High Speed Rail Around Asia Two Kinds of Chee The Oily Chinese Food Debate: Healthy or Not? Asian Food Markets Stir-Fried Udon Noodles
High Speed Rail Around Asia High Speed Rail (HSR) is not new to Asia, although the biggest network is now being constructed in China. HSR has been in Asia for decades and is getting upgraded all the time. As you experience various countries across North Asia, it is important to get familiar with these amazing trains and be sure to […]
Two Kinds of Chee “Chee” is one of those concepts that floats around in the English-speaking world, but is rarely understood outside of its cultural context. I’ve written about this before in Ginseng and Ginger posts. There are loads of potential benefits to your health if you consider Qi in your daily life. But, first we need to get […]
The Oily Chinese Food Debate: Healthy or Not? As the world turns its eyes on China, and all parts of developing Asia, increasing numbers of Westerners are traveling here and getting a taste of it for themselves, literally. As tasty as the dishes may be, foreign guests have started deciding for themselves that Chinese food might just be “a little too oily to […]
Asian Food Markets Most cities with at least 50,000 people in America are bound to have some kind of Asian market. It might be Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, or any other Asian nationality. That shouldn’t be a problem because all Asian food is awesome! The map to the right will help you find your closest Asian food […]
Stir-Fried Udon Noodles Pronounced “Wu Dong Mian” in Chinese, this stir-fried version of U-Don Noodle soup is awesome. The vegetables can be substituted by any other vege that’s in the house. The dish is about 40% noodles, 15% meat, and 45% vegetables. I don’t really use measurements in cooking, so please don’t worry about being specific. Here is […]

Repatriating from China – Ill Communication

image 300x244 Repatriating from China   Ill Communication

Better than Nothing

It’s August and I’ve been living in Boston since I moved back from China at the end of 2013. A LOT has happened over the course of 9+ months back in America and I thought it was time to check in with AL.ME to recap what’s happened and the hidden challenges of my repat experience. Enjoy installment #4!

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Speaking a foreign language everyday for 8 years is without a doubt a great way to build up that skill. You not only learn how to express yourself in a translated form, but you also experience social interactions in a whole new light. However, you will begin to find yourself behaving differently in your work and at home, with friends and your lover(s).

For years I’ve made specific comparisons between the way Chinese and Americans view and interact with the world around us. We have a lot more in common than we think, but the differences are noticeable. Here are a few changes that I’ve definitely noticed while I’ve been back in America the past year.

Read More…

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Repatriating from China – Half a Year on

It’s July and I’ve been living in Boston since I moved back from China at the end of 2013. A LOT has happened over the course of half a year [back home] and I thought it was time to check in with AL.ME to recap what’s happened and cite the many hidden challenges of this repat experience. Here’s the 1st installment about Renting and Moving as a repat!

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download 5 300x225 Repatriating from China   Half a Year on

Slums in disguise (Boston, MA)

When you live in another country for so many years (8 in China, 1 in Korea in my case) you eventually accept and internalize how the local culture does things. In the case of finding an apartment for rent, signing a contract, and moving in, there were some surprise differences for me here in Boston. For starters, the value proposition of rent in a city like Boston is a horrible deal.

As Winter 2013/2014 ticked by, the experience of subletting from a “slumlord” (in the local lexis) was more of an exercise in price-gouging than fair accommodation. At $950 a month from each of the 5 roommates, this rickety old house with warped floor boards, drafty windows, unreliable water pressure, and noisy street traffic was a tough pill to swallow when compared to my previous living situation in Zhuhai. Back in China I was in a modern, newly furnished, single apartment with reliable utilities and an ocean view off the balcony for $300 a month. I know… location, location, location. *barf*

Locating an apartment and securing a lease is also quite different than I was used to. In China, I was expected to wait until 1-2 weeks before my move-in date to actually look for the new apartment, otherwise it wouldn’t “be available” on the date I was looking to move. It was all very last minute, but you could always find a place in the end. In Boston, I’ve experienced weeks of searching and interviewing just to sign a lease that would begin nearly 3 months later. All very much in advance and reliable, however, requiring $3000 up front upon signing the lease. Putting that money in the hands of the landlord (a stranger) so early threw up a red flag for this repat, quite naturally, but I later realized that this is how apartment-hunting is done here. I needed to accept this or go back to wherever it was “I came from.” icon smile Repatriating from China   Half a Year on Read More…

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Learn to Brew 5 Fresh and Healthy Teas at Home

2lemon honey ginger tea1 300x252 Learn to Brew 5 Fresh and Healthy Teas at Home

Courtesy OhLardy.com

Inspired by previous posts on green tea and proper tea consumption, I’ve decided to share a batch of simple, soothing homemade teas. As with everything here on AL.ME, these fresh and healthy tea options are meant to keep life simple and keep your body happy. We’ll select fresh, natural, inexpensive ingredients and use them to create a harmonious balance throughout the body. Let’s kick things off with a light one… Read More…

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Eating Seaweed Soup for Cancer Prevention

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Korean seaweed soup with mussels (Recipe below)

 *This post is dedicated to AL.ME’s #1 fan – Thank you Saba

A few years back I visited a little island off of the coast of Zhuhai (China) and found an elderly couple collecting seaweed. They were bending over and reaching around rocks that were covered in barnacles and salty sea grass. When I asked why they were collecting this brownish, bumpy seaweed and putting it into big plastic bags they said, “We’re going to make soup with it.” And I just thought… Chinese people have horrible taste buds… Slimy seaweed in homemade soup must taste awful!

