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Archive for March, 2011

Museum at the base of the first door to the Great Wall of China

Located 25km from Dandong, Hushan Great Wall was restored to decent condition.  It is the start, the first door of the Great Wall.

Part of the great wall of China, in Dandong

We walked part of it but not all the way to the top.  What a feeling to be standing on our two feet between those walls.  No description here is needed, just feel it.

One of the doors of the great wall of China

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Dandong

Dandong, China

Temperature outside 8C with a 67% of humidity, it was a bit on the cold side by the Yule river, in Dandong city yesterday.  This city is notarious for the bridge crossing the Yule river from China to North Coreen borders.
 
We drove 3.5 hrs to get to Dandong this morning.  As soon as we stepped foot on the bridge (part of it is missing), I could feel how much human life have been lost here.  It is a sad place to be, no mater how people run, walk and pass by without even paying attention to it anymore.  The air is filled with ‘after war’ emotion, a distinctive feeling of sadness, it reminded me a lot Pearl Harbol in Hawaii.
 

North Korea to the left, China to the right

The city across the river is Sinŭiju,  It is also connected with the Chinese city of Dandong by the Yalu River Bridge which is 944 m long (3,097 feet) from end to end, and through the Manchuria Railway links up with the Trans-Siberian railway.
 

broken bridge

After having paid to walk the bridge up to the destroyed parts, we then turned around and went to have a nice local lunch just the two of us, in a near by restaurant, not on the main street but one street behind, which is where the real people of Dangdong live.

resto for our meal

They are used to see us, blond hair, american dressed, wondering in resto like that, without speaking the language but wanted to eat like anybody else. 

Choose your dish from the pictures on the wall

Most of the restaurants we have been to, in the two weeks we have been living in north east of China, bear menus with pictures for each plate, creating a dual ‘flashing cards’ language for both of us involved. 

fish dish with red chili pepper

We choose a sweet and sour hot dish with sea fish in it and a cold veggies dish, both with tofu, veggetables, spicy red pepper and all kind of others tuffs in them. 

cooked cold veggies salad

The veggies cold dish was very good, sweet and sour type of food, mixed with mosthly cabbages, mushrooms and tofu : a very filling dish. 
 
Here is the sauce they used in this one, a sauce that I have found in most of the dishes they make out here.  They change the spices a bit, here and there, depending of the kind of protein they put in it but the base seems to stay the same.  To prepare this sauce : use a wok or a big frying pan, drop the oil and let it get warm, add the garlic, ginger, green onion, red pepper (chili kind, not the sweet pepper), lemon and orange zest and let it fry a bit.  Then, add the sugar, catsup, vinegar, sherry (it gives the sauce a strange secret taste…) and cornstarch or agar agar (a feculent agent to thicken the sause).  Let it cook until the sauce is thicken and drop over the already cooked veggies or meat you had prepared ahead of time.  This sauce will keep very well in the fridge for about one week.  Of course all the ingredients here can be adjusted to your liking, making it a true unique sauce for your dishes.
 
SWEET AND PUNGENT SESAME SAUCE
 
4.50 tb Sugar
4.50 tb Catsup
0.25 c Vinegar
0.50 ts Salt
1.00 tb Sherry
0.50 ts Cornstarch or agar agar
1.00 ts oil
2.00 lg Garlic cloves; minced
0.75 ts Minced fresh ginger root
1.00 tb Chopped green onion
1.00 ts Crushed red pepper
1.00 ts Lemon zest
1.00 ts Orange zest
1 tb of sesame butter (you could make your own by hand with a blender : a handful of sesame seeds and olive oil, mixed together until it turns out like butter.  Ajust the amount of oil to make it thicker or lighter)
 
The fish one was very interesting by itself.  It came out with a tons of red chili peppers cooked, on top of the dish.  It was so spicy to eat that the manager of the resto took pity on us and kept on bringing papers napkins to us, to wipe off the apparent sweating on boty our faces.  Good think they served us green tea to go with this one, as the tea gave us an smooting feeling of good and helped us to push down this wonderful dish but so spicy…   The meal costed us 10$ canadien, very cheap to eat here in this part of the country.

locals dancing on sunday downtown dandong

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My barbie kitchen

my barbie kitchen

In my very tiny kitchen, I have little appliances like those seen in this picture.   They are so cute, the pink one is a very small blender that makes shakes (very popular here), the one beside is a rice cooker (a must here), and one on the right is a water heater (a must also, since almost every dish is cooked with some kind of hot water or steam.  Shenyang people love homemade soap by the way, and they make it by using hot water to start with, drop veggies or meat bones in the water, let it broil and then, add veggies, meat and noodles to it.  They love chinese noodles and with a constant water heater on the counter, all they do is braking apart the dry noodles into a bowl, add some hot water, cover it and eat it when the noodles are soft, which does not take very long.

