A Travellerspoint blog

March 2011

The Big Green Village Dumpling Adventure

Hey Hey and a Big G'Day toya,

The only thing better than Chinese dumplings are; The Big Green Village Dumplings!

Around mid March the school put on a Dumpling Making Day at Jackie’s parent’s home in her Village. Last time I lived in Shaowu I was invited to Joyce’s (LiPing) village several times to make big green village dumplings with her family and each time was as wonderful as the first. While you make the dumplings dogs, cats and chickens race around the house and then while you eat the dumplings the dogs, cats and chickens then race around your feet in hope that you will drink too much village wine and knock your plate off the table scattering its contents on the floor.

Shaowu’s Big Green Village Dumplings

Shaowu is actually famous for its normal dumplings (Jaozi) and both foreign teachers and Chinese alike who move away all say the same thing 'the dumplings are much better back in Shaowu’. But not only is Shaowu famous for its normal dumplings, it is also very well known for its own speciality, the Big Green Village Dumplings that are filled with pork and a variety of special vegetables collected from the mountains prior to making.

It is these dumplings that we make on a school village dumpling day.

The locals love them so much that after moving away it is the big green village dumpling that they ask a friend to bring with them when they come to visit. In fact when I was in Fuzhou with Yan at the end of Winter Break, Joy departed the train with several boxes of them and in total shared well over three hundred with her friends.

The following is an article I found several years ago but can’t remember where I got it from. I thought I’d add it as it is rather amusing in a ‘normal’ dumpling sort of way…hope you enjoy!

Shrimp dumplings, pork dumplings, dumplings stuffed with pungent leek, with crispy celery, with pleasantly bitter winter cabbage, steamed dumplings, boiled dumplings, dumplings fried in the pan until they're golden brown.

Dumplings by the dozen, the hundred, the thousand. I am on a mission to eat these dumplings.

During a week in Harbin, I make a daily tally and realize I am consuming far too many. Then I look at the next tables over and see that I am an amateur: Chinese half my size are consuming twice my complement of dumplings, washing them down with Hapi beers as frigid as the air that blows in each time the front door opens.

In a country where geography so often dictates cuisine, lamb and pork reign inland, seafood on the coast; noodles orient toward the harsh north and rice to the more temperate south, the dumpling is a gastronomic ambassador across China's regions, ethnic groups and even religions. In the far northwest, Muslim Uyghur’s wolf down mutton dumplings as enthusiastically as Cantonese gulp open-topped shumai in the southeast and Shanghainese savor soup dumplings, elegantly twisted morsels full of pork, flaked crab meat and scalding liquid known as "little dragon buns."

Sated, at least for a few hours, I bundle up in a coat that makes me resemble a large version of the morsels I've just consumed. Dumplings, it turns out, are (along with clear Chinese sorghum liquor known by its deceptively innocuous name, "baijiu," or "white wine") another great inoculation against a Harbin winter day. At one place, called Dongbei Ya, or Northeastern Duck, I order three dozen: pork and cilantro, fresh shrimp and boiled cabbage.

"Are you sure you want thirty six? That's quite a lot. Can you eat that many?" the waitress says to me, smiling but defiant. "Could a Chinese person eat them all?" I ask. "Probably." "Then don't worry about it."

The diminutive dumpling, I'm told repeatedly, helps cut the cold. For one, the cooking methods retain heat. Unlike quick-fried wok cuisine, whose heat dissipates in a minute or two, something steamed or boiled is the perfect conduit of warmth from hearth to stomach. All the Chinese characters for the cooking methods used to make dumplings — steamed, boiled, pan-fried — have four small apostrophe-like critters at the bottom, signifying flames licking up from a stove.

Then, of course, there are the ingredients. Globs of meat and vegetables pinched into robust dough (not exactly standard Atkins fare) offer the stick-to-your-ribs potential that can give a guy the get-up-and-go to walk, say, a few blocks across Harbin's frozen cobblestones without turning into an ice sculpture himself ("Dumpling-Sated, Bundled-Up Westerner in Repose").

Pungent mixes of soy sauce, black vinegar and thick and seeded red-pepper paste.

