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Showing content with the highest reputation on 10/14/2019 in all areas

  1. 7 points
    2 nights in a row, I stopped for take-out from a restaurant near my hotel in 北京. Last night, I got back to my hotel and realized they had forgotten the most expensive part of my order. However, it was too late & too far to go back. A Chinese friend said “just tell them tomorrow. They will remember a foreigner didn’t get his dish.” I was skeptical. I also wondered if my language skills were sufficient to handle the situation. However, I hardly needed them. Today, I walked by the restaurant very fast on my way to the subway. A guy from the restaurant apparently saw me, chased after me, and told me they would give me my money back (I walk very fast, it’s amazing he caught up to me) He wasn’t even the one who made the mistake. I knew him from the previous night. They gave me my money back with much pride; Everyone smiled. Their food is good as well so I owe them a TripAdvisor review. In the USA, I would expect a restaurant to refund my money, but I can’t imagine them chasing me down the road to return my money.
  2. 3 points
    We are six days into our China road trip now. We easily procured a temporary Chinese drivers license at the Beijing airport which is valid for 1 year anywhere in China and valid just for driving a rented car. Reserving the rental car was a hassle. What they didn't tell us in advance was that the car rental company (a Hertz affiliate) would not rent any car to foreigners during Golden Week. So we could only start our road trip on October 8. In general, the car rental business in China is small compared to other countries and not very customer friendly. My husband, who is a Beijing native, had a hard time understanding the car rental people - partly because of a lot of jargon he didn't know and partly because of accent. So his sister, who lives in Beijing, did most of the negotiating for us. We have been navigating easily using Baidu Maps. More later when I have time.
  3. 2 points
    It should come as no surprise that the best version of this classic dish is the one Mom always made back home when you were just a tadpole. Nonetheless, you can still turn out a decent approximation today without much fuss. Be glad show you how. 红烧茄子 -- red cooked eggplant, soy sauce braised eggplant. Above: The finished product and the main ingredients. Long Asian eggplants 长茄子 work best because they have tender skin. No need to peel them. One or two long green peppers and a red one. I’ve used mildly spicy green peppers 青椒 and a red bell pepper 红甜椒。One large spring onion 大葱 and a clove or two of garlic. I used gentle single-clove garlic 独蒜。A thumb of fresh ginger 生姜, which has a milder flavor than old ginger 老姜。Don't fret if your garlic and ginger are not the same as mine; just use a little less of them. Start with the meat, pork 猪肉。Rinse it and slice it thin across the grain then chop it several times on the cutting board 菜板 with your kitchen knife 菜刀 to turn it into small pieces, not quite as small as if it had been ground. I use meat that is about 80% lean 瘦肉 and 20% fat 肥肉。Marinate it with a teaspoon or two of corn starch 淀粉 and a tablespoon or two of cooking wine 料酒。This is called “velveting” the meat and it helps make it tender. Wash the eggplant and cut it on a bias. This is called a “rolling cut” and what you do is hold the eggplant with one hand and give it about a quarter turn with each angled slice. 切滚刀快。Couldn't photograph the actual process without risking the loss of a thumb. Put it in a big bowl and toss it with a couple tablespoons of vinegar 白醋 and a teaspoon or so of salt 食用盐。Toss it well and let it stand about 10 minutes. This removes a good deal of excess moisture without letting the eggplant become brown. Mince 切碎 the garlic and thinly slice the ginger into rounds 切薄片。Wash and cut the peppers into strips 切条, removing and discarding the seeds. Slap the spring onion with the side of your knife to break it and partly flatten it; then cut it into thin slices. This allows it to cook fast and eliminates any “bite.” Prepare a braising sauce by adding about 2 tablespoons of light soy sauce 生抽 and the same amount of yellow cooking wine 料酒 to a bowl. Mix in about a half a tablespoon of dark soy sauce 老抽, a half teaspoon each of salt 盐 and granulated sugar 白砂糖。Stir in a tablespoon of corn starch 玉米淀粉 and a cup of water. Here’s where to put the 味精 MSG if you use it. I like about a fourth of a teaspoon. Ready now to fire up the wok. It's always good to assemble everything you will need; then look it all over critically like a general before going into battle. Once you are "over flame," the process goes real fast. You won't have time to fumble around looking for stuff. By the way, I’ve already got the rice working off to the side in the electric rice cooker. It takes about 30 minutes, and I want it to be ready when the other food comes off the stove. That way everything can hit the table hot. Don’t forget the culinary school adage, 热锅冷油。