Actually I am one of the lucky one with this ‘barbie kitchen’ because on top of having those 3 wonderful toys to play with, I have also not just one but two burners, which is a luxury compared to only having one burner.  I also have a sink with running water, the luxury of it all.  No oven for sure, only in luxury condo we find them.  

I went to different departments over the last 5 days and I was very surprised to see so many small appliances available to the customer like : rice cooker, water heater, blenders of all kind and size, soya milk maker, etc… you name it, they have it all.  It is because they are very handy and also, if they all have a kitchen like mine, they need something to cook food in.  Most of the kitchens here don’t have a microwave either by the way…

I have one pan and it is a very large ‘wok’, the kind of pan in which I could cook virtually anything it, from eggs, to soup, to a good steak.

Talking about cooking, homemade soya milk is a big thing in this region.  They make their own soya milk at home and use it in almost anything.  We went to a true chinese restaurant yesterday and when we left the place after an enormous meal, we received soya milk in small containers to bring home.  Here is a picture of this homemade soya milk :

Soya milk with chinese dates

The soya milk is darker than the one I am used to back home.  This one is also darker because I added chinese dates to it this morning to make myself a shake but still, without adding anything to the soya milk, the color is brown.  The taste is different also from my home town, it is sweeter and has a small taste of nuts.  Of course it depends of the maker and the beans itself but for what I have seen here in the last week or so, the color of the soya milk is darker.

Young women here are keeping their small figure by drinking hot soya milk and waters from boiled sea weeds, interesting isn’t?  What ever happen to my Starbuck coffee in the morning??

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Jujube : chinese date

Jujube : chinese date

I am amazed by this little fruit : Jujube, red chinese date that I just happened to get some yesterday in my orientation grocery tour of the city Shenyang.  Because my chinese guide was a woman, we spend the day in about 8 different grocery stores around here, and she showed me, with great patience, all the local stuffs to cook and to bake here by the chinese people.  These jujubes got the first price of my discovery.  They look like the dates I know back home, but are a bit bigger and reddish.  I got a full bag of them, dried of course and got home to cook them.  The guide told me all the medicine advantage to have them around the house and specially to carry some in my handbag as a snack.  The chinese dates are very good for women, for the blood and for the anxiety caused by daily tasks.

I will use them as a sweetener in recipe, just like I would use a date in a recipe.  They are less sweet than a date but carry a lot more ‘meat’ inside.  I find them huge!  Here are some of the benefices of this little jewel! :

Chinese Date

Zizyphus jujuba.

JUJUBE, ZAO

 The Chinese date or jujube, zao, is also called da zao (great date) and hong zao (red date). (Whenever dates are mentioned in Chinese traditional medicine the reference is to this fruit. Ed.)

It is a deciduous tree that can reach a height of 10 meters. The fruit is oval, and slightly rectangular, 30-50mm long. It ripens in the summer and the beginning of autumn. When ripe the surface of the fruit is yellow or deep red. The flesh is cream colored, crisp and refreshing when eaten. The flavor is slightly sweet, with a fragrant smell. Inside is a hard stone with a double point. Its nature is neither hot nor cold.

The fruit can promote vital energy, benefit the spleen, nourish the blood and refresh and calm the mind. It contains carbohydrate, protein, oil, vitamins A, B2, C, calcium, phosphorous, iron, malic acid and tartrate, etc.

APPLICATIONS
1. POOR BLOOD, BLOOD DEFICIENCY, ANEMIA. Take 15 grams of black dates, 9 grams of longan pulp and 30 grams of brown sugar. Steam in water and eat both liquid and solids. Do this once a day and continue to take a daily dose over a long period.
2. NOURISHMENT AFTER CHILDBIRTH. Take 30 grams of red dates, one egg, 4 slices of fresh ginger and 30 grams of brown sugar. Cover with water, steam and serve. Do this once a day for 15-30 days.
3. WEAKNESS AND LOSS OF WEIGHT. Take 30 grams of fresh fruit or red dates. Eat them every evening for a long period until an improvement can be seen.
4. CONVALESCING FROM HEPATITUS OR TUBERCULOSIS. Take one (Chinese) soup spoon of great date tonic every day both in the morning and in the evening.

5. INSOMNIA AND INTERRUPTED SLEEP. Take 30 grams of red dates and 5 bulbs of white onions, add water and steam till cooked. Serve both liquid and solids. Eat every night before going to bed.

