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Foods I Ate and Some I Wouldn’t Eat in China

Foods I Ate and Some I Wouldn’t Eat in China

A food heaven for sure ~ China.

We got to taste some of very delicious vegetarian and vegan dishes while we were there, at our hotel, restaurants, street foods, and at a friend’s house.

Spicy Sichuan foods at restaurants in Beijing, Xian noodles in Xian, Kosher foods at Muslim Quarter in Xian, homemade Shandong foods, banquet style foods, and street foods ~ all were great! Even though we had diarrhea a couple times, totally worth the try.

I attempted to replicate a couple of the dishes we had at home. First, I tried to make Chinese Chive and Eggs Dumplings with wraps from scratch. It was ok, not as good as the ones I had there. Second, I made a potato dish stir fried with fresh not so spicy Chinese peppers. This one turned out pretty well.

I want to figure out how to make that lotus roots filled with sticky rice though. It was served chilled. So delish!

Our dining experience in China was quite something. Since we are vegetarian, as many choices as they have for vegetarians, we had to be cautious with the broth and oil that they used. One time we ordered cold plates with stew eggs at a restaurant in Xian. We got our order ~ with pork pieces and broth on top of it. We told the server that we don’t eat pork. She took it away and in front of our eyes though we saw that she just picked the meat pieces out and served us with the same eggs. Not even bothered to explain, we ordered another plate but making sure that she didn’t put any broth or meat on top of it.

Something like this that was quite a challenge for us. We couldn’t be sure what we get even though after we told them not to put any meat or after we told them that we are vegetarian.

Or some bugs on skewers! Alive and moving, waiting for someone to order and then get fried in hot oil. No, not for us. Some people brave enough to eat them. Our native Beijing friend told us she wouldn’t eat them either.

When we were at Muslim Quarter in Xian, all foods were kosher. We just had to find vegetarian foods and we did. We stopped at a few restaurants for lunch! I think the total dish we had for lunch that day was 9 dishes. Three bowls of different types of noodles, a bowl potato in spices, two types bean jelly dish, two types of sticky rice snack, and dessert made with rose water and some other stuff.

On our way out, we saw a hot pot place with all vegetarian and vegan stuff. They all looked so good! We just were soooo full and couldn’t fit anything anymore in our stomach. Although I am quite proud of how my stomach can expand for yummy foods, but this time, I reached my max. We didn’t have dinner that night.

Banquet lunch and dinner when we were in Shandong province! Oh my… speaking of gluttony… we totally immersed ourselves in it. Plates and plates of food coming out frequently. By the time it reached 10 plates, I stopped counting. There were just so much foods! Literally the table was full of plates with left over dishes on it when we finished eating. Oh, and the norm of who sits with who at a banquet is such a new thing for us. Such an experience! I’ll talk about it more on the next post.

Meanwhile, here is some food pics for you.

Various types of foods. Either eating them with steam bun (bao) or dipping them in hot pot.

Various types of foods. Either eating them with steam bun (bao) or dipping them in hot pot.

 

Various sweets and exotic snacks like scorpion on sticks.

Various sweets and exotic snacks like scorpion on sticks.

They were still alive and moving!

They were still alive and moving!

 

I don't even know what they are.

I don’t even know what they are.

I don't know what it is. I asked but didn't understand...

I don’t know what it is. I asked but didn’t understand…

Yes, it is stinky... and we got diarrhea from it.

Yes, it is stinky… and we got diarrhea from it.

Stir fried eggs with wild mushroom with salt and white pepper. Simple yet so delicious.

Stir fried eggs with wild mushroom with salt and white pepper. Simple yet so delicious.

Yu Choi with fresh shitake in mushroom sauce.

Yu Choi with fresh shitake in mushroom sauce.

It hurts so good.

It hurts so good.

So delicious! Drizzled with honey.

So delicious! Drizzled with honey.

The table after we finished dinner. Yes, it was still full.

