So I’ve been roped into writing another blog. Last time I was writing about wacky shrimp-charmers and typical Chinese benevolence but I’m toning it all down a bit in an attempt to brandish my questionable cooking talent. However, do not fear these recipes, for they have earned critical acclaim from seasoned pundits such as my ex-flatmate and anosmic sausage-dog. What’s more is that I present an opportunity to make friends with your local veg-stall owner. Just visit every day and say ‘shēng yì xīng lóng’ after you’ve paid and you’ll be friends for life.
Perhaps I should stop flaunting my credentials get on with what you came here for.
Dish One – Egg Fried Rice
‘It sounds boring!’ I hear you cry. “It’s too easy!” you moan. Pfft. Don’t you remember the social sec from that questionable university rugby club telling you not to knock something until you’ve tried it?
- Egg, obviously. You’re going to need 2-5 of these, depending on how much you hit the gym.
- Rice. Try to scale this with the number of eggs you’ve used.
- Some kind of oil to grease your wok. I use peanut oil because it’s the cheapest.
- Vegetables. Normally I go with a solitary carrot because I’m boring, but you should try adding broccoli, pak choi or cauliflower. If you’re feeling really adventurous then add all four.
- Soy sauce, obviously. This is China after all.
- Sesame oil. This is the secret ingredient that sets apart the Jamie Olivers from the normal Olivers.
Start by getting your rice cooker on the go. While she’s doing the hard work for you, chop up your vegetables into little chunks and crack open your eggs into a small bowl. Then, fry the veg in your wok on a medium/high heat in some oil.
Once those seedless fruits are looking nice and cooked turn down the heat to low/medium and throw in the eggs. Be sure to give them a good whacking with a wooden spoon. Beat them until it looks like that scene from Team America when the hero-guy comes out of the pub.
Now you need to add in the rice. Make sure that it isn’t all mushy with water then throw it into the wok. Pour some soy sauce over it and stir it in. Usually you’ll need about 10-20mL of soy sauce, but you’ll soon work out how strong you like your flavours. Finally, pour some sesame oil into the wok and mix that in too. About 3-5mL is all you need.
And voila! That took about 15 minutes.
Dish Two – Chicken Stir Fry
This is my signature dish in China. My old housemates back home in England know how proud I was of my first bhuna and others find my bolognese irresistible. However, China isn’t fond of curry and you’ll pay a lot of money to cook yourself a proper bolognese so I’ll try to keep on topic.
- Chicken. Cluck cluck.
- Rice or noodles. This is a great opportunity because you can disguise this single recipe as two by using either carbohydrate base.
- Carrots. Feel free to add other vegetables but the carrots are the best thing about this dish.
- Ginger. You’ll need about 5cm of this, maybe more. Who knows? You’ll find out how much you like soon enough.
- Garlic. While we’re on the subject, anyone reading who hasn’t been to China might be interested to know that the Chinese like to munch on whole garlic cloves. You’ll need about three for this dish.
- Soy sauce. You’ll work out how much you need.
- Oil. Again, I use peanut oil because it’s the cheapest.
- Honey (not essential).
- Peanut butter (not essential).
- Peanuts (not essential).
Choose if you want rice or noodles. Prepare them but wait until later to cook.
Slice and dice your chicken and slap it into a moderately oiled wok. You don’t want to turn on the heat yet unless you like your chicken black. Wash your chopping board if you don’t have access to another and use it to chop your carrots. Slice them into 1cm thick batons, wash them and leave them aside. Turn on the chicken to a medium heat. Then start chopping up the ginger and garlic into tiny pieces. A big meaty cleaver helps with this. The smaller the better. You’ll see what I mean.
Somewhere in the middle of chopping up the ginger and garlic you’ll hear a mysterious voice whisper in your ear: ‘don’t forget to turn on the rice’. This will only occur if you chose to cook rice. Obey the voice.
When the chicken is almost cooked, which is usually when you’ve just peeled the garlic and ginger, put your carrots in the wok. If you’re cooking noodles, boil the water now.
When you feel like you can’t be bothered to chop ginger and garlic anymore, put them in the wok and turn the flame up high. I try to make some room in the middle of the wok and put them there, adding the soy sauce at the same time. I find that the flavours come out better when it’s been blasted with heat. Leave it for about 15 seconds and then stir it all in. After a few minutes I like to pick the wok up and toss the ingredients up into the air and catch them again in the wok. (I actually do this with the lid on but it’s still good practice). Finally, add a squirty of honey and a spoony of peanut butter. Stir it like that rumour you spread about Tom and Lucy back in ‘08.
If your choice was noodles, start cooking them now. They need about one or two minutes. If you chose rice, it should be cooked by now. Put it in a bowl and add a little bit of soy sauce. I like to add the noodles to the wok and stir fry them with some extra soy sauce.
About now everything should be ready. Just serve it up. Garnish with peanuts to add extra protein and a new crunchy texture.
And that’s it! Another just-satisfactory blog that has slipped through the editor’s occasionally slippery net.
When living in Tangjia there was a theme park called Pearl Amusement Park. Back in the days, it was very dirty and not very safe. Well guess what? As of today, it is still open and it is still as bad as it was 10 years ago, if not worse than before. This park has got to be the only park that I know where you do not EVER have to line up. It is pretty much a ghost amusement park (if you can call it that).
There was also a pizza place in Tangjia where all of the foreigners would go. The owner was a British guy, we all called Mr. Pizza. The restaurant is now owned by a Chinese lady. I can still recall the delicious taste of the pizzas, probably the best I have ever tasted.
