Category Archives: Food

Shilin Night Market

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My, My, My. It’s been a while, a long while since I last wrote. I now have a new VPN, a new laptop, less work, but still a dodgy internet connection. 3 out of 4 isn’t bad. I’m going to try to post at least once a week.

In January Anders had a business trip to Taipei, Taiwan. Of course I had to go with him. If I didn’t go he wouldn’t spend long weekends being  a tourist. It’s my duty as a good wife to make sure that he gets to experience these places.  These trips are purely selfless for me.

After arriving Saturday afternoon, one of Anders’ work colleagues and his wife met us in the evening  to take us to the famous Shilin night market. You pretty much go to eat food and having locals as guides was a huge bonus. The market is the favorite date night of M&T so they knew the best food to eat and the best place to buy it. We were like puppies letting lead them lead us wherever they wanted. We told them there was nothing we wouldn’t try.

I’m going to ease back into writing again so this is going to be basic. Here’s a list of food and drink:

frog’s eggs 

fried chicken steak

grilled chicken hearts

grilled fish balls

grilled chicken butts

deep-fried taro

grilled eggplant

pig’s blood cakes

oyster noodle soup

honey/spicy glazed grilled corn on the cob

grilled “mystery” meat wrapped around a bunch of scallions

milk tea

pork dumplings (my favorite and the longest wait but worth it because not only were they delicious but we watched them being prepared)

I’m going to let you in on a secret, the frog’s eggs was a drink that in no way contained frog’s eggs. It was a sweet tea with rice flour balls, kind of like tapioca, floating around. It was good. The other things are exactly what they appear to be. We did not have stinky tofu. I was disappointed but the line was way too long. M&T assured us that while they love it we weren’t missing anything.

5:30PM -79°

PS – I apologize for the large photos. I will work on that for next time. WordPress has made a lot of changes since I last wrote and I have no clue, AGAIN!

Frog's eggs

Frog’s eggs

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One of the many shopping alleys

One of the many shopping alleys

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Buying the oyster noodle soup

Buying the oyster noodle soup

This is where we ate the soup - on the steps of a temple

This is where we ate the soup – on the steps of a temple

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Riddle

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Q: What do a hammer and boneless chicken breasts have in common?

A: It’s how an ex-pat breaks up a 5-pound bag of frozen chicken breasts.

Now I still like my warm, fresh, moments-ago live chicken from the wet market but most of my American recipes call for boneless breasts or thighs (hah – I’ll never find them). EVERYTHING IN CHINA HAS BONES so when I found them in the freezer section at Metro a few months ago I was excited.  It wasn’t until I got them home that I realized I had “some trouble”. I had no idea how to break up the 5 pound “sheet” of chicken. Somehow I managed to saw, break with my hands, stab with a butcher knife, and thaw them a wee bit in water and then refreeze the ones I didn’t need. Our immunity systems have never been in better form so something like refreezing slightly thawed chicken doesn’t deserve a second thought. But after tearing a bicep and almost cutting a finger off, I haven’t bought them. 😉 A few weeks ago I caved and they have sat in the freezer, unopened since then. Monday night as I was trying to go to sleep and not think about anything, the idea hit me! I can tell you it works like a charm.

I’m going to explain the proper technique because you may be faced with the same dilemma someday. Your power may go out juuuust long enough to slightly thaw your chicken, not enough to be unsafe, but enough that the juices run together and refreeze into a mass of white breast meat. What will you do?  Wrap the bag in a towel, you don’t want any frozen bits of chicken splattering the cupboards when the bag tears open, and hammer away. They tend to naturally break into individual breasts and not into nuggets.

You can thank me the next time you see me. 😉

2PM – 74°

Winner, winner, chicken dinner – part 2

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Gotta be honest, it’s difficult to channel the Asian spirit and write about living in GZ when I’m in the US. Never expected to feel this way but I’ll give this a shot.

Two weeks ago after a Chinese lesson I asked Ben to take me to the wet market. I was going with the intention to buy one thing and that was the most amazing asparagus I have ever eaten! We had had it for dinner the night before and it was so good I was going to pick up another bundle. Somehow along the way in the 10 minutes that it took to get there I was corralled into buying a live chicken, so off we went to buy my first live chicken. Now that’s not to say it was alive when I brought it home, but I did choose a chicken that was flapping its wings and eyeing me up when I paid for it.  I think that the chicken lady was surprised that I was even there. Her helper brought one out of the coop (I could see them in their cages) and Ben gave the nod of approval. We walked around for a few minutes while I hunted down the asparagus and bought a few other things along the way. I was told to marinate it in a little Chinese cooking wine and a flavor packet that I bought and use my rice cooker (who knew?). After about 10 minutes we returned to the stall and there the chicken was all plucked but with everything else in tact. She gutted it and then asked if I wanted the feet and the head cut off. There was a tiny Chinese grandma standing next to me and nodding with approval when I gave the go-ahead to cut them off. I think she just wanted my leavings :-). $6 and a plastic bag later I had my first REALLY, REALLY fresh chicken.

