Eat in Qingdao

Eat in Qingdao

egg plant dish

Qingdao cuisine is the Chinese northern cooking (Shandong) which is very different from the Cantonese cooking I used to.  In Cantonese cuisine the ingredients are well balanced and not greasy. Apart from that, Cantonese dishes use less spice or herbs, more subtle in favour, often stream, and stir-fry. Qingdao is well known its excellent seafood dishes and delicious soup most dishes are usually deep-fried, braised, roasted or stewed with a strong emphasis on soy sauce, shallots, garlic and chili they are more hearty and spicier than Cantonese dishes.

One day, I was out with a native of Qingdao and went to a local restaurant in the old town area. The restaurant is a simple neighborhood restaurant with three tables inside and two outside with tanks of live fishes and seafood display outside.

My new friend he is a vegetarian so we ordered four vegetarian dishes and I was told they are all Shandong dishes.  First came a huge bowl of tomato and egg white soup. Then follow with fried egg plant, stir fry squid with mixed vegetable and fish. The fish was one of the live ones from the tank outside.  Although I am not a fan of egg plant but the deep fried egg plant dish was delicious and I couldn’t stop myself eating it. The sauces were stronger and darker with more oil than the Cantonese dishes but all the dishes are all excellent and very fresh,

fish dishstir fry squid

I ate more than I should and but when I thought I couldn’t eat another bite my new friend suggested we order a free soup! Turn out he is friend with this little restaurant and he knew they make a soup with the left over fish bone and offer it with no charge.

left over fish soup

It was the best fish soup I ever had. A great soup to end this wonderful meal which the  total cost was less than $15!

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The German Architecture in Qingdao, China

German architectureGerman architecutre

Qingdao is the most EuropeanChineseCity I had traveled to, especially with its architecture. It was a former Germany colony and the first European colony in China. Although it was to be a rather short stay for the German occupiers (for thirty three years up to 1949) but it left a distinct mark on Qingdao. They planned and built the first streets, a railroad and made improvements to the harbor, safe drinking water and institutions of the city we see today. They would also continue to establish their Christian presence through the construction of churches. They were able to construct a brewery, the world-famous Tsingtao Brewery. Many German period buildings in the old town area been preserved as Qingdao heritage are major attraction for tourists.

german architecturegerman architecturegerman architecturegerman architecturegerman architecturegerman architecture

 

 

Bomb shelter shopping mall in Qingdao, China

bome shelther sign

China is full with unexpected, all one needs is to turn the corner.

After two weeks in Qingdao I became very confidence of  using the public transit although the taxis is faster and cheap but I prefer the buses. My ability to read Chinese is a great advantage. All the public buses had stops posted on the side of the bus and each stops are announce in both Chinese and English which make taking the buses a lot easier.

 One day, I got off the bus at the old town district. I was just walking around and taking photos and came upon the Lao She Park.  Mr. She is celebrated writer in China and (he also taught at QingdaoUniversity), his most famous book was “the Rickshaw boy” which was translated into English and became a best seller about 70 years ago. I even own a copy of the translation copy by book.

The Lao She Park is a long square which starts with statue of the writer and it also has a fountain but looks like it has no water for a long time. It was mid morning and the park only had few senior resting or playing cards. An outdoor restaurant had set up table and little stools for the lunch time customers on one side of the square.

I walk from the start to the end of this park than I spot a blue and white sign “Emergency shelter”. And near by a same size sign “Longshan underground shopping”

I had heard about the bomb shelter shopping mall from my friend Michael, perhaps this is where it located? (During the 1970s Chinaconstructed many bomb shelters at major cities in anticipation of a nuclear war with the Soviet Union).

bome shelther shopping mall

As I step on the escalator the smell of mildew hits me right away. After three long flight of escalator I was inside this underground shopping mall. It has store after store which stretches from corridor to corridor. The stores are behind glass which makes it easy to see what the offering were: it sells everything from clothing, bags, leather goods even crafts but their main targets were women. It was a work day and mid morning the mall has few customers and the mall was almost deserted.  After a tour of the underground mall I was relief to back outside with some cleaner air and some sun.

bome shelther shopping mall

The Chinese Pear Seller

 

the chinese pear sellerYesterday, I saw those Chinese pears on sale in Chinatown which remind me the pear seller I meet in Beijing, china:

  A couple of years ago, I was visiting my friend Michael in Beijing, One day, he suggested I should check out the market in the Hutong area. He walks by every morning on his way to work and thought I would enjoy going there and take some photos.

