Saturday, March 24, 2012

I'm sad to say...

This cookie's numbers are up... T-0 minutes before it is in my tummy!
...that this blog is officially inactive. Unfortunately, with busy schedules and a complete lack of cooking space, I am unable to continue this blog any longer. Needless to say, my passion for culinary goodness still burns feverishly inside me! Thank you to all the friends, family, and various netizens for checking out my blog and taking an interest in my life, anecdotes, and food pornography. I am very sad to discontinue this blog officially but alas, the time has come...
Me after this post...

Update 11/20/2012:  I have officially entered the smartphone world and will be continuing to post pictures on my Instagram account SeduceMyStomach. There will be pictures of both restaurants and homemade cooking. Please feel free to check out my new pictures!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A Day to Celebrate the Females

(Above says: 'Women'
Below says: "All the male alumns will always love you")
At the beginning of the month, our school (along with schools across the country) celebrated Girl's Day. Don't worry boys, you have your very own day in autumn! Girl's Day is a day where all the boys show their appreciation for girls and all that they bring to the world. Taking into consideration the gender imbalance that exists in China (which is most severe in rural areas and technology-centric universities such as Tsinghua), it was nonetheless baffling to see a group of 20-25 guys serenading 3-4 girls in a circle with dozens of roses and candles underfoot. Banners declaring love (mostly unspecific and a general message to all women), wishes for prosperous love lives and successful relationships were strewn across campus. There was even a small carnivalesque arcade outside my classroom from which you could win cuddly teddy bears, roses or--if you were persistent or lucky enough--a new ipad!
(This banner says, "No matter whose women you end up becoming, you will always be ours." Let it be known that this sounds much more sexist in English than Chinese and we shall temporarily ignore the resultative debate.)
To help get the girls of the program situated and settled into our new university's lifestyle, the boys got together and helped us join the celebration. They brought us bouquets of flowers, a small gift (specifically chosen for each girl) and then topped the festivities off with a dinner out. Considering any special plans for the previous month's Valentines Day were ruined by 11,014 km (6,844 miles) of distance and instead replaced with skype calls and emails, the celebration was welcomed with open arms.
For dinner, we went to a Hong Kong restaurant nearby. Cantonese food is one of the more popular kinds of Chinese food--oh, what an amazingly general category--found in the Western world. Most of the time when Westerners go out to eat Chinese food, there are in fact gobbling up Cantonese food. Dim Sum also originates from this subdivision of Chinese food. It's not as spicy as Western (Szechuan or Yunnan) food and doesn't overuse spices nor utilizes fresh ones neither. The dinner was delicious and wasn't too oily, even for Chinese standards...
Roasted Pork
Green Beans with Minced Chicken and Peppers
Angel Food Cake-Bread with Ice Cream (Dessert is served at the same time as the other entrées and appetizers of the meal)
Green Sprouts
Onion, Brocolli, and Pork Intestine (it has a very chewy consistency)
Shumai -- Shrimp Dumplings
Steamed Cucumbers with Scallions and Ginger
Various Cuts of Meat, Vegetables, and Shrimp in boiling broth
Roasted Turnip Cakes

Sausage, Peppers, and Baby Broccoli over Rice
One of my favorite Asian desserts, Egg Tarts (蛋挞 danta), come from the Southern provinces, namely the Portugese influence on Macau.
(Earlier in the day Melodie, Joeyee, Haojun, Will, Vicky & I went the local Bridge Café and treated ourselves to a Dutch Apple Pie and Walnut Brownie à la mode)
Ironically enough, Girl's Day came the day before UN-instated International Women's Day. As my friend Will remarked, this coincidence naturally lends itself to a few tastefully-snarky remarks. That night, girls in universities across China matured from young naïve girls to strong independent (depending on who you ask) women. It's the unofficial-official night of maturation and womanhood. Although, I am certain that Chinese officials would never do this purposefully, the comedy of unintentional errors tend to make the most satisfying laughs. So take time out of your day to appreciate that special girl who you love--whether it be your mom or best friend (or both). Then, think of the special boys and remember to be thankful. I am.
Live Well. Eat Well. 好活。好吃。
Who says you can't play with your food?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

