Thursday, June 26, 2014


        It's an interesting experience being in the minority. My tall, elderly, white-haired, large-nosed, very Polish-looking husband turned heads as we walked down the streets of Jinan, China like unto Brad Pitt. I would stand back and watch people stop and stare as John walked by, turn and watch him walk away. This never ceased to amaze me.   We were stared at all the time in Jinan because foreigners are relatively few in this city of 6 million. Our visit to Shanghai was pleasant because foreigners are everywhere so no one takes much notice if you look different.
        At a potluck gathering on Central Campus, I spoke to a female American professor who had a pretty good command of the Chinese language. When I commended her on this skill, I was surprised to discover that she wished she couldn't understand everything students said because their comments on her physical appearance were uncomplimentary and rude. In particular, comments about her large nose; which by western standards was just fine. That was the first time I took notice of the characteristics of the Asian nose: small and flat.  No wonder Chinese stared at John's large Polish proboscis. That said, you would think there would be more dental awareness in China; enough said.
         A story in China Daily told of a young father who was surprised at his "ugly" new baby boy because he had married a "beautiful" wife. It turns out his wife's beauty was the result of successful plastic surgery which she did not reveal to her husband. He claimed he had been hoodwinked and filed for divorce.
        Aviva's presentation helped us better understand the deep-seated awareness our students harbor of physical appearance, particularly among female students.

Women's Good Luck Face

Traditional Chinese culture believes that "face comes from heart." It means that one's personality, thought and behavior could be seen from the face. Meanwhile, our appearances are divided into good or ill luck. Wealthy Chinese men want what most rich guys want in a potential way: good looks. But they also want something special: a good-luck face. Today I am gonna talk about the women's good-luck face.

Sometimes we have to admit that women actually decide the ups and downs of their men, because women can form a special kind of mental aura around their husbands which can affect the men's health, career and wealth. So, many people would like to marry a girl with a good-luck face.

Now, I will take Lydia as an example to show you what the most standard good-luck face looks like. First, your hair is supposed to be soft and straight, having soft hair means you have a gentle personality, could live an easy life and listen to your husband. (My wild, curly hair must give them a strange impression of me & my marriage!!)  Second, a round face is very necessary. Your forehead should be a little square and also there is meat in your face. It is great if your whole face looks willing to make friends and ready to help others. Third is the eyes. They should have clear distinction between black and white in your eyes, just like the leading lady in the cartoon. Girls with this kind of eyes are often naive and simple, they look pretty good and they are kind and polite. They usually have an optimistic attitude in life. Then, a straight nose is also necessary. Girls with good nose are thought to be confident and competent. They can help their husband in business and achieve big success. Next, your lips are opposed to be red and the teeth should be good. At the same time, a soft clear voice is also very important, because this kind of girls are usually gentle and considerable. They are the typical good wife in men's eyes.

When we talk about the gook-luck face, we are saying it as a group of three. It best for you to have a group of features. But, if you only have one or two, it is ok. A girl with these facial features are considered to be a good wife. If men marry her, they are more likely to have a happy family and get success in their career, because she will bring them the good luck and a bright future. But, if you don't have these features, it does not matter so much. You will not bring ill luck to men. It shows that you are just normal girl.

Candied Gourd…Most popular traditional Chinese Snack

The word snack is thrown around with ambiguous abandon in China. The word confused my western idea of individually wrapped snacks. Sure, the grocery stores sell gobs of such snacks; but on the street, snacks are a different animal. Fried squid, pineapple quarters, melon quarters, scorpions, cicada are just a few examples. But the most popular, ever-present snack is the oddest candied crabapple-looking fruit stacked on a stick. We bought one once just to see what the attraction was about. I took one bite and gave the rest to John. Looks are deceiving. Nicole's presentation gave us a better description of this ubiquitous snack.

An old man was selling the candied gourd
I'll tell you about a very common snack in our daily life. We see it nearly everywhere on the street. It is red and tastes both sweet and sour. Do you know what it is?

