My Journey with Chinese Chiropractic (Part 2)

The Saw Machine

Chinese Chiropractic (Part 1) started here…

When I came back he was already seeing another patient. As most do in China, I cut in and made my request to try the medical massage. With a flick of his pen, and 64RMB ($9.50) later, I found myself standing in front of a peculiar contraption. It was a mix of metal, chains and leather straps. I was told to straddle it and fix my head in between the front and back leather straps. A crank was turned by one of the doctors, which pulled my head toward the ceiling! At this point, I got a bit nervous; shouldn’t a fuzzy TV screen turn on featuring a scary clown doll with a spooky voice? (Like in the “Saw”series)

15 minutes before completing a full cycle on this thing, I broke free and asked if I could use heat instead. In fact, both methods were being used by patients who were preparing for the massage therapy. When I finally got on the little wooden stool in front of another doctor, he began asking what my discomfort was. After explaining a second time, I started to get a violently strong neck massage. Tears were gathering in the first few minutes and I had no idea what would happen to me! Then he moved to my right shoulder and the muscles around my collar bone. That is when I felt true pain. He found two pressure/acupuncture points “Xue Wei” like some kind of ninja; and seconds later I was subjugated; forced to twitch and move around like a puppet!

The Massage Ninja

Within 20 minutes my right arm was curved over my head and moderate pressure was applied to a chunk of back muscles. I heard light snaps. And the last 5 minutes would help smooth out the nearby knots in my neck and surrounding shoulder blade area. It seemed that my desired “back breaking” had happened.

Then I asked, “are knots OK sometimes?” He said “knots only exist when something is wrong.” It was then that I realized that our skeletons are not always in control of our bodies. Sometimes our muscles, when agitated over months and years, can take control and leave us in naturally-occurring pain. Some bones move out of place and cause any number of problems. In my case the agitation led to sleep deprivation, which caused other health problems. Continue reading My Journey with Chinese Chiropractic (Part 2)

Understanding the World of Dumplings

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 🙂 , 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.

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.

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.

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. Continue reading Understanding the World of Dumplings

DIY Holiday Dumplings

Wonton Wrappers

Another Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day week have come and gone here in China! This time is important here for two reasons: first, to celebrate the moon at its fullest; and second, to commemorate the founding of “New China” in 1949. Last year was the 60th anniversary, which is thought of as an important age for growth and maturity in a person.

But a romantic evening under a full moon is incomplete without one thing: homemade Dumplings! Last week a colleague invited me to his family’s house to make dumplings from scratch. (Actually, we bought the little dough wrappings… but everything else was really fresh!) I suggest buying dumpling wrappings from your local Asian food store or major grocer chain. Here are “Wonton Wrappers” available on Amazon.

Before we get started, I should mention that dumplings are generally a once or twice a month thing in Chinese households; similar to our pizza or pasta nights I remember from growing up. In this case, it is a great way to bring the family together for a bonding session. 10 per person should be enough. On this most recent occasion, we added a pan-fried fish and a tarot-root soup to make it a full meal for 5.

Dumpling Prep

1~ PREP filling: Fresh meat is crucial to good dumplings. I prefer pork, but you can use anything you want! Grind up about 1 pound (.5kg) and put in a bowl. In the picture we added corn, but I wouldn’t suggest it.

2~ Spice the meat how you prefer, but we used a few splashes of soy sauce, some sugar, and turmeric. It’s better to go light on the seasoning at this point.

3~ Shred celery and carrots. Mix thoroughly with the meat you have prepped. Feel free to use clean hands to mash it all together. (Great task for a kid with some self-control!) Continue reading DIY Holiday Dumplings

Why Care about Persians and Arabs?

The Persian Empire, 500 B.C.

As a Caucasian, average American student living the first 22 years of my life in the United States, it would be unusual for me to know a great deal about Persians, Arabs, or any other ethnicity that thrives outside our borders. No doubt the school board never planned to keep me sheltered from the Middle East, but a shortage of cultural understanding may have led to some of our greatest wrong-turns as the global police. An “over there” mentality has been born of a lack of exposure to their ways, acceptance of hyperbole in the mass media;  and the apathetic response of an educated public.

That is why I chose to learn more about these differences by sitting down for an hour with my new colleague, Shirin; an Iranian-American who is my mother’s age. Her two children are about my age; one teaches dance in Chicago while the other works making documentaries in LA. While speaking to her I felt as though I was speaking with my dear Aunt Gloria. There is a warmth about her personality and comfort in the way she speaks. She emits a glow which makes her a delight to work with in school.

I asked her first. “I know Persians are not the same as Arabs, but what can you tell me about the differences?” It was obvious that she had explained this many times before. Her jokes about misspellings of Persian writing were perfectly rehearsed! She made a point to mention that “60% of university students in Iran are women.” Women’s rights seem to be more universal, although I still wouldn’t consider them to be as liberal as Western countries. Also, as the center of Persian history and modern culture, Iran maintains the greatest number of Persian speakers and writers. I had no idea before today that Persian was its own language separate from Arabic. Spoken Persian is also called Farsi, not Arabic. The writing looks similar, but it is as different as English and French.

Persia, a suitable name which I think has less stigma attached to it than greater “Iran”, has over 2500 years of recorded history, my colleague said. Second to the Chinese in length of history. They first lost ground to Arabic invaders around 600 AD and hundreds of battles since then have left the modern borders we adhere to today. Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Iran have the largest populations of Persian people to date.

So, again, why should we draw a line between these two groups of people? Because there is a line and calling them all “Arabs”, which is a common slip-up by North Americans, causes them strong resentment and even anger. They have different languages, different past, different food, and different religions. Although we disagree with their politics, it’s much more useful to learn from their ancient culture than to dig up reasons for fighting with them.