Foodie Style: Eating in China

Now, there are many different ways to eat food here in China. From street food to barbecue to restaurants. I haven’t tried all of them, it takes some courage to eat in a place like Langfang because hardly anyone speaks English and everyone stares at me. So this is a quick “How to Eat in China and Survive”.

The good news is, most of the menus have pictures.

Langfang, Hebei, China
This was taken at a restaurant where you would go with friends in a large group.

For the most part, someone at the table orders food for the entire table at a restaurant like this. I read somewhere that the rule is one dish per person at the table plus one more or something like that. If you go out to eat with a lot of people, that’s a lot of food.

Langfang, Hebei, China
Different restaurant, same style. There was more food on the way, too.

The food is usually put in the center of the table and everyone just eats out of it. There’s no “This is my dish” or anything like that, which is nice for me because then I can just eat veggies and no one really notices. 🙂

I bet you’re wondering “Will I get sick from eating the food?” Truthfully? Yep, probably. I was constantly in and out of the bathroom my first month and a half here, but truthfully, it gets better, too. I’m not sure if it’s the food itself, the way its cooked, the different levels of sanitation, or what, but I was definitely feeling the change. Chances are, you will, too.

But truthfully? It’s worth it. Don’t skip out on eating the food just because you think it might make you sick. For example, yesterday I got some kind of pancake thing from a food cart while walking home from the market. It had a pancake-type breading that was sort of like a thick crepe, an egg, some kind of little red hot dog, lettuce, and sauces. I obviously have no idea what any of that was, but I thought to myself “That little hot dog is going to make me sick” (I can’t eat hot dogs), but I ate it anyways and it was delicious. I thought “This is so worth the potential repercussions!” And, surprisingly, I am used to the food enough that I was not exponentially worse after eating that whatever it was.

So, yeah, the food will probably make you sick and people will always bring you a fork if you’re white (even if you’re good with chopsticks), but man, is the food so worth all of it.

Beijing, China
My second or third day in China, lunch at some place near the health center
Beijing, China
包子 (bāozi, steamed bread with filling, usually pork and/or veggies) and 豆浆 (dòujiāng, soybean milk, absolutely delicious home-made and sweet)
Beijing, China
My second or third day in China, lunch at some place near the health center
Langfang, Hebei, China
Korean rice, one of my favorites from Yummy Street
Langfang, Hebei, China
My students and I making 饺子 (jiǎozi) dumplings in their dorm room
Langfang, Hebei, China
My students and I making 饺子 (jiǎozi) dumplings in their dorm room
Langfang, Hebei, China
Restaurant #2? Maybe #3?

ReciP: Instant(ly Better) Noodles

It’s summer. I live at a school. There are literally two other people who live here and they speak English, just not to me. It’s cool. Whatever. We are so far away from other schools and apartment complexes that I have spent the day listening to the rain and bugs. China is the most dense country in the world and I managed to move to a small city (of a mere 4 million people) and smaller division (Oriental University City) and a small school (which is basically in the boonies for Langfang).

I tell you this because there isn’t any food within a ten minute walk of my apartment. I’m 80% sure you could walk 10 minutes anywhere else in Langfang and find a restaurant. I have to walk 30 minutes and, since it’s summer, they’re closed anyways. Okay, not all of them are closed. But the two I know how to order from are. I can get to the market, which seems to be trying to use up all of its existing inventory before ordering any more food, like milk. So about 1/3 of the shelves are empty and I still had to walk a half an hour to get there.

Now, I’m stuck with cooking. Problem: I don’t know how to cook any of this Chinese stuff! Problem 2: I don’t have a stove or an oven, I have an induction cooktop. This isn’t some sort of constant-heat stove that heats the top and it involves magnet something science whatever. The point is, due to the inconsistent heat and the temperature of it, my pots boil over a lot. 🙁 I’m working on it.

So what is a girl to do? I’m not about to go into the city to get food (that’s at least a half an hour bus ride if I can find food near Walmart) and I need to figure out how to make something. So on with the instant noodles!

Instant(ly Better) Noodles

Ingredients:
Instant Noodles (but the Chinese kind with the spices and the oil and the dehydrated vegetables)
Water
Uh, veggies if you want
I dunno, like, an egg? Two eggs?
Spices? Other than what’s already in the package
Sauce?
Whatever you want, yo

Directions:

1. Artfully arrange the ingredients for a photo.

2. Fall off a chair and scrape up your shin because you’re too short to actually take a photo.

3. Successfully take a photo of the food.

4. Successfully don’t cry over your throbbing leg.

5. Put the noodles in the water in the sauce pan.

6. Turn on the accursed induction cooker thing.

7. Keep a very, very close eye on it because it will probably boil over and make a huge mess and you still haven’t gotten those dishrags that have been on your mental shopping list for months because you keep forgetting when you actually get to the supermarket.

