Posts Tagged ‘Food’

Lamb Love in Shanghai

As a youngster in New Zealand, it wasn’t unusual to return home to the sweet aroma of roasting lamb. Over the years, Kiwi cuisine evolved to mouth watering lamb shanks, gourmet lamb burgers, lamb racks, lamb medallions and many other cuts that make your taste buds tingle and tummy twitter.  With almost 10 sheep for every New Zealander, there’s a bit of lamb to go around.

 

Fast forward a few years and 9,735 kilometres across the Pacific, where we found ourselves craving a little lamb love in Shanghai.  While lamb and mutton are the meats of choice for the sparsely populated western China provinces and Inner Mongolia, and is a popular dish in Northern China, finding a nice cut in Shanghai is needle-in-a-haystack kind of stuff.

 

A sheep pulling a cart in China

Various uses for sheep in China. Source: squierj.freeyellow.com

 

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Chinese Rats Don’t Know How Good They’ve Got It

Just as the Beijing Health Bureau broke the news that the Beijing rat population has increased 15% in the past year, we started hearing noises in the night. Disappearing food and rat poop confirmed that we had a resident rodent.

 

filthy rat running riot in Shanghai

Billions of mangy rats run riot in China. By Edal Anton Lefterov

 

Now we’re no strangers to rats. Just two years ago we were stalked by our fury foe back in Wellington. Then last year we went on a pilgrimage to the rat-ridden Karni Mata Temple in Rajasthan, India. Yet no matter how many run-ins you have with the genus Rattus, you will never get used to them.

 

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Dogs in China – Designer or Dinner?

Do the Chinese eat dogs? It’s one of the most popular Chinese-related searches on Google, and for 2,500 years, Chinese people have munched away on dog meat. But these days its only common in a few areas in the south … and on Chinese spacecrafts.  Yep, dog meat was on the menu for the Chinese astronauts who orbited the planet in 2003. Was it served in toothpaste tubes?

 

In most Chinese cities you won’t see many Lassie kebabs smoking away street-side. To the contrary. There are now close to 50 organisations bursting with dog-loving Chinese dedicated to halting the culinary custom. Earlier this year dog enthusiasts blocked a highway in eastern Beijing in a bid to rescue hundreds of dogs being trucked to local restaurants.  Five hours of negotiations ended when the enthusiasts bought the dogs for US$17,000. Many of the dogs were wearing collars and tags and had obviously been dog-napped.

 

There’s also talk of Government legislation outlawing dog for dinner, however that is likely to be as ineffective as their anti-smoking laws.

 

These days in China you’ll see a lot more manicured poodles than braised beagles. It seems for the growing middle class who can’t yet afford the bright orange Lamborghini, the designer pooch is the accessory of choice.

Cute toy dog wearing shoes and a bib

One of China's designer dogs wearing shoes

 

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The pecularities of eating in China

Who could possibly like green tea flavoured toothpaste? The Chinese it seems. On more than one occasion I have been wooed with different shades minty green and slogans such as “fresh blast” and “nature burst” only to discover my molars overrun with the bitter sensation of guey dried leaves.

 

chinese-toothpaste

A couple of Chinese tooth paste choices - the green tea-flavoured variety.

 

How does pea-flavoured icecream sound?

 

I enjoy sipping a cup of green tea or a few peas with my mash, but I have to admit in my closed-minded western opinion, there’s a time and a place.

 

I cannot think of a time or a place anywhere in the world where I have found tastes more contradictory to my culinary instincts than in China.

 

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Here’s to the Year of the Rabbit!

Every year it comes with blasts of gunpowder, steamed dumplings and red envelopes. Chinese New Year or Chūn Jié (Spring Festival) as it is known in China is The celebration on the Chinese calendar. Think Christmas, New Years Eve and Thanks Giving all mashed into 15 days of festivities. Fireworks bang, red oval lanterns hang and red cut-outs are plastered everywhere; symbolic of happiness, longevity and wealth.

 

 

During the Chinese New Year Festival it’s obligatory to be with your nearest and dearest, so every year sees hundreds of millions of Chinese return to their hometowns and villages. It’s when the city folk really appreciate the migrant workers doing menial jobs to keep the cities ticking over, because things slow right down once they’re gone. They’ll leave by train, bus, car, motorbike, boat, bike, horse, plane, whatever. It is the largest human migration on the planet, by far.

 

Over the festival, around 2.6 billion trips are made. That stretches China’s extensive transport networks to breaking point. For most Chinese, train travel is the mode of choice – it’s safer than planes and the roads are congested and less comfortable. But the finite capacity means only about 12% of trips during the festival period are on tracks.

 

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My wife Ellen and I are currently living in China, bumbling our way around this fascinating and fast-changing country. We kicked off our stay with a semester of Intensive Mandarin studies at Beijing Language and Culture University and are now living in Shanghai. These posts cover some of my experiences, views and curious facts in and around the Middle Kingdom. Please let me know what you think!


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  • User AvatarMark Tanner { Thanks Catherine, a little hot for lamb right now, but when things cool down I will be trotting down to Fields for some of their... } – Jul 12, 6:12 AM
  • User AvatarCatherine { You can buy Lamb at Fields online store, I have yet to try but I have heard the general quality at this store is excellent. } – Jul 12, 4:15 AM
  • User AvatarMark Tanner { Hi Reina, Treetop's email address is treetopselnido@yahoo.com, the owner's name is Dave. } – Jun 05, 3:09 AM
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  • User AvatarReina { Hey Mark, I read through your blog, as I am preparing for a trip to Palawan paradise myself. I have been trying to get in... } – Jun 04, 1:29 PM
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