But then a couple months ago I was on the phone with my mom who was walking along a beach near her winter home in Florida. She was looking for sharks teeth, as she does most mornings, when she bumped into a fellow snow bird gathering seaweed into a shopping bag. When she asked what he was doing he said that he was a doctor and that the seaweed has great medicinal properties. By the end of their chat, she had realized she was talking with a doctor who gives speeches around the country on cancer prevention. And this man in particular was sending all of the seaweed he collected to his brother’s clinic in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Read More…

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BAD Review of Register.com for Domain Name Services

registerdotcom 220x105 BAD Review of Register.com for Domain Name Services

Beware…

Since AL.ME is a blog, and requires a domain name, I thought I might share some comments for those of you who are also interested in creating your own site to share your stories. If you are looking for a Domain Name register, make sure you AVOID Register.com. (I’m not receiving any compensation from anyone for this article.)

A couple years ago I purchased the domain “S4SpeakingPro.com” because I was developing a site for American English accent lessons and services. When I shopped around for the domain I looked everywhere and found a decent sale at Register. Aside from the fear tactics, misleading warnings, greyed out “next” buttons, etc. I navigated my way to check out. I pointed the domain safely to my host, and that was that. At least I thought that was that… Read More…

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The Ultimate List of East Asian Festivals for your Bucket List

Welcome to my list of the major festivals and holidays celebrated across Northeast Asia- Japan, North and South Korea, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, and Mongolia. This will be a continuously updated list as I keep exploring new and interesting festivals that have evolved in the East Asian cultural sphere, also known as Sinosphere (including Vietnam) because they are all historically influenced by Chinese culture.*

Consider adding some of these to your bucket list and I’m sure you’ll never regret the effort to cover them all!

bucketlist 150x150 The Ultimate List of East Asian Festivals for your Bucket ListAndroid Users
Bucket List app
i wish app 150x150 The Ultimate List of East Asian Festivals for your Bucket ListiOS Users
iWish app

NOTE: Celebrating some of these festivals usually requires physically being in the country. If travelling that far is impossible, see if you can get to your local Chinatown or East Asian neighborhood on the date of the festival.

 CHINA

Chinese New Year (Spring Festival 春节, Seollal in Korea, ) is celebrated across the world by Chinese diaspora. In 2014 it will be celebrated on January 31 and the final day occurring on February 15- see the Lantern Festival below. This is the most exciting festival I’ve ever experienced. It feels like American 4th of July but more dangerous! Get a more detailed overview on this amazing festival here.

Read More…

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Will Students still come to America after PISA 2012?

Pisa full results graphic 008 Will Students still come to America after PISA 2012?

Chart courtesy of theGuardian.com

After American 15-year-olds scored 36th overall on the global Reading, Math, and Science test, will parents continue to send their students to study in America? Test-obsessed parts of the globe may look at the 2012 results of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) and determine that our K-12 education does not compare to theirs. Or parents might not care and just send their kids to America anyway. (We’ve still got the highest ranked universities in the world…)

Read More…

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“No politics on Thanksgiving”…

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Who is right?…No one.

Thanksgiving is a special time when family reunite for great food and awesome desserts. But it wouldn’t be a normal family gathering without some passionate political rhetoric. And after the turkey, mashed potatoes with gravy, cheddar broccoli, maple carrots, and biscuits, who wouldn’t grab at the opportunity to burn some calories by cursing your ideological foes vis-à-vis your loved ones?

Then gram gram chimes in: “No politics on Thanksgiving!” But she already knows… It’s too late to stop it, gram gram.
This crazy train has left the terminal!

But dear reader, AL.ME is not a place for hard-line party politics and I don’t intend to explain why ‘merica has become a communist, totalitarian state run by a Muslim… (no, I’ll save the “truth” for my other blog.) But honestly, listen closely, I have some shocking news to share with you… Read More…

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What you didn’t know about Chinese Food in America…

takeout 204x300 What you didnt know about Chinese Food in America...

American or Chinese?

For years I’ve been attempting to explain (and cook) the differences between real Chinese food and American Chinese food. At first, it surprised American friends to discover that the Chinese have never heard of dishes like Crab Rangoon, General Tso’s Chicken, Egg Rolls, Egg Foo Young, and Chop Suey. All were created in America for American taste buds.

