My favourite food and drink in China.

Having lived in China for nearly two years, I’ve picked up my favourite food and drink here. Sichuan is of course, famous for its cuisine, and it being spicy, It’s a good place to try out new food. Some of these photos are my own which I took while here, some from the internet.

huŏ guō 火锅 Hot Pot


Lately I’ve been craving Hot Pot! A little less so now though, as the temperature is usually in the 30’s, but when it was colder It was something that would definitely warm you up. I usually love veg and beef, but a lot of Chinese people add strange things into theirs that I wouldn’t be fussed on. We once got sheep brain ( I think it was sheep) and I did actually try it. The consistency is squishy but I didn’t really enjoy it. The plain food will do fine for me! Here we just got the spicy one, but you can get half spicy and half non spicy if you like.

 mántou 馒头 steamed bread


I love these, although eat a few of these and you’re full! Here there are two kinds, one thats are boiled, and ones that are fried. I prefer the golden ones because they taste sweeter. Really they are just sweet bread. In the middle you have like a custard dip. They are served hot, because as soon as they start cooling down they become hard and they are difficult to eat.

 gōng bǎo jī dīng 宫保鸡丁 Kung Pao Chicken

kung pao chicken

Most foreigners order this dish. My chinese friends always say ‘Foreigner people love this dish!’ It’s true though. It’s not typical Sichuan, as this is sweet, with chicken cubes and peanuts. We order this quite a lot, although some times we have gotten it without the peanuts. I’m guessing they run out.

mù’ěr 木耳 Black Fungus


I only know one cold dish and this is it. This is very spicy and sour. I think the juice is a type of vinegar. You definitely need a drink when eating this. When a Chinese friend ordered it I thought ‘What the hell is this?’. Add to the fact that it was cold, I wasn’t particularly excited to try it, but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it!

nán guā 南瓜 Pumpkin


I’ve only recently tried pumpkin here in China, but I think we’ll be ordering it more often. It’s nice and sweet, I sometimes get confused what exactly it is, as it tastes similar (in my opinion) to sweet potato. In Ireland, from what I gather, we don’t eat pumpkin.

 tǔdòu bāozi 土豆包子 Steamed (Potato) Stuffed Bun 


I love these bāozis. The usual fillings are pork or beef, which although are nice, I much prefer the buns filled with potato. I think the meat filled ones taste too strong and they repeat on me. I’m not sure if the potato ones are common in China, but I’ve only seen them in one bāozi stall. Every morning before Uni we buy one of these for breakfast.

zhēnzhū nǎi chá 珍珠奶茶 Pearl Milk Tea


My boyfriend says that I am addicted to these. Which I am not! I treat myself to one only once a week. Surprisingly, the first time I had a milk tea I didn’t like it. The teenagers from my old Uni I worked at were all shocked when I told them I didn’t like milk teas. Now I’ve come to love them, especially the ones from Coco, originating from Taiwan. Milk teas are very popular and you can get different things in them, like pudding. I know, I don’t understand why they put pudding it them either. The one I like is the tea with the black pearls. They are black jelly like balls at the bottom.

jiānbǐng 煎饼 Chinese pancake


I never before seen this in China, but our friend from Uni showed us this shop that makes these. I call it a Chinese crepe. Apparently they are eaten in the morning. They put different things in them, in this one there is a spicy sauce, lettuce, mayo, ham and these crunchy cracker things. Being quite big, you could just eat this and you will be full. We usually get these after Uni for lunch.

chuān chuān 串串 Stick Hot Pot.


I particularly enjoy this food. They cook the food and then put it in a pot for you; sometimes you can eat it like hot pot, with the the boiling pot, but here we get it cooked. For dipping sauce, you can get it dry; with just spices,  or with oil; when the spices are in a bowl with oil. We prefer it with the oil. We’re not too fond of the meat in these places so we just get the vegetables. We know one unlucky soul who got very sick when he ate the meat from it.

So these are some of the food and drink I eat and drink regularly here in Chengdu.

Maybe if you come to visit Sichuan you can try these dishes. I have more of my favourites but i will do another post on them another day.



Ireland’s Voting Today!

In a few hours Ireland will vote on same – sex marriage! Come on the Irish people don’t let us down! Do the right thing. As I previously said, I WOULD be voting yes but I cant.

I hope in the future the government will allow emigrants vote. Although I don’t think it will happen any time soon, if enough of us leave, they may consider it.

I think it will pass; celebrities are encouraging us for a yes, as well as some faces from the UK like Stephen Fry. Even another country is encouraging us to vote yes!



The decision whether to study or work in China.

When I first came to China, I wasn’t very interested in learning Mandarin. My aims were to; live in a new country, experience something new, live away from my family, gain new working experience. All of these I’ve now done.

