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KennethT

Week in Beijing (and environs) Foodblog

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@KennethT

 

It all looks so amazing but those doorknobs and the spicy chicken thigh really appeal to me. I would love to try both.  I so appreciate you taking the time and effort to share with us all.

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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)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

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After lunch, we were walking through some hutongs to get to the next destination when we stopped here:

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Fongyee said that this place was a staple in Beijing, as it had been around forever...  we got

 

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Some kind of milk custard - it came in various flavors, but we got the plain one just to see what the base tasted like.

 

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This is a very refreshing drink on a hot day - a sweet and sour plum drink... it was so good, my wife and I would seek it out on the days following too.

 

Our next stop was here:

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This is the Confucius Temple - not a religious temple, but a place where students go where students can "pray to Confucius" so they can do well on their exams!  As both Fongyee and my wife have taken lots of exams recently, they can both relate to this place.  This is a great temple - it's very serene inside, and not crowded, and there is plenty of shade... a good place to relax and organize one's thoughts.

 

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There is also a great old Cypress tree that's over 700 years old

 

After our temple visit, we wandered through some more hutong looking for this tea house:

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This is a great little place amidst the maze of hutongs.  It's very peaceful, and they have an amazing set of teas....

 

We got an aged white tea:

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And a pu'erh that had been in an orage (maybe tangerine) peel...

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The owner of the tea place also provided us with a bunch of snacks (after that lunch and the custard, there was no room! my wife and I felt bad that we barely touched the snacks)

 

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Thank you @Fengyi for your immense hospitality and generosity, and for taking so much time from your very busy schedule to hang out with us.  Definitely one of the highlights of the trip!

 


Edited by KennethT (log)
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3 hours ago, KennethT said:

Then again, maybe we did order the Fried Enema

 

Yes you did:)

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Ha!!!!  So, out of curiosity, how should that dish be properly translated?

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15 minutes ago, KennethT said:

Ha!!!!  So, out of curiosity, how should that dish be properly translated?

 

炸灌肠 (zhá guàn cháng).

 

炸 ( zhá) means "Fried", specifically "deep fried". So far, so good.

 

The problem is with 灌肠 (guàn cháng). It does indeed mean enema. However it has a second meaning  - "sausage".

 

So the correct translation would be "Fried Sausage".

 

Clearly, whoever "translated" the menu doesn't know English and just took the first definition in the dictionary.

 

 

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18 minutes ago, liuzhou said:

So the correct translation would be "Fried Sausage".

 

Whew!!!

What a relief!!!

:)

 

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~Martin :)

"Unsupervised, rebellious, radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, self-reliant homesteader, and adventurous cook. Crotchety, cantankerous, terse, curmudgeon, non-conformist, and contrarian who questions everything!"

The best thing about a vegetable garden is all the meat you can hunt and trap out of it! 

 

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@KennethT

Been off the grid for a few days and just caught up on your China trip.

Thanks for the vicarious travel I've been enjoying. China is one of the places I always wanted to visit however it never worked out.

Really like the combination of place and meals experienced.

 

 

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I know it's stew. What KIND of stew?

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Heh. Yes, as Liuzhou said above, 炸灌肠 (or 炸灌腸 traditional) should really be "fried sausage". It might be even better to say "fried sweet potato starch sausage", as that is what it (usually) is made with. From poking around I gather it is an old Peking snack food, with some distinctive seasonings - and did indeed used to be made by stuffing the seasoned sweet potato starch into pig intestines, then cooking (e.g. by steaming) then the sausage sliced up and fried then served with that garlicky dipping sauce I presume you got. It seems the taste of the fried intestines was once supposed to be part of the flavor profile in the final dish. :-) But they dispensed w/ the intestine casing in more recent times and simply formed the starch/dough into the shape of a sausage.**

 

** As an aside, "腸" (Cantonese Jyutping coeng4/coeng2; but popularly transcribed as "cheong") is part of the name of several Chinese foodstuffs - "lap cheong", as a more familiar example to Western folks, literally means "waxed intestine" character-by-character but the compound term is understood to refer to those Chinese sausages of seasoned and cured meats in the shortish tubular-like "sausage" form. "Cheong fun", as another, literally means "intestine noodle/plaster/powder" character-by-character but the compound refers to those smooth-tasting/textured rice noodles usually seen as sheets of rice noodle, often rolled up into a tubular form. (Ditto "chee cheong fun", which is always rolled up) In all these cases the name plays upon the supposed resemblance of the food item to the round, tubular, longish form that intestines usually take. :-) 

ETA: I would caution English-speaking folks that whenever they see "cheong" it does not automatically mean "intestine", as various terms/characters in Chinese would also have the transliteration of "cheong" (in faux Cantonese), including instances with different tones, all of which can mean very different things.


