Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Yumberry!

13 December 07

This past summer, the DH and I made ourselves sick eating tons of these yummy, tart little berries.

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We had no idea what they were, what they were called or where they came from. They weren’t available in our market for long, either. Today I finally found out what they are called – Yang Mei.

According to the New York Times, Yang Mei is (or will be shortly) the new antioxidant rage in US grocery stores. They’re calling it the new pomegranate. Get ready for it!

The Chinese name means poplar-plum; in English it is called red bayberry or Chinese bayberry. The name yumberry was coined about 2003 by Charles Stenftenagel, a garden products importer from Indiana, when he was visiting a friend in Shanghai who owned a company that bottled the juice.

If you’re in China, look for them May to July. If you’re in the US, sorry, you can only enjoy the juice, the fruit itself is banned to keep out unwanted insects. I assure you, they are delicious!

Read more here (NYT).

Kao Di Gua

12 December 07

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Baked sweet potato vendor
Linyi, China

More Wordless Wednesday here.

Street Hut

5 December 07

Or, Something Delicious.

There’s a new street food sensation in our neighborhood and for 1.5 RMB (20 US cents or 14 Euro cents) you’ve got yourself a mini-meal.

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Chinese-style pizza takeaway

Chinese-style pizza is a great find. Why pay over 100 RMB for Pizza Hut when you can have Street Hut? Street Hut makes their pizza right in front of your eyes and bakes it in their oven while you wait. The lines* are long, and even the cold can’t keep customers from coming. (*There really is no such thing as a line or queue here, you just jump in and shove your money through the window.)

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I love street food!

Street Hut pizza is simple – on first glance, I thought I saw cheese and sausage, but really it is just made of a crunchy crust, hot chili flakes, oil and fried fat bits. I know that sounds appalling, but believe me, it is a true delight! With my North American genes, maybe it is not something I should eat everyday, however. (Okay, okay, there might be a small scrap of meat attached to the the fat bits.)

Street Hut appears to be run by a few enterprising twenty-somethings. They couldn’t make the pizzas fast enough, which makes me hopeful they will be around for a long time to come.

Pizza Hut Lands in Linyi

26 November 07

This post was much better the first time I wrote it, but then it was eaten by the Great Firewall of China. I’ll try to rewrite it but frankly, I am so annoyed and frustrated and TIRED of this ridiculous censorship and the fact that I have to use a special program just to see my own damn blog that I feel like revealing all of China’s state secrets right here, today.

But I won’t. Everyone already knows about them, anyway. Instead, I will tell you about eating out at Pizza Hut. Because what is more hard-hitting: exposing China’s corruption and propaganda or discussing the insidious infiltration of Western fast food chains?

Pizza Hut just opened its doors in Linyi. This is a pretty big deal, evidently. There were long lines out the door for the first week. Linyi already has KFC and McDonald’s, so all we need now is a Starbuck’s and the holy quartet of fast food will be complete – fried chicken, hamburgers, pizza and coffee creations. I’m not radically anti-fast food or anything (actually, I’m a few rungs down from radical, but I’m definitely on the ladder). I don’t like fast food much, but I do eat it from time to time. Eating American fast food in China, however, is kind of like a little escape into a familiar corner when you just feel overwhelmed by all the craziness. American fast-food restaurants represent the easy choice and on bewildering China days, it is the sanest choice. (Besides, it helps you to appreciate the diversity and taste of Chinese restaurants!)

So it was with curiosity and a pizza craving that we set off to see Pizza Hut for ourselves. Kunzilla was right. Pizza Hut is a high-class joint in China. All the Linyi elite were there. The whole place has the feel of a fancy European cafeteria. I even felt a little under dressed.

The menu is very familiar. All the usual chain restaurant appetizers and salads are there with the pasta dishes and pizzas you’d expect to find. The biggest difference is in the portions. The small pizza is 9″ and the large 12″ and that is it. No mega-super-sized pizzas or drinks on offer here.