The table after we finished dinner. Yes, it was still full.

Last dish at a banquet lunch. A type of onion pancake but twisted. Don't know what's the name but it's so good.

Last dish at a banquet lunch. A type of onion pancake but twisted. Don’t know what’s the name but it’s so good.

Ate a a food court. Last dish before leaving Beijing to Jakarta.

Ate a a food court. Last dish before leaving Beijing to Jakarta.

Why I like McDonald and Starbucks in China

Why I like McDonald and Starbucks in China

China is a great country with almost everything seems so massive (size of the people, buildings, streets, etc), combined with super awesome ancient remains and culture. It is a country where modernity and antiquity collides. It is a country where you find a big boom in consumerism. Big cities like Beijing and Shanghai where its streets are full with advertisements boards and screens for coffee, computers, branded items, fast food franchises, and face-lifts.

Rapid economic boost in China is evident with their first class hotels, convenient pubic transportation, and excellent restaurants that are prominent in Beijing. At the same time in Hutong areas there are still a good number of courtyard houses.

There are 55 different ethic minorities in China, each with their own distinctive customs, costumes, and languages. These 55 ethnic minorities, though, only comprise 7% of the total 1.35 billion people of China. The rest 93% is Han ethic. Moreover, its traditional arts, architectures, philosophy, etc… to my opinion, are just amazing.

Western world seems to emerge with the eastern life. It is so easy to find western franchise stores. Starbucks and McDonald are just examples.

As great as it is though, there aren’t many public bathrooms in China. It was quite hard for us to find a public bathroom where I didn’t have to tell people behind me not to cut my line or wondering why there was no tissue and how the heck am I going to wipe myself?

And even more challenging was to find a clean public bathroom. Either you have hold your pee and expand your bladder or you just have to hold your breath and squat on … well… it’s hard to describe. Bottom line is that you have to be very flexible with your hip flexers and your sanitary requirements.

So, one of my strategy is to find the closest McDonald or Starbucks stores nearby. Yes, it is not because they have better coffees or better hamburgers, but because they have clean bathrooms with seating toilets.

Nonetheless, my husband and I had a great time in China. We went there with a mindset that we are going to be open minded to whatever experience we are going to encounter, just observing and not judging, and simply experiencing our time there fully.

With that in mind, we walked around, took public transportation, and we biked to places. Yes, we biked in Beijing. Our native Chinese friend told us that we are crazy. I think we must be a little bit crazy considering the traffic and how people don’t really follow the traffic lights. I rang the bell the whole time I was biking – making sure of my presence in known. Using my left arm indicating left and right turn, as if they understand. One time, I saw a car was going to cross the street even though the green light gave a way for bikes/motorbikes to go. I, with my both hands, pointed to the green lights indicating our turn, looked at the driver and said,”It’s our turn!” I think my body language spoke louder because he stopped and let me go. I laughed at myself. Joshua laughed at me.

When we stopped at a red light near our hotel (it was at the end of our bike-trip day and we were tired), a traffic officer walked toward us and started speaking in Chinese to us, asking how old we are, where were are from, etc. Laughed and smiled to our broken Chinese. We think that it’s so cool that an officer just walks around and chats with us. He totally concluded our day perfectly, plus the cold beer we had at the hotel’s happy hour.

People were very nice. Very often we got help from locals. One time, we arrived from Jinan, Shandong province, late at night. It was dark and we were not sure about our direction to a place we were heading. This older man saw us confused and then walked with us to the area we were heading and then he went on to his direction. It was a good 15mins walk from the subway station!

The subway system is awesome and so easy; it literally can take you everywhere around China. We took a bullet train to Xian from Beijing. With speed over 300km/hour, we arrived Xian in 5hours, which normally would take 12-16 hours with regular train. Again, from Jinan to Beijing with only 1.5 hours ride. Around Beijing, there are so many subway lines that can take you from downtown to the most outskirt of Beijing, from Ring 1 to Ring 5. Downloading the subway app and getting a local number with data were a huge help in getting us around.

