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Popular Content

Showing content with the highest reputation since 05/07/2010 in all areas

  1. 13 points
    I'm thinking about putting together a small bilingual cookbook aimed at the expat and foreign student community. Would like to help people new to China be able to make food at home that is inexpensive and satisfying. Would like to include some exposure to the original Chinese recipe language, so people are not forced to use lame English-language adaptations.
  2. 12 points
    Just to present an alternative scenario, here's my story. I'm an American physician, now retired and living in China, who considered working as a doctor here several years ago but ultimately decided against it. Realize that the original poster @abhoriel is at a totally different point in his career, so much of what I have to say will not be relevant to his or her needs. Really appreciate the insights from @cinxj4 and am glad to see his useful post. Welcome to the forum! I was more interested in working in a Chinese setting in a second or third tier city than in an ex-pat clinic in a first-tier city. Here in Kunming I tend to associate more with Chinese friends and quickly get impatient with most expats. Don't really enjoy talking baseball and drinking beer with foreigners on Saturday night. It's just a personality quirk. The feature of practicing medicine in China with Chinese patients that worried me the most was the difficulty involved in understanding unspoken wishes, needs, and expectations in a cross-cultural setting. Not sure how to make that point clear to laymen, but much of any clinical interaction between a patient and doctor inescapably has its roots in the fabric of the culture and goes beyond just scientific problem solving and making appropriate therapeutic interventions. The subtle nuances of what things mean and how things are done in a clinical interaction have vast importance and are not easy to master in an alien cultural setting. Behaviors, including body language, that convey an appropriate degree of confidence mixed with caring and concern in one culture may send a different message in another culture. Patient perception becomes the reality in these matters and needs to be considered as such. I tried to divorce myself from clinical medicine and do some teaching at the local medical school (in Kunming.) They were trying to build market share in providing medical education to English speakers from non-western countries, mainly India and parts of Southeast Asia. My job was to help certain members of the faculty get up to speed with their Medical English. Did it part time on a contract basis for a couple years. Met more and more physicians who wanted help with submitting scientific publications to English-language medical journals. So I assisted them with translation, spending most of my effort in "smoothing out" and improving their first attempts and making the results more readable, making them sound more native and natural. There is a big niche for this, as @cubxj4 pointed out. It's something the usual foreign English teacher cannot do well because he or she doesn't already have the necessary technical vocabulary. If the Chinese doctor whose paper I'm helping translate is talking about the role of specific enzymatic biomarkers such as troponin in the early diagnosis of sub-endocardial myocardial infarction, I don't have to go to the library to understand his intentions. One of the more interesting tasks that I met over and over was helping well-respected doctors change the wording of plagiarized source articles enough that they would be less easily recognized. The ethics of the profession here in China leave much to be desired, and this soon became obvious in other ways as well. An additional consideration entered into deciding whether or not to practice medicine in China, namely that my specialty is not recognized here. I'm an emergency physician, and in the US that specialty is not only recognized, it is in high demand, and thus well paid. But in Chinese hospitals the usual approach to emergency care is to just require junior physicians to rotate through the emergency room or emergency department providing temporary staffing. Furthermore, I get the impression, though I don't know for sure, that it's considered an undesirable assignment and many of the doctors just grit their teeth and try to get it over with and move on to better things. Nobody wants to hang around and try become proficient. Doubtless it has to do, at least in part, with reimbursement issues. So I wound up just practicing six months back home each year, living lean and stashing away most of my earnings. Then I'd spend the remaining months here studying and traveling, living from savings. That worked out well until I finally retired. Now I have no real need for income beyond pension and investments and can spend most of my time doing what I'd like. Have thought some about volunteering with a NGO to help out in a needy part of Yunnan, of which there are many. But have not yet found a good way to do that and it may or may not come about. Much of what exists in that sphere tends to be "all consuming" and require a 110% commitment of one's resources with an almost religious zeal. It requires an altruistic self sacrificing mindset that I just don't have anymore. Would still like some life outside medicine to pursue my other interests. Realize that's selfish, but that's just the way it is.