Crab Rangoon was actually an American creation that has been served in San Francisco since the 1950s.

Egg Foo Young was an adaptation on a real Chinese dish and made its American debut in the 1930s.

General Tso’s Chicken [pronounced 'TSAO'] was coined after a famous Chinese general but the people of his modern-day hometown in Xiangyin, Hunan province have never tried it before! (See Jennifer’s talk below) Read More…

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Online Asian Markets and Food Delivery

Whenever I cook for friends and family I’m always asked about the ingredients I use and where to get them. And since visiting an Asian market alone can be a little overwhelming for some, I decided to put a short introduction together for buying my most common ingredients online. If you’d like to see some recipes first, here are a few on Asianliving.me.

Let’s start with a few well-known online shops in North America:

Amazon.com Logo Online Asian Markets and Food DeliveryAmazon.com’s grocery section Online Asian Markets and Food Delivery is loaded with Asian food options.  If you have Amazon prime you obviously won’t have to worry about the cost of shipping. It’s probably worth visiting Amazon first to see if you can find what you are looking for. For those in select areas, you can try Amazon Fresh which is just like Peapod or FreshDirect.

 Online Asian Markets and Food Delivery

All Asian

Asian Food Grocer is a trustworthy shop that provides much of what you expect to find in a standard Asian market. Here are a few products that I commonly use in my cooking:

180109 lkk hoisin sauce lg Online Asian Markets and Food Delivery

Lee Kum Kee’s Hoisin Sauce is something I use for a sweet, seafood flavor.blk 200 Online Asian Markets and Food Delivery

Lee Kum Kee also makes a Black Bean Garlic Sauce which I use for home-style pork ribs. Yum!

Actually, just about everything in the Asian Food Grocer’s “Quick and Easy Asian Cooking” section is delicious and, as the title implies, very easy to use.

marukai logo 120px Online Asian Markets and Food Delivery

Japanese

FRESHFOOD SASHIMI Online Asian Markets and Food Delivery

Sashimi

Marukai’s eStore is a Japanese food shop online which serves North America. Some of my recipes have ingredients that you can find at their shop. Check out their amazing variety of fish options for at-home sushi making!

Also, one Japanese product that I enjoyed a lot in China was Key Coffee’s Drip On brand singles.

Read More…

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1/3 of World’s Cigarettes Smoked in China

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Two guys smoking

A blog that totes the wonders of Asianliving should really offer a fair slice of the other side: the health problems suffered in Asia. Suffice it to say the global news media frequently reminds us of the air quality issues across China, I decided to take it one step further and opine on the love of smoking here.

As Andrew Hales recently noted on his visit to Chengdu (where people use umbrellas in the daytime “like in the olden days”), China in the 20-teens seems much like America in the 1950s. Smoking is everywhere, all the time. And if you aren’t smoking, you will still smell (inhale) other people’s smoke. Restaurants, bars, shops, bus stations, train stations, bathrooms, and schools. There are virtually no tobacco-free zones in China, although in 2009 a policy was passed to “ban smoking in all health administration offices and medical facilities by the year 2011.”* That’s right, smoking in hospitals was common even just a couple years ago. City-specific legislation is still being carried out slowly across the country.* Read More…

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Asia’s Safer Ways to Make Salad

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a detailed study earlier this year about the Attribution of Foodborne Illness in the United States between 1998-2008. As mentioned by Modern Farmer in a recent article, a majority of the cases reported were due to uncooked greens and under-cooked meat products. Although beef and poultry can be cooked longer for a piece of mind, the consumption of raw vegetables is a greater challenge.

It’s common knowledge in the US that eating raw vegetables is “healthier” than eating them cooked- it’s also much more convenient this way…  The downside is that we are more susceptible to pathogens carried on leafy greens. This is probably why my Asian friends prefer to ordering dishes that contain veges that have been skinned just prior to cooking, like potatoes, cucumbers, carrots, radishes, etc. Anything that looks the same straight off the farm (like lettuce, spinach, bok choy, etc) are less likely to be cleaned properly in the restaurant kitchen.

Different countries have their own traditional ways of prepping salad. In countries like China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and Thailand the hygiene of its preparation is often questioned. In most cases copious amounts of garlic, peppers, lemon, ginger or other ingredients might be used in order to help naturally kill whatever is catching a ride on the leaves. Here are some samples of “salad” according to Asian tastes.

Thai-syles:

GreenMangoSalad 300x225 Asias Safer Ways to Make Salad

Green Mango gives this salad a kick!