I'll admit it: When I lived in China as a child at the end of the 1970s, I overdid things a bit. The dining hall at our foreigners' compound made Dumplingfest a Sunday staple, and I'd go for lunch and eat forty of them. Then, for dinner, they'd pan-fry 'em to make sure they all got used. I ate forty more, appreciative of the increased oil quotient against the biting Beijing cold.

In those days, Beijing dumplings were a special occasion.

Families whose entire home was a single room gathered in communal cinderblock kitchens and formed their own dumpling brigades, with children mixing filling and pinching dough while mothers and fathers manned huge pots of water heated by wood and coal stoves. The result, a weekend feast, was a vast difference from the melancholy vegetables and slivers of tough meat that each day usually brought.

By my final day in Harbin, I waddle out the front door of Oriental Dumpling King, feeling lucky that I fit through. Across the way, Central Dumpling King is just as crowded, and the eternal faceoff continues. I realize the winner is, of course, me.

I am ready to go home. The final count for six days: THREE HUNDRED AND SIXTY SEVEN DUMPLINGS!

Beers, Dumplings N Noodles toya…..shane ___________________________________________________________

The soundtrack to this entry was by Dan Melchoir The album was ‘Das Menace Christmas For The Crow’ ____________________________________________________________

Fun With Jackie & The Village People

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Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China Comments (0)

The New Terms Happenings...So Far, Not Much!

Hey Hey and a Big G'Day toya,

Where am I and where have I been? I’ve been here lurking in the cold damp corners.

On a Monday I’ve been dressing for the Arctic…with rain. On a Tuesday I’ve been dressing for another day…with rain. On a Wednesday I’ve been dressing for a cold day and night of non-stop rain. On a Thursday I’ve been dressing for another day of non-stop rain back in the Arctic.

Friday usually finds me dressing for another chilly, completely overcast day that is preparing itself for yet another weekend full of arctic coldness along with you guess it, non-stop rain which explains the reason why I haven’t sat to clickity clack a blog into life for the last month and a half as nothing much has been happening.

My new camera has been sitting silently staring at me with a sorrowful gaze that says; I am like a dog (or any pet for that matter) and I am not just for Christmas. I need fresh air, to be walked and shown some love and affection. I would also like to see some beautiful Chinese village girls. But you spend all of your time with the DVD Remote. Honestly, what does it have that I don’t? I have pushable buttons too!

The Two New Foreign Teachers

As both of the Leeds Lads scampered to other parts of China to sample new Beers & Noodles at the end of last term, with the new term came two new Foreign Teachers, both of which are not Lads. Serbian born Monika is from Canada and was teaching in Shandong Province last term and Lisa (another from England, but we won’t hold that against her) prior to her recent arrival in China was teaching in South Korea for two and a half years.

They were welcomed by several big dinners put on by the school along with some splendid fireworks for Shaowu’s late celebration of the Lantern Festival.

I spent the first month introducing them to the city, its walks, small cobble stone lane ways, temples and some of my favourite eateries and whilst doing so got to know a bit about the both of them. Monika is very health conscious, doesn’t drink and sadly under no circumstances will eat street food. Lisa on the other hand is about as health conscious as I am and we share most of our meals together making our way from small eatery to street stall in search of Shaowu’s best bowl of noodles.

My Second Lantern Festival Celebrations

Falling on the 15th day of the first month of the Lunar Year, the Lantern Festival takes place under a full moon, and marks the end of Chinese New Year festivities. The festival dates back to shrouded legends of the Han Dynasty over two thousand years ago.

Around mid February due to rain the local government decided to postpone our celebration and thankfully rescheduled it on a date in early March. After a delicious big dinner a large handful of us were soon found in a warm room on the sixteenth floor of the city’s tallest hotel that not only overlooks the river but also the bridge from which the fireworks were set free into the night sky above. I celebrated the real festival (mid February) as I was nearing the end of my 2011 Winter Beers N Noodles Adventures in the coastal city of Fuzhou. I spent several nights with Yan and a small handful of Shaowuarians at different seafood restaurants with a selection of fine wine, cold beers and seafood.

It really is a great feeling to have the opportunity to celebrate the same festival twice.

