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Across China with the vermin

Peter Green

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NOW I have to visit Laos!!

I had something similar in my travels to Taiwan. I love the soft velvety meat with the melt in your mouth fat. *slurp* You have to eat the meat with a piece of fat otherwise, you don't get the full experience.

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Day 22 – The Dawning of the Age of Aluminum

Scud was feeling better. I suspect that YouTube is a good remedy for these sort of illnesses. But we left him behind in the room to recuperate, just in case.

Our final meal was to be downstairs, out the front entrance, hang a left, and hang another left. And then a quick stop before we got to the end of the block and the collection of shops with young ladies in evening attire offering therapeutic massages.

Mind you, there were some interesting looking Muslim restaurants in that area, too……

Nope, we were going to get a last meal in the kids, and then get ourselves to the airport (or rather, somebody would get us to the airport).

Pacican was getting used to us at this point. They had the English language menu ready for us; they made no attempt to communicate with Yoonhi; and they brought me a cold Suntory beer.

As we’d touched upon before, Pacican was a Chinese-Canadian venture. Given the demographics, I figured it was pretty likely to be out of British Columbia. Now, when you think of B.C., isn’t the first thing that leaps into your mind….



Is Alcan behind this place?

And, yes, those are little dabs of burning sterno around the container.

Okay, all my life I’ve had an association with these little disposable containers with the cardboard lids. All the fine establishments had them (along with the 100% cardboard versions). You know the places. The ones that serve both types of food? Chinese and Western? Ah, I’ve had some mighty fine meals up and down the TransCanada and the Crow.

What we have here is grilled greens. They’d been cooked inside of the aluminum container, along with a teriyaki sauce. They were actually pretty good. Plus, there’s nothing like those an orchid and those little daubs of lighter fluid to perk up a dish.

And if you recall, when we’d had food to take away for the vermin from here the days before, it came in tidy little plastic containers. Obviously metal has taken the high ground from oil by-products.

Serena’s old standby – corn soup with pork ribs – came in ceramic, so it didn’t get a lot of note from us (and doesn’t really warrant a picture, even if it was in a bowl this time.


And the Shanghai noodle with greens was pretty much a straightforward fried dish, bringing back memories of the wee hours of the night down on Main Street at Hon’s Wonton – the old one, before they got all cleaned up. When you had the most interesting collection of people rolling in after the bars closed (Bill Kee’s over on Broadway was another good, reliable grease joint).


But the crab rice showed up as a return to Kitimat, all wrapped up in aluminum foil. This was some of the best rice of the trip, just buried in thick juice from the crab and the braising sauce.


I left the crab proper to Yoonhi, and just concentrated on the rice.


And, while we could still have them, we ordered the scallops. These were served over a bed of vermicelli that’s been cooked with it. There’s lots of garlic and spring onion in the sauce, and a bit of pickled ginger. (But it could’ve used some aluminum).

It was actually a fun meal to leave on. There was nothing to complain about in the flavours, and we had a good view from the front window of the comings and goings to the mini-red light district just up the road.

But, our time came and we were ready to go. Kyle was there on time, and we managed to shoehorn our hundred and eighty odd kilos of luggage into the van for the trip to the new, international airport.

Kyle was scandalized by our trip. We hadn’t gone to Souchow, we hadn’t gone up to the top of the Tower, we hadn’t gone to see Epic, we hadn’t even bought any Prada handbags. Luckily, the kids were soon asleep, and Yoonhi and I couldn’t care less what Kyle thought of our behaviour.

He talked up the new airport as a Wonder of the World (and didn’t seem to appreciate my concerns about food toxicity), but when we arrived, I found it to be large – yes – but not really as inspiring as some of the other new airports (including the unfortunate Suvarnabhumi in Bangkok). In fact, it just sort of looked like all of the other airports. High steel roofs, the usual.

I looked for things to spend money on, now that I could be assured that they’d be way more expensive than if I’d bought them in town. There really wasn’t much, but I managed to find some pu’er tea in cake form, so I burned off my remaining Yuan that way.


And so we found ourselves back in the routine. Waiting in airports, suffering through flights. We returned home through Dubai, affording Serena a chance for one last cheeseburger happy meal at the Mcdonalds there. We found the usual drifting clouds of friends routing back through this hub. It’s kind of fun when you know there are some places where, on certain dates, you’re going to find acquaintances. Heathrow, Schiphol, Bangkok, Bahrain, and Dubai are all safe bets. We had a few hours for a layover, but once we had company that flew by. It was strange to think, but our family had basically been self-contained for the last three weeks, with very few people – outside of Java – to talk with and share the experiences.


And soon enough we were back in our own domicile, with our own beds and sheets and pillows.

And our own laundry machines.

There’s no place like home.

Next – Loot

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We have a long-standing tradition in the family, a reversal of the hunters’ creed.

We shoot what we take home

This actually has two elements.

One, it acts as an inventory check on the house, which is good for insurance and general sanity issues.

Two, it allows us to relive the events.

