Life in China 2017: A Picture a Day, May 23 – Pandas aren’t the only ones who eat bamboo; most Asian people also enjoy it! Bamboo shoots are widely used in Asian cuisine. We have just recently started eating these at home. You can buy fresh bamboo shoots in the markets when they are in season, but, if you do, you have to know how to properly prepare them for cooking because they have toxins in their raw state. We buy them precooked and packaged, so all you need to do is rinse them and add to your dishes. We just add them to stir fries. You can buy different sizes and whole or sliced. When we visited the Shanghai area in April, the young shoots were in season, and some of the restaurants had special dishes. The lower right corner of the picture was a delicious soup made with young bamboo.
Life in China 2017: A Picture a Day, May 17 – When you see a package of “Almonds” sliced like this in China, they usually aren’t really almonds! They are usually apricot kernels or seeds. The confusion goes way back historically. They look and smell alike, and both are called 杏仁 “xingren.” There are two types of apricot kernels: sweet, which are fine to eat, and bitter, which can be dangerous because they contain Amygdalin (vitamin B17), which can break down into cyanide! I’m honestly not sure which kind are usually sold here, hopefully sweet, but the package does warn that you shouldn’t eat too many and that they aren’t safe for children or pregnant women, so…. Maybe they are the bitter ones? The package also says to rinse them before eating (but I never knew that until now!). The bitter ones are considered a TCM remedy for cancer and dry coughs. They do have an amaretto smell and taste good, or I wouldn’t bother with them! We usually just sprinkle a few in our yogurt or chia pudding, the Chinese put them in soup. The only estimate I’ve seen of how many you can eat, said that about 50 kernels would be a lethal dose for adults, 10 for children. I’m surely no doctor, just writing what I have read that seems to be in agreement from multiple places! www.myownchinesebrocade.com
Life in China 2017: A Picture a Day, February 11 –These are pictures I’ve collected of fancy bottles of baijiu being sold during the Chinese New Year festivities. Baijiu is Chinese “white liquor,” most commonly made from sourghum. I personally have never tasted it, and don’t plan to, but it is supposedly strong stuff! I read that the Chinese drink the ones that are 60-120%proof, but those exported are more like 50% proof. It is a regular part of Chinese business dinners, where the men present (but not the women) are expected to drink it. If you want to read more about it, try here http://baijiuamerica.com/what-is-baijiu/ . I’ve been tempted to buy some at this time of year, just for the bottle! This is the only panda bottle I’ve ever seen; most are the floral ones. If you would like to add to this or correct me if I’m wrong, please do in the comments!
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, December 20 – Christmas is NOT a legal holiday in China. It is acknowledged by many people, and of course the Christians in China celebrate the best they can, while working and going to school! Young Chinese people like the idea of celebrating Western holidays, even if they think differently about what they are celebrating, and stores in the bigger cities take advantage of selling Christmas decorations. China has also developed one of its own Christmas traditions: Giving apples on Christmas Eve. This came about because the word for apple, “pingguo,” sounds similar to “ping’an ye, ” which means “peaceful night.” The Chinese connect this to “Silent Night” which to them represents the Western Christmas Eve. Stores sell special little boxes that apples can be given in on Christmas Eve. I’ve never tried to buy an apple on Christmas Eve, but supposedly the price goes way up because of the high demand.
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, December 16 – I’m always surprised at the huge amount of frozen pizza available when I’m back in the USA! I’m curious if pizza is so popular in other “Western” countries? Anyhow, this picture shows the frozen pizza selection at our bigger supermarket in the next town; I think our smaller supermarket only has 2 kinds. And I can guarantee that outside of the cities, you would never find frozen pizza in China! The “Special Barbeque Pork “sounds pretty good (even though it also has peas and corn on it!), but what do you think of “tropical fruit,” “Durian,” and “Blueberry” pizza?