In fact it’s like celebrating New Years Eve on the east coast of Australia. Queensland doesn’t 'DO’ Daylight Saving Time so locals simply celebrate it in one state and in an hour get to scream the countdown once again which is a pretty good deal for those too drunk to begin their New Year Resolutions!

Big Dinners with Yan & Crew

The ‘Two Organisers’ (Yan & Joy) as they are known have both accepted transfers to Fuzhou city for the next six months or more so big dinners with Yan & Crew have pretty much been put on hold for now. I’ve dropped into Yu Jin’s Restaurant several times while out walking and had dinner with Yu Wen Jin, Yu Jin and her parents but that’s about as close as it will get for now. Thankfully though, as I found out at the end of the Winter Break, there are a small handful of Yan’s Crowd that moved to Fuzhou during the two years I was away and as Fuzhou is only five hours by bus I’m sure there will be several weekends spent on the coast eating seafood and drinking cold beer with Yan and Friends.

Happy and Sunny Bike Rides

With only a very small handful of dry and sunny days granted to us here in Shaowu over the past month and a half the bike has sadly remained silently locked away beneath the stairs for most of it. I’ve caught up with Joyce (LiPing) a few times and we’ve headed out into the villages on the two occasions that the sun was out and it wasn’t raining. At the beginning of term there was a week of sunshine during which (a few days after meeting her) I’m sure I nearly killed Monika. Due to her age and appearance of being rather fit, I thought an extra long bike ride was the appropriate thing to help us get to know each other.

Six hours later and long before sunset, a deathly pale and shaking Monika fell asleep several minutes after returning home and stayed that way until the following morning. There went dinner and a few games of pool, thankfully though she still spoke to me when we met the following Monday in the school grounds and happily accepted my apology.

Ting Tings Bar, KTV, Drunken Nights & Sickly Mornings

Believe it or not I haven’t stepped foot into Ting Tings Bar once this term and upon waking each Saturday and Sunday morning I have remembered the happenings of each night prior. Due to the south of China’s ‘No Heating’ mentality I think that after four months of being cold almost twenty four hours a day that everyone’s very much over being ‘sick of being cold’ and now that the rain has made Shaowu its home for the past month we are all very much over being cold and now wet.

For the past month and a half most people have been feeling about as grey as the day. We all know that spring has sprung at that it will end sometime soon. I guess we have all been raising our heads yearning for the sun.

As for future Beers & Noodles, as stated above Monika doesn’t drink anything but water nor does she eat any type of street food and obviously loves to cook, so no chance there but thankfully Lisa loves street food and has partied pretty hard over the past many years in South Korea and college so I’m sure that once the weather warms up there will be many street side Beer & BBQ nights happening. There are a few people I could ring to get the bar scene up and rolling again but after last term I think I’ll let sleeping dogs lie and the caps screwed tightly on the few too many that lay chilled and dormant at the back of the fridge in Ting Tings Bar.

MMMMmmmm…..for now at least! Beers N Noodles toya…..shane ___________________________________________________________

The soundtrack to this entry was by City & Colour The album was the graceful ‘Sometimes’ ____________________________________________________________

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Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China Comments (0)

Another Perfect Day For Ferris Wang Bueller

Hey Hey and a Big G'Day toya,

Not that I was thinking about you or anything. But this one’s for all of my friends back in Melbourne. Yes I know you bloody well got to see Motorhead on Saturday night!

While you were all waking Sunday morning with your Beer Goggles still on I was far out in the mountains, between the mountains, on the mountains and once or twice even in the mountains. The 'On the Mountains’ part of it nearly killed me but six hours later I finally placed my peddle ridden weary feet inside the ‘On The Mountains’ temple that offers amazing 360 degree views of the Shaowu area where I met up with Candy who was one of the Chinese English Teachers at my school the last time I was teaching in Shaowu.

This time Candy is known as Stephanie. But I don’t really know Stephanie as I only know Candy. So I struggled to look at Candy and say Hello Stephanie as who is Stephanie.