Edited by huiray (log)
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That evening, we were to meet up with the last of my wife's friends in Beijing.  We wound up going to a Yunnan restaurant in the Sanlitun area.  From what I gather, Yunnan is in the south, and some of the dishes almost seemed Vietnamese in style.

 

Here's a photo of the place, located in... yep, another mall!

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Beef rolls with mint and chili, on a bed of shredded cucumber

 

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Sauteed pea shoots

 

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This was very interesting - fresh porcini mushrooms sauteed with chilis!  Evidently, porcini mushrooms are common in this region

 

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Sauteed tofu with leek flower

 

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This was interesting... a tableside presentation - The stone bowl was very hot, to which they added hot chicken broth, then thinly sliced raw chicken (which cooked in the broth, various vegetables, and rice noodles.  This was like comfort food - the broth was fantastic - really chicken-y.

 

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This was also interesting - it's a lightly alcoholic rice wine drink.  It was slightly sweet, and had a touch of spritz.  It was actually very refreshing.

 

All in all, a great meal, and great company for our last night out with friends.

 

I really enjoyed meeting and getting to know all of my wife's friends.  It's fascinating to be able to have in depth conversations about their culture, dreams, aspirations, government policies... it seems that no matter how far people can live from one another, in the end, people are so much more similar than we are different.

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17 minutes ago, KennethT said:

That evening, we were to meet up with the last of my wife's friends in Beijing.  We wound up going to a Yunnan restaurant in the Sanlitun area.  From what I gather, Yunnan is in the south, and some of the dishes almost seemed Vietnamese in style.

 

 

Yes, Yunnan is in the south, bordering Vietnam, Laos and Burma/Myanmar. And Guangxi, where I am. It is a place I visit often. Famous for its mushrooms.

It is also home to more ethnic minorities than any other Chinese province. I did once have an excellent meal in a Dai minority restaurant in Beijing, but I couldn't tell you where. It was about 18 years ago.

I also had a wonderful Burmese meal in a lawless town on the China/Burma border. There was nothing you couldn't buy there from precious stones, to guns, to drugs, to wives. Rampant sex trade. Yet also, the most beautiful, peaceful Buddhist temple I ever found in China (although it was built in Burma - the border has since changed more than once).

But what you ate for sure looks like Yunnan food. The server in the minority costume however, is probably Han Chinese from Beijing.


Edited by liuzhou (log)
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The next day was our last full day in Beijing.  We went to see the Drum and Bell towers which are just north of the Forbidden City.  Both require a large amount of stairs:

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Both the drum and bell towers were the ancient means for telling time and broadcasting the current time to the city.

 

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Extra large bell!

 

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Drums.... several times every day, on the half hour, the drummers come to perform the ceremonial percussion that was centuries old.

 

After that, we decided to go into a local restaurant in the area between the towers and BeiHai park... I had realized that one of the Beijing specialties we had not tried was something called rougiamo, which is something like a sandwich filled with chopped pork and sauce.  As we were wandering a hutong area, I saw a restaurant with a few photos on a sign outside, showing this sandwich... it was busy, so we decided to go in...

 

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This was actually taken after we had lunch, when we first went in, there was only 1 table available.

 

There was no english menu here, and no one spoke english, and the menu had no photos.... so I relied on the Waygo app I downloaded, which treated us very well!  But I couldn't find that sandwich on the menu, so I took the waitress out to the front of the shop and pointed at the sign!  No problem...

 

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Sandwiches...  notice the garbage can in the background... there was one for each table.

 

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Interior shot...

 

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I just had to get another one of those fried pancake scrap dishes... we loved it!  This one tasted like it had extra spices or something... it was really addictive.

 

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This is like the Chinese version of Mountain Dew... brought me back to my college days!

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Roujiamo (肉夹馍) is not a Beijing speciality!

It is a Xi'an speciality. You have wandered into a Shaanxi ( 陕西 shǎn xī ) restaurant (Xi'an is the capital of Shaanxi).

 

Here is a link to a short Roujiamo topic right here on eGullet.


Edited by liuzhou (log)
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Thanks @liuzhou.  For some reason, every guide book and blog lists them as something you have to have while in Beijing.  Maybe just because it's from the North (although much further West)?

