Sunday, December 31, 2006

Eating Chinese food straight from the carton?

A quote in Dennis Hamill's column in today's New York Daily News, in which he recalls memorable celebrity interviews from the past, caught my notice:
TOM HANKS answered the door to his trailer on W. 43rd St. on the set of "You've Got Mail" wearing a soiled undershirt and eating Chinese food out of a carton.
The notion of eating Chinese food straight from the carton is obviously one of great import to some; there was a recent long discussion thread on about the practice. Some opined that it was it was something that only happened in the movies; some thought it was just a New York thing; and still others, not New Yorkers, claimed to have done it themselves. In support of the movie-thing theory, there is a whole web page devoted to the subject of eating Chinese food (and ice cream) from the container in movies. I'm not calling those Chowhounds who claimed to do it themselves liars; we are impressionable creatures, after all, and sometimes life imitates art. One of the featured movie occurrences of the practice on the above-referenced web site involved... Tom Hanks.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Wal-Martization of Chinese fast food?

This may be from the drug-induced nightmare of a bored wire service employee, or perhaps December 26 is South Africa's April Fool's day, but the African News Dimension (whozat?) is reporting that the 3400 Wal-Marts in the US will start offering Chinese fast food (no, Chinese "Dining"). In the article, Yeshua Yosef writes:

Wal-Mart to add Chinese Dining to its 3400 stores nationwide.

The biggest retailer in America is ending the fast food reign of McD’s and even its submarine vendors; in favor of a new Chinese Restaurant Chain. This food chain will serve Chinese food fast, but not of the McD’s Quality. We will serve food fast, but not fast food, is the claim of the Wal-Mart source who disclosed the story. Wal-Mart has reportedly been looking for an alternative to just subs and burgers; because of the anti-fast food sentiment created by the movie “Super Size Me,” which showed the hazards of eating just fast food. According to the source, “We are already 90% Chinese, so we might as well go all the way, to 110%”, some say, this move may change the face of America, and it’s pant size. Wal-Mart supposedly will save money by shipping smaller sizes to America, as there are claims the 60 % profit they make by buying Chinese is cut into by shipping costs. In this case, smaller waists equal larger profits for the company, at least in shipping costs. Once again the giant retailer is putting America first in its quest to be the best. During the after-Katrina mess, Wal-Mart put America first by halting gun sales in its Louisiana stores, some 40 of them at least. Some say the anger toward government scared many, and so Wal-Mart put its halt in, to help quell the anti-government sentiment. With American families owing somewhere in the neighborhood of $140,000 per family in debts including those to foreign countries, including Japan, Germany and China, these moves by the chain will help, we hope. Now Americans will learn to cook Chinese, at least those employed by Wal-Mart. As one official put it, “We borrow money from the Chinese, so we can buy their products.” India is said to be talking to Target about a similar Chain. Vindaloo and Nan Bread anyone? Unfortunately, the submarine vendor is left scratching it’s head. Our subs are not fast food, but good food fast too, they claim. No doubt, at least one of their patrons has backed that claim up. Maybe they can merge with the Chinese Chain, and create a new sub, maybe the Beijing Cheese Steak, …’s a wrap.

I'm highly skeptical about this eventuality, but if true, I can guarantee that if Wal-Mart has its way with Chinese cuisine, the resulting product will be one of the few things sold by Wal-Mart that wasn't made in China.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The ABD's of doujiang

Shanghainese love doujiang (soy milk/soy milk soup) at breakfast. There's a sweet version which is served either hot or cold. The cold version is ubiquitous in its grab-and-go transparent plastic cups; you usually have the hot version at sit-down places, but it's still just plain soy milk with some sugar added. Who likes that? (Well, a lot of people, apparently.)