8. Add that egg. And the dehydrated veggies, but keep those fake veggies (feggies?) away from the egg. There will be no integration in this pot!

9. Monkey with the heat. Keep turning it up and down but don’t let it properly boil. If it properly boils, this will turn out like it did yesterday with egg everywhere because the water will lift it up and bring it with.

10. Keep monkeying with the heat to convince the egg to cook damn it. The point here is poached, but in all the times you’ve made this, it’s never ended up actually poached. Usually it ends up sort of scrambled and over the side and all over the table counter.

11. Convince yourself you have a counter top when really it’s just half of the kitchen table.

*ahem*

11. Cry. Just kidding, the pain in your leg isn’t that bad. Just kidding about that integration, too. Get fed up with how long the egg is taking to cook (is it even cooking? maybe…) and how many times the pot has nearly boiled over and add in the oil and spice packets and stir that baby!

12. Chop up the veggies while it simmers. Now that the egg has been stirred in, it’s not as important to keep a close close eye on it. Still don’t let it boil over, though, that’s just a mess.

13. Around this time, add the green peppers in, too. I like to keep my veggies out, depending on which ones they are, because I don’t want them to be too mushy, ya feel? The noodles are already mushy, what do I need mushy veggies for? But if you like your veggies to be fully cooked and mushy, add them in at the same time as the dehydrated veggies under the noodles. Remember: no egg interference! It’s hard enough!

14. Turn the heat off, add the tomatoes. I always wait to add the tomatoes (almost) last because they’ll keep cooking while it sits and while you eat. That, and I don’t really like cooked tomatoes. I like to eat them raw, like apples.

15. You can either pour them into a bowl or eat them straight from the pan. I add the cucumbers last because I like the crunchy, cold contrast to the squishy, warm everything else.

16. You can change it up however you want. Different noodles, different veggies, more spices, more sauces, whatever. I’m probably going to keep experimenting, personally, but so far, this is pretty good. Especially if you consider that I hate chicken noodle soup. Add veggies, add eggs, all better.

ReciP: Oatmeal Cookie Pancakes

My pancakes ended up a little flat and a little burned because I wasn’t quite used to cooking in high-altitude (I made these while I was in Colorado). I got the recipe from this website.

Oatmeal Cookie Pancakes

Ingredients:

1 cup oat flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons corn starch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

Google oatmeal flour because it’s the only ingredient you don’t have
Ask gramma what she has that can grind oatmeal into a flour
Make oatmeal flour by grinding it to a fine powder in a coffee bean grinder-thing
Stir together the oat flour, cinnamon, sugar, baking powder, corn starch and salt
Beat the egg with the oil, milk, and vanilla and then add to the dry ingredients, mixing well
Spray the olive oil Pam spray on the cast iron skillet
Dab it with a paper towel because the recipe told you to
Heat the skillet on about medium heat
Get confused about what medium heat is because all stoves are different
Also, skillets? Cast iron skillets are hard
Try to fry the pancakes until the bubbles pop, but you’re not really sure what the bubbles are and if they’re popping
Try to flip it and mess it up because it’s not ready
Flip the other side too late and burn it
Continue to partially burn all of the pancakes
Peel the burned off (still taste it, though) and share with gramma

ReciP: Peach BBQ Chicken Burgers

My gramma was having a friend over one night and we had a bunch of fresh, delicious peaches in the kitchen, so when gramma found this recipe in the paper, she asked I make it for dinner that night. Not too hard to make, this recipe was delicious. Unfortunately, her friend didn’t really like peaches…

Peach BBQ Chicken Burgers

My Makeshift Kitchen - 022

Ingredients

1 tbsp vegetable or canola oil
¼ cup onion, minced
½ tsp kosher salt, divided
4 large, ripe peaches, peeled and chopped (or 2 cups frozen peaches, thawed and liquid reserved
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 small tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp. cilantro, minced
2 tbsp. cilantro, minced
2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 lb. ground chicken breast

Directions

For Sauce: Heat oil over medium heat in a saucepan. Add onion and1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add peaches (and juice from thawed frozen peaches) and cook about 10 minutes, until peaches are mostly softened. Stir in brown sugar, vinegar and chipotle peppers; cook about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in cilantro, lemon juice and remaining salt, and cool. Blend to desired consistency using a blender or food processor. Return mixture to pan, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes.
For Burgers: Combine chicken with about 1/3 cup sauce and mix well. Divide evenly into four patties and cook using desired method (grill, skillet, etc.). Cook until meat thermometer registers 165. Serve on whole grain buns, top with 1/3 cup sauce, lettuce and cheese (if desired).
(I actually followed the recipe for this one… Sorry no commentary. 🙁 )

ReciP: Teriyaki Grilled Tofu

I made some Japanese Steakhouse Style Rice, but I wanted some sort of protein-type to go with it. I ate at Tokyo Joe’s a lot while I was working over the holidays and loved their grilled tofu with teriyaki sauce, so I Googled grilled teriyaki tofu. I came up with this recipe.