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Red Envelopes for Better Health Care

redenvelopes 300x168 Red Envelopes for Better Health Care

Red Cash – courtesy NPR

My colleague’s wife had a baby last Christmas in a Chinese hospital in Zhuhai. It was a typical scenario. Meet your doctor in advance and decide whether to have a natural birth or a c-section. In this case, the choice was to go c-style at a planned date (that was not on an unlucky date, mind you. No number 4s.) Of course, there is a relationship that develops naturally with an expecting couple and their doctors, but in China there is an additional consideration to be made: how painful do you want this birth to be? That’s when red envelopes start to appear. Read More…

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(Mostly) Winning in Macau and Chinese Luck

image1 300x200 (Mostly) Winning in Macau and Chinese Luck

Jumping off the Tower

Yesterday I finished my work early to visit Macau with a colleague turning 36. Taking me by surprise was that he felt it was time to try nose diving off the tallest bungy platform in the world. Dropping over 750 feet (233m) in just a few seconds costs thrill-seakersHK$2,500 or about $320 each time. Although it looked like an experience of a lifetime, I decided to just cheer him on from the observatory desk. Actually, my thrill for the day was at the Galaxy Resort and Casino which is just a bridge hop over to Taipa from Macau. Read More…

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Dragon Boat Festival in Shunde 2013

China is celebrating its 2000-year old Dragon Boat festival on June 10-13. This year I wanted to get a closer look at a popular location for the boat races rather than revisit the cushy Macau version. (Enjoy a complete overview of Duan Wu Jie from my 2011 post) This time we visited Shun Feng Lake in Bruce Lee’s hometown – Shunde.

Shunde  (Shwun-duh) is home to one of the most well-known dragon boat competitions in Southern China. Check out the Chinese version of the Shun De Boat Club’s website for the latest information on this competition throughout the year (http://www.sdlongzhou.net/)  Every June teams from around Guangdong province get together at this lake to compete in a 500-meter sprint.  For a closer look, check out my pics from this year’s event below:

BoatsShunde 1024x768 Dragon Boat Festival in Shunde 2013

Although it was a little cloudy, that didn’t keep these smaller teams from competing in an event that has been around for over 20 centuries! [*] Read More…

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Food Deserts and Sterling Farm Markets

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Wendell Pierce @ Sterling Farms

NBC Nightly News ran a report recently about “food deserts”, which is a phenomenon that occurs in low-income, rural areas of the country. (See 2004 article about Pittsburgh, NH) A food desert is where a fresh produce market is 1 mile or farther away from any given neighborhood. For many in this kind of situation, locals often do their shopping in expensive mini-marts or convenience stores. And the health implications of food deserts exacerbate various weight-related issues. Read More…

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Xiangsheng and Xiangke: Foods that React to Each other

plan 245x300 Xiangsheng and Xiangke: Foods that React to Each other

"The Plan" By Lyn-Genet Recitas

An American friend recently introduced a book to me that is gaining popularity in the US called, The Plan. It describes in detail that certain healthy foods we eat regularly do, in fact, cause us to gain weight. The author uses concepts that are regularly used in Chinese discussions of health and makes them accessible to a Western audience. “Inflammatory foods” cause “inflammation”, which produce negative effects on your body and can effect weight gain and loss.

xiangshengxiangke Xiangsheng and Xiangke: Foods that React to Each other

All of this talk of inflammation reminded me of a poster I saw in a Chinese medical hospital room years ago. It basically outlines both appropriate and inappropriate combinations of food. This Chinese-medicine concept seems to be the foundation of the theories in The Plan book.  It seems this ancient concept, which can help us better understand how our bodies work, has worked its way to the discussion table of American households. Read More…

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Chinese New Year 2013: A Retreat to the Mountains

IMG 20130211 132834 300x22513 Chinese New Year 2013: A Retreat to the Mountains

Ben @ the peak of Hengshan

It’s New Year time in China once again and this time I’ve decided to do something a little different. For the Year of the Snake my girlfriend and I are spending 3 days in a quiet, snowy mountain town in Hunan province called “Heng Shan”. It’s one of the 5 “sacred mountains” of China, although this could just be a marketing ploy by the locals… Anyhow, it’s importance to Taoists and Buddhists goes back all the way to 25AD, so there must be something desirable up there! Read More…

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Understanding the World of Chinese Morning Tea

“Dim Sum”   ,  “Yum Cha”  ,  “Morning Tea”   or  “Zao Cha”

Drinking Tea has always been an important part in the daily routines of most Chinese people, but Morning Tea specifically has been enjoyed by Cantonese Chinese  for hundreds of years. Nowadays Morning Tea, Yum Cha, or Zao Cha are all ways to describe the activity Westerners might call “Brunch”,  and Dim Sum refers to the dishes that are served at this leisurely mealtime. As with much international Chinese culture, this tradition has it’s roots in Guangdong province, but is practiced regularly throughout Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, and Chinatowns worldwide. Let’s take a look at what’s in store for first-time morning tea patrons!

th 311 Understanding the World of Chinese Morning Tea

Kungfu Tea at your Table

Kung fu Tea

Don’t miss the chance to Pao Cha with your hosts while you sip on piping hot kung fu tea in small tea cups. All Morning Tea establishments provide the option of small tea sets with boiling hot water that you can use to make tea at your table. Sometimes the tea alone costs as much as the food, but worth it for first-time visitors. A common favorite among Cantonese is Pu-er tea, which is a darker tea that reminds me of coffee. It’s known for aiding disgestion and doubles as a dieting tea.