It's candied gourd, a Chinese tradition. I still remember a picture which looks like a small 'tree' laden with fruit. Actually, it was an old man selling candied gourds.

The origin of this snack is from the Song Dynasty. One of the emperor's high-ranked imperial concubines (that's one of his wives) became ill. She didn't feel like eating anything. The doctor in the palace used many expensive medicine, but it didn't work. So the emperor put a notice asking for a doctor who can cure his wife's disease. Several days later, a doctor from the people asked for the emperor. He felt the pulse and then said, "Boil rock candy and hawthorns together and eat it before meals." Later, the imperial concubine really recovered. Since then people knew that hawthorns are good for digestion, and day by day, it gradually became today's popular candied gourd.

Rolling over hawthorns in sugar mixture
If you want to make candied gourd by yourself you should prepare several fresh hawthorns, sugar and a bamboo stick.
Wash the hawthorns first and then pick out the core. Slide 5-7 hawthorns in one bamboo stick. Place sugar in a wok with 3kg water. Heat 20 minutes and stir. Roll hawthorns in sugar mixture.This a general instruction of making candied hawthorns. In practice, however, it's not so easy.

Various candied gourds
Anyway candied gourd is enjoyed by old and young. It can get up one's appetite, allay tiredness and reduce your fever. Since its origin from Beijing, it has become a part of the history of Beijing City. It somehow implies a simple, quiet and historical urban lifestyle of native in Beijing. Nowadays, this CHinese traditional snack is very popular over all our country. What's more, it has developed many varieties. For example, people often put other fruits into it to satisfy different people's appetite. All in all, if you introduce Chinese snacks to anyone, candied gourd is the most representative one.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Chongqing Hot Pot

For quite a while after arriving in Jinan City, I heard the term Hot Pot but had no idea what it meant. Then a group of students took me to a hot pot restaurant…a unique experience. I think this is the genius of the American critique of Chinese food about eating a Chinese feast and you're hungry an hour later.
Betty's presentation gave us a glimpse of this technique.

Chongqing hot pot is famous for its unique flavor and is popular all over China.  I can remember clearly that when I first come to Shandong University, many of my classmates asked me about the reason why the people living in Chongqing like the hot pot so much. What really makes them confused is that even though we have ate so much, we don't feel uncomfortable. Now I will tell you something about the Chongqing hot pot.

Chongqing Hot Pot is the most famous dish in Chongqing. Chongqing local people consider the hot pot a local specialty, which is famous for its peppery and hot fast, scalding yet fresh and tender. People gather around a small pot filled with flavorful and nutritious clear soup base. You have a choice of spicy, pure and combo for the soup base. Thin sliced raw variety meat, fish, various bean curd products and all kinds of vegetables are boiled in the soup base. You then dip them in a little bowl of special sauce. Be careful since the spicy soup base is burning hot.

It was first eaten by poor boatmen of the Yangtze River in Chongqing area and then spread westwards tot he rest of Sichuan. Now it is a very popular local flavor and can be found in every corner of the city. There are a great variety of hot pots. If your are adventurous enough, you can basically cook anything with hot pot, like pig's brain and duck's kidney.

Chongqing people love their hot pot, especially when the weather is steamy. The fire dances under the pot, the heavily oiled and specced soup boils with hazy steam, and the people are bathed in sweat. Although hot pot can be found wherever there are street vendors or small restaurants, Chongqing hot pot has the greatest variety and is known for its delicious soup base and dipping sauce. I think according to my introduction, you can imagine how delicious the Chongqing hot pot is. It you come to Chongqing, don't forget to fast the hot pot. I think this will m=not make you disappointed and with the development of society, I believe ho pot will becoming more and more popular in the world and become a world famous brand in the future.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

…a bit more food?