We were adventurous. Going around like a local. Eating street food like a local, and then getting diarrhea not like a local. Oppsss… But hey, it’s part of the adventure.

One of the best parts of the trip is that we met up with friends from Portland! It just felt so great. We ate spicy Sichuan food and got hiccups and turned red, cheers with fruit juice, and parted with promises to see each other again.

We cooked together at a friend’s apartment and took over her bed, letting her slept on the couch. Only true friends will let you take over her bed. 😉

Restaurant foods were great but even greater was home-cooked foods. We were visiting a close friend in Shandong province and her family fed us with delicious home-cooked meal. I still remember the vegetarian dumplings her sister made for us. Oh! So good!

Anyway… If you want to go to China, work on your hip flexers. Remember to bring tissues, buy or “borrow” from your hotel, your choice. You don’t need a mask if you are there only for a few days, you’ll live. A wise advise from my friend who lives there. Most importantly, be open minded, no judging, and fully engage with your experience.

Cheers!

 

Bicycling in Beijing

Bicycling in Beijing

South Gate, Temple of Heaven, Beijing, China

South Gate, Temple of Heaven, Beijing, China

(So close!)Terracotta Warriors Museum in Xian, China

(So close!)Terracotta Warriors Museum in Xian, China

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(Gotta have this pose) in front of the City Hall in Xian, China

(Gotta have this pose) in front of the City Hall in Xian, China

At night time, Tang Dynasty Paradise, Xian, China

At night time, Tang Dynasty Paradise, Xian, China

 

Egg Corn Soup

Egg Corn Soup

Winter is definitely here! Brr…

For my husband and I, soup for breakfast is the best. It is easy to digest and it warms our stomach. We have been taking turns making soups for our breakfast lately.

This egg corn soup is very easy to make. It is almost similar to egg drop soup you commonly find at a Chinese restaurant. However, the yellowish color is truly comes from the corn and the carrots, if you know what I mean.

Well, all you need is only several ingredients: corn, eggs, carrots, water, bean curd sheets, and starch.

If you are concerned with the GMO produce, I believe you can find organic corn at your health food stores nearby. I actually found mine at a Trader Joe’s store near my house.

 

Egg Corn Soup Recipe

Serves 6

Ingredients:

8 cups of water

2 cups of corn kernels, put in food processor for 2 mins

1 cup of corn kernels

1 cup of dried bean curd sheets, crumbled

1/2 cup of carrots, finely grated

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 tablespoon salt

1/4 cup of water mixed with 4 tablespoons of starch

Method:

Boil water in a pot with high heat. Once the water boils, add the corns, carrots, bean curd sheets, and salt. Cook for 10 minutes with medium heat. Then add the water mixture. Stir well. Lower the heat. Pour the eggs slowly while stirring the soup. That way, you won’t get clumps of eggs. Cook for another 2 minutes.

Voila! You are done!

If you wish, you could add white pepper and or Chinese black vinegar into your bowl of soup.

 

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Sweet Sour Pineapple Fish/Tofu

Sweet Sour Pineapple Fish/Tofu

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A couple days ago, my friend and I had arranged a playdate for our dogs. We had this playdate planned so that my dog, BoyBoy, is not shocked and feels more comfortable staying with her and her family when I am gone.

Joshua and I are going to travel a little bit, visiting friends and families in Asia. Oh, and my youngest sister’s wedding!! Oh gosh, I’ll be leaving him for a month! 🙁

I am not worried though. My dear friend is so sweet and caring, and her adorable puppy, Alister, bonded with Boyboy right away. Boyboy seemed happy there, and he even gave my friend some kisses on her cheek!

So, while the pups hanging out, we decided to cook something. We ended up making Sweet Sour Pineapple Fish for her husband, and vegan version for me. Also, we cooked one more dish, Tauco Tofu and Tempeh. The pictures you are looking at right now are the Sweet Sour Pineapple dish. The name explains it all.