Get the wok hot over high heat before swirling in a couple tablespoons of oil. This lets it coat the metal better and makes the food less likely to just soak it up. I used rapeseed oil 菜籽油 today because it adds a pleasant note to eggplant, but it’s fine to use any oil with a high smoke point, such as peanut oil or corn oil. Olive oil won’t cut it. Fry the meat quickly together with the garlic and ginger. Keep it all in motion with your wok tool 锅铲 over high flame for about a minute, until the meat loses its pink color. Add the eggplant a handful at a time, squeezing out the extra liquid as you do so. My two eggplants left behind over a half a cup of their intracellular water. Stir 煸炒 and flip 翻炒 the food steadily over high heat until you start to see the eggplant taking one a bit of golden color 变金黄色。 That’s the point at which to add the sliced peppers. They don’t require much cooking time. After a minute or so, mix in the braising liquid, remembering to stir up the corn starch which has settled to the bottom of the bowl. The eggplant will need 4 or 5 more minutes, all the while uncovered. Keep it all moving, don’t let the sauce get too thick and scorch or stick to the wok. It’s fine to add more hot water as needed in small amounts, quarter of a cup or so at a time. I splash it in from a tea kettle. Check the eggplant frequently as you stir to see if it is done. The way to do that is to try to cut a piece of it with the edge of your spatula, pressing against the side of the wok. You are “there” when it still resists slightly, but then gives way without requiring too much muscle. Last of all, blend in the sliced spring onions. As you work the dish, it will acquire a deep color plus a glossy sheen; it will give off a complex aroma. Serve it up! What I often do when just making it for two is to start with one plate for each of each of us that has rice plus the eggplant, served 盖饭 “gaifan” style. No deep philosophic reason; it just looks nice. Hope this dish is something you might feel inclined to try. It’s not tricky or treacherous to execute. Reasonably healthy and memorably delicious. If you have no way to cook where you live, it's still good to be aware of 红烧茄子 (hongshao qiezi) since it's readily available in restaurants, small and large, all over China. -------------------- Cook’s footnote 小窍门: You will need to make two decisions ahead of time. First, whether to add meat or not. It’s good either way. Generally speaking, I add meat in order for it to become a “one-dish meal.” Otherwise, I leave it out. Second decision is whether or not to pre-fry the eggplant. The most common restaurant version includes that step. It gives the eggplant an improved texture but comes at the cost of quite a bit of extra trouble. Also, there are many ways to cut the eggplant. It’s OK to get creative.
  4. 1 point
    Prompted by a recent question in another thread (https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/59118-revisiting-the-classics-家常菜/?tab=comments#comment-459919), here's some simple help on picking the right soy sauce. My neighborhood supermarket has 30 or 40 brands on several yards of shelves. If one just walked in cold, the choice would be nearly overwhelming. In figuring out what kind of soy sauce to use, It helps to divide them into broad categories or types. Light soy sauce 生抽 is far and away the most commonly used. If a recipe just calls for "soy sauce" without specifying further, best strategy is to use light soy sauce 生抽。It is made by fermenting soybeans for several months. The higher grades usually have a longer fermentation time. Look for brands that have no additives (many of the cheaper ones are laced with MSG.) These better ones often bear the designation 特级 te ji, which roughly means "top grade." Expect to pay 15 to 25 Yuan for a 500 ml bottle. Please click the photos to enlarge them. Here's the kind I have used for the last 5 or 6 years. Notice that it says 不加味精 (no added MSG.) I'm not against small amounts of MSG, but would rather add it judiciously with my own hand instead of having unknown amounts of it hiding in my soy sauce. The arrow near the bottom points to where it says 特级。It has fermented 280 days; that's what the large number means. Same company makes one with a shorter time (180 days) and another with a longer time (380 days.) I take the middle road; the middle way. This brand also has no preservatives. You can also buy soy sauce in large plastic jugs for little more than the price of Coca Cola. You could afford to take a bath in it, not that you would want to. That stuff is made with lots of zippy "instant chemistry" and has only a passing acquaintance with the soy bean to which it owes its name. Best avoided. It's easy to get seduced by "special purpose" soy sauce being promoted just for making one kind of food. One can buy a special type of soy sauce for steaming fish 蒸鱼豉油 and another soy sauce that has been flavored with tiny 虾米 dried shrimp 海鲜酱油。