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Showing posts with label Food. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Food. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Holiday Patriotism and Mooncakes in Zhongshan

Today at the Dasin Metro-Mall (大信新都汇) in Zhongshan there were patriotic signs of the ongoing National Day holiday.

patriotic flag and star display at the Dasin Metro-Mall in Zhongshan, China


Chinese flag at the Dasin Metro-Mall


Today is also the Mid-Autumn Festival. Like elsewhere in Zhongshan, the conjunction of holidays apparently inspired some "Buy One Get One Free" sales at the mall. Perhaps because of the overlap, I noticed just one sign which only mentioned today's holiday.

sign with "Happyiness mid-autumn festival"


Mooncakes are a popular feature of the Mid-Autumn Festival. Unlike last year, this year I have no sightings of Hello Kitty mooncakes or mooncakes for dogs & cats to share. I saw both of those in Macau, so maybe a short trip would have fixed that.

Instead, for some mooncake spirit here is a photo of an advertisement for mooncakes from Starbucks at Lihe Plaza in Zhongshan:

Starbucks ad for its Mid-Autumn Festival mooncakes


A single Starbucks mooncake costs 59 yuan (which at the moment equals U.S. $8.88 — how lucky). A barista pointed out it came in a fancy box which looks like a lantern. It isn't hard to find even pricier mooncakes for sale in China.

Or you could go somewhere like Walmart and buy tiny mooncakes for about 2 yuan (about U.S. 30 cents) each. The ones with black sesame filling and salted egg yolk aren't bad.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Reflection, Sweetness, and Rest in Foshan

Charming Bridge (韵桥) at Liang Garden (梁园)
Charming Bridge (韵桥) at Liang Garden (梁园)


Durian and black glutinous rice with frozen coconut milk (榴莲忘返)
Durian and black glutinous rice with frozen coconut milk (榴莲忘返)


man sleeping on a stone bench at Zhongshan Park in Foshan
Zhongshan Park


And to those who will be celebrating a new year, Shanah Tovah.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

A Story of Mangosteens, Wood Canes, and a Stealthy Thief in Guiyang

On a recent sunny day in Guiyang, some people sold fruit along a road leading to an entrance to Qianling Mountain Park. One woman sold mangos and mangosteens.

woman selling mangos and mangosteens alongside a street in Guiyang


Despite their similar names in English, the two fruits look very different, taste very different, and aren't closely related. Their names aren't at all similar in Mandarin Chinese. Still, the pairing caught my attention.

After taking a few photos, a man behind me got my attention and expressed amusement over my interest in the fruit seller. He also opportunistically asked if I was interested in buying one of the wood canes he was selling. I wasn't, although I knew one could soon come in handy for defensive purposes. After a brief friendly chat, the man was happy when I asked to take his photo.

man selling wood canes in Guiyang


I then decided to buy some mangosteens from the woman. After the bargaining was over — mangosteens aren't cheap — I had three promising-looking purple orbs. I gave one of the mangosteens to the man. He initially refused but soon cheerfully accepted the fruit. Mangosteens are really good.

I attached the clear plastic bag holding the two remaining mangosteens to my camera bag and headed into the park.

After checking out a zoo in the park, I cracked open one of the mangosteens. I wanted to make sure I enjoyed it before it was possibly stolen. Already there had been several attempts — some involving direct confrontations and others involving stealthier strategies. I had expected this since the fruit were so clearly visible. One needs to be aware of such things when roaming around Qianling Mountain Park.

Then just when all seemed clear I felt a very strong pull on my camera bag. As people yelled, I spun around reacting as quickly as I could. I knew a mangosteen was at stake here. It was all a blur, but at the end I had maintained possession of my camera bag despite the strap somehow disconnecting. And to my surprise the plastic bag remained attached as well.

The culprit quickly fled to a tree for safety. From there the monkey looked at me . . .

monkey in a tree in Guiyang


Looked at me while eating its prize.

monkey eating a stolen mangosteen in Guiyang


Well done, monkey. You succeeded where many had failed. And your reward was a glorious mangosteen.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

From Texas Burger in Hunan to a Scenic High-Speed Train Ride

Towards the end of last week I hailed a taxi and told the driver I needed to go to the Hengyang East Railway Station. He asked for 40 yuan (about U.S. $5.80). I felt confident 40 yuan was too high, but I wasn't sure what to target for bargaining. I just told him to use the meter. He clearly didn't like that idea, so I prepared to get out of the taxi.