The savory version is something else; properly done, it's a masterpiece and food for the gods, IMHO. It's hot soy milk to which has been added vinegar or some other sour matter to curdle it (surprisingly, soybean milk curdles much like cow's milk) and salt and/or a salty agent (the best versions will have brine shrimp in it). Chili oil is usually also present, so with the salty, sour, and spicy combination you'd need only have to add a little sugar to make "Strange Taste Doujiang" but I don't think I would like that. Beyond the above ingredients, other vegetable matter such as scallion tops may be added, and it's sometimes served with a bit of Nori-type seaweed on top. The other indispensable ingredient is slices or broken pieces of you tiao, the Chinese cruller, floating on top. (It's a good thing the do with stale you tiao.)

When I'm in Shanghai I crave savory doujiang for breakfast, and my wife's experience and intuition is`usually successful at tracking down a good version. On my last trip , however, I did a lot of early morning foraging by myeslf, and found it difficult to communicate that I wanted savory doujiang. My attempted Mandarin or Shanghainese request usually resulted in shrugged shoulders or in my getting sweet doujiang (yuck!)

Finally I asked my wife for help. "Simple," she said. "Just ask for 'A-jiang'" (with an "A" as if speaking the name of the English letter "A"). The next time out I found it worked like a charm. My wife then pointed out that if you order "B-jiang" in Shanghai you'll get plain soy milk, and if you ask for "D-jiang" you'll get the sweet version. There apparently is no "C-jiang", not even a "Gentleman's C-jiang" but apart from that I approve of this grading system; I'd give a good version of savory doujiang an "A" any day, and a sweet version a "D" (if not an "F").

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A funny thing happened on the way to the Forums

By now I should have posted an impressive collection of accounts of the best small eats venues from far-flung areas of Shanghai in the eatingchinese forums. But my already stressed old body was overtaxed by my zeal and I spent a week of mandatory chilling out in the cardiac care unit of People's Hospital Number 6 on Yishan Lu. Thanks to the ministrations of Nurse Jin, who was infatuated with my beard, as well as the chou doufu* carried in for lunch by my wife, who hurried to Shanghai to be with me (and perhaps to save Nurse Jin from me), I left the hospital feeling better than I had in months and with a new outlook on life. Henceforth I will always stop to smell the roses, or at least the *stinky tofu. Leisurely pace or not, I still managed to sample every bao, jiao, tiao, mantou and bing in sight of the Hang Hui Hotel (not in your guidebook) as well as dine in some fancier sit-downers like Shanghai Uncle and some destination xiao chi havens like Xiao Yang's for shenjiang baozi and Wan Shou Zhai for the "da huntun." Expect photos and accounts of these to appear here in the Forums.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Mantou, Inc.

I love mantou by any name, especially if it has a savory stuffing. I was aware that it has many names and many cognates even in diverse cultures, but never suspected that I would find a great overview of the topic in a publication called "AM Costa Rica" (scroll down the page) by a remarkable individual named Lenny Karpman, who happens to be a retired cardiologist from my very own HMO facility, Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco. I'm going to have to print it out and carry it with me as ammunition when my own cardiologist tsk-tsk's me about the stuff I eat. "It's OK by Lenny" will be my mantou, er, mantra.

Friday, November 03, 2006

A Taiwanese Eats Gallery

Stumbling wontonly around the 'net (actually very purposefully looking for information on Wenzhou won tons) I discovered this gallery of Taiwanese "xiao chi." I didn't see the Wenzhou won tons here, but plenty of leads took me through Taipei or Paris (which seem to jointly monopolize Wenzhou food outside of Wenzhou ). Oooh that stinky tofu!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Opdatering translation (sort of)

I know you have all been tearing your hair out for the last few hours wondering what the hell the last post meant, and how much fuller your life will be when you find out. It so happens that because of my obvious Need to Know, I get regular updates from Misigisaq Restaurant by email. What is Misigisaq Restaurant? Simply the best Chinese restaurant in Sisimiut, Greenland.