Ben came into the house to explain in detail how to cook the chicken (my rice cooker didn’t come with English instructions) and he put the chicken bag on the counter. We chatted and after he left I picked up the bag to put it in the fridge. The contents were warm! That caught me off guard. Every other time I picked up chicken to put it away it was cold. This was warm!

After checking the weight (it was a whopping 1.75 pounds), I took it out of the bag to give it its recommended shower. It was the cleanest chicken I have ever bought. There was not a single “thing” that needed to be trimmed, cut out, or plucked. I marinated the chicken as directed and turned my rice cooker into a chicken cooker. When Ben picked Anders up at work he was grinning and assured Anders that he was going to have a proper Chinese chicken dinner. He’s so glad to have someone who is interested in Chinese life and I’m just as happy to be that person.

Verdict? It was delicious but next time I’ll buy two!

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Finally got this one published!

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After two very frustrating afternoons and much internal cursing at the laptop, internet, and WordPress I have finally managed to get this post done! ARGH! I can say with all certainty that for once the issues were not due to my lack of computer skills.

So…dinner Tuesday night turned out to be amazing. It was so good that I’m going back to the wet market this weekend and buying more shrimp to use up the leftover dipping sauce.  The shrimp were not that big. What they lacked in size they sure made up for in freshness. I can safely say that 48 hours after eating them there were no digestive problems (if you know what I mean). I was a little worried about it but not enough that I didn’t buy them. 🙂

I was told to steam them for 3 minutes and ended up doing it for 4. My mistake! Should have listened to the master. They were a tad over done so I won’t repeat that mistake. The dipping sauce consisted of the following:

1 c. soy sauce (low sodium would be better if you don’t like things too salty)

huge handful of chopped coriander, plus extra for steaming the shrimp

lots of scallions, chopped

hot chilies to taste – finely chopped

1 clove garlic – finely chopped but I’ve since been told that raw garlic and soy sauce upset Yin-Yang. What do I know?

To prepare the shrimp, if you buy live ;-), put them to sleep in the refrigerator for a few hours. Right before you’re ready to steam them, give them a shower – that’s exactly what I was told to do – give them a shower. I interpreted that as rinse them. I worked very fast at this point because I did not want them waking up. By the time I was done taking pictures a few were starting to move. Resilient little things they are. Pop them in a steamer with lots of chopped coriander over boiling water and cook for 3-4 minutes, depending on the size. The Chinese way to serve is similar to a crab feast or crayfish boil. Pile them in a bowl and let people shell them. Dip them in the sauce and ENJOY!

This will be a regular in my repertoire, as Ben would say, “So EEEE-ZY.”

5PM – 86°

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New Horizons

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Well, I finally did it. I bought live shrimp at the wet market. Ben came with me although I certainly could have done it myself. I ended up with 1/2 kilo (1 pound) for $5. That doesn’t strike me as a bargain but then again I can’t remember what I paid for shrimp in the US. I told Ben that  Americans don’t buy live shrimp and he told me that Guangzhourens don’t buy dead shrimp. I have a feeling that the Chinese have the right way of thinking.

As I sit here writing this they are squirming in a bag in the fridge. Really, they are. 🙂 After the woman weighed them she put them in the same kind of plastic bag that I get my fruit and veg in. Ben carried the bag to the car for me and every now and then his arm would jerk from the movement of the little buggers trying to get out or find water or be anywhere but on their way to my refrigerator. Just kidding, his arm didn’t jerk but the shrimp were flopping. Can you say fresh?