He turned on the meter.

The fare turned out to be 27 yuan.

I hadn't had time to eat much that day, and I hoped to grab something at the station. I suspected the options were minimal and the McDonald's there would be my best bet despite my fondness for Hengyang's local dishes. But I worried I wouldn't be able to go down to the arrivals level, order food, and then return to the departures level to go through the ID check and security in time for boarding. So I went straight into ticketed-area of the station and hoped to find something there.

Once inside, I saw something I expected — a lack of a McDonald's — and I saw something I hadn't expected — Texas Burger. I hadn't recently seen any of the once common New Orleans roasted chicken vendors in Hengyang. I figured it was now time for some not-quite-Texas fare in Hengyang.

Texas Burger (德州汉堡) at the Hengyang East Railway Station


I quickly scanned the menu and didn't see anything named a Texas Burger, so I ordered a burger which looked like a Big Mac. I didn't go for the full meal.

item on Texas Burger menu which resembles a Big Mac


The burger I soon received looked far more compressed than the one displayed in the menu. And the taste . . . well, the patty made me think of an overcooked old high school cafeteria-style burger. It definitely didn't make me think of anything I had ever eaten in Texas. Without a doubt, I would take New Orleans roasted chicken over that any day.

But at least I wasn't hungry anymore. And soon I departed Hengyang on a train route I had never traveled before. This meant I could enjoy some new views and attempt to photograph them through a dirty window while moving at about 200 kilometers per hour.

view of mountains from high-speed train


In about 2 hours and 40 minutes I arrived at my destination 342 kilometers (213 miles) from the station in Hengyang. Not bad for 100 yuan (U.S. $14.50).

My first view of the city from high up included a McDonald's but no Texas Burgers.

view of a Chinese city with a McDonald's


The city is more well known than Hengyang and popular with tourists, though, no, the glass pyramid in the photo isn't the entrance to the Louvre. For those familiar with China, this is a relatively easy one to figure out. Guesses welcome. Let me know if you want some Texas Burger as a prize.

Monday, April 17, 2017

A Spicy Clue

I haven't received any correct guesses of the city captured in the previous photo. So for another clue — one which significantly narrows the possibilities —I will share a photo of a local-style dish I enjoyed in the same city the other day for lunch.

spicy eel dish in Hengyang


On this note, with the exception of occasional forays into non-Chinese foods, I mostly eat local-style dishes wherever I happen to be in China. Unintentionally, it has been a while since I have been in any regions known for spicy foods. As can be pretty clearly seen in this photo, I have now rectified this issue. Those peppers had a solid kick. And the eel was good too.



Update: The answer

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Guangzhou Goose: The Yongxing (Wing Hing) Roasted Meats Shop

If you stumble upon the right place on Tiyun East Road in Guangzhou, you may notice a long line on Sunday around 4:30 p.m.

Long line at Yongxing Roasted Meats Shop (永兴烧腊店) in Guangzhou


The people are patiently waiting to order take-away Cantonese-style barbecue. The name of the place is straightforward enough in Chinese characters — 永兴烧腊店. The name in English could be Yongxing Roasted Meats Shop or Wing Hing Roasted Meats Shop. The former is based on Mandarin, standard for China, and the latter is based on Cantonese, the local dialect.

Whatever you want to call the shop, it deserves a closer look.

Roasted geese and other meat hanging at Yongxing Roasted Meats Shop (永兴烧腊店)


If you like goose meat, you may be tempted by the hanging geese. If you like pork or chicken you could still be in luck. If you don't like meat, you may be interested in observing, but you'll be out of luck in terms of eating.

And if you like goose meat but don't like to wait, you will be even more tempted when there is no line, possibly around 5:30 p.m. on a Sunday.

Yongxing Roasted Meats Shop (永兴烧腊店) in Guangzhou without a line


The options have decreased but about three and one quarter geese remain hanging.

