paintings for stamps

When I was in my youth one of my hobbies was stamps collecting. I spend hours studying, arranging and rearranging my stamps. For me, each little piece of paper was like a miniature art work. Some really captured my imagination … Continue reading

Homeless at Beijing McDonald

McDondald breakfast
In recent years with Starbucks opening shops in China finding coffee in China has became lot easier. Since then, other coffee shops had follows which open everywhere. However, tea is still the preferred beverage here and coffee is more expensive here than in North America, a cup of coffee could cost $4, $5 or even more at some pricy coffee shops. (For that amount one can buys a good meal)
The China McDonald offers a lower price coffee compare to Starbucks for the one in need. The McCafé section is usually has no line up with eager staff to serve you
There are two McDonalds at the Wangfujing pedestrian mall; one is in a large shopping mall and the other one which is larger with two levels at a busy location and longer hours for business.
I went for the other one that morning. The breakfast combos are same as the ones in North American with a new twist: one can choose either Soya milk or coffee.
Even it was early in the morning but the place was busy with customers already.
After I got my meal, I went upstairs thinking it would be less crowed and allowed me the street view from above. However the intriguing view was inside and not far from where I was sitting: a number of young men were sleeping on benches; some completely lay down still wearing their shoes and some sitting up resting their heads on the table. They were cleanly dressed with new looking clothing some had a large backpack by their side.

homeless at McMonald

While eating I was also observing the other customers but no one seem to paying any attentions to them beside myself. One man, look to be in his early twenties slowly sit up from his bench, after rubbing his eyes then spit onto the floor in front of him.
A man nearby wearing government uniform didn’t pay attention to the man but keep reading from his phone. Meanwhile a group of young women had arrived and chatting with each other while putting on their makeup.
Finally, a uniform security came upstairs but instead of telling the sleeping men to leave, he merely looked around and went back downstairs without waking anyone.
Later, at other McDonald, I noticed men would also hangout there without ordering any food.

My beautiful “Moon Cake” box

Today is the autumn moon festival which is a important festival in Chinese culture which not unlike the Thanksgiving in North America.
One of the traditions is friends and families would give gift of the moon cakes. The traditional moon cakes are made with lotus seed paste, brown sugar and with the salted duck egg yolk. When I was a kid I always look forward for this festival and the opportunity of tasting the moon cakes. Since the cakes are use as gift they usually come in fancy boxes and the more expensive one are even more impressive.
A couple years ago, I was in China just after the autumn moon festival. One morning, I discovered a very beautiful moon cake box been discarded near my friend’s apartment. The box was like nothing I ever seen; the outside was made with silk fabric with flowers and birds pattern and a gold silk cord as handle. Once untied, there are there compartment with silk linings. It came from the Shanghai Marriott hotel. I couldn’t resist picking it up and took the exquisite box back to Toronto with me.
moon cake box 1moon boxmoon cake box

moon cake boxmoon cake boxmoon cake box

Sweet almond soup

 

 sweet almond soup

Most of the western meals end with desert such as cake or pastry however at the end of a Chinese meal; a hot soup desert is served. Tong Sui literally translated as “sugar water” There are many of the sweet soups such as tofu custard, red bean soup, always serve either hot or warm in a small soup bowl.
At my dinner for my mother’s birthday, our sweet soup was sweet almond soup 杏仁西米露 which was make with almond power, rice, milk, rice and sugar

Mother’s birthday dinner

Yesterday was my mother’s 82 birthdays. Although her birthday was last month but she insists it was not her real birthday as she only goes by the Chinese calendar birthday. I went home early so I could go out to dinner with her. It was raining heavy but inside the restaurant was busy with dinners already.
We ordered three dishes between two of us plus the house soup and desert. Each of us ordered something we love, mother ordered her usual, the Palace pork and I ordered the mixed seafood in the bird nest and a spicy eggplant with tofu.
The seafood in the bird nest is a Cantonese dish and the nest actually made of edibles, fried shredded taro as the container for the seafood and vegetable. The basket- like nest is filled with scallops, shrimps, fish, calamari, mushrooms and mixed vegetable.
It was way too much food for two of us and at the end it came with my favours sweet almond soup。We end up took the left over home, more to enjoy later!.

seafood in a bird nest

Father and his Dim Sum

paper dim sum

 Father loved Dim Sum and his love for it was almost legendary among us. .Back in Hong Kong where we used to live we hardly ever went out to eat as a family because we were poor. Both of my parents worked and with family of six plus our grandmother there was little money left each month.. But I did remember the few times father took both my older sister and I out the rare treat to dim sum. Each time, as soon we sat down father would order the BBQ pork stream buns for us; we never got to try the ones we were eyeing like the shrimp dumplings or taro dumplings. .It would till I was adult to found out the reason because the stream buns were filling for little stomachs and we couldn’t eat more afterward so father didn’t have to spend much money on us.

After father retired he would go for dim sum at least three four times a week. No matter how bad the weather was, heavy rain or blowing snow he would took the bus for the half an hour ride to the nearest Chinese restaurant. Sometimes he returned covered in snow but in his hand he carried his newspaper and a small box of his beloved roasted pork.