I am personally grateful that my time in China was in Shandong Provence because this farm friendly area is known for the type of food I am partial too…and not hot 'n spicy like other Chinese area cuisines.   The variety of fish is impressive, even if I couldn't touch most of it. My students from other parts of the country complain that the food in Jinan is too salty. Everyone is a food critic in China and fiercely loyal to their local cuisine. I marveled at the skillful use of garlic; never garlicky like Italian cuisine. The previous blog mentioned 8 cuisines of China. Blair presented a little bit more information.

Food means a lot to Chinese people, there is an idiom in China: "People make food their god." It is no exaggeration to say that Chinese cuisine is dainty in its items, esthetics, atmosphere and effects.

China can be divided into many geographic areas and each area has a distinct style of cooking. To be specific, there are 8 types: Sichuan Cuisine, Shandong Cuisine, Guangdong Cuisine, Hunan Cuisine, Fujian Cuisine, Jiangsu Cuisine, Zhejiang Cuisine and Anhui Cuisine.

Sichuan Cuisine is famous for it hot and spicy taste with the perfect use of pepper.

Shandong Cuisine is the local flavor of Jinan City and Jiaodong peninsula derived from the use of shallots and garlic.

Guangdong dishes use fine and rare ingredients cooked with polished skill in a dainty style. It emphasizes a flavor which is clear but not light, refreshing but not common, tender but not crude.

Hunan Cuisine lays a stress on the use of oil, dense color, techniques that produce crispness, softness and tenderness as del as the savory flavors and spices.

Fujian Cuisine has 4 distinctive features: fine cutting techniques, alternative soups, unique seasonings, and exquisite cooking. 

The main techniques of Jiangsu Cuisine are braising and stewing, thereby enhancing the original flavor and sauce.

The chief techniques of cooking Zhejiang Cuisine lie in the methods used such as frying, quick-fry, stir-fry, braising and steaming thus rendering the dishes both salubrious and savory.

Anhui Cuisine has less fried or quick-fried dishes than those that are braised. People there are inclined to add ham as seasoning and sugar candy to enrich the freshness and are quite accomplished in the art of cooking.

Medicinal food is food with the function of dietetic therapy which is made by taking medicine and food as materials and processing them through cooking. It is the product of the combination of Chinese traditional medical knowledge and cooking experience.

Chinese New Year foods are very important to Chinese people. All family members come together to eat at this time. Chinese New Year foods are not only delicious but it is traditional to eat certain foods over this festival. Chinese Dumplings, Fish, Spring Rolls, Nian Gao are usually seen as delicious and eaten at this time.

Most Chinese vegetarians are Buddhists, following the Buddhist teachings about minimizing suffering. In addition, many Yoga practicers in China are vegetarians or vegans. Nowadays, in order to keep healthy and fit, more and more Chinese people who are not vegetarians or vegans, tend to not eat meat from time to time. 

Every dish of Chinese food has its advantages and contains different parts of Chinese culture. You shouldn't miss even one of them!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Manchu Han Imperial Feast

Speaking of mind-boggling Victoria gave a presentation that could easily add Chinese feasting to the list. The Chinese really do love delicious food. And presentation is just as important as taste. A feast for all the senses.

"Chinese quinine is divided into eight general cuisine or eight styles: Shandong food, Cantonese food, Jiangsu food, Fujian food, Zhejiang food, Hunan food and Anhui food. However, we can mention Chinese cuisine without mentioning Manchu Han Imperial Feast.

"When the Manchus conquered China and founded the Qing dynasty, the Manchu and Han people struggled for power. Kangxi emperor wanted to resolve the disputes and held a banquet on his 66th birthday. The banquet consisted of Manchu and Han dishes and both groups attended the banquet together.

"The meal was prepared comprising six banquets over three days with over 300 dishes. Altogether there are said to have been 196 main dishes and 124 snack dishes for a total of 320 dishes. Depending on how the dishes are counted with the sample, at the absolute minimum there were 108 dishes. Moreover, it is said that there were "thirty-Two Delicacies" referring to the more exotic ingredients used for the banquet. 

