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

Monday, November 26, 2018

Sales, Gift Cards, and a Turkey Leg: Some Retail and Personal Thanksgiving in Zhongshan

Most Americans would likely be surprised to learn that Thanksgiving is celebrated, even if just to a minor degree, in China. This isn't using the word "Thanksgiving" to refer to a traditional Chinese holiday with similar themes. This is the Thanksgiving celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November as in the U.S., though with some differences.

Based on my own observations and conversations with people, my sense is that in general people are far less aware of the holiday than Western holidays such as Christmas and perhaps to a lesser degree Halloween. And those who are aware of it tend to be younger in age. In short, I would describe it as not being a big deal, but it's there to a degree. Yes, "a degree" leaves a lot of wiggle room, and I need it here.

Like with many other holidays in China, some retailers are happy to jump at the opportunity to use the holiday for a promotion. For example, in Xiaolan, a town roughly 20-25 km (more than 12 miles) from Zhongshan's central area, the entrance to a Superior City Department Store had a distinctly Thanksgiving theme.

Thanksgiving Day promotion at the Superior City Department Store in Xiaolan, Zhongshan


The signs explicitly mentions the Thanksgiving holiday along with a special opportunity to earn a 50 yuan (currently about US $7.20) shopping card if you spend at least 888 yuan. The number 8 is considered very lucky in Chinese culture, and its use is unlikely accidental even in the Thanksgiving setting.

I can't answer why the gift card isn't 88 yuan as well. And admittedly, it wasn't entirely effortless for me to sort out the English message on the sign, which notably doesn't appear in Chinese.

sales sign with "The Chance Is Only This Time Miss, Wait Another Year. Happy Thanksgiving"


I believe the intended meaning is something like: "Now is your only chance. Miss it and you'll have to wait another year."

In central Zhongshan, I saw a few other Thanksgiving sales.

Thanksgiving Day promotion at China Gold
China Gold jewelry store


Thanksgiving Day sale sign at a Xiaomi Mi Home Store in Zhongshan
Xiaomi Mi Home Store


Sign for a Thanksgiving Sale at Erke in Zhongshan
Erke — a Chinese sports brand


Also, you could buy a Thanksgiving themed gift card at Starbucks.

Starbucks gift cards for sale in Zhongshan, China


Or you could participate in a Thanksgiving event at Meten — an English language school chain — which took place a couple of days after the holiday.

Sign for a Thanksgiving Day event at Meten


And I came across one American-style restaurant — Hey Farm —offering a special Thanksgiving meal.

signs for Hey Farm Thanksgiving Day special meal in Zhongshan


Now I will switch to a brief account of my personal Thanksgiving experience — in particular my dinner in Zhongshan. The Hey Farm option didn't appeal due to the lack of turkey. I suspected a few other Western-style restaurants might have special meals for the day, but I figured they would already be fully booked.

So I focused on a option that has worked well in the past, including last year in Wuhan, and planned on a buffet at a Western hotel. This year, things didn't go quite as smoothly. I initially expected to eat turkey at the Sheraton Zhongshan Hotel. However, to my surprise that afternoon I discovered they wouldn't have a turkey or anything else special for the holiday. After that, I went for plan B and just showed up hoping for the best.

I am pleased to say the Hilton Zhongshan Downtown indeed prepared a turkey for their buffet. There didn't appear to be anything else special to Thanksgiving in their offerings but no matter. I scored a whole turkey leg, and the cranberry sauce gravy was excellent.

chef cutting off a turkey leg


Additionally, for the first time ever I drank a Haizhu beer — a brand from neighboring Zhuhai —with my Thanksgiving meal.

Yes, shrimp, snails, and bamboo too


To top it all off, I also enjoyed a good dose of horse milk baijiu. I must say I enjoyed the flavor, not easy for a 52% alcohol drink to manage.



Merriment followed.

So thanks to Zhongshan for giving me a taste of Thanksgiving as I'm used to having back in the U.S. The horse milk baijiu really made it though.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Choosing Produce at Two Hypermarkets in Zhongshan

A woman selecting apples one weekday afternoon at the Carrefour in the Xinyue Dasin Metro-Mall (新悦大信新都会):

woman choosing apples at a Carrefour in Zhongshan, China



A woman selecting tomatoes later the same afternoon about 15 km (about 9 miles) away at the Walmart in the Sunshine Mall (太阳城):

woman choosing tomatoes at a Walmart in Zhongshan, China


The surroundings of the two hypermarkets contrast much more the settings inside them. More about that another day.