So like wow, I think I have the plot for Bourne Part IV, like, instead of Jason searching for his lost car keys or the identity of Ferris’s mother’s best friend’s uncles second cousins boyfriends cat, he could like find out who Stephanie is. Is she Candy or is Candy Stephanie and if Stephanie is Candy, then what actually happened to Candy. Like, I was really confused when I said ‘Hello Candy’ and she said, no I’m Stephanie now and I said, like, but you are Candy.

She said like, no. No I’m not, I’m Stephanie now. I said like, um…but you are Candy. She said like, listen Girlfriend, I’m Stephanie.

I was like, still trying to catch my breath from my long and winding ride up the mountain, trying to stay standing, smile for all the photo’s along with struggling with an identity crises so I gave in and said ‘Hello Stephanie’ all the while looking around searching for Candy or any sign of her past reality.

For the rest my ride I felt warm and fuzzy at seeing my friend…Stephanie. But at the same time I found myself missing my old friend…Candy. Argh, the Chinese and their English name changes!

I think I’ll change my name to Ferris Bueller and then I can pull a sickie and when my headmaster asks where I am I can have someone say…Um, he's sick. My best friend's sister's boyfriend's brother's girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who's going with the girl who saw Ferris pass out at 31 Flavours last night. I guess it's pretty serious. I can then have Yan or Joyce change their name to Simone who can then say;

No problem whatsoever’ and then add ‘Oh, he's very popular. The sportos, the motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wastoids, dweebies, dickheads, they all adore him and think he's a righteous dude.

Anyhow, I think I’ve had enough of being Ferris, all this racing around with my headmaster chasing me and I don’t think I could handle Joyce or Yan changing their name to Simone as what happens if both of them agree and both become Simone at the same time. I’d then have to have Yu Wen Jin change his name to Cameron and then my Beers N Noodles would get all confused and I’d probably start eating more rice and drink more tea and Eddakath would become Ferris and then I’d miss Audrey Hepburn and my headmaster would then become Ed Rooney who would be waiting for me at the back of my classroom when I returned and wasn’t sick (not that I was sick in the first place) and my headmaster who is now Ed Rooney would say;

Les jeux sont faits; The game is up. Your ass is mine.

Beers N Noodles toya…..shane

PS: I've just had a friend ask me why I didn't take more photo's of when I was on top of the 'On Top of the Hill Temple Mountain'....well take a look at photo 23 (the one with all the far off trails) and then add in meeting Candy/Stephanie and trying to capture your breath...the only thing on my mind was actually making it up the mountain. If you look again and look at how far the city is from the actual small mountain tree line then you will see how far the actual beginnng of the journey up is, as 'those' from the city begin their journey from the far away mountain top.

They catch a bus to that place, yet I had lready ridden four hours prior. So my actualy days ride was not six hours but more like seven to eight hours

PSS: As its been sometime between blogs, this was just a little something I put together to let you all know that I am alive and well and still bordering on that fine line between sanity and insanity. I’ve been working on several other blogs but due to the rain, bad weather, the frequent cold snaps along with too many DVD’s and cold beer, there really hasn’t been enough time to finish them. But now that the weather has turned expect my pack to be thrown upon many grotty local bus floors and some fonts to be spun into more silly things I like to call blogs!

PSSS: and for anyone who speaks French, here is the correction my buddy Chris just sent me;

You poor illiterate Oz plonker, don’t they teach you anything at Wallaby school? Les jeux sont faits; does not mean The game is up.

Les jeux is the plural of le jeu (the game) so obviously les jeux would mean the games – this is easy to confirm by looking at the verb sont which is the 3rd person plural of the verb to be ‘etre’ so obviously if the verb is plural and the noun and its article are plural – the translation can’t be singular – sheesh.

Me: Of course that was...um...soooooooo obvious to me and everyone else who saw the movie and drinks beers and eats noodles, but as Ozzy Ozbourne once said; Don't Blame Me...he obviously then added.....blame the writers of the movie Ferris Buellers Day Off ya silly bugger!

Chris: of course I could be wrong. Me: Um....ARGH, forgive me for not taking French lessons! ___________________________________________________________

The soundtrack to this entry was by Motorhead The album was ‘Another Perfect Day’ ____________________________________________________________

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Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China Comments (0)