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Repeat for remaining dumplings. Serve with soy sauce mixture for dipping.

4. Celebrate Chinese Holidays and Traditions

The biggest Chinese holidays are Lunar New Year (February), the Mooncake Festival (September), and the Dragon boat Festival (June).

On Lunar New Year, say “Gong Hay Fat Choy,” or in Mandarin, “Gong Xi Fa Cai”, which means best wishes and congratulations, have a prosperous year, to a Chinese friend. Give a red envelope filled with candy or money to a Chinese child. Eat some fish!

On the Dragon Boat Festival day, buy a Zongzi (or what I call a Chinese tamale) from a local Chinese market or a dim sum place. They are delicious!

On Mooncake Festival day, buy a box of mooncakes and share them with your family and friends! Eat them under the moonlight to make it extra special.

To read more about holidays, check out my post about Chinese food here.

5. Watch a Chinese Film with Subtitles (or Not!)

When I was little, I loved watching the animated version of The Monkey King. For those of you who don’t know what The Monkey King is, it’s a story about a rebellious unruly monkey that wreaks havoc in the heavens. Show this old film to your kids. There is no educational value but you learn a lot about Chinese religion and auspicious symbols.

If you want something more contemporary, watch Touch of the Light. It’s a film about a blind boy who is a gifted piano player. He goes to college and meets a girl, and together, they defy the odds and encourage each other to pursue their dreams. It’s a beautiful movie and it portrays life in Taiwan very clearly.

6. Go to a Chinese Restaurant and Eat Some Chinese Food

Public Service Announcement: Go to Good Luck Dim Sum on 8th Ave and Clement St. in San Francisco. It’s by far my favorite dim sum place. It’s not too expensive and the people who work there are nice, but beware, the line is usually pretty long. When you go there, just pray that the porridge isn’t out because you have to try it, it’s amazing, and order some Shrimp Dumplings and Beef Shu Mai. That place makes me so happy!

If you want to go the more expensive but more delicious route, go to Hong Kong Lounge on Geary and 17th Ave. It’s the best dim sum restaurant in San Francisco in my opinion and the SF Chronicle’s. Try their Shanghai dumplings! They are to die for. Can I be honest and say that I went to Shanghai and their dumplings aren’t nearly as good as the ones from Hong Kong Lounge? Their coffee ribs dish is a unique flavor that I’ve only ever been able to find there and their Peking Duck is a gem. Please, do yourself a favor, and treat yourself by eating at the Hong Kong Lounge! Just a warning, on busy nights, waiting in line could take as long as two hours.

7. Buy a Qipao and Look Awesome!

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That’s all for this column! I hope you all have learned a thing or two about Chinese culture and as always, thank you for Learning My ABCs with me!