One other common type is promoted as being specifically for 红烧肉 red-cooked pork. It typically contains star anise plus a little cinnamon. There's nothing wrong with these, but they take a lot of extra cabinet space and aren't really necessary. You can use plain soy sauce just as well and add the extra seasonings by hand as required. Low-sodium soy sauce exists, and will usually be labeled 低盐酱油, meaning "low salt." It would be a mistake to think that "light soy sauce" means it is low in salt. Some brands are labeled as being "natural and organic" 天然有机。I don't have any experience with them. When I use soy sauce in a dish, I dial back the cooking salt 食用盐 a little to allow for it. All soy sauce contains flour in addition to fermented soy, so it's not gluten free, just in case that is something with which you are concerned. The second main kind of soy sauce is 老抽,usually rendered into English as "old soy sauce." or "dark soy sauce." It is used in cooking, not as a table condiment. It's quite a bit more concentrated than "young soy sauce" 生抽,and typically contains both flour-based thickeners and molasses-type sweeteners. It is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, whereas light soy sauce just runs right off. If I'm using a casual Chinese recipe that calls for both 生抽 and 老抽 without specifying precise amounts, I will use three or four times as much 生抽 as 老抽。Old soy sauce imparts a deeper color to a dish but not a whole lot of flavor. It is very often made with fermented mushrooms added during processing to enrich the taste, to make it more substantial. Here's one I've used several years with good results. Note the arrow pointing out that it is also 特级 (top grade.) Costs about the same as 生抽, 15 or 20 Yuan for a 500 ml bottle. Sometimes one also uses a very thick soy sauce as a dipping sauce for roast meat or duck 烤肉/烤鸭, alone or mixed with plum sauce. It is slightly sweet and comes in a wide-mouth jar; thick enough to require a spoon to serve it. If you are looking for general-purpose Chinese cooking soy sauce, that's not what you are after. Pass it by. In summary, your kitchen cupboard will be just fine with a bottle of 生抽 and another of 老抽。It's worth shelling out the little bit extra to get 特级 editions of both.
  5. 1 point
    Funny you mention that, because I've often thought it would be interesting to open -- well, visit at least -- a restaurant serving dishes hewing as closely as possible to ancient meals. Hard, because so many things -- sugar, tomatoes, chilis, potatoes, peanuts, corn, etc -- are by historical reckoning relatively new to China.
  6. 1 point
    after living in japan for a few years and trying all their soy sauces, I find I have yet to meet a chinese one that is better than this. It's tangy in a way that makes all others seem bland, full of fermented soybean flavor. i did a quick search and couldn't find it on taobao or baidu... but if you go to a fancy import store with lots of japanese stuff you'll probably find it. well worth the additional penny or two.
  7. 1 point
    I have no idea if this going to be new to you or something that is known to all chinese foodies such as yourself. Have you heard of or indeed read The Mountain House Cookbook, recipes from the Song dynasty. Apparently it is still in print and available. I am not necessarily proposing you cook any of them but it might be an interesting read and may inspire. If the logistics weren't so complicated I would buy this for you as a Christmas present.
  8. 1 point
    This is a good case where both examples are correct and have different meanings. I can now see how this is not an American/British difference at all.
  9. 1 point
    Thanks @abcdefg it looks and sounds delicious, will taste it tomorrow. I'll have to go for the vegetarian option this time and ordinary European aubergines. I can't think of any reason why the Asian type couldn't be grown here. I also like the round Italian type, they're great sliced into rounds.
  10. 1 point
    I've tried making this in the UK. We don't have the long aubergines (eggplants), at least not in the regular supermarkets, but it comes out fine even with the type we normally have here. This is one of my favourite dishes, and I never fail to have some every time I go back to China. Another similar dish is 地三鲜, usually eaten in the northeast of China.
  11. 1 point
    The positive side of face. There's more honor to be had being publicly seen to return a foreigner's money than there is to keep it.
  12. 1 point
    Don't forget this https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweet_soy_sauce
  13. 1 point
    Yes, that's a real good one that you found. Top shelf!
  14. 1 point
    A favorite of mine and on the menus here in the UK along with sweet and sour chicken or prawns or even beef. One thing I think that is often forgotten is soups, egg drop soup or sweet corn soup. there are probably more - a clear soup I don't know the name of.
  15. 1 point
    I look forward to 红烧茄子, and even have some aubergines at home waiting for a recipe. If there's room for another request, I used to like 罗汉斋 (Buddha's delight), I guess the dish can take different combinations of tofu and many types of vegetables (or pickled Chinese veggies only?), and would love to know what is the sauce.
  16. 1 point
    Gotta have 回锅肉 on “the list”.