An alternative to Kung Fu tea is just a simple pot of house brew that varies place to place. The cups are usually bigger too. Read More…

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Dieting in Asia: An Unexpected Reality

hotmom1 Dieting in Asia: An Unexpected Reality

She needs a diet?

Believe it or not, a majority of the “skinny” women that you see when visiting Asian countries believe they are, themselves, “fat” or “overweight”. It is appalling to Western women when I tell them this but it is a reality. However, the reality of being “overweight” in a country like China is no different than in the US. Why? Because it is 100% relative and culture-based.

In China, women are worried about roundness and often strive for an image that westerners would call “boney”. When asked about the Western “plus-sized” models, many women here think that it’s not right to be so big. They agree with the fashion magazines that show thin, tall women. The first time I heard someone say that plus-sized models were not necessary was a strange moment for me, but then I realized that this culture (and their eating habits) seem to allow most women a fair chance at achieving a healthy, attractive figure. This “chance” is the result of traditional healthy eating habits, which one of the many reasons I started writing AL.ME.

But with the increase in Western-style eating, that healthy figure is becoming less of the norm. Since there is always a competition for being the hottest (in virtually all modern cultures) many of them want to get even thinner! As you might expect, confusion sets in for some of them and the results are quite unexpected, to be honest. The following are a few before and after photos of typical young women in China trying to reach their ideal weight… (All images were self-posted on Weibo in late 2012)

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Robo Ricecookers

BlackRicecooker14 Robo Ricecookers

Cooking Rice in Style

I’m a little embarrassed to say it, but today I finally bought a rice cooker! Maybe because I’ve been a bread person my whole life I never thought buying a machine specifically for cooking rice was important. But since I’ve been in Asia I have eaten rice just about everyday and loved it. After years of fluffy white rice at restaurants and friend’s houses, I’ve developed a taste for this healthy staple. But when it was time to start looking for one at the supermarket, what I wasn’t prepared for the endless choices in front of me.

There are TONS of rice cooker options on the shelves in Chinese supermarkets, but most of them look pretty ugly. And since I’m not a “heavy” rice eater, I figured the huge 5-6 liter mutha rice cookers wouldn’t be my thing. So, I set out to find a small one that would be an interesting addition to our kitchen here. That’s when I met “Robo”. Read More…

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Lie to me Because we’re Friends

truth hurts Lie to me Because were Friends

Truth Hurts

“Lie” is a strong word but I’ve decided I’m going to use it anyway… As westerners get in closer touch with Asian counterparts, who seemingly hold the future of the global economy in their hands, we are tasked with understanding their ways. By “ways” I mean culture, language, and identity. You could read volumes on Chinese culture, history, and customs, but they wouldn’t prepare you for the actual events that you will inevitably experience. Just like reading the operation manual of a submarine, you might find that just jumping into one and tinkering with the controls would be loads more effective. But you should remember a few pointers and “lie to me because you care” is one of them. Read More…

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Me on a Game show in China

BenHubeiTV Me on a Game show in China

Game show Preview Ad

Last month I was invited to Hubei TV to participate in a major talent/game show in China called 挑战女人帮 or something like “Challenge (with a girl’s help?)” in English. It was a lot of work but extremely fun. From Zhuhai, it was a couple hours flight to Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province. Since my girlfriend is from Wuhan I felt especially comfortable there because the people are cool and the food is awesome. But what happened when I got to my hotel was a completely different story… Read More…

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Yum! Southern China’s Soup Culture

After getting to the real Southern China (Guangdong, not Shanghai) in 2006, I never became too fond the local pension for homemade soup. I knew it was a great excuse for parents to invite their kids home for a weekend visit and I knew there were loads of health benefits too. But I personally never preferred to eat soup as a meal, except as a free side to Chinese fast food. It was only recently that I discovered how easy it was to make and enjoy. Now it has finally found its place among the other great discoveries here on AL.ME

Maybe I avoided it because it was so Cantonese and I missed the Mandarin world a little. Making soup (煲汤) and Morning Tea (早茶) are very Cantonese and have slowly found their place among my all-time favorite Chinese weekend activities. Now, or when I’m ready to move on, they will join me as I explore the rest of China (and the USA).