I am, I admit, a material boy. The things I own trigger memories of where I was, the smells, and the flavours……okay, I’m just materialistic.


Here’s a shot of some of the stuff that came out of the bags first. The metal canisters are Guilin green tea, which I particularly admired for the softness of its flavour. Just in fron of those are some dried wild mushrooms that I’ll be using for cooking. I’m thinking risotto actually, with some of it, along with the other mushrooms you see there in the green back. The camera box is one of two we used on this trip. That’s the better of the two, which we picked up at the airport on the way out. A Canon, just small enough to slip into a pocket (the other camera was the 3.3 MB in my Nokia N73 – again purchased originally so I could get some shots without lugging around the GL1 video everywhere).


Here we see what’s left of our Zhang Fei beef after Scud has had his wicked way. Behind more of the Guilin green is some dried seaweed, and to the right of the gren back of mushrooms are those really juicy dried tomatos we’d found. There’s a Ziploc of Chinese walnuts for me to use in beef and walnut, some dried kiwi fruit on the far right, and some bags of bean starch (also on the far right).


The open sack is Sichuan peppercorns (in the lower right) and there’re chilis in the red back, and those star anis I found in Guilin.


I love these peppers, but I know they’ve got a limited life before their numbing characteristic goes passive. I’ve been doing water cooked dishes with these, mafu tofu, and lots of other things of an evil nature to amaze my friends here and influence people.


And what’s a trip without some more dried chilis? These ones look nasty, but are actually quite mild, and work well in the things I’ve been trying out now that I have my own kitchen again.

There’re another few shots of toys and junk for the kids, but I won’t worry about that here.

So, what are my final comments? I’d like to say that I wish the trip had been longer, but I’d be lying. Three weeks with the kids is a long time, for me as well as them. I would like to say that I wish we could’ve spent longer in each of the locations (except for Yangshuo. Two nights was enough there), but that would’ve meant missing something else, so I can’t say that. I would like to be have done more cooking courses, but what I can’t, really, as that would mean giving up some other activity.

I use up a lot of words not being able to say anything, don’t I?

The beer, I must say, was undistinguished. The regular stuff was serviceable, and it was better than not having beer, but there was no real wow factor to any of the brews I had. Even the microbrews were generally disappointing, tending to be a little too sweet, and not as hopped as you’d hope for.

But the wines were generally good, far better than I’d feared. If they can get the wine right, then perhaps there’s hope for the beers in the future.

Besides Yangshuo, I probably could’ve skipped Beijing, as I’ve been there twice before. But it is an important visit for Yoonhi and the kids. Me, I know I’ll be back in Beijing sooner or later. Still, I liked my meals there, particularly The Shanxi Loft (although it was pretty close to an open mutiny in the family at that point).

Xi’an was the big surprise for me. I’d expected not to like it, and found it to be the most relaxed and pleasant location of our trip. I could return to Xi’an and spend a few days more eating my way through those alleys…..and have some popped rice.

Chengdu was great for Scud and I, but Yoonhi grew tired of it. Sure, it’s a big, crowded city, but it had some really fun eating, and the pigs’ bladders, hot pots, and water cooked dishes are some of my favourites.

Guilin was another surprise. When I think of Guilin now, I’ll think of the broth from when they cooked the chicken inside the pig’s stomach. And the city had such a comfortable feel for me. I suspect I’ll be back.

And Shanghai…..I have to eat my words about Shanghai. I’m trying now to figure out how to finagle a trip back to Shanghai on business sometime soon. I want to go back to Jade on 36 and have their other menus and talk with Paul Pairet about what he’s doing. I want to find out where to buy the Mandarin caviar. I want to get to more of the dumpling restaurants. And I want to do some of the cooking classes that are on offer there, particularly with Dang at T8. The white truffle ice cream he did has to go down as one of the most memorable flavours I’ve ever had.

So many meals, so little time.


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Bravo, bravo! This has been a most excellent blog!

I can not believe how much Shanghai has changed since I was there in the early ninties. Those pictures you showed don't even look like the same city.

Thanks so much for sharing!

-Sounds awfully rich!

-It is! That's why I serve it with ice cream to cut the sweetness!

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This is one of the best threads ever! Your generosity in spending all the time it took to compose and post all that is truly impressive! I'm very grateful.

Michael aka "Pan"


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Bravo, bravo! This has been a most excellent blog!

Wonderful!!!!! Thank you so much!

Fabulous blog! Thank you! :smile:

Un-be-freakin-lievable! THANK YOU!!!!!! :biggrin:

This is one of the best threads ever! Your generosity in spending all the time it took to compose and post all that is truly impressive! I'm very grateful.

Yep, all that and then some. I found your visit to Sichuan particularly fascinating and inspirational, but that's my bias when it comes to Chinese food. I will certainly re-read this thread from time to time, both for the mouth-watering food and for your droll writing. Thanks also to Scud, Serena, and Yoonhi for being remarkably tolerant travelling companions. :wink:

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Keep bowing, Peter, as the accolades will continue. :smile: This is a fascinating blog.