Eventually when his Alzheimer reached its advance stage he couldn’t be out on his own and mother has no choice but went with him, their last dim sum outing end up in the hospital emergency department because he suffered a diabetic coma on the bus.

Just days before his funeral, I was wandering in Vancouver Chinatown and came across a store specializes in items for Chinese funeral. Outside there were displays of paper-made Dim Sum which I had never seen before! (.in Chinese funeral, family often brought realistic looking furniture, car, household items which all make with paper. .During the ceremony the items would be bourn as to offer to the decease for their after life use.)

I brought the paper dim sum carefully packed in my suitcase for the return trip to Toronto and after his service I burn the paper dim sum as an offering to him.

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Dim Sum with Mother

 

taro dumplings

When I was younger, there was no Chinese restaurant near where we lived. Finally, when one open which offered dim sum on the weekend. It was a treat for the new immigrant family like us. The Dim Sum outings reminded us of Hong Kong where we came from. Sunday when both of my parents had the day off from their jobs, our family of six, my parents, younger brother and two sister and I. All packed into my brother’s little car head to the restaurant for Dim Sum.. However the other Chinese families in the area had the same idea and the place was packed with long line of waiting customers. It was not unusual to spend an hour to wait for a table.

chicken with ginger stream buns

The place was full of voices of people talking, the dim sum servers’ calling out the items they had to offer. Almost as soon as we finished eating we would leave to make away the other waiting families.

tea dumpling

These dim sum outings last for a few more years until more Chinese restaurants opened. After my brother and sisters moved away and started their own families our dim sum outings ended.

congee

Since father’s passing, there are only my mother and I living in the house now. With my mother reached to her golden age, there are more trips to the hospital and doctors’ office. Somehow it helped to resume our dim sum outings. After each medical visit we ended up at the Chinese restaurant, just the two of us. I got to enjoy the food as well as the company of mother all over again.

How Tomato arrived in China

 

watercolor with paper cut

watercolor with paper cut

 Last year, I was having lunch in a local restaurant in Qingdao China. In front of me was a streaming hot bowl of tomato and egg soup. Somehow my mind was thinking what I read of how tomato came to China.

Now a day, tomato is commonly uses in Chinese cooking but few knew how arrived in China. The Chinese character of tomato (蕃茄) means foreign vegetable which indicated it is not native in China. .

A few years ago I picked up a self published book at a church book sale it called “bamboo sprouts and maple buds” by Martin W. Johns it is a account of life if a missionary family growing up in western china from 1913 to 1925. .His parents were Canadian born in Ontario, Canada.. In one of the chapters, He mentioned his parents brought tomato seeds with them to China and it flourished in their garden. Tomato was foreign to the Chinese and the taste had not caught on among the Chinese until they had left china.

One time they were having a picnic and their tomatoes caused of great deal of curiosity to the crowds of onlookers. His Mother would hand one over to be sample and were entertained by watching the grimaces as one after another tasted the acid fruit and spat it out on the ground

Interesting how almost 100 years later, tomato has became so much the common vegetable in China but few know about the Canadian connection.

Street food in Qingdao China

Eating is more than a way of life; it is a national passion here in China. Everywhere there are foods for sell and to consume. With that reason, there are plenty interesting street foods here in Qingdao. Being a coastal city Qingdao is known for its seafood it reflected in the street foods as well

Along the beaches and the busy street corners one of the common sights is street foods vendors with their bicycle carts. One thing I noticed they are more relaxed than the ones in Beijing. The vendors are more aggressive not only calling out for your attention also treats you as a challenge to make sure you will buy from them. One almost need to keep repeating no and walk fast to escape from them.

Here are some common street foods in Qingdao:

grilled octopus  streamed crabs

Grilled Squids, because being a coastal city Qingdao has plenty of squids and they are an inexpensive snack.

stinky tofu

green onion pan cakes s

Stinky tofu, although they smell bad, in fact this fermented, deep fried tofu is rather tasty.

 candied hawrhorn

candied fruit seller

Candied Hawthorn: hawthorn is similar to the crab apple; candied Hawthorn is a popular snack food popular in Northern China. It usually sells on a skewered bamboo stick covered with hardened sugar syrup. I also seen candied kiwi and yam offered as well.

Roasted sweet potato.

They are inexpensive and very popular

Roasted chestnut:This one is my favorite Chinese Roasted chestnuts are roasted in hot gravel.

Korean dinner in Qingdao

 korean dinner

Qingdao has a fairly large Korean community with over 100,000 Koreans is second only to Beijing with over 200,000 population. With the many Korean business and restaurants in Qingdao, one night we tried one at our neighborhood

Four of us ordered the dinner for four and shortly came a huge platter with meat (pork), lettuce and chili paste all pile together. The waitress then turned on the iron plate on our table and another waitress would take over then process to cook our meal

korean cooking 2korean cooking 3korean cooking  4

There were some little side dishes came with our order, soy beans, slices of melon, tiny slice of white fish and the all important kimchi. Each of us also have a plate of lettuce..

Within about ten minutes the meat, lettuce and sauce mixture was cook, we then pick up a spoonful to place it on a lettuce leaf wrap it and eat.

ready to eat