Teriyaki Grilled Tofu

Ingredients:

Teriyaki Sauce
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon light olive oil
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
2 teaspoons rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger or a good pinch of ground ginger
2 teaspoons hoisin sauce, optional
Tofu
One 16-ounce tub extra-firm tofu

Directions:

Combine all the ingredients for the marinade in a small bowl and stir together
Cut the tofu into 1/2-inchish-thick slices, but since your lines were wobbly, think “Good enough” and move on
Blot well between several layers of paper towels, then cut each slice through the thickness again to make 1/4-inch-thick slices
Blot again
Cut each slice into whatever shape you want, I wanted bite-sized pieces (none of them were the same size, but they were going in rice, so who cares?!)
Place in a shallow pan and drizzle with the marinade
Try to gently turn the tofu pieces over so that both sides are coated with marinade, but end up just hoping they get coated
Let stand for 10 minutes or so
Heat a wide nonstick skillet
Toss that tofu/marinade into the skillet
Cook over medium-high heat, stirring gently and frequently, until the tofu is nicely browned on most sides or cooked well enough for you because you’re starving
Add to the fried rice or eat on its own

ReciP: Japanese Steakhouse Style Fried Rice

One of my favorite things about going out to the Japanese Steakhouse for my brother’s birthday was the fried rice. Not only was it delicious, but I also got so much of it! This meant I got a lot of it to take home, but I always wanted more more more. Fortunately, I was scrolling along Tumblr and found this recipe!

Japanese Steakhouse Style Fried Rice

Ingredients:

1/2 cup rice
diced onion
diced carrots
peas
1 egg
olive oil
soy sauce
vinegar

Directions:

Dig out the rice cooker
Cook the rice
Dice veggies (except the peas? don’t dice peas)
Once the rice has dinged in the cooker…
Throw the veggies into the pan with some oil
Simmer the veggies (I like crunchy veggies, so I don’t cook them for very long)
Put the rice on top and pat down
Cook 4-5 min on med-high heat
Flip/mix rice
Get rice on the stovetop
Cook for another 4-5 min
Move the rice over for the egg
Get rice on the stovetop
Dice and mix the rice as the egg cooks
Get rice on the stovetop
Throw on soy sauce
Simmer 30-45 seconds
Serve and eat while hot
Save the rest and eat throughout the week!

This recipe goes great with Teriyaki Grilled Tofu, which will appear next week!

ReciP: Ranch Crackers

At the very beginning of the new year, I went to Utah for a friend’s wedding. I have known this friend and her family since I was in high school, so I stayed with her mom and her friends during the wedding-time. Her mom was a fantastic host and had so many different snacks and foods handy to eat. The best part was the ranch oyster crackers. I probably ate about 1/4 of the crackers in the huge tupperware. Of course, I had to get the recipe and it’s so easy (and deliciously unhealthy) to make and eat! (Thanks to Mrs. Jones for the recipe!)

Ranch Crackers

Ingredients:

1 pkg dry ranch dressing
1/2 tsp dill weed
1/4 tsp lemon pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 bag oyster crackers

Directions:

Mix the dry ingredients except the ranch packet together
Mix that with the oil
Put about 1/4-1/3 of the crackers in a tupperware or something
Add some of the oil/spices
Keep adding crackers then oil/spices until you’re out
Mix it up some by shaking the container (with the lid on!)
Add the ranch dressing packet and then shake that up, too
Leave it on the counter (with the lid still on) and turn it over occasionally so the mixture gets over everything
Take a bag of them to work and share with everyone! (I always brought snacks to Best Buy and shared them, usually candy or dry cereal, and these were definitely the favorites!)

Foodie Style: Noodles versus Noodles

I love noodles. Pasta, noodles, whatever, yum yum yum. However, there is more than one kind of noodle available in China, which I didn’t know. When I thought of Chinese noodles, I always thought of the really soupy kind that you sort of push into your mouth with chopsticks.

My students, however, introduced me to the thicker kind of noodles that seem to be made in-restaurant/canteen.