I am curious as to what's in the bottles beside your camera box. They remind me of "flu pills - gam mo lean". And the knife at the top of the picture?

I will anticipate with bated breath to see what recipes you will reproduce from the trip.



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I am curious as to what's in the bottles beside your camera box. They remind me of  "flu pills - gam mo lean".

The pill bottles are just that. Among other things we made a non-food visit to a Chinese doctor. Yoonhi's family has a lot of faith in them, and this seemed a good opportunity.

Surprisingly, he was concerned about my liver. I can't imagine why.

And the knife at the top of the picture?

The knife is a shuriken, but not the variant we're used to from the modern ninja flicks. "Shuri + ken", a palmed blade. This, along with the smaller throwing stars are some of the cute little toys our darling daughter had to have from Cartoon World. We found out when we got home and unpacked that these are steel, not plastic. Luckily they were in the same suitcase as Serena's toy halberd, so while they were flagged by the x-ray, the customs guy didn't nail us for concealed weapons.

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WoW. Best family trip EVER. I have a dear old friend who has just returned from China, with his new wife and his newfound appreciation for Chinese medicine. I just may try to get a vist to an herbalist here in the States! Please tell Serena that I envy her Hello Kitty spoils and tell Scud that we're also on a constant search for anime on YouTube, but not at the expense of missing sightseeing!

Seriously, Yoonhi and you have a wonderful life, your family, your marriage, your travels, I'm a big fan. Be well, and I certainly hope there is no more kid vomit now that you're home!

More Than Salt

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Peter - what more can I say? Maraming salamat and may you write until you grow old and your fingers fall off (or which ever comes first). :biggrin:

Doddie aka Domestic Goddess

"Nobody loves pork more than a Filipino"

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The dark side... my own blog: A Box of Jalapenos

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Thanks so much for sharing your vacation with us!!!

However, there is only one thing missing from your trip.....ME! :angry: Take me with you next time!! :biggrin: Just kidding.

But seriously, thank you for such a great adventure, I felt like part of your family! :smile:

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However, there is only one thing missing from your trip.....ME!  :angry:  Take me with you next time!!  :biggrin:  Just kidding. 

I was kind of thinking the same thing! Actually, I was wondering if Peter would adopt me. I'm Canadian, so we wouldn't have to go through all those immigration hurdles, plus your children would have no fear since I would only show up at vacations (and maybe food-related holidays).

What do you say, Peter? Need another child? :biggrin:

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That's got to be one of the best blogs I've ever read! Fantastic pictures and great narration. You've got t great family and please go on another vacation REAL soon! Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful stories. :biggrin:



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However, there is only one thing missing from your trip.....ME!   :angry:  Take me with you next time!!  :biggrin:  Just kidding. 

I was kind of thinking the same thing! Actually, I was wondering if Peter would adopt me. I'm Canadian, so we wouldn't have to go through all those immigration hurdles, plus your children would have no fear since I would only show up at vacations (and maybe food-related holidays).

What do you say, Peter? Need another child? :biggrin:

Okay, I'm working hard to avoid any Woody Allen jokes.

Seriously, thanks to everyone who's been writing in with restaurant recommendations, research info (particularly on beer), corrections, and requests for clarifications. All of this makes for a better trip, and a better apres-trip (now there's a new catch phrase!).

Beyond that, thank you for the support. Left to my own dilettante ways I'd've flaked off weeks ago (I still have 6 hours of Moscow and 11 hours of Laos video I haven't touched). Having your feedback and support has done wonders for keeping me on the straight and narrow, and I've enjoyed the discipline of writing on a regular (most of the time) schedule.

Next - The WGF

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As I've been asked to comment on our current dining, here's the meal from the other day:


on the right is hot and sour soup. For this, I went over the top with chili oil and Chinese vinegar. But I also used a small handful of my Sichuan peppercorns. This gave the right balance of spice and numbing.

Above that is the mafu tofu. I did an equal amount of black bean and the Sichuan bean chili sauce I brought back. It had a nice, evil red tinge to it. And I sprinkled some peppercorns, and then hit it with some hot oil before finishing with the green onion.

And, on the right,is one of my favourite dishes. Beef with walnut. I used the walnuts we bought in Xi'an (not all of them). And we marinated the beef with the Sichuan flour. I had one of my contractors in to translate the bag.

We have the answer.

Besides bean flour, there's corn flour...and.....


Papaya is a great tenderizer. It'll break down just about anything. That explains why they use it with all their beef products.

For this I used a cheap Brazilian piece of meat (tenderloin...but Brazilian). When we ate it, it was like butter.

Remind me to post the water cooked dishes.......

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Okay, I'm working hard to avoid any Woody Allen jokes.

Hey, he never adopted Soon-yi! I'd be perfectly happy with a sugar daddy, though, as long as lots of good food is involved. Hmmmm, I hope Yoonhi isn't reading this! :laugh: She can be my sugar mommy, as long as she's a good cook.

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