A quarter of a goose may be too much for one person, or even two. But that may not stop you from inquiring about how much it costs, since the place emits such a promising vibe. After a proper weighing, 57 yuan (about US $8.25) could strike you as a good deal. After accepting, they will chop up the portion of goose and toss in some goose neck.

chopping a goose neck at Yongxing Roasted Meats Shop (永兴烧腊店)


And then you will have yourself a pile of goose.

sliced goose from Yongxing Roasted Meats Shop (永兴烧腊店)


Packets of two different sauces will come along for the ride.

According to some positive online reviews in Chinese you may later discover, the food has an "old Guangzhou" taste. According to a nameless American who still feels full at this moment, the goose is totally worth it. "Great stuff," he says eloquently.

Some other day I will share another goose experience from Guangdong province — in a place where neither the food nor the local dialect is Cantonese. Some other day I will share another line experience in Guangzhou. The lines were much longer and no meat was involved. A rather unexpected dairy product did make an appearance though.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Sugar Painting in D.C. and Zhongshan

Thanks to a friend in the U.S., on Saturday I saw a video from NPR of traditional Chinese sugar painting at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. The video, at least in part, is worth watching if you haven't seen sugar painting before. And even if you are familiar with the practice you may find it soothing to watch, for example after having read a lot of political news and commentary.

I told my friend I have seen people sugar painting set up on the sidewalk or at street markets. I debated over the right word for describing how often I see it, but it seemed fitting that the very next day at a popular pedestrian street in Zhongshan I saw a booth selling a variety of sugar painted figures.

sugar painting booth in Zhongshan, China


butterfly sugar painting figure.


Typically I see less formal setups for the sugar painting. When I stopped by the sugar painter was off doing whatever sugar painters do when they aren't sugar painting — so no video from me. All of the figures, presumably with the exception of a large fish on display, were 10 yuan each (about US $1.46). I have seen more elaborate figures made by sugar painters elsewhere, and perhaps this sugar painter would do something in that spirit on request. Whatever the case, this is just one of the many examples of sugar painting I have come across while going from one city to another in China.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Lunar New Year Burger Wars in China: Prosperity Burgers, Shrimp Burgers, and (Good) Luck Burgers

Advertisements in Zhongshan, Guangdong, for Burger King's and McDonald's special Lunar New Year burgers

The Lunar New Year in China not only brings a change of zodiac symbols, it also brings the McDonald's Prosperity Burger. Although available in Hong Kong and Macau, this special holiday treat mystifyingly remains unavailable at McDonald's in mainland China.

This year I found myself in Macau at the right time. Normally the idea of eating at McDonald's in Macau, a city with wonderful Macanese and Portuguese delights, would seem sacrilegious. I made an exception this time, though I didn't give up a meal for it. Instead, I took one for the team and had two dinners one night. You're welcome.

Upon entering the Macanese McDonald's, I saw there were four Prosperity Burger options — a choice of beef or chicken and with or without a hash brown.

sign for the Prosperity Burger options at a McDonald's in Macau


Curious to try something new, I went with the chicken & hash brown option.

chicken and hash browns Prosperity Burger


It only took me one bite before asking "Why?" The addition of a hash brown wasn't disastrous, but it also didn't do much for the burger except add intense caloric mass while diluting the taste of the Prosperity Sauce. It struck me as an uninspired way to try to mix things up. Next time, I am definitely going for an option sans hash brown. It will have to wait until next year though.

But that's not the end to this new year burger story. Not even close.

Although the Prosperity Burger mysteriously remains unavailable in mainland China, McDonald's there has a different set of burgers available for the Lunar New Year. For an intro, I will hand it over to Angela Doland in Ad Age:
McDonald's China just introduced intriguing new products for Chinese New Year: the Emperor's Best Shrimp Burger, the Empress' Pineapple Burger and a beverage that translates, loosely, as Smiling Concubine's Lychee Bubble Tea. Names like that beg for an explanation.

To build buzz about the unexpected ingredients, a campaign from Leo Burnett Shanghai tapped into China's passion for historical TV costume dramas. The shows, such as "The Empress of China," starring actress Fan Bingbing, feature elaborate costumes, tales of love and palace intrigue. Playing on that pop culture phenomenon, the agency did a series of surprising cartoon ads with a historical theme, which rolled out on digital channels including ubiquitous mobile app WeChat.

It can be dicey for Western brands to be too literal when referring to Chinese culture, but this approach works because . . .
Read Doland's piece for her thoughts on the promotion's effectiveness and the story behind it. Campaign Brief Asia has a review of three videos which were part of the promotion.