The market starts from early in the morning till 11am. It was just a few minutes walk from where he lived. His neighborhood is full of all the fancy stores, high-rises and restaurants. Not to mention all the American brands like Starbucks, McDonald and Pizza hut and if without the Chinese faces, it could be any American cities.  However the Hutong neighborhood with the gray color single story houses one has the feeling of walking into the centuries past.

At 9 am the market already in full swing. The sounds and the color were unlike anything I had experienced. Some sellers would call out what they had to offer, how fresh or tasty they were. The market was packed with sellers and shoppers.  The sellers had all their goods spread out on the ground. They were some of the freshest produces I seen and were plentiful.  There was live fishes, freshly butchered meat, fruits, vegetable and dry sea food. The sellers look like peasants from the countryside. They all had dark skins the result of working long day under the sun.  Most dressed in padded jackets for the morning chill.  Some brought their goods by bicycle carts; some in small motorized open trucks. The shoppers were equally interesting.  Most of the shoppers were seniors from the neighborhood.  Some came by foot but some came in bicycles. Many brought along their home made bamboo shopping carts. Some even brought their little dogs along.  The pampered pets would ride in the basket instead of walking. One even rides on owner’s walker!

Everyone took the shopping rather seriously, moving slowly from seller to seller to look for the best produce with the best deal. Some just left their shopping carts or bicycles at the middle of the road while they carefully examine the goods. An old lady was carefully balance her newly purchased large watermelons on her bicycle. She tied them with red string two on each side of the back and on each side of the handle bar.  Among this frenzy, I was able to move around freely and take photos without attracting any attentions.

Then I spotted the man with the pears He and his pears stood out among the other sellers: he has set up a red tent for his pears and displays them on a wooden cart. He has a hand written sign while most sellers don’t bother have one. They are the classic Chinese pears which is larger than the North American ones. They are pale yellow in color and size of a grape fruit under the morning sun they glow beautifully like jade carvings.  As I approach his stand I noticed he was the only one wore glasses, he proudly told me the pears are the West Mountain Province and they are very good. I smile and picked up three. When I hand it to him to be weighted but he took one away, smile warmly and said this one is not a good one and right way pick up another one and said “this is a good one”.  I thanked him and handed over the money.  He asked where I was from which was surprised me how he could tell I was not one of the locals. I told him I am from Canada and nodded and smile, “Oh Canada, very good country”. As I walk away and think about this honest seller. He seems different than the other seller. As soon as I got home I try one of the pears. It was very juicy, crunchy and sweet.

After my first trip to the open market, I made a point to go at least every second day to shop or take photos. The next time when I went, I saw him again When he saw me he seemed to recognize me and smile and greeted me “Ni Hao”. I brought more pears from him probably more than I should have.  However that was the last time I seen him. At my other visits, I looked out for him but he was nowhere in sight. Perhaps the pear season was over he went on to do something else.

watercolor on paper, 16’x24′

Bicycle garbage truck

 

bicycle garbage truck

There are many things we could learn from the Chinese:

One of them is the bicycle garbage truck: I seen them everywhere, they move around the city quietly. They power by the person riding it and it doesn’t take up much space and very efficient. The person riding it would sweep the street or pick up garage along the way. Sometimes, it carries jaw dropping load of emptied bottles, cardboard on its way the recycled depot.  They keep the city clean and tidy.

paper cut, 10″x11″

Chinese Wedding Celebration

 

 drumming

Wedding is serious matter in China. Couples often spent huge sum for their wedding.

An up scale restaurant near Michael’s apartment called “Royal Kitchen” everyday around 11 am would host one of those spectacular wedding celebration. On a busy day, there would be one right after others. No mater how many times I had seen these I could never resist to watch this colorful celebration and capture it with my camera.

