Archive for March, 2012

What we eat?

Monday, March 26th, 2012

Once a year, I usually return to my native, rural NC to visit family, friends and revisit kitchens that I missed while in China.  Some people wonder if I exist in a state of culinary exile when they joke and say, “eat a lot of rice, ya?”  Describing Chinese food is identical to trying in a few sentences to unravel the similar question “what is European food?”   What is American food, anyway?  The types of “Chinese cuisine” seem limitless.  Each province has a style; each city has a variation; each town has its own flavor; each household could put a different spin on the same dish.  Instead of being sarcastic, be envious.  You could eat a new dish every day of the year in China.

A few generalizations:

Southwestern food is usually thought to be spicy with  Sichuan, Chongqing, Hunan, Yunnan and Guizhou leading the way in heat.  The south is stereotypically bland and a bit sweet – generally true.  The east prides itself on sweet foods.  It’s odd to see someone cook vegetables using sugar instead of salt.  Northerners dine on foods heavily flavored with onions with different sauces to dip with; Beijing Roast Duck for example.  The Northwest has Muslim influence.  They eat more mutton and have some dishes similar to Middle Eastern food.  In the far west, you have Tibet with their own cuisine.

It is also said that Northerners eat noodles and dumplings more often than Southerners.  You can often hear people in the south claim that they cannot feel full unless they have a bowl of rice with each meal.  Ironically, ask anyone from Guangdong what they ate for breakfast and they will answer, noodles.  Every area of China has dumplings.

There are plenty of letdowns as well.  The food quality is questionable.  The tap water is undrinkable; some people refuse to cook with it.  There is seemingly no limit on pesticides, herbicides, preservatives and adulteration.  Traditional cooking methods are lost as microwaves fill every kitchen in a constant quest for convenience.  Many people prefer eating outside due to the time consuming nature of preparing Chinese food.

Other Asian foods are readily available as well.  Sushi has seen an amazing increase in popularity in the past 5 years or so.  Korean BBQ or mixed rice and Indian curry is also popular.

If all else fails, there’s always McDonalds, KFC or Subway.

Trench/Ditch Oil?

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012


trench oil

The common Chinese mass consciousness explanation for these little modified tuk-tuks is that the contents of the blue, plastic containers are going to be used to feed pigs.  Since raising pigs in the city area of Dongguan and most of its towns was outlawed several years ago, what new excuse can they find? Regardless, imagine eating pig that was fed on leftover oil.  The filthy plastic barrels contain leftover food materials and oil from restaurants.  Depending on the operation size, you can see these tuk-tuks or even a truck or lorry carrying multiple containers.

The food is then boiled with some chemical additives to facilitate the ease of collecting the oil.  This “trench” or “ditch” oil, as it is referred to in Chinese, is then resold to restaurants.  If you see containers such as these where you are eating, consider the health ramifications of your decisions.  Also remember:  many people here wouldn’t mind poisoning children for a profit.  Consider the two or three “Mengniu milk” fiascoes in which thousands of children contracted cancer, internal organ damage or simply died.

Students ask me how to say 地沟油(di – ground; gou – ditch or trench; you – oil) in English.  I can only reply, “We don’t do this where I am from.”  Well, maybe it does happen, but at least it’s hidden from plain sight.

Your ideas?



Old site back online.

Monday, March 19th, 2012

I have been re-working all the old links so they will work. You can access the site here.  Everything is done except some small items and the old forum; that will require some tweaking.  I will also organize the pictures on this site.  You can also check the “pages” section above main to get direct links to the photos or the main site.

All content is currently working.  For older material go to “old news”.

In case you didn’t feel like showing up…

Saturday, March 17th, 2012

In case you didn’t feel like showing up, I have been tinkering with a new format for the old, messy site.  I am in the process of trying to get the old site functional for nostalgia purposes.  When I figure it out, I will post a link to the main page.  My old forums are basically defunct, so the discussion capabilities of WordPress seems a better option.  I will at least migrate my photos over to this site.

Welcome home, Gotham City.