I started some poppies from seed this spring which grow into small plants and was told it will not produce flowers this year. My poppy seed has an interesting story: a couple of years ago, just before I travel to … Continue reading
I just return from three weeks in Beijing, China and the following is my impressions of this amazing city. Travel from day to night This is my fourth trips to China and third visits to Beijing. How I got there … Continue reading
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.
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.
Tea is the choice of beverage in China and coffee is more expensive here than in North America. Qingdao with its European influence has plenty of cafes. A cup of coffee usually goes for about 30-35 Yuan (about $5). For the same amount one can have a decent meal in most restaurants. In order to justify the cost and attract customers most cafes offer customer a unique experience more than just coffee. I discovered a few of them while I was there. The first one is in the old town district called “liangyu Books”.
One day, during my tour of the old town. I noticed a number of young Chinese got off and heading into a book store in a historic building. I got off at the next stop and head back. It was the “Liangyu, (good companion) books. The name came from a well known pictorial journal founded in 1925 in Shanghai. The café open since 2006 and pays tribute to the magazine. It is a combination of book store, café, gallery and museum.
When one enters this café, on the right side is the gallery space with exhibitions devoted to mainly artists related to the Liangyu magazine or Qingdao.The days I visit it was showing paintings and sketches by a Chinese artist to celebrate the 100 anniversary of his birth. The café and books section is on left with one large wall displaying reprints of the magazine. Another wall is a selections of books for sale. The café is full with charms with the few tables for one to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee while rest your feet or just get a tastes of Qingdao past.
Liangyu books #5Anhui Lu, ( old town) 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 Squids, because being a coastal city Qingdao has plenty of squids and they are an inexpensive snack.
Stinky tofu, although they smell bad, in fact this fermented, deep fried tofu is rather tasty.
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.
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
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.
Eat in Qingdao
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,
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.
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!
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.
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).
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.