It usually starts with a coach bus pull up; unload dozens of middle age women all dressed in traditional Chinese costumes in red with gold. Without saying a word each would set up their musical instrument and quietly forming two half circles in front of the restaurant. Behind them are numbers of golden canons. The lion dancers would swiftly change into their lion costumes. An inflatable rainbow has already set up at the entrance of the door with both bride and groom’s name on it.

lion dance wedding dance

This team are lead by an older man; he would beat the huge drum and lead the cheering. Although he looked like in his seventies but the way he beats the drum with such power and precisions men many decades younger are no match for his energy. The group would perform this drum and gong show like they had performed for hundreds of times

Sometimes a women would acting as conductor/cheerleader for this group, she would perform it as a well rehearsed dance.

cheering

At exactly at noon, the newlywed couple and the wedding party arrived in a limo.  With the sound of the fire crackers and fire works would signal the beginning of the wedding celebration.  As they step out from the limo a shower of colorful confetti from the golden cannons would rain on them. As always the bride dress in a white wedding dress and the groom in black suit but that was the only western element in the whole celebration. (Later on, during the banquet the bride would change into a  red and gold Chinese wedding dress.)  A pair of Chinese lions performs the lion dance to greet the couple. Sometime with a more deluxe celebration there would be three or even four lions, one red, gold and sliver. They perform the dance with more acrobat skills than the two lion team. One of the lion dancers would host the second dancer his shoulder, the third dancer would hold on to the second dancer and all three would spin around. After they perform this spectacular dance, they would knee in front of the newlywed as to offer their blessings.

The whole wedding party would stand at the entrance under the inflatable rainbow which with the lions on both side then the lions would unroll two red banners from their mouths; the words on the banners are to wish the couple’s marriage to last a hundred years, their hearts to join as one”.

 Before they enter into the restaurant, the groom would carry the bride onto his arms and turn her there times, both left and right. Sometime, the best man would do the same to the bridesmaid. After that was done, they would enter the restaurant and enjoy a delicious banquet with friends and families.

swing

As soon as the couple enter the restaurant, out came a team of cleaners quietly sweep up the confetti’s and fire crackers on the ground. The drum and gong team would pack up their instruments and head back to the bus. The lion dancers changed into their street cloth. Within minute they are gone, likely going to their next gig somewhere else.. .

CoCo the rocks collector

 

coco the rocks collector

After five days of hospital stay, Michael was discharged from the hospital. Our original plan when I first arrive in Qingdao was travel to Shanghai during the national day holiday. However it needed to be canceled as the doctor’s order was to have plenty of rest and stay away from oily food for awhile.

  I was not too disappointed with the change of plan. While he was hospitalized I had get to really enjoy living at his apartment and it felt like my second home. I also enjoy making daily shopping and making the meals.

 October first national holiday is an important holiday day, many would take advantage for the seven days off to travel back home to visit families or travel to other cities.

Qingdao being a well known tourist destination was no exception. Over night, the city population has increased and all the tourist sites were packed with smiling faces and happy voices.

Michael received a call from a couple at his work and asked if he could look after their dog while they travel out of town. Coco is a Cocker Spaniel about seven years old. She is a lovable and well behaves dog; she loves to lie at the sunny spots and really enjoyed her company. She has an unusual habit as she loves to collects rocks. Whenever we took her out for a walk, she would pick up a rock and carry it in her mouth to bring home. She doesn’t just pick up any rocks, some she would walk by without stopping; eventually, she would found the one to her liking and she would keep it on her sleeping rug and lie next to it.

When it was the time for Coco returns to her owners she did not take her rocks with her. We kept them on the shelf for her next visit.

Coco paper cut

paper cut, 10″x11″

McChicken with rice

 

pinapple pie

Many western fast foods are common in China. Restaurants like KFC, Pizza Hut and McDonald are very where and also popular. However in order to be successful they needed to adopted some Chinese favors to their menus. For example, the Chinese Pizza Hut offers a seafood pizza with shrimps; the shrimps are pocketed in the dough which enables them tender and moist. It reminds me of eating the shrimp dumpling at dim sum.

Over at McDonald, the golden arch offers Asian milk tea as well as coffee, since the majority of Chinese are tea drinkers.

Lately, it also introduces some rice dishes, for breakfast there are the ham with rice warp, ham and egg with rice. Although I am not a fan of McDonald but I am rather like their pineapple pie. Recently it came out with a banana pie as well.

One night, when we were out at the Olympic sailing area we decided to have something to eat we stopped by the Golden Arches. I was brave enough to order the McChicken rice dinner. Even I didn’t have too much of expectations of it but it was still disappointing. The chicken with rice came in a small box with four slices of chicken, rice and some thin strips of carrot and cabbage.  I found it was too oily and salty for my taste even the rice was too dry. Likely be my first and last of the McChicken rice..

McChicken with ricechicken with rice