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, December 12 – I don’t normally eat fast food, but we’ve been curious about this Chinese fast food restaurant chain 真功夫 “Zhen Gongfu” or “Real Kungfu.” We were going out shopping around lunch time today so decided to try it, and we actually thought it was pretty good! You may think you recognize the person on their sign, but you’re wrong (LOL)! The company insists that their logo is no one particular, it just so happens to closely resemble Bruce Lee in his famous yellow shirt! The company however, has no legal permission to use Bruce Lee’s image, so, these pictures are NOT Bruce Lee! Welcome to China :-) Wikipedia says that Real Kungfu is the 8th largest fast food chain in China. Today, I had chicken and mushroom and Leah had pork and preserved vegetables, both came with rice and boiled lettuce and we also got the pork bone soup. They mainly have meals with rice, meat and vegetables, including fish and eggplant and beef and mustard tuber (I don’t know what that is! ) You can get other things like chicken seaweed rolls, steamed eggs, fish balls, steamed buns, and sides of broccoli, mixed vegetables, or preserved vegetables. Both of our meals together cost 52 rmb or $7.50usd.
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, December 10 – Longans are another popular fruit in south Asia. They are similar to lychees, which I wrote about back in July, but aren’t nearly as messy, and I think have a sweeter taste. They are called “long yan” in Chinese, which is literally “dragon eye.” You can probably see in the pictures how the translucent white flesh, with the dark seed in the center, can be compared to a dragon eye. The thin outer covering can easily be removed by first squeezing it on the side so it splits open, then peeling it off. When you purchase the fresh fruit, they are often still on the branches because they supposedly stay fresher that way. They can be eaten raw, cooked, often in soups or desserts, and dried. I like to use dried ones in fruit tea. They are also popular in Traditional Chinese Medicine, where they have quite a list of healing properties! www.myownchinesebrocade.com
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, December 8 – When “International” restaurants are mentioned around us, it often just means other Asian cuisine: Japanese, Thai, Korean, Vietnamese, etc. The Chinese seem to LOVE Japanese food, so, living in China, we have the benefit of having quite a few Japanese restaurants around. Japan is known for its “cute” food and “sushi art” and we have a chain of restaurants around that make some cute ‘onigiri’ or rice balls. No, they doesn’t taste any different, but it’s fun to eat cute food :-) Tonight, Leah and I had these little panda bear rice balls with little octopi tied on their backs! You can buy all kinds of molds and nori (seaweed) punches to help you make your own cute food at home too :-) Here’s a You Tube tutorial to show you how to make some panda onigiri . You can buy the mold and punch on Amazon! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONlY7hP426g
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, December 7 – Living in the USA, I only ever knew gingko as either the tree with the unique fan shaped leaves that turned such a pretty yellow in the fall, or the health supplement known to help with memory problems. Once moving to China, my first introduction to gingko seeds or gingko nuts, in Chinese called “white-fruits” 白果 (bai guo) or “silver apricots” 銀杏 , was as a dessert in a Chiuchow/Teochew cuisine restaurant; it was delicious and I ate way too much! Gingko nuts have hard shells, are yellow or green inside, and are toxic to eat without cooking (because of something called MPN). Even after cooking, you should limit the amount you eat to approximately 8 per day (Nobody told me this the first time I had them! But, luckily, I was fine!). Quite a bit of information says that children should avoid them altogether, or eat about half of the adult amount. If you have a gingko tree near you and decide to harvest your own, be careful because the pulp can irritate your skin. We buy them in the supermarket shelled and vacuum packed, I’m honestly not sure if they are cooked or not, but we always cook ours in some way before eating them, usually in stir-fries. I’m surprised that the package has no information at all about the “safe” way to consume them! They usually have a slightly sweet taste, but sometimes can be slightly bitter, and they are kind of soft and chewy. The Chinese use them mainly in rice porridge, sweet soups and other desserts. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, they are good for the lungs, kidneys, anti-aging, and are considered an aphrodisiac.
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, December 4 – This display was set up outside of the supermarket in the town next to us. While this is not regularly there, snakes and turtles are commonly used as both food and Traditional Chinese medicine where we live, they are thought to give longevity and health when consumed. When snake is offered on a restaurant menu, it is often referred to as “dragon.” These people had a large container of snake wine and they were offering free samples, as well as selling bottles of it. Snake wine is made by infusing the whole snake in the wine. On display, there were also horseshoe crabs (which I’ve been told are used in soup), frogs, some kind of insects, and ganoderma (a type of mushroom). I personally missed seeing this, Jim and Leah saw it and took these pictures.
