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 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 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, 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 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 6 – Today, I thought I’d share a picture of bananas growing. I’ve been reading about how bananas grow and did a little further research today. Bananas do not actually grow on trees, they are actually large herb plants! And, the fruit we eat, by botanical definition, should be classified as berries! Banana flowers, the large maroon/purple buds, also called blossoms or hearts, are also eaten; We have seen them in the fresh markets here and in the Philippines. They can be eaten raw or cooked, and are considered a vegetable when eaten. One of the routes that I walk along the lake has some banana trees that I’ve been watching, but today when I went by, one of the blossoms I just photographed a couple of days ago was missing. I guess someone decided it was a free meal. There’s much more about these plants that I won’t attempt to explain here, but, the “petals” of the bud are called bracts, which lift up one by one, uncovering the delicate white flowers beneath, which eventually become the bananas. In my picture, you can see all the wasps enjoying the nectar in these! The flowers eventually dry and fall off and the black “bottom” of the banana is formed. I’m going to watch for a banana flower to buy and cook, I’ll keep you posted! Back on July 31, I posted a picture of the local banana farms. https://linda-walsh-n6tp.squarespace.com/config/pages/568757bdd8af102bf3da0525
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, September 27 – Fruit “tea” isn’t really tea as Westerners think of tea, but it is fruit water. It is popular with either dried or fresh fruit, or a mixture. I like to make it for something slightly sweet, and it’s good hot or cold. Today I put in honey dates, red dates, longans and orange peel. I’d say it’s best to leave it sit at least 20 minutes after adding hot water. You can add water once or twice more, and depending how long you’ve left it sit, sometimes the fruit is still yummy to eat :-) www.myownchinesebrocade.com
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, September 23 – The persimmon season has started J I like to eat them fresh by either taking off the top and scooping the insides out, or, if they are too soft, just peeling the skin off and putting the insides in a bowl to eat. Last week, we made a puree from the fruit and made persimmon muffins (which were yummy!). We also like to buy them dried as a handy snack when we are out and about. There are numerous kinds of persimmons, and they can be sweet or astringent, so you have to know what you have before biting into it! The ones we get here look almost like tomatoes and are really sweet, but I can’t name which variety they are, in Chinese they were just called “red persimmons.” They are usually so soft when you buy them that you have to be really careful not to squish them when taking them home. I had never had a persimmon before coming to China and I remember when someone first gave me one I had no idea what it was! They supposedly have been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years, for a wide variety of things ranging from curing hiccoughs to hangovers! The dried ones we buy come 2 in a package for 2 rmb or about 30 cents usd, 2 fresh ones were 3.30 rmb or about 50 cents.
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, August 5 – 红枣, “Hong zao,” Chinese red dates, or jujube, whatever you call them, they are delicious! This is the season for fresh dates where we live. There are different varieties, some are larger and more rounded, some smaller and oblong. The texture reminds me of an apple, they are crunchy and sweet, not juicy, but not dry either. Year round, dried red dates are popular here for a variety of uses. My picture shows a couple different sizes of whole dried red dates, some that are sliced, and a drink packet where they have been combined with medlar (goji berries) and sugar. I love to just put a big handful of dried dates in a cup, cover it with hot water and let it sit for a while until I have a delicious “tea.” The dried dates are also often used in soups, porridge, dim sum style cakes, and desserts, and they can be bought candied as a snack. They are also popular in Traditional Chinese Medicine as they are packed with nutrition. Maybe the fresh aren’t available worldwide, but good chances you can buy the dried ones!
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, July 31 – The longer we are in Dongguan, and I see more areas, I’m realizing how many banana farms there are in the area! We’ve also been exploring more areas around the lake on our electric scooters recently and have seen farms along the lakeside. This one is between the lake and the road so I was able to get some good pictures today. There were no fences, but there was a “No Trespassing” sign posted with warnings of fines and being turned in to the police for trespassing or stealing bananas. I stayed on the road to take my pictures!