I was planning on cooking them in a fresh tomato and basil sauce with penne. I had it all planned out in my head. Then because Ben is Ben and the man has the appetite of a growing 16 year-old boy (and the metabolism to match), he shared his shrimp wisdom with me. I will now be steaming them for about 3 mins over water in my bamboo steamer in my wok. For dipping sauce, I’ll be using soy sauce, garlic, coriander (my favorite herb), scallions, and hot chilis. His eyes were lighting up as he was telling me all this and I wouldn’t be surprised if  he called Mrs. Ben and told her to cook shrimp for dinner. I’ve said it before, for a man who doesn’t cook he sure knows a lot about food and how to prepare it.  He is a typical Guagnzhouren, he likes food. Money, status, government power, or designer labels don’t interest them. They care about food. Hmmmm…maybe that’s why I like it here so much. Tune in tomorrow to find out how it all went down. 😉

The best part is that we had this entire conversation in Mandarin. Oh yes, all of it was in Chinese. 🙂

5PM – 88°

Pork that tastes like pork!

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Well I went and did it yesterday. At the wet market – I bought pork.

I picked out a nice little filet, she tried to get me to buy more (they always do), and paid for it. Her next door neighbor was trying to get me to buy from him but he wasn’t subtle enough. I could have started a bargaining war (thanks RHHOG for that warning) but the language skills aren’t up for that yet. I’d just end up looking like more of a fool than I already do. 🙂

I made pork fried rice with it and it was delicious. It was the best pork we’ve had since moving here. We haven’t eaten a lot of any meat but what I buy comes from the supermarket. This filet was so tender and tasted like pork! Imagine that? I could actually taste the meat. It weighed 3/4 of a pound and the price? For a filet, mind you. $2.45.

I told Ben about it this morning and he was impressed that I did it! He said that not many Americans buy meat at the wet markets. He said that because this one is in the city he trusts the quality more than the ones that are further out. He told me that next time he’ll go with me and show me where to buy the best meat for the best price. 🙂

Next: live shrimp! I’ll try to take pictures.

1PM – 81°

“They” learned a valuable lesson!

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Whenever I get together with Anders’ team I seem to do things that I’ve never done before. They’re good for me, I think. 😉 This post is part of my doing “anything that’s asked of me as long as it’s not illegal or immoral while I’m here” crusade.

Saturday afternoon 14 or so of us met for lunch to send one of his team members off to a new assignment. We met at a Chinese place for lunch that was fantastic. On our way there, Ben told us that this place is #1 restaurant in GZ for serving eel. He didn’t know the English word for eel and I certainly didn’t learn it in Chinese because I didn’t think it was necessary for my culinary dictionary. But he very easily used his hands  to explain(I think he’s part Italian) and I figured out that we were going to be enjoying, or at least trying, eel for lunch.

As it turns out we had it 3 different ways. The first way was my favorite which I think was smoked. I don’t even know what I’m eating which is a problem. When the mood strikes and I just gotta have me some eel how will I ever know what to order? It was also cooked another way (no idea how) and served with a wasabi sauce. That too was good but it was a little rubbery, perhaps overcooked? Then we had it in fried rice. They probably just used yesterday’s eel for that because those pieces were small. 😉

We managed to play another game of good person, idiot, and ghost after we were done eating. They were explaining to a few others how to play in Chinese and I caught the word “shagua”. When I so proudly announced that I knew that word they all laughed. That was one of the first words Ben taught me in one of our “cursing” lessons. Although it’s not a curse it’s just not so nice to call someone shagua/idiot/moron.

We then walked a few blocks for karaoke! Yeah, they do love karaoke in Asia and it is a favorite pastime for a lot of people. Anders has done it before with his team but this was my first time ever. Now…I do not sing…for anyone! I think I have an awful voice. Somehow whenever I sing, what I “hear” in my brain doesn’t match with what I hear with my ears. In my mind I’m on key, on the beat, and sound darn good. In reality, it’s quite different. All of the people we were with are quite good. D has a beautiful voice, very beautiful. I managed to skirt the issue despite being very politely asked several times if I would sing.

We played Spoons again! They are so cute.  XJ asked if I brought my traveling spoons and cards and when I told him I forgot (I had planned on it) he stopped at a convenience store, bought 2 decks of cards, and we used The Music Box” spoons. If you lost you had the choice of drinking or singing. Needless to say, I chose drinking. In the end I succumbed to peer pressure of the kindest, gentlest sort, but succumbed nonetheless. I took Anders down with me too. We sang “You’re the One that I Want” from Grease, minus the ShakeShack. I hammed it up sufficiently to deflect attention from having anyone actually hear.  Some of them were recording with their phones and I bet that poor Anders and I are on Weibo (China’s equivalent to Facebook). Anders deserves someone way better than me in the choral department. And then…we left.

I’m certain there will not be multiple pleas next time we go out for karaoke, provided I even get an invitation. 😉

5PM – 74  sunny, glorious, dry°