Although I was excited to try the two burger, I ran into an unexpected problem. Many McDonald's I checked didn't have either of the burgers. A couple of days ago at a McDonald's in Zhongshan with only the shrimp burger, an employee handing out flyers featuring the burgers told me they had sold out of the chicken burger at least half a month ago. And another McDonald's confirmed their lack of the items was due to selling out.

flyer for the Lunar New Year special items at McDonald's in mainland China


Regardless of the difficulty of finding the burgers, street-side advertisements for them are still easy to find in Zhongshan. I don't know whether this McDonald's promotion was wildly successful or they only prepared a very minimal number of burgers, but either way there a bit of a problem here.

I never did find anywhere still serving the chicken pineapple burger, but one recent day in Zhongshan I sat down for the shrimp burger set meal.



The curly fries must have been sitting out for a bit and were room temperature. If you imagine sugar stuffed into sugar with lychee flavoring in water, then you have an idea of the lychee bubble tea.

And the burger . . .

McDonald's Lunar New Year shrimp burger in China


A deep-fried shrimp patty topped with deep-fried shrimp is a bit more deep-fried than I would usually go, but I must say it was decent and reasonably shrimpy. I wouldn't need to do it again, but I'm glad I tried it. I would put it above the chicken hash brown Prosperity Burger but not the original Prosperity Burger.

That is all I have for McDonald's, but Steven Schwankert had better luck than I did and reviewed both mainland China burgers for The Beijinger along with explaining the puns in their Chinese names.

But we're still not done, because Burger King is in the new year burger action too with two portobello mushroom burgers.

advertisement for Burger King's portobello mushroom lunar new year burgers in China


The promotion includes the mixed-language pun "菇大 Luck". "菇" means "mushroom". "大" means "big". And together their sound "gūdà" roughly sounds like the English word "good". In case people who know a bit of English miss the pun, Burger King helpfully puts "good" in parentheses above the relevant Chinese characters. On some signs Burger King provides the English names "Grilled Portobello Chicken Burger" and "Grilled Portobello Beef Burger". But I am going to go with "(Good) Luck Burgers".

With that out of the way . . .

In Zhuhai I met my first (Good) Luck Chicken Burger.



A look inside revealed two tomato slices along with the other ingredients.



The results?

Folks, this was one of the best fast food sandwiches I have ever had. Honestly, I was rather surprised. The portobello mushroom wasn't huge, but it was hearty and complemented the grilled chicken well. This is a burger I would happily eat again.

So later at a Burger King in Zhongshan, I figured I had to give the (Good) Luck Beef Burger a try. After opening up the burger, I realized my experience this time might differ.



There was only one tomato slice this time — a travesty. The positioning suggested another was to be added but for whatever reason it didn't happen. Also, the mushroom was significantly smaller than the meat patty.

I found myself less thrilled by this burger. Not only did it have the previously mentioned deficits, but I found the beef and mushroom mix to be less enthralling, though not displeasing, to my tastebuds. I am not sure what to make of that since I enjoy beef and mushrooms together in other dishes. Anyway, I would definitely go with the chicken version next time. Hopefully they don't cheat me on the tomato slices again.

Burger King has other special items available for the new year, such as their Salmon Nuggets with Cheese & Pasta.



It isn't something I would expect from Burger King but intriguing. I felt I had dedicated enough of my meals to fast food for this year's holiday though.

So to wrap up, the (Good) Luck Chicken Burger won this year's fast food Lunar New Year burger prize for me. And all of the burgers far surpassed the Year of Fortune Burger and Year of Luck Burger I subjected myself to two years ago at McDonald's in Chongqing. Kudos to McDonald's for not bringing them back this year. Somehow I missed out on a good old regular Prosperity Burger this year, but I take consolation in having enjoyed some portobellos.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

A New Year Holiday in Xiapu

I spent the last day of 2016 in a more urban area of Xiapu, a county with many fishing villages in Fujian, China. Not only did I think a bit about the past year, but I was also reminded of 2015 and the Year of the Yang.

2015 and Year of the Yang celebration arch in Xiapu, Fujian.


I walked through the historical arch and down a semi-pedestrian street. Soon I walked through a similar, though more faded, arch.

