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 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, October 4 – Mobile app food delivery services are a big business in China. Rain or shine, fast food restaurants like KFC, McDonald’s (and Pizza Hut) even deliver! One of the biggest services is called “Eleme” which broken down into Chinese pinyin “E le me?” basically means “Are you hungry?” The other biggest ones are Baidu and Meituan. You can also often get discounts with these apps. Many restaurants also have their own delivery service instead of or in addition to through one of these larger companies. For many smaller Chinese restaurants, they just have a plastic crate attached to the back of the bicycle or electric bike for their deliveries. The larger companies have insulated boxes, and some places have insulated backpacks.
Quoted from a January 2016 article: “Founded in May 2014, Baidu's restaurant delivery service, waimai.baidu.com, has developed into a leading Internet take-out delivery platform with over 30 million registered users. The quantity of food delivered by these "knights" (their nickname) each day amounts to some 480 tonnes of grains, 400 tonnes of vegetables and 640 heads of cattle. Each delivery man travels about 14,000 kilometers per year on average, about the distance from Shanghai to New York.” http://www.chinadailyasia.com/chinafocus/2016-01/04/content_15367329.html
Pictured are food delivery drivers from: top - McDonald’s, lower left – Baidu, lower right – Meituan.
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, September 25 – Jim returned to China today after a week in the USA, and as usual, wanted to sleep all day from jetlag! In order to keep him awake, I suggested we have dinner out and listen to some live music. In Songshan Lake, we only have the Hyatt with live music, so we drove about 25 minutes to a place Jim enjoys called Gecko Pizza. On Sunday nights, they have live Filipino music, which we really enjoy. Filipino bands are popular in expat areas of China. We like that they play a lot of old American music :-) Tonight they included Santana and Fleetwood Mac, as well as many more. It did the trick and Jim was wide awake :-)
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, September 2 – One of the chain restaurants we have at the plaza near our home is Pizza Hut. Known in China as 必胜客 Bì Shèng Kè, Pizza Huts can be found in most of the busier areas where we live in China. In all honesty, I can’t even tell you the last time I was in a Pizza Hut in the USA, but, I still know they are different here! They are much more of a nicer sit down restaurant than just a pizza joint. You can get anything from a pizza, called bi sa (pronounced bee sah) to a steak dinner. Being gluten intolerant, I can’t eat the pizza, so usually have a baked rice dish, typically something with sauce, meat, and cheese. Pizzas can be a little different also, in the summer, they had pizza with durian (actually fairly common), now they have one with Beijing duck and cucumber!
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, August 3 – I’m really glad that the Chinese like Taiwanese desserts and have plenty available because I LOVE the kind called “bao bing.” It is finely shaved ice, sweetened and sometimes in a milky sauce, then with a variety of toppings. My favorites are the sweet potato, purple potato and taro balls, black pearls, red (adzuki) beans, and coconut jelly. You can also get peanuts, herbal jelly, mung beans, Job’s tears, lotus seeds, and fresh baked taro or sweet potato. Places vary and may have different options. Then, there is often fresh mango on top! Tonight, Jim had to stay at work, so we had a “Girl’s night out.” Japanese dinner, saw “Secret Life of Pets” at the local cinema (very cute!), then shared a huge bowl of bao bing (top picture) :-) The bottom picture is a dessert I had in Guangzhou last week, the base was coconut milk instead of shaved ice. The other picture was a cute ad for buying the sweet potato and purple potato balls to make your own desserts at home. This is the answer to a heavenly dessert for gluten intolerant people like us!
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, July 27 – Today, we had lunch at a small street restaurant in Guangzhou. These are very common and where a large number of the local working class and students eat. They are small, crowded and cheap! Lunch for the three of us was 36rmb or $5.40 usd! During extra busy times, they also have folding tables and plastic chairs or stools set-up on the sidewalk. There is generally no air conditioning and they are open to the street. We managed to get good seats in front of a wall mounted fan :-) Also, if there are extra seats at your table, and it’s busy, someone will most likely join you. Facing the restaurant, we sat on the left side, in the center (outside) the menu was posted on the wall, all in Chinese (no pictures), and a lady sitting there to take your order, collect your money and give you a number. On the right side was the small kitchen. Leah and I had BBQ pork rice rolls, our friend had shrimp in hers, and we shared some fried greens. The menu also had some soups, noodles, congee, rice, some vegetables, and more. Chopsticks are in a big crock on your table along with some seasonings. There was one lady serving the food and cleaning up the tables. The food was delicious!