My dad’s factory was in the Free Trade Zone. It is still there, the only thing that has changed is the factories around it. This Zone has massively extended in the past 10 years. It is incredible how Zhuhai has become this industrial city attracting more international companies every year. The Zhuhai Free Trade Zone actually had the largest economy in China in terms of GDP in 2008. Zhuhai definitively has a positive economic future.
A new Opera building is now under construction which surprised me when I saw it. The infrastructure is being built on water (of course) and is already looking quite nice. A new convention center with stunning architecture was also built and has now been open since October 2014. And finally probably the biggest ongoing project in Zhuhai right now is the construction of a bridge connecting Zhuhai to Macau and Hong Kong. The bridge is not finished yet but we can already see bits of it constructed. And of course to make it even more grandiose, they want to build a big mall in the middle of the bridge!
In the end, I am very happy to be back in Zhuhai. I think it is something everyone should have to experience at least once in their life. That feeling of coming back to a place that you had not seen for many years is just indescribable. Your stay in China just gets better when you recognize people that you knew 10 years ago. The mix of meeting new people and finding old friends makes you want to never leave this place. This city is definitively feeling like home, and I know for sure that I will be back soon!
Growing older happens not only too fast, but it can also be pretty exhausting especially if you are abroad for your birthday.
My birthday celebrations started on Friday when I partied with some of my InternChina friends. We went to a huge club area in Chengdu where we enjoyed some free drinks with many Chinese people. Club-hopping was amazing but we were out till about 4am. So I was able to catch some sleep until noon the next day.
I was a bit surprised that my host-family did not wish me “Happy Birthday”. Later though it turned out that it was only a cultural misunderstanding. In China birthdays are usually not given special importance until your 60th birthday. Bearing this in mind, I was happy they ignored it since my 60s are still some years ahead of me. Although they did not congratulate me, they invited my friends to come over to our flat for a party. During the day my host-sister Sophie was preparing hand-made cupcakes, milk tea and biscuits as well as rearranging the furniture to make sure all my 20 international guests would fit.
It was not only a birthday party but also an International Food Feast. Every intern as well as every Chinese guest brought one home-made dish and we shared all the international food: Bangers and Mash, Chicken Wings, Spaghetti Carbonara, American Pizza, Schnitzel, Bratkartoffeln, more mashed potatoes, Chinese vegetables, fried Jiaozi and dessert. I totally enjoyed having all this delicious food at the same time.
After dinner someone started blowing up balloons. It was lovely and colourful to begin with and distributing them all over the room reminded me of childhood birthday parties. Somehow the balloons found their way all around our living room landing on people and food. Soon the peaceful party took a different turn when people started throwing balloons at each other. Thankfully no one was seriously injured during the balloon fight =).
After the party I skyped with my family in Germany and went to bed already excited for Sunday, when we had decided to see the Giant Buddha of Leshan.
It was a terribly busy but amazing weekend. Since I am leaving tomorrow I wanted to say goodbye and thank all my new friends here in China. Hope to see you soon!
Due to the fact that two of our interns were leaving soon, we thought it would be great to organize a party with all the interns and their friends. We rented a little location at the beach, some speakers and a BBQ grill. The BBQ was as awesome as ever. We had vegetables, all kinds of meat and bread for the nearly-40 people who came. It was delicious!
The party started with fireworks (thanks to the nice Chinese couple who celebrated their wedding right around the corner), a worthy beginning for a great night.
Unfortunately, it was raining on Saturday night, no reason for us to cancel the party though! We were all soaking wet after a while, but thankfully we had great food, enough drinks and an awesome atmosphere so nobody even realized that it was raining.
Later at night we left the beach location to see the Champions League final, Bayern Munich vs. Borussia Dortmund. Two of our interns dressed up with jerseys and we all watched the game together in the local bar LPG. Did you see the match? It was so exciting!
So you are planning to come to China soon and it’s the first time?
If the answer is yes, here are some good tips you should know before you come.
I’m especially writing this for the French BTS Students, firstly because I’m a former one; when I came here the first time I can tell you that I was really surprised since I had different expectations about China.
Secondly because for most of the BTS people, this trip is the first (and certainly not the last) international experience and coming to China is a big challenge for most of them (at least it was for me).
My best advice before you come: buy a guide to China (like Lonely Planet, or Le Guide Michelin and le Routard for French readers). These small guides give you the most precise idea of what China looks like. They contain advice on how to behave in daily situations, with some Chinese vocabulary in it, so you can order food or explain where you want to go to a taxi driver.
I swear by my Michelin guide, it was my best friend when I came the first time and used it countless times.
I also believe you should be prepared for the contrasts here. You can be walking in a rich part of town where people don’t even look at you and you have to pay attention not to be run over by these same people in their big western car. Then if you continue your walk, maybe less than a kilometre away you may arrive at a part of town where not so many foreigners are living, and people are surprised to see a white guy walking around and sometimes even take some pictures with you.
Be also open minded in your everyday life, don’t have a western outlook on things. Otherwise you’re going to be disappointed – adopting a cool and relaxed attitude is the best way to really enjoy your Chinese experience.
You won’t feel lonely in China because you will always have people around you, Intern China teams in Qingdao, Zhuhai and Chengdu will always be here for you if you have any problems or questions about the Chinese way of life, plus there are many other interns who can help you.
That takes me to my next point of advice: Mingle! The best way to integrate into Chinese life is to meet people and create a strong network of friends and acquaintances. There are many foreigners in Qingdao, Zhuhai and Chengdu so it’s likely that what you experience will have been experienced by someone else at some point. So talk, ask questions, exchange thoughts and ideas, and soak it all up!
If you have any questions or concerns before you come to China you can always send me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.