  3. 10 points
    The website: http://www.unmultimedia.org/radio/chinese/ has an extensive archive of thousands of news articles and magazines in Chinese (as well as all other UN languages). Each article includes a word for word transcript and audio read by different reporters. Many of the magazine articles are 10 minutes and over of dialogue along with accurate transcripts. It's all free and extremely beneficial to students in the intermediate-advanced levels!
  4. 10 points
    Grandmother's spicy tofu is an essential Sichuan dish, and graces the menu of every Sichuan restaurant I've ever seen, anywhere in the world. It is quintessential Sichuan food, bursting with flavor and chock full of bold spices. The Chinese name refers to its historical inventor, a grandma with a pockmarked 麻子 face. Yunnan, where I live, has fondly adopted this dish and has made it our own. Not surprising, since we appreciate spicy food here just about as much as they do in Sichuan. After enjoying it for years in restaurants, I've been making it at home these last several months. A major advantage of doing it yourself is that you can adjust the heat of the dish, adapting it somewhat to your likes and dislikes, while still retaining its essential character. But I don't want to mislead you: no matter how you tweak it, this is food for an adventurous palate. It's not white toast or mashed potatoes. Let me show you how I made it yesterday. Like many good things here, it begins with a trip to the market to pick up the best fresh ingredients. I almost always approach these projects by telling the vendor what I intend to make and asking for specific ingredient recommendations. My usual tofu seller reluctantly turned me away. He specializes in tofu from Shiping Town and he told me what I needed for this recipe could be had for half as much money just across the alley. (As always, click the photos to enlarge them.) What I needed was "soft" 嫩 tofu, and that's what I got. Neither the silky "flower" tofu 豆花 that falls apart immediately or the "firm" tofu 老豆腐 that is best for sautéing. Will show it to you closer in a minute. I also bought long, tender green garlic greens, plucked before they start to form the characteristic root bulb. These go by the name 蒜苗 or 青蒜 and Sichuan cooks love them. They impart a mild garlic flavor, with some crunch and a fresh note missing from dried cloves of garlic. They are "brighter" as well as more subtle. To the right of the garlic greens in the photo above you see fresh cilantro, complete with roots, stems, and leaves. I bought a handful of these. They have so much more flavor than dried coriander seeds. On to the spice lady now, master of pickled foods and slow-preserved sauces, some of which you see just above. I always get a thrill out of entering her kingdom, and linger as long as I possibly can. She shows me new arrivals and tells me of alternatives to my tried and true selections, tempting me to expand my horizons. My shopping list from her only called for two items, but both were crucial to the success of the venture and neither would admit of any compromise. First was 豆豉, salty fermented black soybeans. These are in the left foreground of the picture above left. The beans are discrete, not mashed into a paste; but note that they aren't black "turtle beans" such as are used in Mexican cooking; they are a special soybean variety. And the star of the seasoning lineup, and one of her specialties, was the rightly famous Pixian douban jiang 郫县豆瓣酱。It is shown in the photo above right, in the big bowl on the left-hand side. This magnificent seasoning has often been described as "the soul of Sichuan cuisine." It is made from fermented broad beans and chilies, plus an assortment of auxiliary spices. The best of it takes months or even years to ferment and has so much punch you can smell it across the room. Let me show you now how all this came together in my Kunming kitchen yesterday afternoon. Important side-note: Before anything else, as in most Chinese home cooking, start soaking the rice. It needs a 15 minute pre-soak, and then requires about 30 minutes to boil and steam in my electric rice cooker. I do ingredient prep while the rice gets a head start, but never actually fire up the wok until the rice is completely ready. One prep item was a little out of the ordinary, and that was the essential Sichuan peppercorns 花椒。