In the meantime, happy produce hunting.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Fruit For Sale as Usual in Zhongshan

fruit stand at night in Zhongshan, China
Fruit stand on Halloween night

Although it wasn't too hard to find signs of the holiday on Halloween night at some shopping centers, bars, and even convenience stores in Zhongshan, in most places life went on like any other day. And if you wanted some candy, or some fruit, saying "Trick or treat!" wouldn't help very much.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Black Dumplings, Gourds, and a Meaty Mannequin: Halloween Spirit in Zhongshan, China

In past years I have shared Halloween-related scenes from cities such as Taipei in 2011, Changsha in 2012, Shaoguan in 2015, Shenyang in 2016, and most recently Changsha again in 2017. The posts have numerous photos of people in costumes, promotions, and food. Perhaps some day I will fill in some of what I missed sharing here, which includes Halloween experiences in Dalian, Shanghai, and Zhuhai. But for now I will share a sample of what I saw in Zhongshan, since it is where I spent Halloween this year.

One of the earliest signs of Halloween I came across was a promotion at 7-Eleven stores which began weeks before the holiday. Yes, I gave the three black cuttlefish items a try.

Halloween black cuttlefish foods at 7-Eleven in Zhongshan, China


The dumplings were tasty with some Sriracha-style sauce, but a couple of them were rather soggy. The sausage was too dried out. The cuttlefish balls were OK. None of it was as good as the black spidery pizza I tried at Pizza Hut in Shenyang two years ago. At least 7-Eleven had a special price for getting the three together. Not all the items were specially made for Halloween, but the dumplings are now gone.

To wash down all of that cuttlefish ink, 7-Eleven had a special Halloween deal on . . . Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey lemonade and cola drinks of course.

7-Eleven sign for Halloween sale of Jack Daniel's drinks


Moving on . . .

Three years ago I saw a Halloween display at n RT-Mart in Shaoguan. This year in Zhongshan, RT-Mart kept up the Halloween spirit.

Display of Halloween items for sale at an RT-Mart in Zhongshan


Display of Halloween items for sale at an RT-Mart in Zhongshan


Their selection possibly surpassed what was available at a Toys "R" Us in Zhongshan. Also, the display had a dark area inside of it where glowing items could be tested.

children playing with toys inside a display of Halloween items for sale at an RT-Mart in Zhongshan


A Carrefour in Zhongshan similarly had Halloween items for sale.

Display of Halloween items for sale at a Carrefour in Zhongshan, China


Carrefour took it up another notch, though, with a Halloween gourd display.

Halloween display of gourds for sale at a Carrefour in Zhongshan, China


The Shiqi Dasin Metro-Mall had a Halloween-themed food fair as part of celebrations for the one year anniversary of its newest section.

Halloween-themed inflated arch at the Shiqi Dasin Metro-Mall in Zhongshan, China


Several nights before Halloween, the fair was packed.

Halloween food fair at the Shiqi Dasin Metro-Mall in Zhongshan, China


None of the food itself was any different from what could appear at any other food fairs, but at least one of the sellers was in the holiday spirit.

man wearing a caveman costume


There was also occasional dancing.

young women dancing


On Halloween day there were a variety of activities. The Lihe Plaza shopping mall appeared prepared for a musical performance, but I didn't stick around to listen.

Stage with a halloween theme at Lihe Plaza


One popular gathering area that night was the central outdoor area at the Central Power Plaza shopping mall, where there were several people painting faces as part of a promotion.

people gathered for Halloween activities at Central Power Plaza in Zhongshan


By 10 p.m on Halloween night at the Shiqi Dasin Metro-Mall, many of the vendors at the food fair had already packed up and departed. But even with a now sagging arch, there were still photographic opportunities.



