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The Food Party!

By Laura Stec

E-mail Laura Stec

About this blog: I've been attracted to food for good and bad reasons for many years. From eating disorder to east coast culinary school, food has been my passion, profession & nemesis. I've been a sugar addict, a 17-year vegetarian, a food and en...  (More)

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China, Interrupted

Uploaded: Apr 16, 2015

Ni hao (hi) from China. Wow - this is a different country. I have travelled to Singapore and Malaysia, but this is the most culture shock I have ever felt. I wonder if it is because I am an older traveller this time, or if there really is a difference for a Westerner?

It's been quite a trip just to get here. First my passport and visa got lost in the mail and I had to get both in less than 2 weeks (take heart if this happens to you - it took me five days, but you can actually do it in three). Then I realized on the day before what I thought was my departure, that I actually was leaving (from Los Angeles) on that day. I made it!

The trip is part business and part pleasure. I am off to discover what the organic, local and sustainable food scene is like in China. Not that great from what I hear and see, mostly because, and this comes from a Shanghai local, "How can we trust anyone to tell us the truth about the food they are selling us?" Sounds like US corporate food service is not the only country figuring out food integrity issues.

I'm keeping this short, because I don't know if it'll make it up. There is no Facebook and Google allowed here and I am wondering if I'll be able to access a Western news source to post something. Let's find out.

If you are reading this, than it made it too and I'll add to this post when I can. Like about that Street Market dinner I had (enjoyed?) yesterday in Shanghai....

For your basic California, vegetarian girl, I'll tell you, it's quite a food party here.

Xiexie and zai jain.

(thank you and good bye)
Local Journalism.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge,
on Apr 16, 2015 at 3:29 pm

OMG it made it! It's such an ordeal to get online here. More later! Zai Jain!

Posted by dat Pham, a resident of Gemello,
on Apr 17, 2015 at 3:41 am

My ta ma de ..ask for the wo qing ni chi fan at any open cooking or street is so ta ma de good!!!!!good luck! Sounds awesome, how long you staying?

Posted by Deke, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Apr 17, 2015 at 8:03 am

Love this perspective on China... keep the post coming. Please.

Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of another community,
on Apr 17, 2015 at 5:38 pm

Dat Pham, I wish you were here with me! I am visiting for the next week. The first night I went on a street food tour of Shanghai with a group called UnTour, that also does dumpling handson cook classes. Though you can't drink the water, everyone agrees it's safe to eat at the street markets, so yesterday I did enjoy some of the cooked onsite green onion cakes and tofu 100 ways (just watch out for old looking oil). Amazing hand pulled noodle skills - yes chef! The breakfast at the hotel has been the best meals so far - wow! The mix of eastern vegetables, seasonings, strange eggs, and yummy pickles- the way we should eat in the AM. . It's so funny to see the Chinese male travelers with plates piled high with eggs and bacon. Unfortunately all the "organic" places I planned to visit are closed, meaning the scene is not Stringed hére, but tonight I will eat with the owner of the "whole foods" of China. The food for her store seems mostly imported from Australia.

I have so many questions about culture and male female roles and relationships. Are all the couples taking pictures in formal wear going to the prom, or is this just what young people do at night? And what's with all the young men who look like Elvis? Male fashion is strong here. Watch out all you guys back in the States. You might have to start tucking in that shirt soon.

My mandarin is pretty limited to the repetitive "excuse me and thank you." But I've noticed no one says "you're welcome". And most people don't acknowledge when you nod or smile. Is that true or am I missing something?


Posted by Laura Stec, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Apr 17, 2015 at 6:01 pm

Laura Stec is a registered user.

Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge,
on Apr 18, 2015 at 7:12 pm

China is fascinating and today we leave Shanghai for Beijing. I think the culture shock is greater here than other Eastern locations i have travelled because it is all one culture, as compared to Singapore for instance which is 3, making all of them alittle "less in influence" if you know what I mean. I've noticed the food in Shanghai is similar in flavors no matter what one eats. This was confirmed by a local, and you can see it in the markets - the seasonings in this área of the country are strongly ginger, soy sauce, garlic, & toasted sesame. And they still use a lot of MSG as a main seasoning as well as depend on the meats and fish to flavor the dish. ( problematic if you don't eat a lot of meat). So i've realized I might want to choose my travels from now on to áreas with a varied spice content. Its also hard to get a glass of wine here - another important travel factor learned!

Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of Portola Valley: other,
on Apr 19, 2015 at 3:39 am

Today we went to Tian 'an Men Square, which was so exciting. To any Chinese readers, please, what does that space mean to you? The culture here is so interesting, and what's really exciting is the young people who will force change for more say. It's also fun if you are a blond in a dress, because people still wanna take their picture with you.

Posted by Laura Stec, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Apr 19, 2015 at 4:39 pm

Laura Stec is a registered user.