"The 'Eight Mountain Delicacies" include such dishes as camel hump, bear paws, monkey brains, leopard fetuses, ape's lips, rhinoceros tails and deer tendons. The eight Fowl Delicacies" include quail, swan, and peacock. The "Eight Grass Delicacies" include tremella and donkey nest fungus. And the "Eight Sea Delicacies" include dried sea cucumbers, shark fin, bird's next among others.

The Manchu Han Imperial Feast was more than just a lavish buffet of food, it was the pinnacle of culinary art and aesthetics. Dishes were laid out with great fanfare and even given poetic names such as water lily crisp and golden thread porridge.

"For the ceremonious occasion, music, fireworks and saluting were needed in receiving the distinguished guests. When all the guests arrived, the emperor invited them to take seats at the banquet. The order of seating at the table depended on their social status. After seated, the guests would be served the pastry first and then the Three-course Tea, and finally the main course. What's more, the officers ranking lower must toast to the hight-powered ones.

Nowadays, it is believed that many of the actual recipes for dishes at the first Manchu Han Imperial Feast failed to be handed down and have been lost; while other recipes used ingredients such as exotic plants and animals which are now protected.  Even though some five-star hotels claim that they served a re-creation of the Manchu Han Imperial Feast, many of the recipes and dishes are modified from their predecessors. Despite the modifications to the ancient styles of Manchu and Han culinary expertise, these modern interpretations are certainly worth of a try. So, come to China to try a modern re-creation of the legendary Manchu Han Imperial Banquet and feast like an emperor!"

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Mind Boggling China Facts

I came across a list of "mind boggling" facts about China in Business Insider. Our students helped us understand that the China we know today was born in 1978. The massive growth and progress that has taken place since that modern China date of birth helps mask what happened during the chaos of the Cultural Revolution. This list is somewhat boggling.

1. 20 million trees are cut every year to meet the Chinese demand for chopsticks. I wonder if the word 'trees' also refers to bamboo since most all the chopsticks we ever use are made of bamboo. I remember reading an article in China Daily that reflected concern about the wasteful use of chopsticks in China. They are trying to figure out how to recycle chopsticks and cut back on the massive consumption to natural resources it takes to provide a brand new pair of chopsticks for every meal for a billion people.

2. China's railway line could loop around Earth twice. I'll wager you're thinking 'bullet train' railway, like Europe. Think again. While a massive effort is underway to build a modern, bullet train railway system to crisscross China, only the biggest or most popular cities are presently connected. Students and friends in China tell me stories about traveling home on the extensive railway system of slow, Soviet-style trains. They often buy cheap, standing-room-only tickets whereby they stand &/or sit in the aisle for a 5 hour trip that a bullet train could travel in 2 hours.

3. China's coal reserves weigh as much a 575 million blue whales. China accounts for 46% of global coal production and 49% of global coal consumption. This consumption isn't going to diminish any time soon because China has definite growth goals. Pretty much cancels out recent edicts in the West.

4. In 2 years, China produced more cement than the U.S. did in the 20th century. It's amazing to behold a totally cement, 40-story apartment building under construction, and very polluting. A lot of that cement was used to build those infamous Chinese ghost cities.

5. Smoking kills 1 million Chinese every year. A drop in the bucket when life is expendable. 

6. China's natural gas reserves are equivalent to about 1.24 BILLION Olympic-size swimming pools, each of which has the volume of 88,000 cubic feet. And there are no issues about building pipelines to transport the stuff.

7. China's annual instant-noodle consumption is enough to feed all of Algeria's 38.7 million people 3 meals a day for a year. At lunchtime one sees thousand of folks eating noodles that they carry in plastic bags which are placed in metal or plastic bowls ….eaten with chopsticks, of course.

8. China eats about 5,200 Eiffel tower's 10,000 tons worth of pork every year…that's 52 million tons a year. This sounds like a lot of meat is being eaten but that's not necessarily so. Chinese meals are 80% vegetables with 20% slivers of pork or chicken or fish. Very little beef.

