Chopstick Cinema: Exploring Asian Food and Film

by Celeste Heiter

Explore the Far East from the comfort of home through the cuisines of ten Asian countries paired with movies by some of Asia’s most visionary filmmakers. With Asian food and film blogger Celeste Heiter as your guide, and Chopstick Cinema (via Amazon or Indiebound) as your culinary and cinematic passport,

CC-coversavor the delicacy of Vietnamese Crab-Filled Summer Rolls as you inhale the intoxicating Scent of Green Papaya; relive the bone-chilling saga of a haunted village over a steaming dish of Pad Thai, spend a contemplative evening on a serene lake in a floating Buddhist temple as you nibble on Korean Kim Bap and Mandu Dumplings; feast on Samosas and Chicken Vindaloo while cheering a rag-tag team of Indian locals in a cricket match against the British Raj; or spend a summer in rural Cambodia to learn the true meaning of a simple bowl of rice.

Based on her belief that anyone with basic cooking skills can prepare an authentic Asian meal using ingredients that are readily available at almost any well-stocked food market, Celeste has selected her favorite Asian dishes from among the hundreds of recipes featured on Her Chopstick Cinema blog. The menu for each country is a collection of ten dishes: nibbles, cold and hot appetizers, soup, salad, noodles, main course, two side dishes, and dessert, along with a shopping guide and online sources for hard to find ingredients, followed by a review of Celeste’s favorite film from each country, and recommendations for several alternate films.

With a pair of chopsticks in one hand, and your remote control in the other, satisfy your appetite for Asian food and adventure that’s sure to be as memorable as the real thing.

A Quartet of Korean Dishes to Enjoy with Kim Ki-Duk’s Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter… and Spring.

KoreaSteamedDumplingsSteamed Mandu Dumplings


  • 4 ounces firm tofu, finely chopped
  • ½ cup kimchi, finely chopped
  • 1 cup mung bean sprouts, coarsely chopped
  • ½ pound lean ground beef
  • 3 scallions, finely sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 50 round wonton wrappers
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Heat the sesame oil in a wok, add ground beef and garlic, and stir-fry until just done. Add scallions, bean sprouts, tofu, and kimchi and stir-fry until just tender. Set aside to cool.

To prepare dumplings, rub the edges of each wonton wrapper with water, place about a teaspoon of filling in the center, fold in half, and pinch-pleat the edges to seal.

dumplingpressIn a wok or large skillet, heat about 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium heat. Add dumplings with the folded edge flattened out on the bottom and the pleated edge upright. Cover and allow to fry for about 5 minutes until the bottoms are golden brown. Add about ¼ cup of water or stock to the pan, cover, and allow to steam for 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the pan and serve immediately.

Dipping Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • ⅓ cup soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon chili oil (more or less, to taste)

Cook’s Note: A dumpling press is a handy, time-saving gadget for making attractive, uniform dumplings. Dumpling presses are inexpensive and may be purchased in most Asian markets or kitchen supply shops (

KoreaKimChiSoup-2Spicy Kimchi Tofu Soup

  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 1 cup kimchi, drained and coarsely chopped
  • 6 shiitake mushrooms, thickly sliced
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 knob gingerroot, peeled and finely shredded (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 4 ounces firm tofu, cut into ½-inch cubes

Combine chicken stock and soy sauce in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Add kimchi, mushrooms, scallions, and ginger and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Divide tofu cubes into 4 equal portions and place in the bottom of soup bowls. Ladle the soup over tofu and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Cook’s Note: Since commercially packed kimchi is a volatile, fermented product, it can be found in vacuum-sealed jars in the refrigerated section of the supermarket. Kimchi should be opened carefully over a bowl in the sink to catch the overflow when the pressurized contents are released.

KoreaPajunPancakesPajun Pancakes

Dipping Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • ⅓ cup soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon sugar


  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 large carrot, peeled, trimmed, and coarsely grated
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and finely chopped
  • 4 mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup tiny bay shrimp


  • 1 cup baking mix (Bisquick)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup water (more if needed)
  • Nonstick cooking spray or vegetable oil

Combine dipping sauce ingredients in a small jar, shake to blend, and set aside. Combine baking mix, eggs, and water in a large mixing bowl or measuring cup and stir to form a smooth batter. Batter should be thin, so add a little more water if needed. Add filling ingredients and stir to mix.