6. ALLERGIC PURPURA. Take 30-60 grams of red date wash clean and eat. Do this 3 times a day for 5 days.

7. FEELING OF WEAKNESS WITH SWEATING; SUPERFICIAL ASTHENIA WITH SPONTANEOUS PERSPIRATION. Take 30 grams of red date, 30 grams of root of milk vetch (Astragalus membranaceus) and 6 grams of sliced hawthorn berries. Cover with water, steam and serve, both in the morning and in the evening.

8. WEAK STOMACH AND SPLEEN LEADING TO FREQUENT STOMACH COLDNESS AND PAIN; FAECES SEMI-LIQUID WITH DIARRHEA. Take 30 grams of red date, 30 grams of huai shan and 2 slices of fresh ginger. Add water, boil till cooked then mash and serve. do this once a day f or 10 days.

9. IRRITABILITY DURING MENOPAUSE; MENOPAUSAL PARANOID STATE. Take 30 grams of great date, 15 grams of huai shan, 15 grams of wheat, 15 grams of liquorice root. Cover with water, steam and serve. Do this in the morning and again in the evening.

PREPARATIONS
1. RED DATE OR GREAT DATE. Take fresh fruit and place in the sun to dry. Leave until the surface gradually changes to deep red with a gloss. This is then called red date or great date.

2. BLACK DATE. Place fresh fruit in a covered pot and steam with a little water till cooked. Remove the fruit and dry them in the air. When dry smoke them over a fire until the skin is wrinkled and black (but still with a glossy appearance). this is called black date.

3. GREAT DATE TONIC. Take 1500 grams of fresh fruit or 500 grams of red dates. Remove the stones, add water and boil, then
mash into a paste. Dissolve in 500 grams of sugar and the tonic is ready to use.

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Carry your own tools

Carry your own tools

‘Carry your own tools’ just amazed me today as the best thing after sliced breads…  This little container contains a set of shop stick, a small spoon and a small fork, to carry around whenever we go out to eat here, around in Sheyang.  Yes, the restaurant here have shop sticks to eat with but they recycle them, the wooden ones and pass them around to the next client : germs city!!!

And also, having a fork in my purse could become very handy at times… I mean, where I come from, we have forks to eat!

I got this little set at the Wu’ai Market today, a huge clothing city store.  This market is the largest of its kind in north China and handles wholesales and retails of clothes.  It has a business floor space of 107,000 square meters and 4,900 stands selling medium-grade clothes and 780 exquisite goods counters.  Wow!

clothing city in wu'ai market

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Caligraphy

‘…It is often called the art of fancy lettering…’

caligraphy brushes

An 73 yrs old local man with a paint brush as old as him, doing caligraphy for us : there is no word for this display of passion.

We got a chance to practice with him today.  Every stroke of the hand is important.  It was fascinating.

the master a work

master at work

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Lunch Menu Local dishes, Shenyang

Lunch typical chinese food Shenyang

Ah good local food with good people in Shenyang for lunch!

Each region of China is very different from others, in cooking and local foods.  We are in the north eastern side of the country and we had a chance to taste their local food, which mainly has a lot of veggies, fruits, nuts, and meat in them.  Fish is a stapple food in Shenyang.  One thing we were surprised to learn : they serve rice only at the end of a meal, in small portion, to conclude the meal.  Normaly, if a chinese person eats the rice, it means the end of eating for that particular meal.  They drink tea, in small portion and pay attention not to drink a lot as it gives them tummy ache if they do.  The tea is used to digest the food and for entainment.

We had a typical local lunch today, with all homemade dishes.  Here are some of them :

  1. five color noodles : noodles made fo starch and black rice, spinach, carrot thread, caraway, mixed in vinegar and sauce.  It is a sour and lightly sweet
  2. pumpkin fries : pumpkin dipped in egg yolk and fried.  Crispy, sweet and salty
  3. cucumber crisp : fried cucumber, shrimp and cashew.  Crispy and salty
  4. iron kylin eggplant : eggplant stufed with pork.  Heavy taste and salty
  5. Iron black pepper beef ; sauteed black pepper and beef.  Salty and tender
  6. Sweet and sour pork : thin layers of crispy pork in a sweet sauce.  Crispy and sweet
  7. Fried meat with olives and green beans : stir fried pork, olives and green beans.  Salty
  8. Tooth fish : braised fish with soy sauce
  9. Shrimp rolls : buttery fried shrimp balls.  Buttery and salty
  10. braised potatoes with mushrooms : potatoes braised in soy sauce with mushrooms
  11. golden bread : fried bread with a condensed milk dip

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