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Kikujiro

Wok phobia

51 posts in this topic

I've often noticed that the chicken I get in dishes such as Hunan Chicken has a great golden color without being browned.  When I stir fry at home, mine goes from white to browned.  Is this from the type of oil or the amount?

Neither.

When you say Hunan chicken I'm not sure what you're referring to since similar dishes may vary so much from one restaurant to another.

In most Chinese diced chicken dishes with a brown sauce, the chicken is initially sauteed, just barely cooked through, and its appearance is quite white. It is then tossed in a brown sauce which colors as well as flavors it. We usually cook with some dark soy in addition to light soy, to get a rich brown color.

When the chicken is first marinated with egg white and cornstarch before cooking, the coating ends up being almost invisible after cooking. Next, the food is tossed in a sauce. The thin layer of surface starch on the chicken absorbs the sauce, coating each piece of chicken with both color and flavor. This a subtle and extremely important thing. It cause the sauce to cling to the food rather than slipping off it onto the plate.

In a dish like General Tso's Chicken where you have large chunks of chicken, there is usually a heavier marinade/batter, usually with a whole egg, not just whites, and it is cooked in oil until browned. To obtain a browned exterior and a fully cooked but extremely moiste interior, we would typically cook the chicken in hot oil for 20 seconds, remove it and reheat the oil to 375 degrees, and then put the chicken back in for a second cooking for another 20 seconds. We might then remove it and do the process a third time, again in extremely hot oil. After the chicken is cooked it is then sauced. Its color comes both from its frying and its sauce

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The major difference between's Ed's post and almost every Chinese recipe I've seen for stir-fry, is that the recipes call for 3-4 tablespoons of oil, and Ed calls for 3 cups.

First, thanks to all for your input.

I too, did a double-take, on the amount of oil and rushed to my cookbook collection to see if I had mis-read any recipes. But no. All called for a minimal amount of oil and touted stir-frying as a healthy cooking process because of the small amount of oil used. But I trust Ed and will be more than willing to give his method a workout. But I have a question - naturally!

Often, I do a stir-fry to make use of leftovers. Right now I have some rib-eye steak cooked to blue-rare and was planning on using it in a quick stir-fry. How do you think this deep-frying method will work when the meat is already at least partially cooked? Thanks.


Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Never call a stomach a tummy without good reason.” William Strunk Jr., The Elements of Style

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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I have a question too: does the steak want to be partially frozen for the sake of cutting it, or the marinade, or ... ?

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Kiku - I think Yan-Kit So covered the deep-frying in oil before stir-frying thing in her book.

When it comes to woks, I am a fundamentalist. If you need a flat-bottomed one then why bother? Also, the bigger the better. I think it important to have one with a single long handle so you can grip the thing comfortably while working with the scoop in the other hand, rather than the double handled type.

And an important point about wok rings. In my old kitchen I had to use one. There are two basic kinds: the solid metal one with holes and the type that is more like a strong wire frame. AVOID the first one at all costs. As mentioned above, the heat comes out of the holes, also it doesn't always allow enough air in to the gas flame and can cause it to extinguish. That has happened to me.

I got a new kitchen about 8-9 years ago and the stove has one burner much stronger than the others - for woks or boiling water. Although it may be nothing compared with a professional kitchen, I do find it very helpful. Now I can stand the wok directly on the burner - the balance isn't great but better when there is something in the wok, even for deep-frying, and I am well used to it now.

Also there is the question of being afraid of cooking on the highest flame. DON'T BE AFRAID :laugh:

As for all that worrying about cutting meat right - Yan-Kit illustrates it beautifully. But I think you are being a perfectionist.

v

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The major difference between's Ed's post and almost every Chinese recipe I've seen for stir-fry, is that the recipes call for 3-4 tablespoons of oil, and Ed calls for 3 cups.

First, thanks to all for your input.

