Chinese Sustenance

Last weekend was a weekend of food…food buying mainly as I cruised the Japanese supermarket, Western supermarket ‘City Shop’ and the Chinese fresh market to stock up my kitchen cupboards. I love shopping for food, especially at the latter as it really helps me to get to grips with my language skills. The locals love helping and correcting me. I could build up a real guānxì 关系 (relationship) there…I need to take photos of that place too so you can get a feel for the energy and colour of the place. China is all about guānxì in everything you do. On that specific shopping trip, I was looking for làjiāo fěn 辣椒粉 (chilli powder) for use in my mom’s five-bean chilli recipe. Unsuccessful there, I had to get it from the Japanese supermarket where the shop assistants would smile at me as I took so long to choose anything. I just love looking though. They intriguingly sold Spam, which I thought was a British institution, but apparently it is now in most countries worldwide. What got me smiling was the cultural differences in labelling and packaging specific to the Chinese market. Here, you see Spam on steamed rice with chopsticks, whereas in the UK you see the Spam presented in a burger bun with lettuce and tomato. I’d love to see all the tins next to each other…it is like the Kit Kat saga all over again.

That weekend, I was also given some “get well” treats by Miss Lisa Juen as my tummy was playing up something rotten…thinking about visiting an emergency doctor rotten, which thankfully never happened. You can see them below…Vietnamese prune juice (shown above) that was strangely fizzy but nice…Danone Activia drinks in tropical and aloe vera flavour…brown rice milk, which I love especially hot…sweet treats including German vitamin candies ‘Nimm 2’, almond biscuits and porridge oats. I miss flapjacks…muesli…porridge. I appreciated this so, so much. Thank you Lisa…you and the food really helped that weekend struggle. I also invested some random things like Malaysian white chocolate wafer bars called ‘Checker’ and, of course, over priced Western foods like cream cheese, wholewheat flour (65 kuai…£6.50 eeek!) and some cheddar cheese (32 kuai…£3.20)…serious needs and the flour will get used up…biscuits, pizza bases, pancakes. I wanted pesto but it was 40 kuai upwards…I’ll get it when I go home I think! I even bought all the ingredients for my Gran’s renowned ginger biscuit recipe including Chinese ginger sugar to experiment with…let’s see if my Shanghai friends get as addicted to them like my UK friends…let’s hope the table-top oven is kind to me too. New ovens never make successful bakes.

Let the cooking begin with my Mom’s five-bean tomato-free chilli recipe. I had to use chicken stock as I couldn’t find vegetable stock (something else for the suitcase on the way back from the UK) so it tastes a little different and too salty. Also the làjiāo fěn 辣椒粉 has quite a kick to it! It tastes alright though and made five meals.

Below are two of my favourite meals…poached egg on rye toast with assorted sauteed Chinese mushrooms and a dollop of mayonnaise (cheap mayonnaise may I add which tastes nothing like Hellman’s…funny what you palate gets used to), which i had sometime this week for dinner…breakfast at dinner time…love it! And another favourite is the set lunch for 22 kuai (£2.20) from ‘Vegetarian Lifestyle’ that I occasionally have at work…a place that can literally make any vegetarian food look and taste like meat. I like the small dark protein dish on the bottom right as it tastes so much like duck. So good.

When anyone goes away on holiday, to training, for an event, wedding, party they always come back into the office with treats. Doris, one of the admin girls, who deals with all the visa applications had been on a course in the Hainan Province so came back into work bearing coconut treats. I love coconut so it made my Wednesday…apart from the yellow candies which tasted like dog or toilets or something literally disgusting. It’s hard to keep up with this ‘NaBloPoMo’ thing…I completely forgot yesterday.


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