  17. 1 point
    do you use different 老抽 or 生抽 for the different dishes. I have bought a few different 生抽 now but some seem to verge towards the 老抽 end of things
  18. 1 point
    Epicures can sneer all they want, but you can't ignore 古老肉/糖醋里脊. (But yes, it seems embarrassing to order it, so I usually don't.) Another can't-miss is 炸酱面. (It can be ordered without embarrassment.) 麻婆豆腐 and 京酱肉丝 also belong on the old-standbys list. (These all assume you can these days still afford to order meat.)
  19. 1 point
    We had some 家里做的包子 tonight
  20. 1 point
  21. 1 point
    I attended 1 on 1 classes at Culture Yard bear Beixinqiao and found them excellent. Would mean a commute for you though.
  22. 1 point
    I think it is really important to develop this skill - the ability to think of, and hear in your mind any sound in Mandarin and to be able to clearly differentiate (in your mind's ears) the different sounds and different tones, building a model in your mind where different tone = different sound. Once you can do that, remembering the tones becomes simple because you don't need to remember the tone, you just remember the complete sound (which includes the tone). Even if you think you don't have the ability to remember sounds like this, that's probably not true. I'm sure if you try you can think of and hear "Happy Birthday", "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" or the voice of your favourite TV/movie character in your head, and that's because you've heard them over and over and over again. You need to do the same with the sounds of Mandarin until they are ingrained enough in your mind that you can hear them at will.
  23. 1 point
    Thanks for your link though Shelly. It's often hard to know if a rule is still in existence or just ignored completely. For example anyone with a B licences plate can't drive within the 4th ring road yet I see loads of them daily in the center. It's illegal to drive on a ring road with a motorcycle but I and a whole lot of others do it regularly passing police cars, and even waved through check points many times . However it's sensible to point out on a forum what the rules are let everyone decide how to proceed. E.g illegal driving maybe a fine and points on license if unlucky. One drink or no license and it's 15 day jail term and possibly removed from the country (as happened a colleague)
  24. 1 point
    yup i do it every now and then (5, 6 times a year ). Its a great way to see the nearby and faraway places . I went to 古北水镇 last weekend but have done a lot of much longer road trips. I heard about this temporary driving license facility at Beijing airport but no idea if its a reality or not., Might be best to to go and ask directly as rules and websites can become out of date quite quickly in China. As of a more general long term suggestion, If you plan to stay in Beijing for a while and have a resident permit then a chinese driving licence is the way to go. Its pretty straight forward if you use an agent.He wll bring you to the testing center and do everything (apart from sit the test). The test is fairly straightforward, 2 full days study you should pass Driving in Beijing is an experience, some foreigners make a song and dance about it but you get used to the rules or lack thereof, quite quickly. Its not as dangerous as people make out as everyone drives at a modest pace, even on the freeways, ring roads (compared to Europe) but the chances of a fender bender is higher. Its sterotyping i know but the average chinese person can't drive for *insert derogatory word of your choice*. So if you expect the unexpected (people cutting in front of you from junctions, no indictaors, driving whilst browsing their phones, driving down the street the wrong way etc) its pretty mangeable and an adventure. You can park overnight on the street (there is sometimes a number you can phone or someone will come peddling after you on a bike to take payment, in carparks etc) but its not cheap so best to hire the car the day you leave Beijing to go elsewhere . Finding a parking spot on the street is a difficult enough task though even a good deal out from the center I use the 神州租车 APP. its useful. You need to upload you passport and visa on the APP, wait for a few days for them to register you, go to one of their offices and enquire as to why they haven't, the guys wakes up from his afternoon nap looks at you startled like your an alien, then gets on with it , and bingo your set to go I link my ALIPAY account to it, you have 3 options, credit card details , alipay 芝麻points if you have them (700) or prepay deposit on the day. The car are usually good and cheap 200kuai upwards, 300 for a SUV but there is always 70 or so extra charges for this and that fee. A decent company don't make any issues about a few scuffs here and there, no more that hertz or avis do anyway. I like driving as its part of a road trip for me, full up with snacks, stop off at small towns, take detours to see lakes etc, see the sights but if its just a way of getting from A to B e.g. beijing to Xi'an then the high speed train is the way to go. However others I know just see it as stressful and avoid it if possible, each to their own. Actually I am thinking about the same trip soon to Xian, haven't been there in 10 years I doubth thats correct Shelly I have done it a load of times and every year there is a max exodus of rental cars leaving Beijing during chunjie and national holidays. In fact its hard to rent a car at that time as they are nearly all gone. Last time I went to 辽宁 and had to hire the top end range, everything else already gone can you even go there as a foreigner without an invite I seem hear varying reports about that all contradicting each other.
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