For this dish they need to be toasted and ground. I used a non-stick skillet with no oil and a marble mortar and pestle. You toast them until they begin releasing their aroma. When you smell them at that moment, it's a reminder that they aren't really peppers at all, they are unusual members of the citrus family. They have a distinct citrus aroma. I used two teaspoons of them. The tofu needs to be cut into cubes and soaked for 20 minutes or so in lightly-salted warm water. This does two things: first it removes any "off" flavors and second, it firms it up a bit so that is easier to handle during cooking. Less likely to fall apart or crumble. Finely sliver or mince some fresh ginger 生姜,enough to make two or three teaspoons. Do the same with two cloves of dry garlic 大蒜 and roughly tear apart three or four dried red chilies 干红辣椒。This is an important juncture because it's where you can easily alter how fiery you want the dish to be. To crank up the heat, use fresh chilies instead of dry ones. Selecting more potent chilies will allow you to earn admission to the "forehead drenched in sweat club" when you eat the finished product. 出汗 Finely cut the garlic greens 蒜苗, fresh cilantro 香菜, and the white of a large spring onion 大葱。I hold back a few of the chopped garlic greens and coriander so I can sprinkle them on the top of the finished dish as a garnish. I do the same with some of the crushed 花椒 toasted and ground Sichuan peppers. The rice just now announced that it was ready. I checked it, gave it a quick stir with a pair of chopsticks, unplugged the cooker and cracked the lid. Gently drain the tofu and set it aside. Everything is now ready to go, including the ground pork. One could use beef instead. I bought about 400 grams of tofu and abut 50 grams of meat. (I buy them by eye and then weigh them afterwards at home.) A ratio of six or eight to one is about right. This is mainly a tofu dish, not a meat dish. Mushrooms can be substituted for the meat if you are vegetarian. I've laid out two heaping tablespoons of douban jiang 郫县豆瓣酱 (on the left) and one heaping tablespoon of fermented black beans 豆豉 (on the right.) Used my big knife 菜刀 to finely chop the black beans so they will cook a bit quicker. Add some oil to a hot wok, quickly stir-fry the minced ginger, and add the garlic and dry red peppers when it begins to change color. Taking care not to burn the garlic, next add the ground meat and fry it until it looses it's pink color. Add the chopped garlic greens, cilantro, and spring onion, stirring quickly 翻炒 over medium heat. Add a tablespoon of light soy sauce 生抽, two tablespoons of Shaoxing cooking wine 料酒, and about a cup of chicken stock or water. This is the point at which to add a teaspoon or so of sugar if you think it is getting too spicy. Sugar seems to slightly moderate the heat. Mix everything well and then gently add the tofu, turning the fire to low. Let the tofu cook 2 or 3 minutes with minimal stirring. When you do stir it, do so with the back of your wok tool 锅铲 or ladle 大汤勺, only pushing slowly away from yourself, moving it in one direction only. No vigorous swirling, flipping or back and forth movements that might cause the tofu to fall apart and sort of just disappear. When the tofu has taken on the colors of the sauce in which it is cooking, you can thicken the juices with a mixture of cornstarch 淀粉 and water 水淀粉, prepared ahead of time by mixing one teaspoon of corn starch with two or three teaspoons of water. Don't add too much. The pan juices should just barely coat the back of your spatula or ladle. Don't turn it into a paste. I usually don't put in any extra salt because the beans, bean paste and soy sauce all are salty. Sprinkle on the remainder of the freshly ground Sichuan peppercorns, scoop it all out into a bowl and garnish with some of the reserved greens. This is a dish that is best served right away, while it is hot, straight from the stove. Diners, myself included, often heap some of it directly on top of a bowl of steamed rice and eat it that way. Might mention that some recipes call for adding additional vegetables to turn it into a one-dish meal. Though that's an approach I sometimes take with other Chinese food, I prefer not to risk messing up this classic. After all, it's one of China's "top ten" signature dishes, famous throughout the Middle Kingdom as well as all corners of the "outside world." Give it a try if you are in the mood for something spicy and delicious. It will make your day!