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, November 7 – Steamed buns are a very popular food in China. You can get them with all types of fillings. I can’t eat the steamed buns being gluten intolerant, but they look delicious! In the mornings, you walk past shops with huge steamers piled high (but I can’t find my pictures right now :-( ) Quite often, you also see these cute little piggy buns :-) I think they usually have BBQ pork in them, but not always. The top picture is some piggy buns for sale at the larger supermarket we shop at in the next town, and sometimes buy some Dim Sum. The other pictures are frozen buns you can buy at the supermarket nearer to us. They have panda bears and brown bears as well as piggies. They are more of a sweet snack or dessert with custard or red bean filling.
It is time for another break from my daily pictures, tomorrow, Leah and I head for the USA for 3 weeks. I will post random pictures as time allows. In the meantime, feel free to heck out my old blog from when we first came to China! http://www.travelblog.org/Bloggers/covemom/
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, November 4 – You can buy soooo many kinds of tea in China! I love tea and really haven’t found many I don’t like yet! But… in the past, when I saw ‘cheese” and “tea” together, I was very hesitant. Well, we FINALLY realized that the “cheese” is a soft cream cheese topping that is added to the tea, and it is DELICIOUS! Imagine a cheesecake with your tea :-) There are different kinds, but what we have had twice now is called “Hai yan zhi shi nai gai”; That is translated as “Sea salt cheese milk cap,” and you choose if you want it on black or green tea, or others depending on the shop. The first time we tried it, there were even directions on the lid for how to drink it! You don’t put your straw in and drink like with most iced teas, you sip from the cup, tipping it just enough to get a little of the cream cheese while you drink the tea. The first time I had this, it was on the menu as “Riyuetan Pool Black Tea Milk cap,” nothing about the cheese in English, the “riyuetan” means “sun and moon pool.” Today, we tried it at a new little drink shop at our plaza, no English on their menu, thankfully I have Leah to help! The shop is called “Tea Get” :-) We agreed that the mascot looks awfully similar to an M & M character! Hmmm....yes, we live in China! Milk caps are common for iced tea, but I haven’t tried any other than this cheese kind. Has anyone else? How are they?
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, November 3 – Buying rice in China, or probably most of Asia, is quite different than in the USA and other western countries. In a western grocery store, I would say most rice is in 1 or 2 pound packages, am I right? Well, I had Leah stand in my picture by the rice aisle so you can see how big the bags are! There are NO small packages! Most of the Chinese people here eat rice with every meal, so, they need these big bags! There is also the bulk section, where you can buy a smaller amount. You often see people running the rice through their fingers; I was told that is how you can know what quality it is. With all of these different types of rice, there is obviously a lot more to choosing rice than I ever learned!
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, October 30 – We eat much more pumpkin in China than I ever did in the USA, but, they don’t look anything like Jack-o-lantern type pumpkins, they look more like a butternut squash, only they taste much sweeter! I haven’t been able to find out what they actually are because all pumpkins in China are simply called “nan guo,” which means “south melon,” as they were supposedly first introduced from south Asia. I bake them, and do everything from eating them plain, or making soup, to using them in muffins and cookies. I also LOVE to put sloppy joes over the mashed pumpkin! In south China, pumpkin is quite popular and you can often order baked pumpkin, or a sweetened pumpkin pancake, made with rice, in Chinese restaurants. If anyone knows what type of squash or pumpkin these are, I’d love to know!
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, October 26 – The past few weeks, I’ve started seeing the vendors with “tanghulu.” These are candied fruit on a stick. Traditionally, they were made from Chinese hawthorn (also called haw, haw berry or hawthorn apple), and these are still the most common, but, I’ve also seen strawberries, kiwi, cherry tomatoes and mandarin oranges. They are the Chinese equivalent to a candy apple; hardened sugar coating outside with soft fruit inside. They are typically a street food found in cooler weather. In the summer, you can buy “bingtanghulu” where the sticks of hawthorn fruit are frozen. I like to eat the frozen ones better simply because they normally don’t have seeds and the others do! The man also has a cotton candy making machine on the back of his cart, and has pinwheels for sale. This cart was parked at the entrance to a park. You also commonly see people either carrying the poles with the candied fruit for sale or riding a bicycle with them attached to the handlebars.