I too, did a double-take, on the amount of oil and rushed to my cookbook collection to see if I had mis-read any recipes. But no. All called for a minimal amount of oil and touted stir-frying as a healthy cooking process because of the small amount of oil used. But I trust Ed and will be more than willing to give his method a workout. But I have a question - naturally!

Often, I do a stir-fry to make use of leftovers. Right now I have some rib-eye steak cooked to blue-rare and was planning on using it in a quick stir-fry. How do you think this deep-frying method will work when the meat is already at least partially cooked? Thanks.

This method is only for cooking raw, marinated meat. Your steak should be done in a traditional stir fry with very little oil. A non stick wok would work extremely well since it will allow you to use even less oil.

ED

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I have a question too: does the steak want to be partially frozen for the sake of cutting it, or the marinade, or ... ?

The reason to partially freeze meat is to cut it more precisely. If you could cut it without freezing that would be preferable, but not at the expense of getting the right shape.

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I have a round bottomed wok, but I'm unsure how to use the wok ring.  I have gas, and the ring can go either direction, with the big side up or down, which puts the wok closer to or further from the flame.  I would think that having the wok closer to the flame would be better, but then the heat from the flames want to come out through the holes on the wok ring (not the flames themselves, just the heat).  What should I do?

If you have a flat bottomed wok forget about the ring. The ring is merely to make the wok more stable.

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ABOUT WOKS

I strongly advocate a flat bottomed wok for the home cook. It does cook differently than a saute pan, but it holds oil and food just as well as a round bottomed wok, and is much more stable.

As to what it should made out of: you want a metal that transmits heat very quickly and that cools down quickly too (as soon as you turn off the light). Thats why a wok made from a heavy metal or cast iron - Calphalon for example - doesn't really work so well.

I recently bought a hand hammered tempered metal wok in Vancouver's Chinatown. You can recognize one from the hammer marks abound the upper part of the interior. I am extremely happy with it. It gets quite hot quite quickly, and then cools down just as fast. It was inexpensive (under $30). A 14" wok is a perfect size.

I also have a cheap 11" non stick wok with a flat bottom. It is quite helpful.

By the way, I frequently use an old electric wok. I top it with bamboo baskets and steam with it

Ed

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I learned to fry Chinese foods on a commercial wok burner with very high output. But as Kikujiro notes, very few home stoves (even the quasi-professional models) have anything like the high heat that you would use on these stoves.

Right now, I am using an "Aga" cooker, which on the "high" flat-top puts out roughly 15kbtu/hour using a heat storage system. For "wok" cooking I use a very heavy, flat-bottomed Wohl pan, virtually a dutch oven, with high rounded sides, allowing it to get very, very hot before the food goes in. This is the closest I have ever come to the heat intensity of a commercial wok burner.

Of course it does have the problem, as Ed says, that it doesn't cool down quickly. So on the "low" flat-top, I keep a high-sided sauté pan, and transfer the cooked food into that.

Not ideal, but a practical adaptation given the idiosyncrasies of the Aga.


Edited by JD (London) (log)

Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

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I know it is hard to copy restaurant food at home, but I have always had the most trouble with Chinese. I actually gave up for a couple years and stopped cooking it. Then I moved to Japan where I live in Yokohama near a wonderful China town and even have one of those wonderfully high gas burners great for woks, however I was dissapointed in the recipes I was using as I found them very bland. So I stopped cooking it again. A year and a half ago I picked up a book by Nina Simonds called A Spoonful of Ginger (about 60% of the recipes are Chinese and the rest a mix of Japanese, Korean, and S.E. Asian) and have fallen in love with Chinese food all over again. Her foods are actually bursting with flavor and rely heavily on hoison, oyster. and black bean sauces. I don't know how authentic they are but I liked them enough to just pick up two more books by her, Asian Wraps and Asian Noodles.

Thanks for the tips and the suggestions of other books, I know I still have a lot of studying ahead.


