Bernice Chan

Bernice Chan

Senior Writer on the Culture Desk

Bernice is a contributor to Inkstone. She is a senior writer on the Culture Desk of the South China Morning Post.

Location
Hong Kong
Language spoken
English, Mandarin, Cantonese
Areas of Expertise
Lifestyle, Food, Culture
She was brutally murdered in the US. Now her life is remembered in film
Zhang Yingying was 26 years old when she left China for the US as a visiting scholar to study climate change on crop yields in mid-2017. Just six weeks after she arrived in a new country, with its unfamiliar culture and language, Zhang disappeared, never to be seen again. In June that year, police arrested a former physics PhD candidate, Brendt Christensen, after surveillance footage showed that Zhang had entered a car driven by him. A jury later found him guilty of murder and he was sentenced to life in a federal prison. Prosecutors said he raped her and murdered her using a baseball bat and a knife. Zhang’s disappearance sent shockwaves through Chinese students in the US. Before Christense
The unexpected history of Chinese-Canadian food (Hint: it’s not ‘fake Chinese’)
Chop suey, chow mein, egg foo yong, deep-fried lemon chicken, spring rolls, stir-fried beef and broccoli. These are all dishes typically found on the menu of a Chinese-Canadian restaurant. They may not be authentically Chinese, but they are culturally distinct. Vancouver-born journalist Ann Hui, 36, took an interest in the culinary curiosities after learning that many immigrant restaurants in Canada’s Chinatowns were closing down or being repurposed as non-Chinese restaurants or bars. When Hui, a reporter for Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail, dug deeper, she discovered there were many such restaurants across the country. In some cases, they were the only restaurant in town. That inspir
Tracking the cat and mouse game of social media censorship in China
July 21, 2019 remains seared into Hongkongers’ memories for the shocking images and videos of white-shirted men, some suspected to be gangsters, beating protesters and train passengers with sticks in the Yuen Long railway station. Over the border in mainland China, the date evokes a memory of a different scenario: black-clad protesters converging on Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong and defacing the national emblem of the People’s Republic of China. Until that day, Chinese media had been silent on protests erupting in Hong Kong. The protests were sparked by a now withdrawn extradition bill that would have allowed criminal suspects to be sent for trial on the mainland, among other jurisdi
Inside the reggae empire built by a Chinese-Jamaican family
Almost five years ago on a local TV show in New York, the host was taken aback when the Jamaican reggae artist Gyptian was introduced by a diminutive, elderly Asian woman. “He was not expecting to see a Chinese woman talking about reggae,” Patricia Chin, now 82, recalls with a laugh, during a telephone interview from New York. But the half-Chinese, half-Indian Chin, who was born in Jamaica, knows just about everything there is to know about reggae.  She and her late husband, Vincent “Randy” Chin, helped build the nascent reggae music scene in the late 1950s from their home in Kingston, Jamaica, along with the likes of the legendary Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. In 1975, the Chins emigrated to t
The lavish, expensive Cantonese dishes lost in time
Double-boiled pig’s stomach stuffed with chicken and bird’s nest. Wok-seared crab cake with bird’s nest and egg white. Wok-fried thinly sliced giant sea conch “snow flakes” with chicken fillet and crispy ham medallions. These are just some of the dishes that wealthy customers used to order in high-end Cantonese restaurants in Hong Kong decades ago. But, they eventually disappeared from menus because they were too laborious or difficult to prepare, or the price charged didn’t make them worth the effort. Malaysian-Chinese freelance food writer Agnes Chee had never heard of these dishes before. She later asked seasoned chef Chui Wai-kwan, who had been cooking for over 50 years, to make some of
Beyond spicy: the little-known side of Sichuan cuisine
Many may remember the 1998 film Mulan, the tale of a young Chinese girl who pretends to be a man to take her ailing father’s place in the army. In a joint promotion for the original animated feature, McDonald’s released a condiment called SzeChuan sauce for a limited time. Hong Kong-born Kevin Pang, who was raised in the United States, remembers it well from his teenage days. “It tasted very much like American Chinese food, it was too sweet. The texture was very gloopy, very sticky, and I think it was a little bit too out there for an American audience. If you eat chicken nuggets, you have barbecue sauce, you have hot mustard, but you don’t have this vaguely Asian style sauce. It was a novel
Where is sushi from? Not Japan
Sushi is pretty ubiquitous: from nigiri, with its slice of raw fish on a pillow of rice, to the maki roll wrapped in nori, or seaweed. But the sushi we know today tastes and looks very different from how it did centuries ago.  First of all, the rice in the original “sushi” was not intended to be eaten. Mixed with salt, it was used to preserve the fish and then thrown out. Sushi’s origins aren’t even Japanese, says Nobu Hong Kong executive sushi chef Kazunari Araki, who has more than 20 years of sushi-making experience. The combination of rice and fish, he explains, originated in the third century along the Mekong River in Southeast Asia, where countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, La
The uncredited producer of the first Oscar-winning documentary feature
As a fourth-generation Chinese-American who grew up in Hawaii, Robin Lung had always had many Asian role models around her. But as a filmmaker, writer and director, she had always felt they didn’t have enough representation in books, films and on television. In her search for a strong Chinese female character, Lung stumbled upon the late Gladys Li Ling-ai, a second-generation Chinese woman born in the early 20th century who, like her, was a Hawaiian. One thing stood out about Li. In her memoir Life is for a Long Time, she mentions that she produced a documentary called Kukan – “heroic courage under bitter suffering” – a color film shot in China in the 1930s during the second Sino-Japanese w
How Macau’s famous custard egg tarts were invented
The Portuguese egg tart is a must-eat for visitors to the city of Macau, located on China’s southern coast. The sweet, soft tart consists of a baked egg custard inside a flaky case, caramelized on top. They’re close cousins of the Hong Kong-style egg tarts found in dim sum restaurants and Chinatowns across the world. But the name is misleading. The Portuguese egg tart is actually a 100% Macanese creation, invented by a Brit in Macau. Eileen Stow, sister to Andrew Stow, who invented the treat in 1979, tells us about its origins and how it grew to become one of Macau’s most popular snacks.
Better Angels shows US-China ties through ordinary people
China’s image in America has taken a beating thanks largely to President Trump, for whom tweeting about the country is one of his favorite past times. And the ongoing trade war between two sides is not helping matters either. But two-time Oscar-winning director Malcolm Clarke is hoping global audiences get a different view about China through the lives of ordinary Chinese and Americans shown in his new documentary, Better Angels. Clarke says the film was not influenced by the Chinese government and was financed by investors in Canada and the US. But during post-production, Chinese money used for publicity, press materials and film festival entries. People portrayed in the documentary find t