Some bars, including one at the mall, also got into the holiday spirit. In part because most are far separated from one another, I didn't bother with a pub crawl — so no photos. I also won't be sharing a set of photos of people dressed up for the holiday. See the earlier posts for plenty of those. But here's one of a pirate sitting at McDonald's on Halloween night:

young woman wearing a pirate hat sitting at McDonald's in Zhongshan, China


Finally, for the first time ever I will award a winner (of what I happened to see) for best Halloween spirit. Carrefour wins hands down. No, the Halloween items for sale or the glorious gourds aren't what led to this special distinction.

Instead, I introduce the Halloween Dried Meats Witch:

female mannequin dressed in dried meats and wearing a Halloween witch hat


Perhaps that will become a popular costume for next year.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Hot Chicken Wing and Wasabi Oreos in China: A Taste Test, Combo Version Included

Hot Chicken Wing and Wasabi Oreos
Two spicy new Oreo flavors


Nearly a month ago I first heard about the introduction of two new Oreo flavors in China — Hot Chicken Wing and Wasabi. The news provoked some strong reactions in the Western world, and several of my own friends in the U.S. shared stories about it. One wrote, "No!! Stop it!! What did the Chinese ever do to you, Nabisco??"

Nabisco probably can't be blamed (or commended) for this one though. While Nabisco produces Oreos in the U.S. for its parent company Mondelēz International, it doesn't make them for China and many other countries in the world.

Initially I had hopes for the Wasabi Oreos due to positive experiences in the past with chocolate with spicy red pepper. Hot chicken wings seemed rather peculiar, But then a friend reminded me that there is chocolate in the sauce for chicken molé, and that is good stuff. She had also just made chocolate chicken chili, which is now on my list of things to try. I now had higher hopes for the Hot Chicken Wing Oreos.

Additionally, the new flavors were of interest given my interests in how Western companies localize their products and services in China, and I have tried other Oreo flavors in China in the past. For example, six years ago in Shaoxing I tried Peach-Grape Oreos. They weren't my thing, but presumably other people feel differently because they are still available. Then three years ago in Hengyang I tried Lemon Cheesecake Oreos. I liked them a lot more, and they're still around too.

So I was ready to try the new flavors. However, there was a problem. After checking more than five large supermarkets in Ganzhou — including a Walmart — I came up empty. They all sold Oreos, but they didn't have these two flavors. Although I occasionally revisited the supermarkets, I expected I would have to wait much longer or switch cities before finding Oreo spiciness.

Recently, I left Ganzhou and am now in Zhuhai. Yesterday, I went to a Vanguard supermarket and finally found the new flavors. But they only had giant-sized boxes, and that was far many more Oreos than I wanted. After that I went to a Walmart. Their selection was rather uninspiring, and they didn't have the new flavors. So then I headed to the place I had thought would be my best bet here — Carrefour, a French hypermarket chain.

Yes, the Carrefour in Jida, Zhuhai, indeed had a wide selection of Oreos.

selection of Oreos at a Carrefour in Zhuhai


And yes, my search was over. Soon I had two fine boxes of spicy Oreos in my possession.

Boxes of Hot Chicken Wing and Wasabi Oreos


Each box of 10 Oreos had a price of 5.8 yuan (about U.S. 85 cents). I tried sharing my excitement with several other people shopping at Carrefour. As far as I could tell, they didn't understand why I was so happy, but they at least seemed happy I was happy.

Now, a look at some of the info on the boxes:

Nutritional information for Hot Chicken Wing and Wasabi Oreos


Based on this information, the Oreos have equal nutritional value. So being on a diet probably wouldn't affect a choice of one over the other. Also, the Oreos are made in Suzhou — a city in Jiangsu province bordering Shanghai. Suzhou has many canals and presumably many Oreos as well.

Opening the boxes reveal they both held two pouches of cookies.

pouches of Hot Chicken Wing and Wasabi Oreos


If I didn't like them, I could easily give half away. If I did like them, half would stay fresh longer. I call that a win-win.

And finally, a look at the innards:

opened Hot Chicken Wing and Wasabi Oreos
Note: some creme missing due to imperfect wafer separation


Now the moment we have all (or at least I have) been waiting for: the test taste.

I thought about this a lot (too much), and I will start with the Hot Chicken Wing Oreos. Prelude: a sip of milk, of course.

Here we go . . .