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, July 22 – Yesterday, Leah and I had lunch with a Chinese friend at a Hunan cuisine restaurant. There are actually 8 main types of Chinese regional cuisines. Hunan is known to be spicy, and I don’t eat spicy food, so, in a search for some dishes that weren’t spicy, one dish we ordered was the “鸡蛋挑石头,” “Jidan tiao shitou” or “Eggs Stirred with Stones.” I thought by the picture that it was steamed eggs, which are common here, so I was surprised when our dish arrived. The waiter set a hot stoneware pan with big black stones down, then poured the uncooked egg mixture in and started stirring! Amazing how fast the eggs cooked! Basically scrambled eggs cooked in a hot pot with stones! Then as they sat while we ate, the bottom browned a little more and was really good. The eggs WERE spicy! Too much for me to eat alone, so I mixed them with the fried rice we had also ordered and enjoyed it that way. We also had a cauliflower dish. If you’d like to read the basics of China’s 8 cuisines, this page is simple and informative : http://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/chinese-food/eight-cuisine.htm
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, July 13 – Beef Tripe, my new food adventure today! I know some people in the USA eat this, but it certainly isn't a common menu option there! However, in China, it is.... I've just always ignored it! Today we had dim sum with friends and beef tripe, or stomach lining, was one of the dishes ordered. I decided it was a good day to try it, and thought it was ok, slightly rubbery, and the taste seemed to come mainly from the sauce it was in, but I will eat it again. It was specifically honeycomb tripe, which is from the cows second stomach and is the most preferred.
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, July 6 – McDonald’s is very popular in China, in fact, it is currently the third largest market behind the USA and Japan. In Mandarin Chinese, the name is “Màidāngláo” 麦当劳, it has no specific meaning, but is a transliteration. The top picture shows our local McDonald’s with the McExpress walk-up window where you can get drinks and ice cream. There is a McCafe inside (Jim insists that McDonalds has the best coffee in China!), and you can sit inside or outside. They also have delivery service (usually by an employee on a bicycle!). You can get the basic burger, Big Mac, or chicken nuggets and fries, but, you can also get some different foods that suit Asian tastes, like chicken cutlet over a bowl of rice, a corn cup, or a taro pie. Some of the current promotions are the tempura chicken burger, teriyaki meatballs, matcha green tea oreo ice cream cone, the matcha green tea and red bean sundae, green apple soda, and a special donut with pink frosting to go along with the current Hello Kitty promotion.
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, June 17 – Today Leah and I spent the day in Shenzhen where we used to live. We saw quite a few friends and had a Chinese dinner with our friend Lydia before heading home. It was a pretty basic Chinese meal, but I thought I’d share it. Crispy pork belly (half eaten on the black platter), steamed egg in the bowl, and a vegetable mixture of black fungus, Chinese Yam, snow peas, lily bulb and a few carrot slices cut like butterflies. We also had some green beans and white radish slices as appetizers, tea to drink, and an assortment of fruit for dessert. Our friend always brings her own tea and the restaurant makes it for her! In nicer Chinese restaurants, the food is served family style instead of each person ordering individual meals.
Today we had a couple of friends from Shenzhen come to visit us :-) We tried a Chinese northern cuisine restaurant here in Songshan Lake that we hadn’t been to yet. This restaurant has only Chinese on the menu and it is SOOO much easier going for the first time with Chinese friends! The main dish we had was called Sōngshǔ yú 松鼠鱼 or Squirrel Fish. It has nothing to do with an actual squirrel though! And it isn’t the fish actually named “squirrel fish” either! It can be a number of different kinds of fish. There is a story that goes along with the name: In the 1700’s, there was a law against eating carp, but, an emperor wanted some and told his cook to prepare it or he would die! So, supposedly the creative chef made “squirrel fish.” It is supposed to look like a flying squirrel, or literally a “pine rat.” It is also called “sweet and sour Mandarin fish.” The bones are removed (for the most part) and the fish is cut in a cross-hatched pattern, coated with cornstarch, fried, then a very “ketchuppy” sweet and sour sauce is added. I’m curious…has anyone seen this dish in a Chinese restaurant outside of China?
My daughter and I had dinner with some friends tonight. They took us to a restaurant with Jiangxi cuisine. We had a good, normal dinner; pumpkin and mushroom soup, beef with green onion and celery, mixed cured pork, and cauliflower. But…the table next to us had the dancing chicken! Basically a roasted chicken, but stuck up on a pole! It looked like the head was still on (as is normal in China), but at least no feet!
In China, it’s fairly common in casual restaurants to have to pay for your napkins. They usually come in a little box or plastic package of about 6 napkins and cost 1 or 2 rmb/15 to 30 cents usd. Yesterday, the restaurant we went to advertised free snacks and fruit, free water or tea, and free WIFI, then when we got the bill, we were charged for our dishes! 2 rmb per setting! This was a new one for me, but I don’t even attempt to question it! Also, the “3 free of charge (charoe as they wrote)” were the only English words on the menu other than the name of the restaurant, “WIFI’, and another section that said “2 commitments.” See more about Chinese menus in my blog post today. www.myownchnesebrocade.com
Life in China: A Picture a Day 2016, January 16 - Many times in low to mid cost restaurants in China, along with your teacup, rice bowl, plate, spoon and chopsticks, you will be given a large empty bowl and a pot of tea. Often, the dishes are wrapped in plastic to show that they have been sanitized with heat, but it is considered proper etiquette to rinse your dishes with the tea before eating. Tea supposedly is a good disinfectant and will dissolve any oil that may be left on the dishes. You rinse these over the bowl: I usually first add tea to the cup, then pour it into the bowl, swish my spoon and chopsticks in the bowl, then pour it over the plate into the large bowl. To finish, put the plastic which the dishes and chopsticks were wrapped in into the large bowl and the waitress will come and pick it up :-)