January 29th, 2010 by Dawn Becker
This morning the sun shone brightly into my bedroom lighting up the walls with a golden yellow hue. It was a spectacular way to wake up with the warmth of the sun hitting the bed while I lay safely tucked under my fluffy duvet during this latest cold snap in Toronto. The colours were so magnificent that it was almost a pleasure to get out of bed – well, not really but it helped. It actually reminded me of the first battle scene in the film, Red Cliff.
If you haven’t seen Red Cliff yet you should put this one on your list of must-see films. Red Cliff is an epic movie directed by famed Hong Kong action director, John Woo and stars many Asian superstars such as Tony Leung (Lust Caution, Infernal Affairs, Hero, Hard Boiled, and too many other great roles to name), Takeshi Kaneshiro (House of Flying Daggers), Shido Nakamura (Letters from Iwo Jima), and Chen Chang (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) to name a few.
Red Cliff is a period piece that recounts an important battle in Chinese history, the Battle of Chibi (Battle of Red Cliffs), that marked the end of the Han Dynasty. The movie is a true masterpiece of strategy and poetic battle movements shot over the beautiful scenic backdrop of the Red Cliffs. The original movie was so long that they ended up producing it in two parts. Both Red Cliff and Red Cliff II have a running time of well over two hours each so you really get your money’s worth from these movies that don’t let up at all in their pacing. The action sequences are very fresh and exciting and there’s a good dose of humour added to keep it light. It also helps that the actors are talented and easy on the eyes, so the time really flies by.
The characters seem to have been provided with stereotypically inherent Chinese personas such as the profound and thoughtful Chief Strategist Zhuge Liang, played by Kaneshiro, the against-all-odds determination and conviction of Zhou Yu, played by Leung, and the pained angst of the young lord, Sun Quan, who is plagued by unremarkable inaction compared to the warriors in his family history. Sun Quan is played by Chen Chang and is a real role reversal from Dark Cloud, the intense dessert warrior that woos the Zhang Ziyi character, Jen, in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
There is a pivotal scene in Red Cliff II involving delicious glutinous rice balls or tangyuan where the generals share their precious few rice balls with their battle leader, Zhou Yu, signifying their loyalty and belief in him. It’s a moving way to show fealty at the precipice of war, all done through food.
You can make your own glutinous rice balls but the ones you can buy frozen in most Asian supermarket are very tasty without the sticky effort.
I like the Amoy brand, shown above with peanut filling, but they are also available with sesame paste, red-bean paste or without any filling. To cook them, just boil a pot of water, drop the rice balls in and let them boil until they float. They are ready when half of the rice ball rises above the water. If the rice ball is not floating half way above the water the filling may not be completely ready.