Spring 2014 - China - 312

 


Alright, so we’ll start with the soupy noodles because they’re the ones everyone thinks about when they think “Chinese Noodles”. Or, at least, they’re the first ones I thought about…

Spring 2014 - China - 314 Ingredients:

  • Noodles
  • Ham
  • Cabbage
  • Peanuts
  • Some kind of broth?
  • Cilantro, optional

How to Eat:

  • Stir it all together
  • Using chopsticks, scoop up noodles and whatever else gets tangled
  • Shove into mouth
  • End up with noodles all over your chin
  • Either bite the noodle ends or slurp attractively

 


I like the red noodles better, even though I’m not sure what either of them are called or how to distinguish between them. Normally, I just tell the person bringing me food “Whatever you think is good, not spicy” and it turns out well.

Spring 2014 - China - 313Ingredients:

  • Noodles
  • Red sauce of some sort
  • Green peppers
  • Egg

How to Eat:

  • Using chopsticks, pull and tug on noodles until they break or a chunk comes loose
  • Get fed up that they won’t detach from each other because they’re not soupy
  • Break down and get a spoon
  • NO FORKS
  • I lost my fork anyways (I still don’t know how. I’m the only person who lives here! Where did the fork go?!)

I tend to save both of them for later, these pictures are actually of some that I took out of the fridge. It occurs to me that the red noodles look like brains. NOM NOM BRAINS.

Foodie Style: Jambalaya Means Happy

So, as usual, I decided to make Jambalaya for the people I know here. Specifically, my students. I’ll probably make it for my other friends at some point, but these particular students made dumplings and so I made them Jambalaya.

Jambalaya – China

Langfang, Hebei, China

Ingredients

some Cajun seasoning (that I bought in the US and brought with me)
some unsalted butter
two packages of sausage (the recipe also calls for ham, but I had to forgo the ham because I couldn’t find it)
a package of boneless chicken breast
bay leaves (they’re probably bay leaves, we had some translation issues with this one…)
an onion
three smallish green peppers
a package of spaghetti sauce (supposed to be tomato sauce, but it’s close enough)
two smallish tomatoes
rice from the canteen (that way, we don’t have to cook it)

Directions

1. Go to the store with the students. Spend a lot of time trying to convince them that you really can shop and you’re pretty sure these are bay leaves. They look like bay leaves, anyways.
2. Spend a fair amount of time looking for the meat. This isn’t like an American shop, even though it’s a Walmart. Trying to find “smoked ham” is nearly impossible. Give up and substitute with more sausage.
3. Pack everything away and start cleaning for the dinner tomorrow.

Langfang, Hebei, China

4. Tell your students you’ll start cooking at 5:30. Dice the veggies and the meat around 4:45 so they won’t try to help you cook. Cook the meat a little bit because you want to MAKE SURE it’s completely cooked when it’s time to eat.
5. Change out of that sports bra and those yoga pants and into, like, a shirt and skirt or something. AKA, put on proper clothes.
6. Update Facebook while you await the students.
7. When the students show up, try to insist they don’t have to take off their shoes just because you aren’t wearing any. Watch as they get as far as the living room before they all turn around and take off their shoes. Go into the kitchen to put the food on the stove. Let them take over stirring the food and making sure the chicken is cooked.
8. Add some cajun seasoning. Just sprinkle it on. Continue letting the students stir.
9. Add more seasoning. Stir.
10. Add more seasoning. Have the student currently stirring ask why you put so much on. “It doesn’t smell right yet.”
11. Wait until there are no students in the kitchen. Add more seasoning. Stir. Repeat until it smells right.

Langfang, Hebei, China

12. Wait and wait and  wait for the rest of the students to show up with the rice and the soda. Sneak bites of food while the students watch TV to make sure it’s not overdone and that it tastes right. And to satiate your hunger until it’s time to actually eat.
13. When the students arrive with the rice, try to introduce them to the American way of eating. 1 bowl of food, 1 person.
14. Serve yourself some food, let the students decide how they’re going to eat it. Use a spoon because eating it with chopsticks doesn’t make it feel like home. Silently be grateful that the students can eat it with chopsticks.
15. Bask in the praise of students. “Now when we are happy, we say ‘Jambalaya!’ It’s so good!”

Langfang, Hebei, China

16. Marvel as they put the living room/dining room back and sweep up what little mess there was. Best houseguests ever!


For more commentary, you can check out the post about Jambalaya on my travel blog, Ever-Present Wanderlust!

 

ReciP: Peach and Apple Salad

This one’s pretty simple, it’s a salad. With some fresh fruit. You may have noticed that I love to add fruit to my salads. I guess it’s because I love fruit.

Peach and Apple Salad

Peach and Apple Salad

Ingredients:

Spring Mix Lettuce Stuff
Uh… Peaches
Feta Cheese
Apples
Raspberry Vinaigrette

Directions:

Put the lettuce in the bowl / on the plate
Slice and dice the peach and the apple
Toss in some feta cheese
Pour Raspberry Vinaigrette on top
Eat