We had fried calamari, (no joke about the small portions, there were literally three or four rings!) two pizzas – one “edge” style without crust and one “pan” style, and a cranberry crisp cheesecake for dessert (again, a completely normal sized portion for most of the world, but an American would have asked to see the manager.) The food was as expected. It must all come from a central processing plant, anyway, as it all tastes the same everywhere. I’ll admit I enjoyed the pizza. Pizza is such a great food. How can you go wrong with bread, cheese, pepperoni and veggies, and you can eat it all with your hands! Yes, you are supposed to eat pizza eat with your hands. I stand firm on this.

The biggest shock, of course, came with the bill. Eating out in Linyi is super-cheap. You never have to cook a single meal if you don’t want to, since eating at restaurants and noodle shops will set you back the same or less amount of money. The DH and I regularly spend less than $10 for dinner. Our bill (we splurged) came to 230RMB (20 Euros or 31 USD). !!???!!! Twenty Euros for a two-person meal!!? (Well, we did have leftover pizza for brunch the next day.) Outrageous!

My recommendation for the best pizza in China is The Tree in Beijing. They offer thin-crust, wood-fired pizzas, pasta, sandwiches, great Belgian beers and free wi-fi. Located in the Sanlitun area, close to the embassy district, you will definitely pay Western-style prices for food and drink, but it is fresh, delicious and unique. Of course, the best pizza in Linyi is still to be found at my friend L’s house. She makes it from scratch.

Getting the Food You Want

2 October 07

When the DH and I first arrived to China, we lived at the Shijiazhuang airport. Being an airport located in the middle of cornfields, there were not a lot of dining options. We learned to order one dish – yu xiang rou si – and then proceeded to eat it daily. (Both because it was easy to order and we liked it that much.) Our food vocabulary has improved since those early days, but I still feel ridiculously unprepared when entering a restaurant.

How to Order Chinese Food and Like a Local are two lifesavers for the newly-arrived or the Mandarin-challenged.

How to Order Chinese Food will show you tantalizing photos, accompanied by a description and the Chinese name in pinyin and characters. There is information on regional cuisines, ordering guides by type of food and a glossary. Thanks HtOCF! Where were you two years ago?!

Like a Local shares pictures and descriptions of delicious street food around Shanghai (and has the cutest header graphic ever!). I don’t live in Shanghai, but if I did, I would keep a close eye on this site. Still, it is helpful for others in China as some of the food is similar. For example, all summer the DH and I devoured huge quantities of these little guys:

Crawfish!

Yumm! Crawfish! Or as some people call them, crayfish. Anywho, from this post, I learned that crawfish are called xiǎo lóng xiā 小龙虾 in Chinese, which translates literally as little dragon shrimp. Something about that makes me happy. I like eating little dragons. I like eating!

**Update** Thanks to Kunzilla for pointing out that lóng xiā actually means lobsters, so crawfish are known as little lobsters. I still like eating little lobsters.

Like a Local also gives advice on how to order in Chinese and what the waitress will possibly say to you. There is also a valuable post on buying fruit from street vendors and how to avoid being cheated.

Scrolling through the Like a Local blog, I have come to realize it is my dream come true. Now, if only I were in Shanghai to enjoy this street food every single day!

It’s Mid-Autumn!

26 September 07

I should’ve known something was up when all the bread disappeared from the supermarket and was replaced by mooncakes.

It’s that time again: Mid-Autumn Festival! This is the day that the Chinese traditionally celebrate the end of the harvest and admire the full moon. It also means that it is time to eat mooncakes.

Mooncakes are little round pastries that are given as gifts to family, friends and business acquaintances. I remember when we first arrived in Beijing, two years ago. Boxes of four mooncakes were on display everywhere – hotel lobbies, supermarkets, businesses. We thought it odd, but had no idea that in the month of September, mooncakes take over China. Mooncakes can vary in flavor from delicious to gag-worthy. Usually that depends on whether or not they are moist and sweet or dry and odd. They can be filled with paste made from lotus root, red bean or who knows what. Sometimes they have an egg yolk inside, to represent the moon, as can be seen above. The Washington Post has an interesting article on what those Beijing folk are doing with mooncakes. Green tea ice cream mooncakes? I looonnggg to be in Beijing!!

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I had some mooncake last night at our company party, and it wasn’t bad. Yes, I did say company party. Did you read about our last company party? Well, this was more of the same: lots of food, lots of toasting, some puke and some passing out, but not too crazy as we were all home by 10PM. The highlight of the evening for me was when two of the company managers told me I am really fat. I know. Gotta love that tact. I wanted to tell them they were ugly, but since I don’t know how to say that in Chinese, and they don’t speak English, I just walked away. (Or waddled..)