Oil a crepe pan or small skillet with nonstick cooking spray or vegetable oil and place over medium heat. When skillet is hot, ladle a 6-inch puddle of pajun batter into the center and distribute vegetables and shrimp evenly with a fork. Fry pajun until golden brown on the bottom and carefully turn it over to brown on the other side. Remove pajun from the pan, cut into wedges, and serve with dipping sauce. Serves 4.

Brussels Sprout Kimchi

  • KoreaBrusselsSproutKimChi16 brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut lengthwise into quarters
  • ½ cup rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce (more or less, to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon gochujang (Korean chili sauce) (more or less, to taste)
  • 1 knob gingerroot, peeled and finely shredded (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 scallions, finely sliced
  • 1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce (nam pla, nuoc mam, or patis)
  • 1 lime, juice only

Blanch brussels sprouts in a kettle of boiling, salted water until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water, and set aside. Combine all ingredients in a large jar with a tight-fitting lid, add brussels sprouts and rice vinegar, using a little extra to cover if needed. Refrigerate for 2 hours, turning occasionally for even marinating. Serves 4.

Film Review: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter…and Spring

840full-spring,-summer,-fall,-winter...-and-spring-posterBoys will be boys, even when living a monastic life in the middle of a remote lake in Korea. But the childish pranks of one young Buddhist monk go horribly wrong and provide a lifelong lesson as he lives out the seasons of his manhood. Directed by Kim Ki-duk, Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter…and Spring is a film of such poignant beauty and meaning that it defies description.

The supernal setting is a floating hermitage on Chusanji Lake in Mount Chuwang National Park in the Republic of Korea’s North Kyongsang Province: so isolated that it can only be reached by an ancient wooden rowboat, and so distant from the machinations of human civilization that only the path of the sun and the change of seasons mark the passage of time.

Old Monk (Yeong-su Oh), keeper of the hermitage, is the master and teacher of its only novitiate, Young Monk (Jong-ho Kim). Their days ebb and flow in a rhythmic routine of meditating, tending to the upkeep of the tiny temple, and ferrying back and forth to the shore to gather herbs on the steep hillsides overlooking the lake. Days, months, even years go by without intrusion from the outside world, until one day, when a mother arrives with her teenage daughter (Yeo-jin Ha), imploring Old Monk to heal the young woman of her vague afflictions.

t9ccb4By this time, Young Monk has grown into a handsome young man (Jae-kyeong Seo), with all the typical pubescent stirrings and yearnings, especially now that a beautiful nymph has miraculously landed on his doorstep. But with every joy comes the risk of tragedy and loss. And with every transgression comes the opportunity for atonement and redemption.

Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter…and Spring is a film filled with nuance and metaphor: the ancient boat that ferries the monks to and from the shore; the freestanding doors without walls that mark the passage from one room and one world to another; the cast of creatures, both wild and domestic, with each playing their subtle role in this pastoral psalm; the stones that are both burden and blessing; and the seasons themselves that represent not a single year, but the phases of a life unfolding.

The intimate ensemble of players includes the director himself in the role of the Young Monk in the winter of his life, and the crew of talent, which includes musical composer Ji-woong Park, costume designer Min-Hee Kim, and cinematographer Dong-hyeon Baek, has created a paradox of humility and rapture—an unrivaled cinematic masterpiece.

EDF FilmStripGanbattePhotoWith her lifelong love of Japan, its people, and its culture, Celeste Heiter believes that she may have been Japanese in a previous incarnation. In this lifetime, however, Celeste was born in Mobile, Alabama, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Art and English from the University of South Alabama. Inspired by an enduring dream to visit the Great Buddha at Kamakura, she moved to Tokyo in 1988 and spent two years teaching English conversation. Celeste now makes her home in California’s beautiful Napa Valley, with the most treasured souvenir of her life in Japan: her son Will, who was born during her stay in Tokyo. She edited and contributed essays to the guidebook To Japan With Love and is the author of Vignettes of Japan, Ganbatte Means Go For It, Five Seven Five, The Sushi Book, and Chopstick Cinema: Celeste Heiter’s Daily Adventures in Asian Food and Film.

Celeste Heiter’s other books may also be purchased on

Additional recipes and film reviews by Celeste can be found at

The Chopstick Cinema Cooking Video Series is available on YouTube.


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