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, October 22 – Anyone who knows me is aware that I could care less about shopping for shoes or purses, but, I LOVE to buy tea! I have a whole drawer of tea, which was overflowing, so today I decided to organize it. I found some “Blooming or Flowering tea,” called “kaihua cha” in Chinese, which I had bought at a tea market back in the spring and forgot that I had! I’ve also seen it called “fairy tea.” These are little balls of tied up tea leaves, usually either green or jasmine tea, and dried edible flowers such as carnations, roses, jasmine, peony, marigold, lily, etc.. Mine had a single flower, but you can get fancier kinds with multiple flowers. I don’t normally use pictures from other places, but, I’ve included one with diiferent kinds for sale on Taobao (the Chinese Ebay) so you can see the fancy ones. You use either a small glass teapot or glass; something like a big wine glass works nicely. Pour in hot water and within a minute or two the flower ball will start to open! And once you finish the first glass, you can enjoy a second and sometimes third, with the same flowers and tea leaves. Following is the link where I got the picture of the different kinds from: https://item.taobao.com/item.htm?spm=a230r.1.14.87.W7xoMH&id=41555278903&ns=1&abbucket=7#detail
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, October 21 – The delicatessens in Chinese supermarkets are similar in idea, but very different in the kind of food you can buy in an American deli! They have whole roasted chickens (with the heads and feet of course!) and ducks and maybe even a goose, pigeons, or other birds. There is also a variety of chicken pieces, usually cooked in a few ways: spicy, something yellow that I’m guessing is curry or saffron?, and … there is breaded/fried chicken! There is no such thing as lunch meat or cold cuts. But, there are fresh rice noodles of all sizes, and you can get a bowl fixed right there. There is no salad bar either, but a “bar” of spicy food dishes, I’m not sure what it is actually called! There is also a big tofu section, a sushi section, and roasted peanuts! Of course they vary, and the bigger the supermarket, the more they have, these pictures are from the same supermarket where we get the Beggar’s Chicken (July 21st post) and Dim Sum. www.myownchinesebrocade.com
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, October 19 – After 7 ½ years in China, I still just don’t get why the Chinese (and other Asian countries) love chicken feet so much! I have starting putting the whole chicken, including head and feet, in the pot for broth, BUT - I have tried eating the feet, and my opinion is that you are just chewing the flavored skin off the bones. Anyhow … my opinion doesn’t really matter; Chicken feet are VERY popular in China! Top picture is three different flavors ready cooked at a supermarket, bottom left to right: package of spicy chicken feet for snacking, fresh chicken feet on a pile of ice, and more precooked, but packaged chicken feet.
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, October 12 – Passionfruit isn’t native to China, it is originally from South America, but it is grown here now (mainly Guangxi). I wouldn’t say it’s really common, but we can find it when it is in season (mid-summer to early fall). It has a very interesting taste, quite tart, but yet sweet. You cut the fruit open and scoop out the pulp and seeds to eat; The seeds are crunchy. I usually eat it just as it is, but sometimes I add a little sweetener. The other way I see it used is in fruit teas. There are a lot of varieties, I’m not sure what exactly we get. They grow on vines, and the flowers are beautiful! This is a flower we saw at the Singapore Zoo.
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, October 10 – Black fungus is a popular ingredient in Asian cooking. It is called “hei mu er” 黑木耳 (literally black wood ear) in Chinese, and is also called wood ear mushroom and cloud ear mushroom. When it grows on mountainous trees, it supposedly resembles an ear. They contain a toxic substance when fresh so are usually dried in the sun and sold, then they must be soaked before cooking. When rehydrating, they should be rinsed until the water is clear. They don’t really have any taste, but absorb the flavor of what you cook them with. They are considered a jelly fungus, and when cooked, although they soften, they keep a nice texture. We like black fungus and have eaten it often in restaurants. We decided to try cooking with it ourselves, saw some fresh and bought it. We didn’t know about it having a poisonous substance when fresh until we got home and looked up how to cook it! We weren’t sure if what we bought was actually fresh or rehydrated, so we soaked it a little and cooked it! We didn’t get sick, but I think we’ll try the dried next time after reading about it!
Black fungus is used for various treatments in TCM; It is very high in iron, nourishes the blood, increases circulation, reduces cholesterol, is good for detoxing digestive system, and is considered good for weight loss.