From Chinese Hipsters to Mainstream Gourmands

To my family and friends who are, as of yet, still unaware, I am once again in China! This time, I am studying at Tsinghua University in Beijing, ardently trying to perfect my Chinese. Although not quite there (fluency is a fickle thing), I am completely engulfed in the international environment that is Tsinghua University. Speaking french with my new friend Momoné from Côte D'Ivoire or Ahmed from Morocco while trying to learn a little german from my Swiss classmate Julien is a quotidian affair... And that's only during the break in my Chinese Comparative Politics lecture! As tiring as that can be, I am slowly continuing (/starting) my research for my thesis (which I have finally decided will be on the cultural implications of food safety concerns in China) as well as making many new friends.
Despite Tsinghua cafeterias' fame as the "best college food in the Beijing area," I still find myself craving for a stove and a home-cooked meal. My dorms lack such amenities although I am in the process of finagling myself into one of my Chinese friend's kitchens to cook them something delicious. When I am not eating from one of the many cafeterias (I will make a posting about these another time) or eating "convenient noodles" 方便面 (AKA instant noodles), I go to restaurants with my fellow program-mates. In the usual Chinese method, we order family-style and in quantities that one would think is not even humanly possible to consume; and without fail, find a way to finish our plates. So for the curious, here are some of the many pictures I have taken thus far.
One Friday night, my friend and program coordinator, xiaochi 小池, brought us to a book café called "blue goat." A bike ride across campus and I have now discovered the den of the Chinese hipsters! If an Upper West Side dive bar and a Los Feliz coffee shop had an offspring, it would be one of Beijing's many book cafés. You can order beer, cocktails, tea, and coffee. You can do your homework during the day and listen to indie artists perform at night. The pirated dvd collection for sale here doesn't consist of the usual Hollywood blockbusters and subpar action movies but of the Criterion collection and Jean Cocteau's La Belle et la Bête (1946).
The Friday night I spent here, I got to see this guy sing some original songs, Bob Dylan covers, and old French songs all the while playing both the acoustic guitar and harmonica. During the performance, I also met a regular 禾苗 who is currently getting her graduate degree at Beijing University in Art History (a rarity in the usual financial, political, or science related degrees of China). The next day, she took a friend and I, in her "very dirty, dinged up, blue car," to a bunch of art galleries next to the famous art district 798 and dinner afterwards. There are promises of future 地道 (dì dao-authentic) adventures, cooking, and of course... art.
Unfortunately, my camera can get fickle at times so excuse the lack of quality and excessive redness in some of the photographs!
This fish was by far the best dish of the night!
I didn't order so I don't know any of the names... but I can tell you that this fish had a chili pepper sauce that was a little sweet with a kick to it!
Salt & Pepper Beef and Sautéed Vegetables
By dusk, we had gone to 6 or 7 different gallery openings! We fell a little short of our goal to hit every single opening of the day: 10.
This piece was an installation called "nightmare." It's a critique on the stress put onto young kids whose only way of distinguishing themselves is solely through schoolwork within the Chinese educational system. The plexiglass statue of the girl is standing in over 8000 lbs of actual exam and work books collected from young Chinese students across the country!
There is my new friend reading the materials on the art gallery.
(This is one long, physically continuous, record of film & cinema in China)

A staple and the most famous dish of Beijing food culture is almost without a doubt roasted duck (or as known in American restaurants--Peking Duck). Our program coordinator, newfound friend & gourmand, 小池 xiaochi, brought us to a restaurant that specializes in this delicacy. Upon walking in, you can see through a glass window the ducks being slowly roasted and chefs hard at work. We had an entire feast before the duck even arrived at the table!

The Chinese almost always have a soup with a meal! This was a simple soup with shrimp, needle mushroom, and green onion.
Stir-Fried Tofu with ground pork in chili sauce: 麻婆豆腐 mápódòufu, one of the most popular Szechuan dishes
Stir-Fried Green Beans with Minced Chicken, Sesame, and Chili Peppers

Eggplant in a sort of plum sauce... incredibly delicious!

Chicken in a Pepper Sauce with Green Onions

Tofu Skin with Sweet Peppers and Onions

Chicken in a sea of Chili Peppers and Sesame Seeds
(This was one of my favorite dishes of the night!)

I remember it was tasty...
Lotus Root with Sticky Rice!! This is a very sweet and delicious dish

Tofu & Peanuts cooked in a Vinegar-Peanut sauce

Vegetarian Spring Rolls
Pan-Fried Dumplings
Egg Rolls

We were all quite full when this was placed on the table's lazy susan. When eating roast duck, the Beijing way is to wrap it in a small "pancake" (a thinner, smaller, & softer tortilla) with cucumbers, onions, and plum sauce. You can make this in any way you want! They even provided blueberry jam and pop rocks (yes, the candy...) for those with a sweet tooth! I was happily surprised to discover how delicious it was!
The waiter cuts the duck table-side
The skin is thin and crispy. It tastes like honey and eating the crispiest parts is reminiscent of eating thin pieces of toffee!
From this view, you can see the "pancakes" and even the pop rocks (on the left side)
Beijing is proving to be quite the experience while meeting a lot of new people. I'm trying to be adventurous and try more new foods! I plan to have a post on my university's cafeterias so everyone can get an idea of what daily life is like for me. Life is good and relatively busy in the far east. Learning a language is no easy task. But what would life be without a challenge? I wish thee, from my parents in America to my friends in Europe and Africa, the best of days! I hope you live well, eat well.