Tofu King 豆腐王!

Punctuation malfunction

Bought this gan dou fu from China town the other day.

Have been trying to find this for ages, and it’s nice to see something made in the UK for once, but at £2.99 (30元) a pack it is very expensive indeed.

What caught my attention though was the English name on the pack,  I couldn’t help but laugh at the rather unfortunate name of the manufacturer…

Seems someone needs to find the space key

Qingdao Beer

                        qingdao beer in the uk!                   Recently I’ve been on a bit of a quest to find some Chinese things here where In the UK as I’m just curious about these things.    I’ve finally found Qingdao beer in the local shop. 🙂  It’s different from the Qingdao in Changchun in size and flavour.  The bottle is a very small 330ml almost half the size of the ones in Changchun.  It cost £1.38 or 21元 which is a little expensive considering the size, but not so much here relatively speaking.

Strangely this is 4.7%, much stronger than the 3.8% Qingdao in Changchun and so it tastes quite different!  Not as good in my opinion!



烹饪法 Cuisine

I’ve pretty much recovered from the incident on Friday 😀

Unfortunately its not so uncommon, apparently groups of thieves operate (especially in the summer) and bag snatchings/pickpockets taking phones are most common.

I count myself lucky that I got my camera back and apart from a horrible feeling in shock, I escaped unscathed.

It is nowhere near as big a problem as cities in the south of China (where women wont take bags with them at night), I would still say that Changchun is a pretty safe city and that I was just unlucky, indeed I feel much safer here than I would in a UK city of similar size (i.e. london).

I guess the big difference is that if something happens to you the chances of the police catching the perpetrators and you getting justice are very slim/impossible, whereas in the UK there is actually a reasonable chance of catching the offender.


I almost always eat out as it fits in best with my work but also because I can’t be bothered to try and cook something myself as I don’t have time and the economics of it make it not worth my while. It’s dirt cheap to eat out, I generally spend less than 10 yuan a day.

I thought to myself a while back, when I’m in the UK I won’t be able to get this kind of food anymore. Especially the dongbei (north eastern) cusine and as that’s one of my favourites it would be such a shame to not be able to eat it。 It’s a pitty that in China dongbei food is often forgotten about – people talk about Cantonese food, Sichuan food, Shanghai food, Hunan food but seldom the food from Manchuria.

My initial way to choose different types of food was to pick out random dishes from the menu, It was always fun wondering what was going to be ordered, and If anything, it gives you the chance to try some rather interesting stuff. I’ll try pretty much anything once, however, I’ve learnt that it’s often best not to ask where something is from if it tastes good – being told you’re eating pigs intestins is an instant turn off 😕

The reason I write about this now is that I can see a serious problem developing, that is I don’t really like the food back home anymore. There are exceptions, I’m looking forward to a sunday dinner; but my tastes have changed in that I find myself saying things that Chinese people would say about western food – ‘it has no flavour’ ‘it’s too heavy’ ‘it’s bland’.

I also eat less food, a UK portion is now too much for me to eat….
So over the last week I’ve been trying to learn a few dishes, so that when I go back I can at least make some Chinese food that I’ll like, as Chinese food from UK takeaways doesn’t taste good to me.

It’s English-Chinese food just as the western food here is Chinese-western.

Luckily, I have a decent sized kitchen that I should make the best of, I also have all the utilsils and equipment, and now, I actually have the time.

jiangtang tofu soupActually it’s not so difficult to learn, I am no chef, but It’s only taken me a few times to get it right. When I first got to China a friend taught me how to cook two basic Chinese dishes- Eggs with tomatoes and eggs and rice.

For me, I have about 10-15 favourite dishes of which realistically, I could learn 5 to cook, given the timeframe and my lack of culinary knowledge! 😉 I’m also thinking in terms of the of the ingredients that are available in the UK (Unfortunately dog meat is off the menu!), my suitcase will no doubt will be full of various sauces, spices and other cooking stuff! haha.

Most of the foods don’t really translate into english well (as many restaurant menus testify!) so I use the Chinese name and an English description.

disanxian 地三鲜 potatoes, aubergine, and peppersdisanxian
tudousi 土豆丝 potatoes sliced thin
shuijuniurou 水煮牛肉 bolied beef with cabbage and lots of spices
jiangtang 酱汤 – tofu based soup with bean sprouts, kind of smelly – one of my favourites. 🙂
tiebandoufu, 铁板豆腐 – Tofu with peppers
tudoushaoniurou,土豆烧牛肉 -Beef and pototoes
baozi 包子 – Steamed roll with meat/cabbage inside
tudoujiang 土豆酱 – Mashed potato with sauce
bing 饼 -pancakes bing pancake
malatang 麻辣烫 – Hot hot hot!
dafengshou 大丰收 – ‘gan’ Tofu rolled up with Chinese onion and egg/meat based sauce. 做那个真是小菜一碟!
jioazi 饺子 Dumplings, boiled, steamed of fried.
zhajiangmian 炸酱面 – noodles with silced cucumber and egg based sauce.
suantianrouduan 酸甜肉段 Sweet and sour.