Julefrokost is the Greenlandic/Danish version of an extended Christmas holiday, characterized by a lot of easting and a lot of boozing, and the item in the previous post is one of the Julefrokost banquet menus. These particular menus are only posted in Greenlandic, so if you are a little rusty on your Greenlandic, well, you'll know how I often feel when I pick up a menu in China. You can figure out some of the dishes if not all by studying the regular menu, which is available on the site in English (and Danish and Geman as well).

Do they deliver? Well yes, but probably only as far as their dogsled delivery team can go.

Misigisaq E-Opdatering (Say What?)

Skolejulefrokost 90 kr/kuvert

ved min. 10 pers


Rejechips (2 stk)

Surstærk krydret suppe fra Sichuan – ikke så stærk

Kød og Seafood

Indbagte rejer (1 stk/5 pers)

“Det ligner honning” grønlandsk fårekød

Kartofler og muskoksekød i lergryde

Krydret kogt får

Sursød svinekød


Hvide ris og

Blandet stegtet ris (1 stk/5 pers)


Hjemmelavet is

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Which Lee's Chinese Restaurant?

An article in the Nationak Post (Canda) mentioned that Lee's Chinese Restaurant in Rivers, Manitoba, was considered to be the best Chinese Restaurant in the Province (this, of course, because Soo's in Brandon, Manitoba is no more). In searching for more info on this restaurant (which flies below the Google radar, I came across pointers to at least a dozen "Lee's Chinese Restaurants" in the US from South Burlington VT to New Iberia LA. One link led me to a Lee's Chinese Restaurant photo gallery. This Lee's appears to be in Atlanta, GA and the gallery provides some nice little glimpses into a family-run operation. It was posted by Emily Liu, probably the Emily appearing in some of the photos.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

But do we get to see The Clan perform?

I found this in the Maidenhead Advertiser after I finally worked my way through the advertising (seems to be a shortage of maidenheads this year):

IF YOU are after a Christmas party to remember, look no further than the Wu Tang Chinese restaurant.

Enjoy a taste of the Orient in a relaxed, friendly setting which can soon gain party mood momentum as part of the roomy, air-conditioned restaurant can be turned into a disco with karaoke. Proprietor Alan Wu says there will be gifts for customers throughout the festive season and the Christmas menu is now available. It's also a great place to go to escape the too-much-turkey syndrome. Eye-catching Oriental decor, including some wonderful and dramatic gowns and wine bottles ‘dressed' in traditional Chinese attire, is one of the reasons why Wu Tang, in The Colonnade, Maidenhead, attracts its regular customers time and again plus plenty of newcomers. For further details and to book a table for the Christmas season call 01628 788661. For the full story see this week's Maidenhead Advertiser (26/10/06)

Don't miss Thursday's Maidenhead Advertiser for ALL the news that matters to you.

I wouldn't miss it for the world!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Will there be an "East Dawning" in your local mall?

Now here's an idea. Yum brands, with its expertise in running fast food chains (KFC, Taco Bell, etc.) has developed a Chinese fast food chain called "East Dawning". ANOTHER Chinese fast food chain, you say? Well, this one is in China, uses Chinese recipes and is apparently quite popular, from all accounts. Fast food chains, spawned from multiple branching, have a long and successful history in China (I'm a Qiaojiazha fan myself) but Yum hopes to bring what they've been lacking -- consistency among outlets. (And did someone say "clean bathrooms"?) If Yum could bring the concept to North America, with the Chinese recipes intact, it might have a socially redeeming value.

Chinese Food in China, via the US

Discuss in the FORUMS

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Happy Birthday to Me! (and why you should care)

Well, maybe you shouldn't care. But if you're reading this, perhaps you are jonesing for new posts, of which there haven't been any in a dog's age. The relevance here is that a) It's my 65th, b) I'm therefore retiring from my full-time job at the end of the week and c) I'll therefore have more time to post frequently and no have more excuses for not doing so.