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, July 10 – In the area we are in (Guangdong province), the lychee/litchi/lizhi 荔枝, season is highly aniticipated by the locals. The pinkish-red skin peels off easily to expose the slightly sweet, flowery smelling, very juicy flesh, in fact I’ve been squirted numerous times when peeling one! If you have only ever had the canned or frozen ones from Western Chinese restaurants, it will be hard for you to understand why people like them so much! There are many places where you can pick your own fruit. We did this a couple years ago but not this year, although though I was told we do have a place very close by. You can find the trees in many parks also, but I’ve been told the fruit in the parks isn’t free for anyone to pick! You can also find many vendors selling freshly picked fruit along the streets. They don’t stay fresh long after picking, so when you buy them, they are usually still attached to the branches to help them stay fresh longer. This year, a Chinese friend told us that when the cicadas sing, it’s time for the lychee harvest to begin :-)
The durian, called “King of the Fruits” in southeast Asia, is a very “unique” fruit! It is large, like the jackfruit I wrote about on April 16, but, it has spikes, and most notably…it has a very distinct, strong smell, which most people consider BAD! So bad, that in many places it is banned from public transportation and hotels (the sign in the picture was posted in a Singapore metro station)! Personally, I think the taste is kind of good, … if you can get past the smell, and sometimes it leaves a weird after taste. I learned the hard way that when you buy it, you need to eat it right away….. otherwise your refrigerator or house will smell for days! Because of the large size, supermarkets will often open one and sell it packaged in smaller amounts. Inside of the segments, it has a very creamy texture, with large seeds, which are supposed to be edible if cooked, although I haven’t tried that. You can find all kinds of durian flavored foods here, that can be a whole separate post someday! It is native to southeast Asia, and there are nine edible species. Here’s a fun video of some people tasting durian for the first time :-) : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=og5e6wLIU18
I think the most exotic looking fruit we have here is the dragon fruit, also known as pitaya. It can have either white or bright pink flesh. The white is most common here but sometimes we can get the pink, which I like better. My opinion is that the taste is kind of a disappointment according to what you expect by its looks! Not that its bad, just very mild. I don’t like to eat it plain but mix it with other fruit. The seeds give it a nice little crunchy texture. The Chinese name is “huǒ lóng guǒ”, which actually translates to fire dragon fruit. These are originally from Central America but obviously grow well here with as common as they are. This one cost about 85 cents USD. They grow on cactuses! The picture of it growing is actually from a couple years ago at a farm in Shenzhen. The flowers supposedly bloom only one day, from evening to midnight, during which time they are pollinated by bats or moths, then die! It is often considered a “superfruit” for its many health benefits.
Pomelos are very popular during Chinese New Year because the Chinese word for pomelo sounds like “to have.” It is also used as a decoration in people’s homes and symbolizes “family unity.” It is a large citrus fruit, native to southeast Asia, and tastes kind of like a mild grapefruit. Great for eating fresh, I like to score the peel in quarters, peel it off, then separate the sections, peel the membranes off, and enjoy the fruit! I’ve read that it is good sprinkled with salt, but I haven’t tried that. It has a very thick skin which can be dried and used, often candied or made into marmalade. I remember on one of our trips in China, we saw a fence full of pomelo peels hanging to dry. I enjoy a Korean tea made from pomelo peels (another picture some day!). The fruit is also made into a paste for cooking. I paid 7.80rmb, or $1.20usd for the pomelo pictured, we used it with breakfast two days and still had some for snacking.
Life in China: A Picture a Day 2016, January 22 -We like to try different fruit when we can; I figure it’s a safe food to experiment with! This morning, we had “pepino dulse” for the first time. It’s originally from South America, and is also called the pepino melon or melon pear. “Pepino” is Spanish for cucumber, and it did taste like a cross between a cucumber and a melon. Although the skin is edible, it isn’t usually eaten, so it’s recommended you take it off before eating. Unfortunately, we didn’t really like this fruit, so probably won’t buy it again. But…if you love cucumbers, and happen to see it wherever you live, give it a try!