2015 and Year of the Yang celebration arch in Xiapu, Fujian.


No matter how great and arch-worthy 2015 or the Year of the Yang may have been, 2017 was coming regardless. After 11 p.m. I went out again to see a bit of what was happening in Xiapu.

During my walk, I saw a music club with a New Year celebration.

music club in Xiapu, Fujian


I walked in and saw a typical Chinese club scene packed with younger people.

After a couple of minutes, I was back out on the street. Soon, I heard fireworks exploding not too far away. I wondered if more time had passed than I had thought, but I saw it was still 10 minutes before midnight. Perhaps some people were really eager to put 2016 behind them.

More fireworks exploded around midnight. To my surprise, some launched just a few feet away from me. After retreating to a slightly safer distance, I enjoyed the scene.

fireworks launching from a street in Xiapu, Fujian


fireworks exploding in Xiapu, Fujian


Good times and I didn't nearly lose an eye (a Shanghai Lunar New Year story there for another day).

Soon things were much quieter, and only a few signs remained of the festivities.



The area I had wandered to had a number of late night seafood restaurants, most with outdoor tent areas. I figured I would take advantage of the situation, and chose a place based on being a bit busier and having a charming Pabst Blue Ribbon sign.

seafood restaurant in Xiapu, Fujian


After looking at a long table of various uncooked items, I chose two, one of which I had not eaten before.

Before sitting down, I noticed the kitchen was mostly open to view, so I checked it out.

kitchen at Xinmeiweiyuan Restaurant in Xiapu, China


They looked like they had everything under control. I sat down and while waiting for my food drank not a Pabst Blue Ribbon but a Chinese beer I don't so often come across: Dry & Dry.

tall can of Dry & Dry beer


Soon, my dishes had arrived. One was a lot of tiny snails.

snail dish in Xiapu, China


They were all in tiny shells which slow down the eating process. But the snails came out easily, and the sauce was delicious.

The other dish was worms, of course.

a dish of worms — 土強 (tuqiang) — at a restaurant in Xiapu, Fujian

When I first asked I was told they were sand worms (沙虫). But they didn't look like the sand worms I had eaten before, most often in Guangxi. I was then told they weren't really sand worms, but there was only a local word for them that they insisted would not be familiar to people elsewhere in China, even if said in Standard Mandarin and not the local dialect. I was told this unfamiliar-to-most name is 土強 (tuqiang). I have no idea if they have a name in English.

They were surprisingly crunchy and tough on the outside and slightly gooey inside. I far prefer the less crunchier sand worms or the mud worms I have only seen in Zhanjiang to the south. Still, it was fun to try something new to start the new year.

Happy New Year to all, whether worms are involved or not.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A Taste of Chanukah in Wenzhou, China

Da Wang oil lamp cake (大王灯盏糕) restaurant in Wenzhou, China
A popular place for a local snack in Wenzhou

I didn't only observe many examples of the Christmas holiday in Wenzhou, China, this year. I also observed a Jewish tradition in the U.S. for December 25: I ate Chinese food.

Of course, finding Chinese food isn't too much of a challenge in China, but this time the local food in Wenzhou allowed me to also feel some of the Chanukah holiday spirit — particularly fitting since this year its first full day was also December 25.

oil lamp cakes (灯盏糕) in Wenzhou, China
Deep fried goodness

The deep fried cakes are very similar in concept and taste to the latkes (potato pancakes) commonly eaten by Jews in some parts of world during Chanukah, except they are made from shredded white radish instead of potato. They are also stuffed, most often with meat and egg. The place I went to this day offered a variety of options.

menu with variety of oil lamp cakes (灯盏糕)
Decisions

I figured I would avoid the common pork filling on this day. I asked whether the 羊 (yáng) listed on the menu meant lamb or goat. No answer came right away, but eventually someone said "It should be lamb."

Good enough — either worked for me anyway.

inside of an oil lamp cake (灯盏糕)
That brief moment between being whole and disappearing

The radishy delight was tasty, although it left me craving applesauce.

To top it off, the name of the latke-like treats has a coincidental tie to the Chanukah story, which traditionally includes the miracle of one day's worth of oil lasting for eight days. Due to their shape, they are called oil lamp cakes (灯盏糕).

It will be hard for me to top this December 25th in China.