Huh, um . . . it's more like a hot pepper flavor Oreo. Or maybe more of a barbecue potato chip Oreo. I feel like it is flavor-shifting, but at no point do I taste a chicken flavor. It is . . . different. I like it more than the Peach-Grape Oreos. I'm not at all a fan of the Peach-Grape.

Now I will just try some of the filling on its own. That is . . . odd stuff. It isn't sweet. I liked how it worked with the chocolate wafers much better than on its own. If I had tried the filling without knowing what it is, I think I still wouldn't know what it is. Actually, I'm not sure I know what it is regardless.

By the way, it has been a long time since I have eaten Oreos of any flavor.

OK, now another sip of milk before trying a Wasabi Oreo.

Here we go again . . .

Wow. Just wow. Unlike the Hot Chicken Wings Oreos, there's no mystery here. This was undoubtedly a Wasabi Oreo. The kick isn't as strong as the wasabi that comes with your sashimi, but the flavor is clear. Now just the filling . . . Again, not sweet, but I wouldn't use it with sashimi. Like before, I prefer it with the wafers more than on its own.

Finally, I will try something the Oreo folks might not condone. I will eat half a Hot Chicken Wing Oreo and half a Wasabi Oreo at the same time.

Here we go . . .

Hey . . . that was a zillion times better than I expected (note: I had expected a near complete disaster). And it tasted like nothing I have tasted before.

The final verdict (for today): The Hot Chicken Wing Oreos were better than I expected. I don't find them gross, though I can't recommend the creme on its own. The Wasabi Oreos fit with my expectations, and I could imagine they have addictive potential. I wish I could say more about the improvised combo version, but I can't. It's like seeing a new color for the first time.

In short, while I expect some people wouldn't like either of these Oreo flavors even if they gave them a fair try, I definitely can now see how some people will like one, both, or even the combo.

I don't think I'm giving away my remaining Oreos.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Sun Drying Peppers on a Ancient City Wall

Yesterday's post included a photo of chili peppers being ground up in Ganzhou. The theme now continues with chili peppers sun drying on Ganzhou's ancient city wall.

chili peppers drying on the old city wall in Ganzhou


I didn't try any of them then. But I can't rule out I didn't unknowingly do so later. Had I known, it would have made the experience all the better.

Making the Chili Sauce in Ganzhou

When I eat at a place that specializes spicy food, which is most places in Ganzhou, I respect when they make their own chili sauce.

making chili sauce at a restaurant in Ganzhou


Good local food here. More about it another time.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Late Night Tangerines in Ganzhou

You can't always find tangerines for sale around 11 p.m. But tonight in Ganzhou I got lucky.

tangerines for sale in a motor-tricycle cart


Good tangerines . . .

Monday, July 30, 2018

A Cat and Dog Debate the Best Peppers for Steaks in a Restaurant Chain Ad in China

Houcaller (豪客来) is a widespread Western-style steak restaurant chain in China, and I have seen it, and some imitators, in numerous cities. A recent promotion of theirs recently caught my eye as I was passing a bus stop in Shenzhen.

Houcaller ad for red pepper and black pepper steaks


The ad features a red pepper steak with bones and black pepper steak without bones. The ad asks who is more correct in their tastes. The cat apparently prefers the red pepper steak and the dog prefers the other. I would have associated a preference for bones more with dogs, but maybe the black pepper would win them over after all.

Beside the dog is a Chinese phrase which can be interpreted as "Dare to be black" or "Of course, black". But it's also a bit of pun, presumably intended, because in slang the phrase means "dare to mock yourself".

I haven't tried either of these steaks, so I can't help settle this debate. I think the last, and perhaps only, time I went to a Houcaller was about 8 years ago far to the north in Anyang, Henan. It was a fascinating experience. I'll save that short story for another day. No cats or dogs were involved.

Friday, May 11, 2018

A Sign of the Donkey and Goat Food Street in Qingyuan

Earlier this evening while standing on a pedestrian bridge I looked for a particular bank. I didn't see the bank, but I did notice a sign for an eating establishment which reminded me of yesterday's post about a butcher shop in Yunfu, Guangdong province, which offers goat, donkey, rabbit, dog, and cat meat.