9. China's 20 richest people have a combined net worth of $145 billion; larger than Hungary's GDP.  By itself this trivia fact looks impressive; big fish in little pond stuff.  China's emerging middle class is nibbling at the big fish.

10. Over 30 million people in China live in caves; that's more than the population of Saudi Arabia. That's a lot of folks without proper plumbing; with a lot of chickens. No wonder SARS epidemics flare up.

11. About 8 billion pairs of socks are made annually in China's Datang District, also known as Sock City. That's some kind of export. I didn't see all that many Chinese wearing socks.

12. China's suicide rate is more than double that of the U.S.; about 22.2 deaths per 100,000. That sounds pretty bad a first glance but percentage-wise, China is way behind the U.S. on this one with a population of only 250,000,000.

13. China is close in size to the continental U.S. but has only one time zone. It's not easy living in darkness at 5:30 p.m. Many buildings are lit up at night with walls of neon lights so they can be seen at 6 p.m. in the dark mixed with the fog of pollution. 

14. China's food system feeds nearly 25% of the earth's population on just 7% of its arable land. At the rate that citizens are moving or being moved into cities, it's a wonder anyone's left to work the arable land. Urban sprawl has gobbled up rich farm land at an alarming rate. 

15. Chinese consumer spending will triple by 2020 from $2 trillion in 2010 to $6 trillion in 2020. Retail therapy is alive and well in China.
The government owns the streets by day but the people's exciting night markets spill out onto the sidewalks everywhere. Serious bling and conspicuous consumption are all the rage. I love how Chinese women wear interesting, fashionable clothes…not the ubiquitous T-shirts & jeans in the West.

16. Half the world's pigs live in China; that's 475 million. They're smaller and cheaper to raise than cattle. While there may be a lot of pigs, the oinkers are way out-numbered by the chickens.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Happy Dragon Boat Festival

About 10 years ago I met a middle-age lady who was traveling to somewhere in southeast Asia to compete in some kind of boat race with her dragon boat team. I was intrigued to discover that the shipped their elaborately decorated boat half way around the world each year, sometimes several times…just for the fun of it. It wasn't until I lived in China in the month of June that I discovered that this wasn't just a lark. There really is a Dragon Festival with dragon boat races. What might surprise you is what all the racing is about.  Joanna's presentation told me the rest of the story…..

"Good morning, everyone. Today, my topic is the custom of Dragon Boat Festival.  As we all know the festival of the day is to venerate the patriotic poet Qu Yuan. He was very loyal minister in state of Chu (221-206 BC). But wealthy Zi Lan told lies about him to the king so Qu Yuan was exiled. He kept his patriot feeling alive writing great poems. After he wrote his last and best poem he drowned himself in the river rather than see his country conquered by Qin. Because of this there are three main activities to commemorate his death.

"First, people drink wine to protect themselves from illness and some people pour wine into the river hoping to turn all aquatic beasts drunk, in case they will harm Qu Yuan.
"Second, when the local people back in Qu Yuan's time heard that he threw himself into river many fishermen searched for his body by sailing their boats on the river. Other villagers threw eggs and zongzi (rice pudding) into river to attract fish and animals from destroying Qu Yuaan's body. Today Chinese people imitate these acts and throw special Chinese rice-pudding into the river to show respect for this great patriot poet.  Zongzi is now made in various shapes and we become customers of these rice puddings wrapped and tied in leaves. 

"Last but not least, one of the most important activities of Dragon Boat Festival is the dragon boat racing, which always attract many spectators. It is said that the original ancient Chu people were reluctant to see Qu Yuan die, so many people tried to catch up with the rescue boat. They hoped Qu Yuan would be saved. But now dragon boat racing has developed into an aquatic sports item which features both Chinese tradition and modern sporting spirit. Dragon Boat Racing reflects a unity and cooperation, to make progress in the national spirit.

"May you have a happy Dragon Boat Festival holiday."