This dish is so refreshing! The pineapple and the tomato sauce give such a perfect flavor combination. We had it with rice, but it tastes great on top of chopped romaine lettuce too!

It is a simple dish but you can add longan fruit and boiled quail eggs too. Longan fruit comes in cans but you can get fresh quail eggs at some Asian stores. I would avoid adding bell peppers because I think the peppers flavor will overpower the pineapple flavor. And this time, we cooked what we had in the fridge.

It was so much fun cooking together! My friend made her signature chili paste. Oh, so good and spicy! I am going to call it Ririe’s Sambal. 🙂

We ate, talked, laughed. It was a great day!!

Oh, and she took all these amazing pictures too! Photo credits go to her.

 

Sweet Sour Pineapple Fish/Tofu Recipe

Serves 4

 

4 TILAPIA FILLETS, COAT WITH GARLIC SALT GRANULES AND FLOUR

1 LBS OF MEDIUM FIRM TOFU, CUT INTO 6 PIECES

OIL, FOR PAN FRYING AND SAUTEE

4 CLOVES GARLIC, SLICED

1 1/2 CUPS KETCHUP

4 CUPS PINEAPPLE CHUNKS

3/4 – 1 TEASPOON SALT

2 TABLESPOONS SUGAR

2 CUPS GREEN ONION, CUT 2″ LENGTH

 

METHOD

Heat up enough oil to fry tofu and fish.*

Arrange the fish and tofu on plates and set aside.

Heat up some oil for sauteeing. Add the garlic. Sautee for 20 seconds ~ it doesn’t have to be brown.

Add the ketchup, sautee for 1 minute.

Add the pineapple, sautee for 2 minutes.

Add the salt and sugar, or to your taste.

Add the green onion, sautee for 10seconds. 

Turn off the heat. Pour the sauce over the fish and tofu. Eat while it’s hot/warm.

Enjoy!

* In order to get crispy tofu, you’ll have to wait until the oil is very hot. And when you put in the tofu, put 1 or 2  pieces at a time, depending on how big is your wok/skillet/pan. The point is to have the oil cover all surfaces. Lower the heat a little bit for frying fish, as you want to make sure it’s fully cooked and not too brown.

 

Miso Glazed Zucchini

Miso Glazed Zucchini

My husband’s friend from Japan came visit us this month and he stayed for two weeks. He is professor at a university in Kyoto, a Buddhist scholar, a wise man, and a great cook!

Of course I took advantage of his Japanese cooking skills. 😉

He cooked several dishes for us, like cold noodles, udon noodle soup, and some vegetable dishes. One of the Japanese dishes that he cooked while staying with us is zucchini with sweet onion flavored with miso paste. It is delicious!

I harvested some zucchinis a couple days before and they were just sitting on my basket. He saw it and just started cooking it with miso paste that he brought from Japan. You only need 4 ingredients. Easy and fast! Just like that, and we have a dish ready! We had it as a side dish for cold noodle dish that he made for us.

Ah… the joy of eating yummy foods cooked by your friend ~ Mmmphh!

 

MISO GLAZED ZUCCHINI RECIPE

Serves 2

 

 2 TABLESPOONS SESAME OIL

2 – 2 1/2 TABLESPOONS MISO PASTE

¼ CUP WATER

4 CUPS ZUCCHINI, CUT ½” x 2”

1 1/2 CUPS SWEET ONION, SLICE ¼”

 

METHOD

Mixed the miso paste with the water, set aside.

Heat up sesame oil in a cast iron wok, skillet, or non-stick pan over medium high heat.

Add the zucchini, stir for 3 – 5 minutes until the zucchini is fully cooked but not too soft.

Then add the onion and the miso. Stir for another minute.

Turn of the heat. Enjoy hot or cold.

If you like your onion to be softer, then add another minute while keep stirring.

It is your food, your kitchen, and your experience. Be free!