View from the Qiaobei Road Overpass (桥北路立交) in Qingyuan including a sign for "Th Donkey and Goat Food Street"


I will go ahead and translate the "驴羊食街" that appears on one of the signs in the above photo as "The Donkey and Goat Food Street", though as mentioned before the second character may be for sheep instead of goat. In China sometimes animals in restaurant names doesn't mean they are on the menu. Sometimes it does. In this case I would expect the latter.

Two years ago I shared an example of a restaurant I had seen the year before in Zhuhai, Guangdong, that featured the same combo. The sign was more explicit about the animals being on the menu since the Chinese character for "meat" appeared as well. I see I interpreted "羊" (yáng) as "lamb" then. That was before I began exploring what the character alone often represents in such cases in Guangdong.

Finally, the above scene isn't from Yunfu, nor is it from the city I visited next — Zhaoqing. Yesterday after an unexpectedly scenic bus ride I arrived in Qingyuan, yet another city in Guangdong. Specifically, I took the photo from the Qiaobei Road Overpass (桥北路立交), and this view looks down one side of Qiaobei Road as traffic slowly makes it way from the south.

Oh . . . and no, I didn't try the donkey and goat place. No food reviews for today.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

From Donkey to Cat: The Selection at a Butcher Shop in Yunfu

A variety of shops line historic Jiefang Road in Yunfu, Guangdong province. One which especially caught my eye sells meat.

butcher shop with signs indicating it sells goat, donkey, rabbit, dog, and cat meat


It was specifically the selection of meat available listed on its signs that I found notable. I have seen all of these types of meat sold and on restaurant menus in China before, but seeing them all together listed so prominently isn't a daily event for me.

The first meat listed is identified with the Chinese character 羊 (yáng), which can refer to sheep or goats (and some other animals as well). Given how I have found the term used in many parts of Guangdong province, including in Jieyang, I presume it refers to goat.

Donkey meat is next, which I saw on the menu at a restaurant in Huizhou — another city in Guangdong province.

Then comes rabbit meat, which I most strongly associate with Zigong in Sichuan province since it is especially popular there. A couple of relevant dishes I had in Zigong appear in a post where I offer spicy evidence that family-sized portions of rice are quite common in parts of China.

Next up is dog meat. I have seen this for sale in many regions. A post including photos of seven restaurants in Mudanjiang, Heilongjiang province, that feature dog meat comes to mind.

The last item listed, cat meat, is the one I come across the least in China. I don't have any relevant posts about it. I have photos of various sightings though — potential material for a future post.

While it significantly differs from what is available at typical grocery stores, I wouldn't consider this selection of meats especially exotic for Guangdong. In terms of what I have personally come across, the winner for that is probably a live animal market I visited a number of times in Shaoguan — more material for a future post. The bamboo rats did not look happy.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

A Golden Visit to M8 Langhe Dumplings in Zhaoqing

Previously, I shared a photo of a wonton restaurant in Zhaoqing with a logo very similar to the McDonald's Golden Arches. The next day I happened to pass by yet again. I also happened to be hungry this time. So I took the opportunity to have dinner there.

After sitting down at a table, I noticed the M8 logo appeared in a number of locations, including signs featuring one of their ice drinks.

tables and signs for drinks at M8 Lianghe Wontons


As indicated by their menu, in addition to wontons they offer a variety of other items, most common Cantonese fare.

M8 Langhe Wontons menu in Zhaoqing


The choice for me was easy. For 8 yuan (about US $1.25) I ordered a medium-sized bowl of the item featured in the name on their storefront sign — langhe wontons (塱鹤云吞).

medium sized bowl of Langhe Wontons at M8 in Zhaoqing


The wantons are named after Langhe village in Zhaoqing (reference in Chinese). Some other restaurants I have passed in Zhaoqing similarly feature "langhe wontons" in their names.

I also ordered a plate of Chinese broccoli, but they were out. So for 7 yuan I had the usual choi sum — much healthier than the Big Mac I had earlier suggested pairing with the wontons.

plate of choi sum at M8 Langhe Wontons in Zhaoqing


In short, the wontons were better than I expected. They are a smaller type of wonton which I have found at some places not to be especially flavorful. But these were tasty. The choi sum was a little overcooked for my tastes, not uncommon, but for 7 yuan I was still pleased.