<p><strong>Kristin Wagner</strong>, aka "torakris"

Manager, Membership

<a class="bbc_email" href="mailto:kwagner@egstaff.org" title="E-mail Link">kwagner@egstaff.org</a></p>

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Of course it does have the problem, as Ed says, that it doesn't cool down quickly. So on the "low" flat-top, I keep a high-sided sauté pan, and transfer the cooked food into that.

Now why didn't I think of that? That's what I love about this board - the sharing of ideas. Also, thanks for the book recommendations as I had the same problem - rather bland food which I know it shouldn't be. I will look out for the books next time there's some spare cash or I win the lottery! Who knows, maybe Santa will bring me gift certificates to book stores.

Season's Greetings to all.


Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Never call a stomach a tummy without good reason.” William Strunk Jr., The Elements of Style

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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Well my stir-fry tonight didn't turn out too bad but I should have read Ed's recipe a little more carefully as I left the beef cooking in the sauce a little too long and it sure did toughen it! Since I ate it as a steak the night before I knew it was tender beef so I'm sure that was the cause of the toughening. Of course, as Ed suggested, I skipped the marinade and I did not use more than a mere tablespoon of oil. I added the beef last just to warm it, really. But all in all, an improvement on previous stir fries. I still don't think I had the pan hot enough - practise, practise, practise. Stir-fries are still a great way to make use of leftover meats. There's only the two of us so we don't need much to make a meal. Thanks everyone.


Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Never call a stomach a tummy without good reason.” William Strunk Jr., The Elements of Style

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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Well, I tried the sliced beef with broccoli this evening. I think I need to try it again :unsure:

The problems I had are as follows. Principally, when I put the marinated beef in the hot oil, the marinade instantly solidified around it and turned golden brown. Thereupon it was less a question of stirring it than of trying to separate it while it bubbled away (bubbling started instantly). Also, no question of pinkness so I just did it for 60 seconds.

Broccoli went fine.

Sauce thickened almost instantly to a kind of jammy consistency, which was too dense to distribute around the beef and broccoli.

I have some theories about what I did wrong but if Ed (or Toby or anyone else) can provide hints for next time I'd be grateful.

Theory 1: wok too small. Not sure how this could have affected things, but I want a bigger wok anyway.

Theory 2: too much marinade? Or too thick and not drained enough?

Theory 3: oil too hot? (And if so, how can i judge when it's the right temperature?)

[i have a confession: i didn't use all the oil specified. But it more than covered the beef and all the oil specified might have been too much for the wok]

That's it for theories.

Will try again soon. It was fun, and the end result was quite edible, though far from what I should have produced, I'm sure.

Ed, thanks again for the detailed instructions and all the help.

[if anyone wants to move this into the Chinese forum, please go ahead]


Edited by Kikujiro (log)

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(My first post!!!) I was reading through this "wok phobia" thread and wanted to share a couple of "ah-ha's" i've had regarding my love of wok cookery.

First and foremost is the heat issue and here's how i overcame the common inadequacies of indoor ranges, electric or gas: I use the gas burner (LP) that i would use to say, fry a turkey. (I use it to deep-fry whole fish too sometimes). The heat that thing puts out is truly amazing, sounding like a jet engine when on 'full blast'!. I haven't found another way to get this kind of heat that won't back down AT ALL when you begin to add the oil and ingredients. (Note: "you didn't hear it from me, but" I won't hesitate to bring the LP tank and burner into my kitchen and put it on my island for this proceedure.)

Second, "how hot is hot enough?": This is simple once you've got enough heat. You don't want to put the oil in until the wok's hot enough and you don't want to add your ingredients until the oil's hot enough. (I could/should get into "mis en place" at this point, but it's already been noted here). To test the wok before adding the oil, drop a drop of water on it. It should dance and bubble immediately and thoroughly until it's all gone. If it easily and totally evaporates you're ready to swirl the oil in from around the sides to coat the wok surface. To test the oil you'll do the same this as with the water, but with a small piece of onion or ginger or "ingredient" that will go in next and it should do also bubble all over and begin to turn brown. What you DON'T want is for the addition of either the oil or ingredient to cool the wok. The heat to the wok must be as strong as the floor or you risk losing the whole effect of "stir frying".