Below is the appropriately themed cover of the Happy B'day card my co-worker and buddy Paula gave me:

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Yao Ming swears off shark fin soup

Thanks to Astrid, whose blog may have expired (see below) but not her blog-spirit, for the link to this New York Times story:

Yao Ming Swears off Shark Fin Soup

As the human population increases, many wildlife species are decreasing, and the primary reason is that humans fail to treat animals as friends,'' said Yao, who played for the Shanghai Sharks basketball team before moving to the Houston Rockets.

The Shanghai Sharks indeed...

Sunday, July 30, 2006

The WID files

I'm about to offer some blog archives with a twist: they aren't my archived posts, but someone elses. That someone else is "Astrid," creator of one of my all-time favorite blogs, "Wrapped in Dough." Astrid is now in law school, and let her blog and domain expire, but before she did I saved all of her posts covering her seven-month stay in China and am in process of reconstituting the content on my own website. Here are a few that I have up already:

The Wrapped in Dough Files

Friday, July 07, 2006

Chinese dumplings are for VIP's

After being laid to their rooms, of course.

This from the Concord Times, Freetown, Sierra Leone:

"Thank you for your warm and kind reception. We have been very well looked after by your staff and Management," Mrs. Nane Annan signed the Bintumani BUCG Hotel register on July 2nd while checking out.

Upon arrival at the hotel, the UN Secretary General greeted Ms. Dong Wen, General Manager of the hotel in Chinese and was laid to their room by top management officials.

Bintumani officials say Mr. Annan and wife heartily ate 'dumpling', a traditional Chinese food meant for very important visitors. The UN Scribe also said 'thank you' in Chinese after eating.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

There's New York style pizza, and now....

As reported in the Providence Journal, a new restaurant in Seekonk, RI, called "Chinese Iron Wok" advertises that it "brings New York China Town Cuisine to Your Neighborhood." Yes, but is it really authentic New York Chinatown cuisine?

A taste of China, and New York's China Town, too

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Bloggers Do it Long and Strong (but RIP one Superstar)

I just finished reviewing the status of the 33 blogs about Chinese food or Asian food in general I have collected over the past couple of years. I'm happy to report that only one has perished, and nearly all the others are recently active (et tu Gary?)

The one discordant note was struck by the announcement HERE that Astrid was about to let her Wrapped in Dough blog go dark, being too busy in law school. For those who knew the blog when its creator had the time to keep it rocking, it was one of the best foodie blogs of any type, and Astrid's seven months of discovery and reporting (with mouth-watering photos) while traveling and teaching in China represent one of the high water marks in food blogging, IMHO. I've save all eighty-some pages or her entries from that period, and will be communicating with Astrid about preserving/republishing them. I'll even promise to spare her lawyer jokes.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Paving the road to hell redux; blog of the week

Oops, I said it again. But honest, folks, this time it's for real. I'm going to get off the matong and update this blog more frequently, whether anyone cares or not. After all, I'll be retiring soon and what do retired old farts do better than run off at the mouth about this and that, whether anybody is listening or not? And what better analog to blogging is there? So surfers, stay tuned, and googlebots, pay attention.

Anyway, this morning I was happy to discover an entertaining new blog centered on Asian food. It's Noodles and Rice, the Best in Asian Food, by Stef Patag. It's comforting to know that at any given moment there's someone in Cincinatti or wherever thinking of dim sum or whatever.

Oh, and part of the excuse for my absence from the blog is that I was here:

Thursday, April 20, 2006

We'll never find out if the food was good....

Man pleads guilty after swiping Chinese food
Associated Press

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - A little lo mein brought a bad fortune to Walter Eliassaint.

The Royal Palm Beach man ended up in jail for swiping some Chinese food meant for his neighbor and had faced 11 years in prison before pleading guilty Wednesday to a lesser charge and receiving a $333 fine.