And two foreigners’ favourites; gongbaojiding 宫保鸡丁and guobaorou 锅包肉– About a year ago, I spbaozient some time trying to perfect gongbaojiding -the problem with this dish is its really time consuming as it requires much preparation and everything being diced up. But I now know how to make this and It’s something I can use in the future.

I would like to know how to make guobaorou guobaoroubut I think It would be too difficult for me to do! 😕 Anyone know how??:?:
At present I’m going through a Jiangqiezi 酱茄子 (sliced aubergine with beef) craze, kind of addicted to this at the moment. 🙂
Even better it’s dead easy to make, the hardest part is knowing the sauces to use to get the right flavours. I asked the chef at the local restaurant that I reguarly frequent if he could tell me what he uses – and that I wasn’t going to steal his recipe! – It’s really easy when you know how, you can get everything you need from the supermarket and it costs next to nothing.
I’m sure there will be many types of food that I shall miss – hotpot 火锅, 咸菜 Specifically Korean, 新疆 Xinjiang, 回 Hui, 肉串 Kebabs, 铁板 (cooked in front of you on a hot steel table), 骨头 Meat on Bones (bad translation I know) , 北京烤鸭 Beijing noodles!!!Duck(different here from beijing, not as crispy, cooked differently -better in my opinion) 混沌 Dumpling things in soup, 羊腿 Mongolian style lamb’s leg and 米线 Yunnan noodles , in to name but a few…

However, I certainly wont be missing 美国加州牛肉面大王 or 臭豆腐!! 😀

Bad Milk

So earlier this afternoon I was sitting at my desk typing up some notes for my classes that begin tomorrow. I went and made myself a cup of tea, I added the milk to the tea then took it back to my desk. I then took a couple of mouthfulls and gulped down the tea. I drank some more of the tea, then with about half a cup remaining suddenly felt very sick.

It’s just my luck that I get sick during the holiday! 🙁

It was if I was about to explode. I rushed to the bathroom opened up the toilet and vomited like I have never vomited before. It was non-stop for about 30 minutes. I felt as if the inside of me was being turned inside out, my stomach, chest, throat all straining. I then spent the next two hours on the toilet getting rid of anything that would have been in my body.

I’ve had food poisoning before and it’always incredibly nasty, but this took it to another level.
Of course, living here from time to time you get some really bad instances of puking but this has to win the prize for the most awful and painful. It was just so quick and horribly intense. It’s at least 10X worse than what I have expereinced before -even worse than drinking too much baijiu – and that is bad.

The source of this I believe is from the milk I put into my cup of tea. The milk must have been bad, and I am a total fool for not noticing this. I can only guess that it’s because I’ve become so accustomed to drinking the UHT milk (always tastes bad to me) that I didn’t notice it in my tea. I can’t help wondering whether anyone has considered using bad milk as a form of poison, afterall it’s fast acting and highly effective!

Unfortunately I have now been put off anything to do with milk for a long, long time.

A friend told me this proverb and it fits nicely: 一年遭蛇咬,十年怕井绳

yinian zao she yao, shinian pa jing sheng

It’s loosely translated as: Being bitten by a snake makes you afraid of the rope for a very long time.
The best english equivalent I’ve found on the web is: Once bitten, twice shy

麻辣烫 Malatang

This is a good example of a Chinese fast food. It’s cheap (3元), convenient and pretty healthy.

There are many of these places all over Changchun, some are restaurants but most are just hole-in-the-wall type outlets. Very near to where I work there must be at least four different malatang establishments and they are always packed at lunchtime. Unfortunately I’m not really a fan malatang but i’m trying to like it! 🙂
Malatang literally translates as ‘hot hot hot’ which really has no real meaning in English beyond expressing somthing spicy.

It’s like ordering from a canteen, you tell the person what you want – extra this, not too much of that – and then you choose what type of noodle you’re interested in. The spices and various sauces are then put into a bowl lined with a plastic bag. Then the noodles and veg are mixed up and boiled in a basket like contraption especially for the job. Wait about 30 seconds and the veg is done ready to be mixed with the sauces in the plastic bag, it’s all very simple and fast.sauces

I just wonder whether this could become popular in the west, afterall its very healthy compared to more traditional fast food. One problem may be that many of the vegetables used I have never seen outside China before and I wonder if its possible to find these (beyond digging up weeds from peoples gardens) on the market at a reasonable price.


earl grey popcornSaw this bag of popcorn when shopping earlier today, but it’s not any old Chinese popcorn, it’s Earl Grey flavoured popcorn! 