 

ETA: Also, I was under the impression that the Xi'an version was typically made from mutton or lamb (with lots of cumin), while the Beijing version was pork - with a more hoisin like sauce.


Edited by KennethT (log)

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After lunch, we went to walk around BeiHai Park...  like most things in Beijing, it is huge.... but beautiful.  There is a large lake where you can rent a boat, and an island that has a large "dagoba"... as hard as I tried, I did not see Yoda.... :(

 

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More stairs to get up to Dagoba...

 

That evening, we went for our last dinner - so, we wanted to have another Peking Duck experience.  Fongyee had recommended a more casual place - called Hua's Family restaurant, which is always crammed with locals... and I could see why - the duck was excellent - maybe not as good as 1949's which was superb and extraordinary - but excellent... and also 1/3 the price!

 

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Scallion pancake

 

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Gailan - ordering this actually brought up a very interesting topic.  Our waiter spoke excellent English (later in the evening, he gave us his card which said that he moonlights (or maybe the waitering was the moonlighting?) as a translator.  When I asked for it (I called it "GUY-LAHN", as it was called in Hong Kong and in NY), he had no idea what I was talking about, so after discussing it in English, we determined that what I wanted, he called "JEE-EH-LAHN" in Mandarin...  I had always heard that Cantonese (as is common in HK and NY) sounded very different from Mandarin, and this was a pretty good example of that.

 

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One thing that was interesting about this place was that they put the first few slices of meat and skin on some puffed rice to be had as snacks - like an hors d'oevre.....

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There was also some kind of sauce between the rice cakes and duck - it almost tasted like a horseradish mayo!

 

They served the duck with some interesting accoutrements:

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Pineapple, iceberg lettuce, cucumber skin

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Cucumber, watermelon radish, scallion, melon, and some kind of jelly that reminded me of Thanksgiving Cranberry Sauce (the kind in the can), but it was more firm - almost like a pate de fruit....

 

Fongyee also told us that while 1949's duck is excellent, they do not use the traditional Beijing hoisin sauce...  She said Beijing hoisin should not be sweet (which 1949's was) - and indeed, this hoisin was very different - it almost had a medicinal herbal flavor - it slightly reminded me of the herbal flavor you get in some Chinese Medicine (which unfortunately I had experience with a few years ago...)  But, it went very well with the duck!

 

 

 

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Evidently, people in Beijing love fresh squeezed orange juice.  During our week, we saw people squeezing oranges all day at various street corners throughout the city:

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And in one mall, we saw this fresh squeezed orange juice vending machine!

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The next day was the day we were leaving...  We thought we had plenty of time since our flight left at 6PM, and we were checking out of the hotel at 3, but we wound up running into the hotel's restaurant manager on the street the night before on the way home from dinner (she was just leaving from HaiDiLao!) and we wound up chatting with her the next morning about traveling, life in the US/China, misconceptions from the media, etc. for about an hour at breakfast.  Then, we tried to return our stored value "top-up" subway cards at the local subway station, but it turned into a wild goose chase as each person we saw told us we had to go to a different window in a different station...  After about an hour of running around, we decided to just cut our losses and forget about it... the deposit on the cards was 20 Yuan each (less than $3 each), and we each had about 35 Yuan (about $5 each) in left over fares.  So, all in all, not a huge loss, and if I knew it would be such a hassle, I wouldn't have even bothered trying in the first place.

 

By the time we finished packing, we only had time for a pretty fast lunch, and we definitely didn't want to risk taking the time to trek around the city, so back to the mall we went!  We figured it would be a fitting end to the trip to have some final jiaozi at the same place we went the first day.

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I think our waitress remembered us, since after I had ordered the jiaozi, she turned the page to the menu to the veggie section and pointed to the Chinese writing for the gailan (jie-lan) as we had a minor miscommunication about it our first time there.  Who am I to refuse?

 

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Pork and coriander (cilantro)

 

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Mutton and scallion.  I preferred to use black vinegar with roasted chili in oil as a dipping sauce... my wife preferred the standard soy sauce.

 

So, that's it!  A truly enlightening trip - not so much from a food perspective (even though the food was great) but it was great to have some long talks with a bunch of different sets of peers to get their perspective on what it's like growing up and living in a country that's been through such rapid and dramatic change in the last 30 years.  And to do some sightseeing on some things that my wife and I have dreamed about since we were kids....  I'm glad we got a 10 year visa (it was the same price as a one time visa) as this definitely will not be the last trip to China!