  5. 9 points
    First off, I'd like to welcome our first new moderators in.... years! @Lu and @陳德聰 have been getting used to how things work behind the scenes for a month or so now and are pretty much doing all the post approving / moving / deleting duties. This might mean some minor changes in what gets through the moderation queue, but nothing drastic, except perhaps improvements in response times in the Americas. Indeed as they've been doing this for a month already, you'll have noticed any changes by now. So thanks to them for offering to help out. And now that they're in place... Second: We should also have a small team of people in a volunteer / curator role. The tasks here would include: 1) Choosing content to be featured on the newer version of the homepage. The interface for this is quite straightforward, see the attached image. 2) Welcoming new members on-board. We've done this sporadically in the past, I'm hoping to get things running a little more systematically. By way of example, the poster here says she's studying in Nanjing. Right away that means she's got information which is useful to our members (Where? What's it like? So on). There are also topics she could be posting in right away (the fact that topic hasn't had a new post in six months shows the scope for improvement). Obviously not everyone is going to become a regular, but some will. Tools to aid this will include some kind of post-feed (like the new posts block on the homepage, maybe) including only posts by new members, highlighting posts by new members in topics, that kind of thing. Perhaps each new member automatically gets assigned to a volunteer, who gets a notification about their posts. Basically, I want to make sure the first posts by every new member are seen by someone who's thinking not just 'how do I answer this question' but also 'how do we make this person more likely to be here in six months'. 3) Similarly, encouraging existing members to contribute more. If someone mentions they're enjoying their new textbooks, suggest a write-up. If someone apologises for a late reply as they were on a trip through the Chinese countryside, suggest a trip report. The above is the top of the list and we can get started on this (enthusiasm permitting) by the end of the year, easily. There are other things I'd like to be doing in the longer term, but I'm going to leave those aside for now. If you're wondering what's in it for you - well, it's basically the above. If that's not the kind of thing you enjoy, continue using the site as you do currently. There'll probably be access to some more stats (tracking how we do on encouraging new members to stick around, for example) and definitely a private forum for volunteers and mods to discuss organisational stuff and post pictures of cats. If you enjoy the site and would like to help improve it and help others get more out of it, speak up. Don't worry if you're a relatively new member. I'm looking for, I guess, 5-10 people and it'd be nice to have a range of membership 'ages', and also people in different circumstances (eg, folk who are studying Chinese in China, at a university outside China, independently). If you're interested let me know. [email protected] Private Message or reply below. Questions and clarifications welcome. And don't forget to say hi to the new moderators! Edit: Changed the terminology to moderator, from admin. This is more accurate, we roughly have Admins: Me and Imron. Full server and back-end access, although Imron only uses his if I disappear. We can never be on the same plane. Mods: Our two new additions. Can approve, hide, delete, move, edit and generally toy with all posts. Can ban and warn members. Volunteers: None yet, role explained above.
  6. 9 points
    This morning I took a local bus for about an hour's journey across the city. To pass the time I indulged in some intensive eavesdropping, as you do. Nearly everyone's conversation referred to the price of something. The outrageous price of bean sprouts in the market, how much Ding Dong Dang's new car cost, how much his uncle paid for the new apartment and twice that again to turn it into something habitable, etc. etc. When I was teaching, I'd introduce Shakespeare. The only questions students ever asked were "How much is a ticket?" and "How much does the Complete Works cost". Zero interest in the contents. At family banquets, mama introduces each dish by announcing the price of each ingredient and how she managed to bargain the vendor down from one yuan to 9 mao. It only took half an hour. At formal dinners I have been advised to eat dish X because it is not only delicious but cost X元, as if that were some indicator of quality. I find most people totally money obsessed and it doesn't surprise me at all that someone would exaggerate the price of a gift, but it is still a pretty dumb thing to do. As jbradfor points out the boss may be able to check the real value. That said, I rarely meet bosses who know how to search the internet. It's only for using QQ and downloading movies, isn't it? "It's the thought that counts" doesn't hack it in China.
  7. 9 points
    I just saw this news article: Chinese universities offer free online courses Excerpt: "According to the Ministry of Education, the first 20 China university open courses were put online on Nov. 9. The will have free access to them through several websites, such as www.icourses.edu.cn, www.cntv.cn and www.163.com." I checked out a few lectures from www.icourses.edu.cn (爱课程) and they seem pretty interesting, complete with subtitles and all. I can't comment on the quality of the course topics, but for someone who is studying Chinese outside of China, this gives me a feel of how it's really like to be sitting in a class in China.
  8. 9 points
    That happened to me too. But it was in Italy and it was an Italian old man who kept staring at me. But then I am Chinese and this did not happen in China, so I guess it was not as a big deal as the "Chinese Stare".
  9. 8 points
    Whenever I come across posts written in a similar vein to the OP's, my immediate reaction is: is he taking the p!ss or is he for real? Whatever the case may be, I just can't take such posts seriously. I did downvote the OP mainly for three reasons: obtuseness, lack of originality, and obnoxiousness (oh! alliteration!). Warm regards, Chris Two Times
  10. 8 points
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