The China King deliveryman went to the wrong door in January, and Eliassaint, 25, was hungry. He took the bag of food and signed the $27.33 credit card receipt, but was arrested before he could crack open his fortune cookie.

The food was meant for his neighbor, the girlfriend of a former police officer, who was with her and also hungry.

"Was it good?" County Judge Paul Moyle asked Eliassaint at the plea hearing Wednesday.

"I didn't eat it," Eliassaint replied. "I was in jail the same night."

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Big Chinese in the Twin Cities Area

From the Star-Tribune:

Dim sum at 3 a.m.?

When Jun Bo opens early next month in the former Chi Chi's location at 7717 Nicollet Av., Richfield, it will be the biggest Chinese restaurant in Minnesota. The 22,000-square-foot restaurant's largest dining room will have space for 40 banquet tables, or 400 guests -- big enough to accommodate the huge wedding events and community celebrations that are traditional in the Chinese community. Jun Bo will feature a traditional Chinese menu, full bar, and dim sum (the traditional Chinese tea snacks) all day, every day, from 9 a.m. to 3 a.m.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Spring Has Sprung, the Blog is Blooming

The Blog will begin to bloom again, but not necessarily for the best reasons. I have suspended (abandoned?) my phpbb message board indefinitely after the third hacker attack in 18 months wiped out all the posts and part of the membership roll. I intend to make more use of the blog as a repository for pithy information gleaned on the fly, so check back often. I'm mulling alternative message board solutions, such as more secure software, better hosting arrangement (with better support) and the like, so eventually interactivity will be restored to In the meantime, I have created a "mini me" of the departed forum in the form of a Google Group, so stop by and join in!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

On Xtreme Cuisine and HP electronic calculators

In searching for some fodder for a discusion on a message board (not mine), I stumbled upon this wonderful page on the website for the HP Calculator Museum:

Game for game and other offal stuff in China

Thanks, Dave. And BTW, the first electronic calculator I used was a Friden, ca. 1969. Loved that RPN!

Now I'm wondering what the owner of the Pez Dispenser Museum down in Burlingame is eating these days....

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Gung Haggis Fat Choy!

You see, Chinese New Years always falls near Robbie Burns' Birthday.... and... both events are important in Vancouver.... and... let's just let let Toddish McWong's blog explain it all.

But don't miss out on the haggis spring rolls, haggis ried wontons and the haggis lettuce cups if you happen to be in Vancouver on January 22.

Waiter, there's a USB plug in my siu mai!

The web site for Houston's Chinatown has a a page exploring the joys and procedures of eating dim sum, complete with suitable illustrations. The page designer, however, seemed to fail to notice that the clip art he grabbed from the web for illustrating siu mai was a publicity photo from a Japanese manufacturer of cute flash media storage devices. If you tak a look, you can clearly see the USB plugs attached to them.

Now, if I can get a steamer of those for $2.50....

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Culinary Crime in London

There's an interesting rantlet in the op-ed section of the London Telegraph today by David Tang (of Shanghai Tang). Unfortunately, it deals more with form than with subtance, and leaves a lot unsaid about the quality and composition of the food itself.

"Spare ribs, egg foo-yung, chop-suey and plenty of fried rice: how to murder a Chinese "

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Klingt furchtbar schmeckt aber wunderbar

Translation: My new year's resolution is to revive this blog, embrace it wholeheartedly, and lovingly feed it nibbles.

Okay, that was a white lie. Actually, it means "Sounds terrible but tastes wonderful". I found this description applied to a German restaurant, Grasshof, while browsing the somewhat scary website of a government supported haute food technology institute, INICON, but the phrase seems to be tailor-made for Chinese food. How often have you uttered something similar, or heard someone utter something similar about the goose chitterlings, fish maw or duck tongues on the menu at your favorite Chinese restaurant?

Anyway, a Happy Klingt Furchtbar Schmeckt Aber Wunderbar, or KFSAW for short to you, and come on back!