I ate the most yummy thing last night. Ventured out in the Beijing neighborhood to get laundry done because in the hotel one load would have cost $90. Unlike what many have told me, hardly anyone speaks English here, even in the hotel, so finding a laundry mat is challenging. Thank goodness for Google Translate ( if you can get an outside connection-remember google is blocked here) On my way, a street vendor was making "crepes" thin wheat batter cooked on a large wheel, add 2 eggs and spread thin. Add in some greens and what I think was a thin fried tuba tofu strip (looked like a fried pork rind) Fold it up and yum! 5 yuan or $1. It was like a veggie Crunch Wrap. I am going to try to start putting up some food pictures here after we get back from the Great Wall today.

Speaking of pictures, they are harder in Beijing. Even with a paid wifi connection, Facebook seems impossible to access. I have felt a woman alone, focused writing on her computer stands out here, people seemed interested, yet unsure. Empowered but threatened? I did get a pix of Tian 'an Men Square up on Facebook after many tries yesterday, but only knew it made it when friends started to comment ( I couldn't see it). My old high school buddy Bob mentioned that using the "T" word with "square" on social media does trigger flags, and I have to admit, now I even feel some apprehension. I asked our guide what T Square meant to all the Chinese people gathered there. First she said "peace" and then she said " You know more about it then we do." Hmmmm - even years later. It's a touch unsettling to feel like people are watching you. Maybe I'm just paranoid?

Posted by Laura Stec , a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge,
on Apr 20, 2015 at 4:43 pm

Yesterday after our haul up and over the Great War, refueling at The Great Wall Bar afterwards, and a trip to the local supermarket ( a perfect way to learn about a culture), I headed to Janes and Hootch, a trendy Speakeasy in the heart of Beijing. On the way I got "shanghai'd" by another of those yummy Veggie Crunch Wraps and a delicious tofu "sate" with something like hoisin and a spicy sauce. There is skewered everything at the street stalls, and for $2 you can get a meal. With a long line behind me, this particular street vendor took about 8 minutes to perfectly grill my skewers on her tiny cart. She had such pride in her work. All the street vendors bicycled away in seconds when a police car drove by, only to return minutes later to the same spot once the officials left. The ultimate Popup! I have pictures of the all the great food, but have to wait to post those when I return.

On my way to the bar, I took an unexpected side street toward a band playing. I've been searching out local music ( the Chinese guy playing country was great) but started to laugh upon discovering the whole band, and for that matter, the whole street, was disco lighted spots filled with elaborately dressed bar goers out for a night of karaoke. Kept walking and stumbled into the Red Light District, with scantily- clad women dancing in the windows with poles and free-style, to the viewing of both men and women. I'm sure I was blushing as I tried to walk past like a local.

Today is Dumpling cook class at a Hutong ( ancient neighborhood).

What other new foods will I meet today?

Posted by Alan, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven,
on Apr 21, 2015 at 11:37 am

Alan is a registered user.

I don't think you can pass as a local. :)

I hope you get a chance to get to the countryside.

When I've been there (well - in Tianjin), one of the most surprising foods was donkey meat sandwiches. They were actually quite tender! I can't say I have a discriminating palate, but I liked it. Roasted chestnuts are another local favorite. Don't know the quality of the meat, but it was one of the more interesting surprises.

Posted by Alan, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven,
on Apr 21, 2015 at 11:39 am

Alan is a registered user.

Ah, you're vegetarian ... donkey meat is off the menu. There was Buddhist monastery in Tianjin that specialized in vegetarian food ... I suspect they have that elsewhere.

Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge,
on Apr 21, 2015 at 5:49 pm

Alan, today I head to The Schoolhouse, which is north of Beijing in the countryside. It is an organic farm and restaurant, run by an expat and his Chinese wife. One of the first of its kind I hear. And donkey meat? Maybe I did try it -so many things I have no idea what they are!

Last night the Wangfujing Night Market had skewed cricket, snake, and some other insect with a lot of legs! A lot of Chinese were walking around munching on them. I didn't have the guts to try, but did enjoy a vegetarian "burrito" filled with cabbage. It seemed more Polish than Chinese. This market is a must see if you travel to the city.

After the Forbidden City, ( a complex that, if you slept in a different room each night, would take you 27 years to sleep in the same room twice) we went to a Hutong by ricksaw and had lunch at a locals house. Though I have traveled around the world, every time I see how the simplicity of how other cultures live, and the resources they use to do it, I am humbled. We are blessed in the US with much wealth, and we have to remember we use much more, but should learn to use much less.

Posted by masterpapers reviews, a resident of Bailey Park,
on Apr 22, 2015 at 3:59 am

Thanks a lot for this contribution! It's been very useful for me. Everything is very open and represents very clear explanation of issues. Really blogging is spreading its wings quickly. Your write up is a good example of it. Your website is very useful. Thanks for sharing.

Posted by Sparty, a resident of another community,
on Apr 23, 2015 at 7:50 am

Sparty is a registered user.

Pretty sure there aren't many buddhist monasteries specializing in meat

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