SoupIngredients Yum! Southern Chinas Soup Culture

Soup Ingredients

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Understanding the World of Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year Fireworks Cards 300x2162 Understanding the World of Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year is definitely a global phenomenon, which allows me to add CNY to my ongoing series of “Understanding the World of…” articles! Since most Westerners living in towns with a population of at least a few thousand have a Chinese restaurant, I should be able to assume most readers have a passing knowledge of the Chinese Zodiac and the Lunar New Year. If you are pretty sure you know close to nothing about this ancient festival, then go ahead and read this entire post. Otherwise, feel free to skip to parts that interest you or could help you answer tough questions from friends about China. So, let’s get started! Read More…

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Chang Fen ~ Rice Crepes with Filling

RiceCrepe 300x199 Chang Fen ~ Rice Crepes with Filling

Shrimp Chang Fen 虾仁肠粉

The other day I had a hankering for chang fen; pronounced “Chong Fun” in newspaper-phonetics. It’s not the cleanest option for eats in the neighborhood, but it tastes awesome. Getting good chang fen in China is like getting good pizza in America – the most dilapidated pizza dive is usually the best.

Basically, chang fen is made of rice flour that starts out quite runny- kind of like very runny pancake mix. It gets spooned into a steam tray and spread around as you can see in the photos below. Eggs, meat, chives, etc. are tossed on randomly and then the tray gets put in the steamer. After a couple minutes the tray gets pulled out the the contents get scrapped out. I chose extra egg because I don’t trust the meat in these places… Read More…

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Medicinal Massage in China

massage pic 300x199 Medicinal Massage in China

~Pure Relaxation~

What is the first thing you think of when someone suggests getting a massage? For those who haven’t tried a genuine massage, it probably sounds dirty, but don’t let the negative press fool you. Massage is genuinely useful and even plays a substantial role in Traditional Chinese Medicine techniques. After a long week of work on my computer or dealing with university stress, I find that a professional body massage really helps. If you play sports regularly or receive an injury, a mix of acupuncture and light massage can bring your muscles back to their healthy state much faster[*]. People with poor circulation can get blood moving again with regular medicinal massage too. My mother often reminds me of the benefit her legs received in 2008, the last time she was in China.

Read More…

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5 Ways to Keep from Losing Your Mind in China

head scratch1 5 Ways to Keep from Losing Your Mind in China

"What the...?"

China is a very exciting country to be in for many reasons. For most foreigners here, you’ve come for business or travel. But with so many possible activities to do, there remains one thing you can’t avoid: communication. Communication in modern China is probably not much different than how it was a hundred years ago, before simplified Chinese came around. Contrary to one assumption, communication hasn’t gotten any simpler. In fact, if you aren’t prepared, it can be very easy to lose your mind. That’s where the group of foreigners in China gets separated… and the ones who can’t handle it end up going home “for good”. Here is what that group should have taken into consideration.

1) Laugh your problems away: This is one of the toughest things to get used to. It’s the awkward giggle/chuckle you hear when a something goes wrong. Perhaps you gave a direct comment that surprised your secretary. Maybe a friend didn’t help you do a task correctly. Anything that takes effort could potentially be done wrong, and a laugh is a way to combat losing face. In order to combat frustration, I usually make a game out of guessing what will go wrong. When a mistake is made, or a misunderstanding occurs, I compare it with my original guess. It is a little pessimistic, but it often helps me laugh the problems away. Read More…

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Easily find Peace in Asian Parks

With the West Lake in Hangzhou recently joining the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites, it seems like the right time to highlight the value I’ve received by embracing some peaceful hours of relaxation in the most beautiful parks of China, Korea, and Japan.

Let’s start with the West Lake (杭州, 西湖):

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West Lake in Hangzhou


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Dou Ban Jiang (Chinese Bean Sauce)

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Thick Dou Ban Jiang

Get ready to drool over this extremely fragrant and commonly used ingredient in Chinese food. I call it by its directly translated name, “bean sauce” (豆瓣酱), but it is also referred to as “Chile Bean Sauce” which you’ll notice in the first photo. The regular flavor is not spicy at all, rather it puts a fermented, savory soy bean flavor in your dish. There are a variety of bean sauces available at your local Asian market. If you see one with writing on it that looks completely Greek (or Chinese) to you, make sure to take clues from the photo on the label. The red hot chiles (peppers) are a sign you’ve found the spicy version!

Were you looking for Dou Chi, another fermented bean ingredient? Read More…

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Pictures of Life in North Korea

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North Korean Woman in Uniform

What is life truly like in North Korea?

We often default our answers to “full of misery and poverty,” or at least I usually do. It would be a surprise to see smiles in a place many Westerners consider to be a cold, unforgiving dungeon. But in this place which seems to be sealed off from the rest of Asia, and the world, glimpses of internationalism can still be found. Children play, common people go to work, elite students may learn English, and so, the Pyong Yang streets resemble a typical city in modern China.

Of course, the pictures you are about to see have been officially produced, censored, and posted in the news section of the most popular Chinese website, QQ.com (Chinese Link). I found them simply by signing into the 400 million+ member IM service and clicking their News pop-up. These are images that at least a few hundred-thousand people have seen within a few hours, and probably millions more by the end of today. This is the perception that Chinese have about North Korea.

So, what is life truly like in North Korea? Well, I guess it depends on which news site you prefer to read…

slider Pictures of Life in North Korea

Click to visit slide show on QQ

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Fire Cupping and Back Scraping Could Save Your Life!