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The infamous mooncakes – with lotus paste & red bean paste

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Our students at the party.

Eat Real

8 September 07

Yet another reason why we should only eat “real” food.

Kid Cuisine?

1 June 07

Note that I am not a parent, so maybe I don’t have the right to judge, but I think this article is incredible, and should be read by everyone who has kids. Because kids cannot live by chicken fingers and pizza and french fries alone. This is not how I was raised, how about you?

Don’t Point That Menu at My Child, Please

XinJiang Dinner

30 May 07

An expat friend here once told me that his life in China was basically wasting time between big meals. While I wouldn’t say that is descriptive of my life, I can definitely relate. One of our most common recreational activities is eating out. There is just so much good food to be eaten, and at Chinese prices you can’t say no.

Last night I ate at a XinJiang people restaurant. XinJiang is China’s most Westerly province. It is harsh desert land and is populated by people descended from the Turks. They are also called Uyghur people. Uyghurs are Muslim and they are famous throughout China for their barbecue and meat dishes. You will not find pork in a XinJiang restaurant, but you will find amazing kebabs and beef & lamb.

I don’t have any pictures, but try to imagine this. The night air is cool, a welcome relief from the high temperatures we have been experiencing lately. We sit outside, where there are a few tables set up on the sidewalk. There is a speaker next to the table blasting Uyghur music – very reminiscent of Middle Eastern music. We are five people – three of which are known for their hearty appetites. (Two Chinese, One Brit, One Spaniard & One American.) Food is ordered on a very empty stomach – maybe not a good idea. Before long, the entire table is covered in food. (Literally!) A plate of empanada like bread pockets with lamb & onion inside. A plate of raw garlic. A plate of french fries XinJiang style (Fries covered in a popular spice mixture). A plate of lamb kebabs. A plate of stir-fried beef with chilies and vegetables. A plate of stir-fried lamb with vegetables. Another plate of stir-fried lamb with vegetables (but different from the other). A plate of deep fried lambchops. A plate of thinly sliced lamb with croutons (so much better than the description). A plate each of chewy noodles with vegetable topping. A plate of XinJiang bread. Tea and beer all around. Are you getting the idea that there was a lot of food?

What was interesting about eating in a XinJiang restaurant for me was that even though we were in China, with two Han Chinese and altogether three people who speak Chinese, there was still some communication problems. Uyghurs speak a different language entirely and may not be very fluent in Mandarin. It made no difference to me, since I speak neither Chinese nor Uyghur, but it seemed odd that our Chinese friends also had difficulty.

4 Stars for the XinJiang restaurant. Looks even better now that there is some sort of pig disease driving up the cost of pork in China.

I Love Food Markets!

28 May 07

Today I was reading an essay in my Saveur magazine (which I receive digitally) written by a woman obsessed with grocery shopping. She seeks out local markets and independent shops in order to fulfill, as she says, her spiritual need for community, faith, hope and transcendence.

While I am not sure visiting a market exactly equals a spiritual experience for me, I do love them. I love how they can be so chaotic and full of local people picking out dinner. I love how there are so many colors and varieties of food. I even like the smells – sometimes! What I like the best is the hint of fabulous dishes that can be created from the humble ingredients found in them. I’ve been to lots of interesting markets in Egypt, Kuwait, Costa Rica, Spain, Kuala Lumpur and China. I even lived in a neighborhood made up of small shops called Kensington Market in Toronto, Canada. There is no better way to buy your food than from a fresh, local market.

Here are some photos of the food market in Lijiang, Yunnan Province, China.

Lijiang Market 1

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Our guide Mamie. She is from the Naxi minority people.

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Blood Sausages – Kind of creepy looking, but I bet they are delicious.

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Many different kinds of dried mushrooms & fungi

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Market baskets

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Noodles, dried fungi & a cat

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I think those are pork rinds.

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With my apologies to the vegans & vegetarians – what would a market be without the unsettling displays of meat? Sometimes you can get an amazing anatomy lesson just by browsing the cuts of meat.