Third, I've found the book "The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking" by Barbara Tropp to be a good source for picking up chinese cooking philosophy and techniques.

After you've got a grip on the heat and timing of wokin' you can discover the fun of doing it for friends at a party. I've added Pad Thai to my repretoire of "party dishes". I went to our local restaurant supply store and bought a beautiful carbon steel 34" wok (the largest you would see at a restaurant) to perch upon my gas burner. (oh, i bought that for $34 i might add at Berlin's). Now, once the prep is done, I have fun amazing and delighting guests with the "cling and clank" of the wok implements, the hissing of the burner and steaming, freshly fried noodles and aromatics scooped right out into their bowls...I've done this for sometimes 40 people at home and i'm always amazed at how simple it is to do and how much my friends and family love it!

Happy Cooking and Happy New Year!

Charleston, SC

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lowcountryman1, welcome. What is a "gas burner (LP)"?


"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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lowcountryman1, welcome. What is a "gas burner (LP)"?

connects to an LP (propane) tank. often used for gas smokers and as LCM1 suggests, deep frying turkey. seems like a great idea to put a wok on it!

hp-100.jpg


Edited by tommy (log)

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tommy saves the day again!

Wow, lowcountryman1 (can I just call you low?), that seems it would do the trick.


"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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Yep, thanks for the pic, Tommy that's the ticket!!! Mine is called a "Bayou Burner" that i got at our local Ace Hardware store and doesn't have the box and long legs shown in the picture...it only rises a foot or so above the surface of the counter, which makes it "ok" to put on the island in my kitchen or on a table somewhere outside...it's wrought iron and stable and can easily get you and your wok into the "too hot" zone, easily!

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To Kukujiro

1. Use just enough marinade to barely coat the meat. For 1-1 1/2 lbs of meat use just one egg white, salt, 1-2 T dry sherry or rice wine, and about 1 1/2 T cornstarch. Using your fingers mix the egg white, wine and salt into the sliced beef for about 30 seconds, then add the cornstarch and mix again until the starch is dissolved. Also try adding 1-2 T of vegetable oil after the cornstarch is dissolved - this will help the beef slices separate from one another.

2. If the slices have stuck together the oil was definitely too hot! Use a thermometer, or if you don't have one, put a few slices in the oil to see how they cook. The oil should be around 280-300 degress F. If the oil is not sufficiently hot when you add the meat, it won't cook - it will be too cool. If this happens use a slotted spoon and remove the meat then reheat the oil before proceeding.

3. If the sauce thickened (tightened) too much, use a little less cornstarch slurry. Be aware of the fact the both the beef and broccoli will give off liquid of their own when mixed with the thickened sauce. As a result, the sauce is slightly overthickened at first but will then thin out. When I cook a dish like this, rather than relying on a measurement of exactly how much cornstarch to use, I have some cornstarch slurry next to me and add it a little at time until the sauce is the right consistency. That way you can controll the viscosity very precisely.

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I use a 14" wok as well as a smaller 9" for re-heating sauces. Both woks have a flatish bottom which allows them to sit properly on my gas burner.

I find that we cook more and more dishes using the woks. Each time something turns out well, I look for new things to try.

I bought a small "trivet" to fit into the bottom of the wok which allows me to put a bamboo steamer into the wok and have it sit above the bottom. I can put a bit of water into the wok and steam all sorts of nice things.

I have been using the wok mainly as a way to produce low calorie dishes. It's really great for this type of meal planning and quite fun to make dishes which have less than 500 calories per serving.

Quite often I'll find a recipe on the internet that sounds good. I'll search for a few other variations and then decide which ingredients sound the best together. I'll try the first attempt and keep a record of what went into the dish. After the meal, my wife and I will discuss what should be taken out and what should be added. After a couple of trials, we usually have a pretty good recipe.