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Fire Cupping (bá guàn)

Back in 2005 I thought I was going to die… literally, it was the worst Flu I had ever experienced. Maybe it was from the new environment in China, or perhaps it was a random winter bug! No matter where it came from, it kept me in bed very achy muscles. I couldn’t get out of bed to visit the bathroom- it was that bad. I quickly decided that I would need help or else I’d be a goner. At the time I was dating a Vietnamese girl who was studying at the Southern Yangzte University of Wuxi, which is what I called home for the first month I was in China. After a distress call she immediately came to my apartment, flipped me face down, and started scraping my back with a washed coin. She poured White Flower Oil (白花油) all over my back during this process. It sucked. It burned. And I could be forgiven for thinking that she was helping the flu kill me even faster! Read More…

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Understanding the World of Dumplings

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Cooked Dumplings (standard)

“Dumpling” can mean many things and today I’m going to clear up this issue once ‘n for all! (Hopefully) In East Asian countries, especially China, there are many varieties of the dumpling concept; kind of like Wine. When we ask about wine others naturally ask “white or red”?  Dry or sweet? What country? Which vintage? For wine aficionados, like my brother Nick icon smile Understanding the World of Dumplings , such questions are rudimentary.  Same goes for dumplings.

In the world of dumplings, there is simply one requirement; you must wrap some contents (vegetables or meat only) with a flour-based wrap. They generally look the same, like most red wines might. The varieties of dumplings can be based on a few things, including: country of origin, cooking style, and contents.

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Yummy... Buns!

Dumplings are universal and have many names. The rest of this post is dedicated to showing all of the dumpling varieties I’ve ever encountered in Korea, Japan, and China; including ones that people back home have asked me about (like the mysterious Crab Rangoon!)

饺子 “jiao zi” (Standard Chinese Dumplings) boiled, semi-transparent when cooked. All over china, favored in North. Sometimes enjoyed as the staple in special family meals.

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Man Tou Buns

包子 “bao zi” (Meat or Vege Buns) steamed. All over China and 7-11s across Northeast Asia. They are usually bigger than standard dumplings and have a more bread-like texture.

馒头 “man tou” (Plan Buns) steamed. Northern Chinese style, but enjoyed around the country. Man tou is used as a staple by families in the North. It is amazing with spicy lamb dishes and can be eaten as a dessert with sweet dipping sauce.

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Pot Stickers

锅贴 “guo tie” (Pot Stickers) pan-fried. Common in Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Eastern China. The picture on the left is the typical style of Pot Stickers. They should be browned on the bottom-side and could contain any combination of meat or vege. Read More…

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Oh-Bama! China’s Fountain of Youth

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A River in Bama County

This week I’d like to uncover a hidden gem for all Asian Living readers. It is a natural occurrence which is not 100% understood by scientists, but honestly, is science the only way to understand our world? Reality slaps us in the face at times when science has no explanation. And that is why I hope we can all keep our minds open for my latest post about Bama.

Southern Guangxi province has a secret…. For hundreds of years the sleepy county of Bama never thought much of living past 100 years old. At present there are over 70 people living into the triple-digits, post-golden years. (Platinum years, perhaps?) With a population of 250,000, you’ll stumble across one for every 3,500 or so people. But this small agricultural region of centenarians is using this natural phenomenon as a way to boost tourism and market all kinds of products; from botteled water to snake-fermented liquor.

The region, which borders Vietnam to the south, is now steadily filling with tourists looking to get a piece of the magic from the Bama Longevity Cluster. It is understood in Chinese culture that leading a healthy life includes experience with Chi Ku [吃苦], literally “eating bitterness.” These way-past-retired locals are not just sitting around all day; they keep moving and live pretty active lifestyles. In order to do some Chi Ku activities, the local farms of centenarians will let you do back-breaking harvesting work for them! Tourists can be found digging up gourds and cutting down leafy greens for lunch and dinner. (Quite a sight when you know they have come for a holiday!) Some of the mystical properties of the region are said to come from “life-prolonging soil”and “longevity” spas, although genetics is said the be the main factor in distinguishing whether or not a person will live to 100.

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A Picturesque Sunset in Guangxi

A 2008 write-up on Bama can be found in the Wall Street Journal here. If you are planning a China-Vietnam trip, it’s worth a quick visit to Bama after a few days in beautiful Yangshuo (Guilin).

Here are some products from Bama, which can be purchased on Taobao.

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Understanding The World of Tea

Is Oolong tea a kind of green tea? Is Long Jing a kind of tea or a brand?  Which one does what for you? These questions have been on my brain longer than my stay here in China (since 2005). After all, tea is the most consumed drink in the world after water. There are certainly more than a few reasons for that! After discussing the specifics with Chinese friends, tea aficionados, and tea shop owners, I can safely say that the mystery around tea is not so complicated after all. Let’s start generally and get more specific as we go along!