My first stint in China was doing my internship teaching. I suppose I choose this as it was only for one semester. It was to see if i’d enjoy China and like teaching.  After that I went home for 1 month, then headed back out for full time teaching. So then I worked one year full time, teaching all ranges of students.

Then I met Rafa and like him, China started to really annoy me. I couldn’t order from a menu without pictures, I couldn’t understand anyone. Doing simple tasks like asking for directions is literally impossible. These were some reasons why we decided to take up studying Mandarin. Plus, my career path which I will (hopefully) end up in needs an extra language, so thats my biggest incentive.

So from working full time, 20 hours a week, to studying Mandarin in the morning and working 10 hours a week, to me, I much prefer the latter!

Now, I feel like I’m actually doing something worthwhile! I’m slowly picking up more Mandarin out on the streets. For example; we had to go to the police station so we could get a form filled out. The police man asked us in Chinese ‘were we here before?’ I understood some words in the sentence so I pieced it together. For me, that was such a huge achievement! Later, he asked another questions like ‘Do we live in the same place thats mentioned in the form.’ Again, I picked up the few words that I knew and understood.

Last March, we were at the station and he asked us questions and we didn’t understand any of them. So in 3 months we can see an improvement!

For me, I think it was a great choice to start learning Mandarin. I know some people may be confused with whether (if they are going to China)  they should study or work in China, There’s no problem to work while studying, most if not all people do it. But for me, teaching full time was becoming an arduous job. My enjoyment of it was starting to wear, and It felt like all I did was work and work. There was no time to go on holidays or travel. Of course, you do get valuable experience from it. but apart from that, there’s nothing else to show whilst in China. I’m mad at myself that I kind of wasted that time only working and not studying. But I suppose it’s better late than never to realise this!

If you choose to study in China, usually the Uni can sort out your visa and they can get you a student visa. You can also work part time also. Or if you would rather work full time but would like to study Mandarin too, there are loads of tuition available from Chinese people at low rates. Some are even free because they want experience of teaching Mandarin.

I know people in Chengdu that say to me ‘aw I’m jealous you’re studying Mandarin, I wish I could study it’. I think, but you can…  I know people can get into work mode; work the hours and get your wage and that’s your week. But you can study and work part time, then do private tutoring. It’s putting the effort into getting up in the morning, studying, then working that puts people off. It puts me off even thinking about it! 

Anyway, private tutoring is great as you can pay quite a high price. The downfall though is that they can cancel at any time. So it’s not guaranteed money. You also need the contacts and networks to gain students. But this is a great way to earn money.

So for me, learning Mandarin has refreshed my take on China. Although it still drives me mad sometimes, one day I will conquer it, and they’ll be hearing no more 我听不懂。wo3 ting1 bu4 dong3  ‘I don’t understand’ from me!



Irelands referendum on same-sex marriage.

A Catholic group (We Are Ireland) is voting for Equality.

A Catholic group (We Are Ireland) are voting for Equality.

On the 22nd of May, Ireland will vote on wether to legalise same-sex marriage. I’ve been reading about the developments of it on the internet, and many people are voting Yes, while others, I’ve heard, mainly in the rural areas of Ireland people may vote No.

Unfortunately Irish expats can’t vote. I can understand in one way; we aren’t living in the country, aren’t paying any tax. But on the other hand, it’s still our country and we want to see it develop, we still want to be part of it’s future, whatever little way we can. Some of us may return home one day. Unlike some other countries, we are aren’t allowed to, but If I could I would vote Yes.

The thing is, the No people are focusing on the children of those who marry and are same-sex. Whilst with the Yes people, its simply allowing LGBT to marry. No are saying ‘but the children?’ It’s not right. It’s not fair on them.’ But how is it not fair for the LGBT community not to marry? That’s the real question. Some people might not WANT children.  So, if the vote turns out to be a no, then these people, who don’t even plan to have children, STILL can’t get married?? 

To me thats unfair.

By the way, the couple in this picture did NOT know their picture was going to be used in the No side. They have also stated that they will be voting Yes.

By the way, the couple in this picture did NOT know their picture was going to be used for these posters. They have also stated that they will be voting Yes.

It’s about equality, it’s not about the children. That’s why I get annoyed about the No side; its about equality, for everyone!

Obviously at the moment theres no equality between same- sex couples and a man and woman marrying.  Not until this passes.

I think, once you’re happy, that’s all that matters, no matter who makes you happy.

I’ve been reading that people are concerned that there are the ‘silent voters’, and that the No side is creeping up slowly. I really hope it will be a Yes vote. Ireland needs to develop and stop being known as a backward country and being run by the ever present Church.

Of course the Catholic Church is in favour of a No, yet I’ve read that there is a priest who will be voting Yes, simply because he thinks everyone has a right to marry the person they love. It’s good to hear that people inside the Church think this way.