And just to make sure . . . I asked the high school boy who took my money while the woman who had taken my order was back in the kitchen about the eatery's name. He said "M8" and also said this was their only location.

If I were living in Zhaoqing, I could definitely see myself returning. For comparison, I would also be curious to try some of the other restaurants in Zhaoqing which similarly feature langhe wontons.

But none of them will have the golden M8.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Political Art: Trump Gives Orders to Japan's Prime Minister at an Aircraft Carrier Restaurant in Jiangmen, China

While looking across the street at the Rongji Plaza shopping center in Jiangmen, Guangdong province, one of the signs perched on its roof especially caught my attention. I soon felt compelled to check out the Jin Li Ao Aircraft Carrier Restaurant (金利奥航母主题西餐厅). A dining experience with aircraft carrier ambience could be something to behold.

The 3rd-floor restaurant features Western-style food with a heavy emphasis on steaks. I assume this is not standard fare on China's single combat-ready aircraft carrier, but admittedly I have never eaten there.

In addition to a variety of steaks, the restaurant in Jiangmen includes a large structure with features similar to a miniature aircraft carrier. At the ship's bow sits a jet.

mock fighter jet with child inside


And a helicopter is ready for takeoff on the stern.

mock aircraft carrier helicopter


Both the jet and helicopter are open to visitors. Set between the two on the aircraft carrier's flight deck is seating for diners. There is also seating next to the carrier and in another section of the restaurant with a tropical theme. The servers and hosts all wear sailor uniforms.

To me, the most remarkable aspect of the restaurant isn't the aircraft carrier or the two vehicles on it. Or even the extensive variety of steaks on the menu. Instead, that honor belongs to some artwork in the restaurant's lobby area.

mural of Donald Trump pointing from a ship and Shinzo Abe made to look like a shrimp


After pondering the piece a couple of times, I asked a host who had earlier invited me to take photos about the intended meaning. Our conversation went something like this:
Me: What is happening here?
Host: Oh, it's just a picture. There's no meaning.
Me: Is that Trump?
Host: It's just a picture. It could be anybody.
Me: Um, how about the other person. Is that Japan's leader?
Host: Nobody in particular. It could be anybody. It's just a picture.
At this point, I figured the conversation wasn't going anywhere. I strongly suspected he was deliberately avoiding an explanation and appreciated that this was far more than "just a picture".

A minute or so later he asked, "Oh, do you think that looks like Trump?".

After I confirmed I did he replied, "Well, it could be anybody."

He smiled throughout our conversation.

Good times.

So my best current take on what is going on here. . . Well, it sure looks like a deliberate depiction of President of the U.S. Donald Trump and Prime Minister of Japan Shinzō Abe. Abe's appearance as a shrimp may be connected to a politically provocative meal served to Trump during his visit to South Korea last November:
The menu at South Korea’s state banquet for Donald Trump has left a nasty taste in Japan, after the president was served seafood caught off islands at the centre of a long-running territorial dispute between Seoul and Tokyo.

Japanese officials have also complained about the decision to invite a former wartime sex slave to the event, held earlier this week during the second leg of Trump’s five-nation tour of Asia.

Conservative media in Japan labeled the banquet “anti-Japanese” for featuring shrimp from near Dokdo – a rocky outcrop known in Japan as Takeshima. Both countries claim sovereignty over the islands, which are administered by Seoul.
China makes no claim regarding these islands, but it does have a similar dispute over the Senkaku Islands, known as the Diaoyu Islands in China, currently controlled by Japan. Many in China would applaud the meal served to Trump in Seoul.

The island in the background looks like a possible match to the Senkaku / Diaoyu Islands (would be easier to confirm if Trump weren't blocking a portion of it). Perhaps Trump is ordering Abe to deliver an apology (big in China) and hand over the islands. Although I wouldn't bet on this scenario happening, even forgetting the shrimp part, many Chinese probably find it far more plausible. At the very least, Trump would certainly gain a huge number of fans in China if he achieved something like this or even tried.

So perhaps the restaurant dreams of a visit by Trump. Maybe that is why they feature steak. It is one of his favorite foods after all. They better have some ketchup though.