Teaprocessing small1 Understanding The World of TeaOne Plant: All (leaf) tea comes from the same species of plant. Just like apples all come from apple trees… Varieties exist among all species and those varieties include:  Green, Oolong, Black, White, Yellow,and Pu’er. Processing and growing techniques are other ways that teas get their distinctive colors, flavors, and characteristics. For specifics on processing, check out the image on the right. The following disambiguations are listed from lighter to darker tea varieties.

 

Read More…

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Repatriating from China – Food & Dining

It’s July and I’ve been living in Boston since I moved back from China at the end of 2013. A LOT has happened over the course of half a year back in America and I thought it was time to check in with AL.ME to recap what’s happened and the hidden challenges of my repat experience. Enjoy installment #3!

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A new regular – an old favorite

I’ve gained a noticeable amount of weight since I got back and from the expected causes – America’s bread and butter issue. My identity has returned to being American, rather than a pseudo-Chinese or something else, and therefore find myself uncontrollably attracted to coffee and sandwich culture. Most mornings I’m drinking coffee with a bagel. Lunches are often sandwich-based, like a subway or a wrap. My dinners are becoming simpler, although I do attempt to make Asian dishes on occasion (toufu, pan-fried cabbage, spicy shrimp salad, etc.). Work keeps my entire weekdays busy and I normally cook for one, which makes convenient meals and snacking much more common.

As for dining out, I find that every meal is either pizza, hamburgers, or a steak. Just the other day I had dinner with my brother, sister-in-law, and father. I happily pushed down a plate of mac and cheese with pulled pork drizzled on it. My only vegetable that night – a fried pickle with ranch dressing.

This is not meant to be an attack on American faire, or on the food choices of my loved ones. After all, no one forced me to order the mac ‘n cheese. It was my choice, I know. But now that I’ve been here for a solid half year and slid into new habits, I can’t help but observe these changes in the way I eat. I probably would ignore it a bit longer if my pants were buttoning up properly… Half of the pants I wore in China are too tight now. *ugh* Read More…

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Repatriating from China – Job Hunting in Boston

It’s July and I’ve been living in Boston since I moved back from China at the end of 2013. A LOT has happened over the course of half a year back home and I thought it was time to check in with AL.ME to recap what’s happened and the hidden challenges of my repat experience. Here’s installment #2.

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Job Searching as a Repat

Another case in which America seems to be the place which takes forever to get anything done is securing a new job. Of course, I was told by family and friends that it would take time. I’m also not oblivious to the fact when a company hires the wrong person, the cost of rehiring and new training can make a serious impact on the company (bottom line, or otherwise). What did surprise me was just how long it takes, from application to offer, in the United States.

In my hasty ignorance as a repat from China, I thought a few weeks or a month would be all it took to prove my mettle to a company looking for an eLearning specialist or instructional designer for the purposes of online learning. I was sorely mistaken! A job search that started in September of 2013 just barely concluded before Christmas, which my family said was actually pretty quick. *yawn*

The first job I landed in the Boston area was actually in a Chinese-run, international education company that had wanted to develop an online learning service for its clients. From January to March 2014 I endured a probationary period which was not an uncommon thing among new salaried employees in China; however, I quickly realized that this company was not the right fit for me. I realized too late that I was grossly misled during interviews, which was much like my experiences working on various projects in China… Long story short, I expressed my disinterest in continuing after the 90-day trial period and left the company. That short stay was extremely valuable to my repatriation because it made me realize what I needed: to take a serious break from China, especially Chinese organizational management.

Late Winter was a turning point for me, career-wise, because I had interviewed for a position that suited me, but in an industry I had no experience with: the US healthcare industry.  Since my previous experience applying for a job, I had learned that responding to an ad that was only a few days old was not a good idea. For the next job, I made sure to apply to an ad that was 1-2 months old. That, along with my consistent communication with the new company, led to a wonderfully painless experience. In March 2014 I applied for a position at HighRoads and in April I accepted their offer! The compensation was more than fair, the organization was on a growth kick, and I was about to be assigned to a project the likes of which I had oodles of experience with: setting up an online training area and populating it with courses about their software!

Let’s get back to the repatriating experience… In China, I was more experienced with starting short-term, high value, consulting/training agreements with schools and companies. I would contact an organization, hold a meeting to discuss my offer, and if all went well we’d sign a contract the following week. When I was managing the English department at a Sino-German international program in China in 2006, I found out how quickly a hire could take place in a Chinese organization. Literally 1 meeting was enough to make a decision on crucial staffing matters. It was surprising at first, but I eventually got used to decisions being made either quickly, or not at all.

Counter intuitive, right? Shouldn’t it take forever to get things done in China??? Well, not always. It really depends on the nature of the deal and whether or not there’s a time crunch involved. There certainly is something here that both of our cultures share – the amazing leverage provided by a burning platform.

READ More about repatriating from China in articles about Renting & Moving and Food & Dining.

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