The government also supports same-sex marriage, which I am happy about. When I think about Ireland’s government I become annoyed, so when they are actually doing something which I believe is right, for once, I smile….but just a little.

In China, same-sex couples is still a taboo topic. The older generation frown upon it more, like Ireland’s older generation. But in Ireland, at least you can be open about your sexuality, whereas in China, the pressures of getting married and having children by their family, to conform to society, it makes it difficult for them to truly be themselves.

I’m sure, like in Ireland, China will open up more, and the younger generation will be able to express themselves more.

So I’m hoping, on the 22nd, Ireland will develop to become a friendly place to live, for everybody; regardless of sex!



An interesting day at Uni.

For todays lesson, we were learning how to order fruit and veg using jīn. 斤. This means ‘half a kilo’. So half a kilo of something. Anyway, in our books, there was a long dialogue with a shopkeeper and a customer. The customer wants to know how much is this kind of fruit, the price of it, how it’s too expensive, and how to bargain down the price.

So we read through the dialogue ourselves and then the teacher picked two people to read it, but we had to change the dialogue to what we wanted to buy and to negotiate the price. We also had to throw in some of the new vocab from that Unit. 

The laugh we had when people were reading their dialogues! In one group, the customer asked the shopkeeper to lower the price, which they did. Then the shopkeeper actually lowered the price even more, without him realising. We are concentrating on the dialogue so much, that we forget what the shopkeeper said was the price. Then at the end, the shopkeeper, having to add the two items up, forgets what they charged. (after they accepted lowering the price).

Not one of any of the groups made any sense, because we got all confused with what we were buying, how much was it, and the total price. But it was so much fun listening to the others speak. Sometimes one partner would add in a totally new word that the other person mightn’t know, and that confuses them even more. God help our lǎoshī 老师 (teacher).

To practice our new vocab, we went to a nearby market where we had to ask the price of three fruits, and hopefully bargain a little. Me and Rafa bought some peaches and half a pineapple. Others bought bananas, cherries and mangos. One student came out with a bag with one banana! Just one small banana in a bag!

And we are nearly finished our book! We plan on doing revision when we are finished. I think we all need to revise a bit, as I personally think we flew through the book. In March we spent 1 month learning phonics which I think we could have spent about 2 weeks doing, but oh well.

Then in June we will have our tests. As it’s not a degree awarding course, the tests don’t matter. It’s just to see how you’re improving. So by September I’m hoping to move up to Level 2. I think there we will see a better improvement on our speaking and listening, so I’m looking forward to that!

Oh and 49 days until home!



Thinking of Home.

56 days and counting until I touch down in Ireland. In about 7 weeks I’ll be finished my first semester of studying Chinese. It flew by!

I know my time in Ireland is going to go by quickly, adding to the fact that we’ll be in France for a week, before we know it we’ll be back in Chengdu.

But recently, ( I know sometimes I get annoyed by Chengdu) my attitude has somewhat changed. Although the drivers drive me mad, the constant spitting, and constantly being stared at, which when you’re not in a good mood is the last thing you want; everything is going well.

And my Chinese is going well, to some extent. Although I know for certain that it’s improving, my constant pushing of myself to do better always gets the better of me, and the ‘why can you not remember this Aisling? Why can you not write this character down? ‘… why why why always creeps into my head. My own fault, I’m constantly battling with myself to always do better…. so that sometimes gets my mood down, especially when I don’t understand something in class!

But, as I keep telling myself ‘all you can do is your best.’ So I’m trying, very hard, to keep this in mind.

To keep up to date with our studies, we must study in Ireland. ha with two children in the house I’m not sure how that will go down, but it’s amazing how quickly you forget, so we’ll have to try and keep studying while in Ireland.

Nearing the time to visit, I realise that I actually really miss home. I really do. Because I was so busy, I didn’t have much time to think about it. But now that I only work part time I’m not as hectic; and thats when the reminiscing kicks in.

I miss chatting with my family and friends. In China, the people I’ve met, they just don’t seem to have the humour I have. Back home, I can laugh and joke about things that in China, other people just don’t get. Maybe it’s the Irish humour, I’m not sure. Just I know I can’t be 100% myself, humour wise. Maybe I’m totally wrong here, but thats how I feel anyway.

I also miss just turning on the TV and watching random stuff. The tv here is in Chinese so we can’t watch anything. It will be nice when I go back home and can watch some programmes.

I’m also afraid that when I go home I won’t want to leave, just because of my family. I’m missing my nephews grow up, I’m missing their birthdays, when they go to the zoo or a park. When Alex says or does something funny. Nathan’s first smile, first word. It’s hard, especially when all I get is a couple of minutes recordings of them. I cherish these because this is all I have of them growing up.

But I know I have to go back to China. At the moment my life is here. So all I can do is watch my family, friends and Ireland from afar.