 

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mmm black vinegar and roasted chilis :) Those are the main ingredients I use to replace soy sauce for everything I cook lately that is remotely Asian (since I am not supposed to eat soy any more). An admirable choice, Kenneth.

 

Did you bring any ingredients back with you - like some of that black vinegar perhaps? If so, and it is a good one, I would love to know the brand - just in case I should ever see it in Canada or stateside.

 

Thank you again so very much for taking the time to let us all see your trip in pictures with your excellent commentary.

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6 hours ago, KennethT said:

For some reason, every guide book and blog lists them as something you have to have while in Beijing.  Maybe just because it's from the North (although much further West)?

 

 

That's interesting. Must be relatively new, though. I have just looked through my 15 year old Lonely Planet Beijing guide book and it doesn't mention them. Nor does an een older Rough Guide to China. I don't recall ever seeing them in Beijing.

 

6 hours ago, KennethT said:

ETA: Also, I was under the impression that the Xi'an version was typically made from mutton or lamb (with lots of cumin), while the Beijing version was pork - with a more hoisin like sauce.

 

Yes, Xi'an has a large Muslim population and so, they often use mutton or beef, often with cumin, but there are plenty of places doing the pork version, too. No hoisin-like sauce though. That sounds very Beijing!

 

There is a Xi'an restaurant here in town in the far south, which does both the pork version (白吉肉夹馍 bái jí ròu jiá mò) and the beef with cumin (牛肉孜然夹馍 niú ròu zī rán jiá mò).

 

The latter is my default choice, mainly because, when I lived in Xi'an, I was almost next door to a place which only did this version and I became addicted. I think I know what's for lunch today.

 

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@DerynWe actually brought nothing back from this trip... I think it's a first.  I have black vinegar at home that I got in Chinatown in NYC... I don't know if there's a major difference in brands anyway - wherever we saw condiments (basically in most local restaurants) they were always in non-descript bottles, so I wouldn't even know the name of a superior brand if I saw it - plus, the fact that the writing would be all in Chinese would be a problem as well since I can't really read it.

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Yes, there can be a difference. Some are beautifully deep, smoky and almost thick and some are thin and I may as well use another kind of vinegar because those are not very distinctive. It all reminds me of the differences between cheap and expensive balsamics - and most of the time, there is a good reason the expensive stuff is expensive. I believe some are still being made by old methods and others are being quickly prepared in large factories. But further there are many regional variations on black vinegar as well - from Chinkiang to Mature (from the Shanxi area I think) and then also lighter ones from other areas and even from Japan.

 

I can't read Chinese either unfortunately but when things are imported they often have an extra label affixed that tells the ingredients in English. Some appear to be pure rice vinegar, some list sorghum, bran, and/or barley among other recognizable grains, others seem to have additives - like sugar, salt, caramel colouring (if I see that last one listed or anything other than the basics, I put it down) ... at least in brands that I have seen side by side in some Asian groceries. Unfortunately the bottles often make it difficult to really 'see' the viscosity or sometimes even the colour so one buys on faith or eenie meenie minny moe. Sometimes though there is only one brand of black vinegar beside other vinegars like brown rice vinegar which look almost identical in the bottle and since I can't read the writing, I have no clue if they are the same thing.

 

Actually I would love to go to a black vinegar 'tasting'. Perhaps I will have to make this a quest. I love the stuff. But, the ones I like most are the thicker, smoky, rich ones not the watery versions. Side by side they just are not the same animal.

 

I am, most of the year, a long way from any source for same and never seem to find the same brand twice even when I return to the same store I bought at last time. I have begun saving the bottles of the ones I have liked .. may try to soak off the labels so I can carry them around easily with me when I travel.


Edited by Deryn (log)
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 @KennethT,

 

Thanks for this utterly awesome report about your trip to Beijing! I could almost smell some of the delicious food, and in at least one picture, I could see people sort of melting in the oppressive heat. You were so articulate and your images so good, it felt like I was there with you. I'm so glad your wife got to see her friends again, and you got to get to know them and share insights into their food, language and culture. You are so right about folks having more similarities than differences. Good food seems to be an excellent way to lure even more xenophobic people into exploring that idea.


Edited by Thanks for the Crepes (log)
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> ^ . . ^ <

 

 

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10 hours ago, KennethT said:

 

After lunch, we went to walk around BeiHai Park...  like most things in Beijing, it is huge.... but beautiful.  There is a large lake where you can rent a boat, and an island that has a large "dagoba"... as hard as I tried, I did not see Yoda.... :(

 

IMG_5063.JPG

 

 

I somewhat suspect the haziness is not mist but smog?

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