Here's a favourite of mine. I use turkey breast for the meat. This should be about 500 calories per portion, including the rice.

INGREDIENTS

3 Turkey filets (400 grams)

3 Tablespoons of Corn Starch

salt and ground pepper for the corn starch-use your judgement

2 teaspons of Curry Powder

3 teaspoon of grated fresh ginger (chopped ginger is okay too)

2 Tablespoons of Soy sauce

300 grams of drained pinapple chunks

150 ml of pineapple juice

100 ml of Sultanas –large raisons

50 ml of salted cashews

INSTRUCTIONS

Cut turkey filets into cubes. Mix the Corn Starch and some salt and pepper in a bowl. Put the turkey chunks into the bowl with the corn starch mix. Toss around to make sure all of the meat is covered.

In a wok put in enough oil to fry the turkey . Heat the oil until it’s smoking and then put the turkey in the oil. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the turkey starts to turn golden. Don’t overdo this step. The turkey will have more time to cook later and too long in the oil will make it tough.

Take the turkey from the oil when it’s finished and place on a paper towel to drain. Remove the oil from the wok, leaving only an oily residue.

Put the turkey back into the wok and start to cook it again. Throw in the drained pineapple chunks, ginger and curry powder on the turkey. Toss in the Sultanas and cashews. Keep turning things around in the wok. This should be around 5 minutes but when you think everything is mixed enough, move to the next step.

In a separate container, mix two teaspoons of cornstarch with 1 tablespoon of pineapple juice and reserve for the last step.

Mix the main amount of pineapple juice with the soy sauce and pour it into the wok. This will deglace the wok at the same time. Turn things around in the wok for a bit and when everything looks coated well, toss in the cornstarch and pineapple juice mixture from above. The sauce will start to thicken quickly so be ready to take things off of the heat. When it appears that the sauce is thickening, remove from the heat and serve.

It’s very nice served on steamed rice or Chinese egg noodles.

Enjoy

This will serve four normal adults or two little pigs.

I hope that the format of this recipe will work. It's a lovely recipe and is very easy to make.

BlackDuff

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I have been using the wok mainly as a way to produce low calorie dishes. It's really great for this type of meal planning and quite fun to make dishes which have less than 500 calories per serving.

wow blackduff! This is exactly what I've been doing over the past year. 32 lbs peeled off, I'm convinced it works ;-) a great way to make great tasting food for not a lot of calories. I bought a couple of chinese cookbooks and went for it. made a few recipes, experimented/changed a few. Recently I've been cooking out of "Hot Sour Salty Sweet" which a friend gave me for my birthday. I try to make recipes as they are written before improvising on them. I've always been fascinated with asian cooking, reproducing those restaurant flavors is difficult. I'm getting closer though, and a few dishes I've nailed ;-)


Born Free, Now Expensive

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ED - Does it make a difference in flavor if your wok is nonstick or not? Also, an earlier post got me thinking about nuts in Chinese cooking - are the nuts usually salted and roasted - or just raw.

thanks

johnjohn

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ED - Does it make a difference in flavor if your wok is nonstick or not?

The flavor is absolutely the same. It's simply that nonstick work well for certain things such as cooking eggs or noodles that might break into pieces if they stuck to the pan.

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Also, an earlier post got me thinking about nuts in Chinese cooking - are the nuts usually salted and roasted - or just raw.

We usually start with raw nuts and then cook them -- they're normally fried in not too hot oil (300 degree F.) for 3-4 minutes until they are lightly browned and cooked through. The nuts are then drained and cooled, so that their texture crisps up. They are then used in a dish such as chicken with cashews or peanuts.

Frying the nuts is equivalent to roasting them which works just fine -- the nuts that are roasted may have a slightly less crisp texture, but they will also have been prepared without any additional cooking oil so that they are less caloric. Personally I usually fry my nuts.

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