I wonder who came up with this idea, as real Earl Grey tea is extremely hard to come by in Changchun – I doubt most Chinese actually know what it is, let alone what it’s meant to taste like!  

Actually tastes not too bad, though i won’t be buying it again! 


Tried something new for lunch today. Gou pi 狗屁 as my friends called it or in english; dog’s bum. I’m willing to give most foods a go, if only once, and a I can now say for certain that I won’t be eating dog’s bum in the future.

And I can only say that it tasted like, well, like a dogs bum. Pretty chewy and greasy, with no real taste, a little like a badly cooked piece of fatty beef.

Surprisingly, I actually quite like the gou tang 狗汤 dog soup, and since I have no great admiration of dogs anyway, I don’t suffer the problems that most westerners have over eating dog meat. Most can’t bring themselves to do it, the idea of eating ‘mans best friend‘ over dinner, conjures up images of cute fluffy doggies being decapitated by the house chef. . .

Some of the more unusual things I’ve tried here in Changchun are: Dog, Camel(!), Deer, Rabit, Ox, Pigeon and Sparrow. I’m serious, there are various types of birds available. I’ve had Dove (rather chewy, mostly bones), the regular grey pigeon – like the ones that used to be in Trafalgar Square (tasted the same, no real meat), and the sparrow (that’s what It looked like anyway, just like chewing on a bag of tiny bones)

I’m yet to try snake or shark as it’s very expensive and difficult to obtain in Changchun and I draw my line at insects. I won’t eat bugs.


Had a good meal last night, sitting outside (yes it’s warm enough now!) at the side of the road perched on a wooden bench, surrounded by at least 20 others, all chatting away, drinking, laughing and having fun. 

It’s basically a makeshift BBQ, though smaller and -at just above ground level- everyone sits on small stalls.  You can get anything from mushrooms, peppers, sausages, corn-on-the-cob, chicken legs, bread (actually mantou -kind of a steamed bun), to  beef kebabs and bottles of beer. bbq

In warmer parts these are all over the place, all year round, but not here for obvious reasons. So it’s something to savour, only here for a few months.

I was thinking this would never be able to happen in the UK, besides all of the health and safety violations, I couldn’t imagine groups of people sitting at the side of the road, of all ages and backgrounds, mingling like this. Most evenings in centres of UK cities are not particuarly hospitable places, especially after dark- and it’s a shame.
It’s something that has to be admired about the way the society here respects it’s values. This was a family atmosphere, despite it being past nine and dark; there were migrant workers drinking after a hard day digging holes, students just home after the vacation, women and children out for a evening walk – all sorts.

Street Repairs

Over the last few days, most of Changchun has become a building site, with roads and the large squares/roundabouts 广场 everywhere being dug-up for one reason or another. wei xing gua

The aim is to do it all at once – during the holiday – and be done by the time everyone has to go back to work. The idea makes sense, however there are some terrible roads in Changchun that are nothing more than dirt tracks, and yet the government choose to dig up existing roads that are okay.

 more construction at satellite square

It’s something that could never be attempted in a democracy, no one would stand for it- I guess that’s one of the plus points of the government not being accountable to the people.
If i want to go down to the shops, I have to walk for 10-15 minutes just to get to a road that isn’t being renewed, and the bus takes twice as long to get to its destination as the usual way is also under construction. Nobody seems to know exactly what roads/roundabouts/junctions are closed – seemingly nobody (not even the bus drivers know where to go) is told in advance of this – it just happens.

  So the May day holiday is almost over and so – finally – is the end of the winter. Things have greened up almost overnight, flowers have appeared and trees are beginning to go into blossom. The long underwear has at last been consigned to the wardrobe. 

Been spending my free time eating/drinking too much, meeting up with friends, and generally relaxing.  

hong pi The zha pi 扎啤 (draft beer) is now available (it’s only available outside the winter for some reason) and for 1元 a glass you can;t go wrong.  It comes in three varieties; huangpi 荒啤,hongpi 红啤 or heipi 黑啤 – yellow, red or black beer.   The yellow is regular lager, the red is like a sweet red wine and the black is a dark stout – and my favourite.

Did manage somehow to burn my arm at a hot pot restaurant, now I have two small red lines on my left arm to remind me of that fact!