A bug in our food.

Well it finally happened. After 2 years of being in China, a bug was in our food. It was at one of our locals ( even worse) and we were tucking into our food, when Rafa noticed something black among his rice. I saw him notice it, and thought ‘aw no, don’t tell me it’s a bug’. His expression said it all. He took it out and there it was, with legs and all. Luckily, I was finished eating, and whilst he still had a little in his bowl, the sight of that was enough to make him full.

I’m guessing it was in the rice, and then he scooped it into his bowl. It wasn’t covered in any sauce so thats my guessing. As we usually go to the same restaurants for food, I’m sure we’ll go to this one again, but it will be a little soured by this discovery.

After that, we were talking and I was asking ‘I wonder what do Chinese people do if they see a bug in their food? Do they just discard it and not take any notice, or would they actually make a fuss?’ I’m guessing this has happened to a lot of them.

But it makes you wonder what the state of the kitchens are like. I’ve briefly past one once, and guess what, its a regular I go to, and it was literally a mess. No health inspections have walked in there i’m sure! The food is delicious and Sichuan is known for this, but the hygiene aspect is something that China should concentrate on.

At the moment, Ireland has successfully persuaded China to allow Ireland to export its beef produce to them. China put a ban on all EU beef during the BSE crisis, commonly known as ‘Mad Cow Disease’. Of course Ireland is very happy with this. I hope to start seeing Irish beef in Chengdu very soon.

Although I understand they needed to ban this importing of beef, and they have done so for 15 years, I think they should use the energy that they had on banning EU beef and and now use it to tackle the hygiene of some of its restaurants. I know it will be impossible; there are too many Chinese now for the government to make any such difference (thats why they target the internet and censor it, something that they can actually do) so I don’t think I’ll see any improvement in this unfortunately.

I’ve now become a little more aware of what goes on behind the kitchens here, and hope I won’t find any surprises in my food!

再见!

Aisling.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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 

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

再见

Aisling!

My top tips when visiting Hangzhou!

Here I’ve compiled some tips for anyone who may be considering visiting Hangzhou!

1. For accommodation, stay at the ‘Mingtown International Youth Hostel’. It’s literally next to the West Lake, rooms are clean and there is a bus stop and bike rentals nearby.

Mingtown International Youth Hostel Hangzhou.

Mingtown International Youth Hostel Hangzhou.

2. See the cities light and water fountain show. This is held in the evening on the west lake, with the show taking around 15 minutes.

3. Eat at Grandmas Home’. There will always be a queue of people getting inside, but don’t be deterred. When you finally get a seat, the restaurant is modern, english menu with pictures, delicious food, and its cheap! It serves Hangzhou food but there is a Sichuan section too, to our delight! You need to get a ticket before hand, then when they have a table ready they will send you a text to tell you. For us, we waited maybe about 1 hour for a table, but it was worth it. But don’t go in the evening, as it is far too busy and the tickets may be sold out.

Grandmas Home. Look at that queue!

Grandmas Home. Look at that queue!

4. Rent a bike. Because Hangzhou is a touristic city, there are many places to rent bikes. You will see red rental bikes everywhere. Go to a bike kiosk and they will give you a card in exchange for money. It allows you to use any bike available in the bike stands. Then when you return the bike to a stand, press the card against the machine and the it will lock. But don’t forget, bring your passport when getting a card as they will need it. Hangzhou is a city designed for cycling, so it is quite a safe place.

Renting a bike is cheap and easy.

Renting a bike is cheap and easy.

 

5. Be aware of scenic routes. We were blissfully unaware about how big Hangzhou’s scenic routes are! We decided to visit a temple, wandered onto a path, and ended up walking up a huge mountain to the top! I thought ‘aw sure we’ll see where this path leads us, probably to another temple’. I didn’t know it brought us up a mountain!! Although at the top there was a nice viewing point, if I’d have known before hand would’ve been good. So be wary when walking, scenic routes are long, sometimes leading you miles away from your starting point.

6.Visit heifang street. It’s a tourist street with loads of small markets selling all sorts. Try out the ‘beggars chicken’ being sold there. It is a whole chicken wrapped in leaves that is then baked in clay. Hard to eat, but tastes sort of like a lovely roast chicken.

he fang street.

he fang street.

Beggars chicken. It tastes nice than it looks!

Beggars chicken. It tastes nice than it looks!

7. Visit ‘Slims New York Steak & Burger.’ We came here about 4 times because It was a 5 minute walk from the hostel. It serves delicious burgers (and presumably steaks but we only ordered the burgers). They serve proper meat which makes all the difference. Although be warned, the staff aren’t the friendliest, but never mind them, just enjoy the food.

Delicious burger with real meat.

Delicious burger with real meat.

 

I think that sums up my tips for Hangzhou. We were there 10 days and we still didn’t see half the things that are in Hangzhou, so there are plenty of things to do.

Aisling.

I hate being sick….

I think being sick is one of the most hardest and challenging times when your living abroad. Last Friday night, I was hit down with one of the most painful stomach cramps ever. Since that night until, well last night (Wednesday night), it had continued. Thankfully it seems to have gone now, with food poisoning being at the top of my accusation list. When I feel bad, I self-diagnose… and the symptoms that I had (vomiting and stomach cramps) where there. Living in China also added to this conclusion, as many restaurants here have completely different views on hygiene compared to Western countries.  If you’re going to  visit China, you’re gonna be shocked at the state of some of the restaurants.

I even had to call in sick to work, TWICE! And that is rare for me. I would rather go in, see how I am, then go home. With me, the pain would be there constant all night, starting from around 9pm until morning, where it would gradually ease off. At 3pm in the day, I’m totally fine, nothing wrong with me at all… until 9pm comes once more… It was a vicious circle.

The past two nights have been different though. I bought a hot water bottle from Walmart (they are totally different to the ones at home. These aren’t rubber, meaning they get cold in like 1 hour and a half) and that helped the pain, which was gradually easing. Yet during the day, there would be a mild pain in my stomach and feeling nauseous. It was so strange.

Two of the Chinese teachers from the campus brought me to a chemist and got me tablets, where I have to take 6 a day! I have just about managed 4 a day.

Two other teachers in the campus also had stomach cramps and were feeling unwell… could it be an air-born thing? I have no idea. So on Saturday, because I called in sick, my Chinese friend made a surprise visit to see me, bringing long lasting milk (the milk is actually from ASDA), bread, apples, kumquats (very small oranges), honey (it’s good for your health, he stated)  and 3 baozi buns (steamed buns). I love baozi buns, especially the ones with the red bean paste filling. He showed me how to make them… simply by steaming them over boiling water in a wok. Now I know how to make them when my visitors from Ireland come to see me. Now that’s a BIG hint to some of my readers…I’m here for a year…. come visit me!

Anyway…so yesterday, he came over again and set up the wifi for me. I have absolutely no idea how technology works, and I have bad luck with it, so I let him set it up. Oh and the lack of Chinese would make it impossible for me to set it up anyway.  After a number of phone-calls to the internet company, it was set up. It is GREAT. He also ordered bed covers for my bed, so now my life is complete. No more freezing out in the sitting room on the computer… I can now relax in my lovely bedroom with a nice quilt-cover.

Compared to starting off in my internship, that was a piece of cake. This time round, there has been more hurdles. From my Chinese visa problems even before I LEFT Ireland, my visa card getting blocked and having no money, and getting sick, it’s not been plain sailing. But, I’d rather them happen now, than when I was first on the internship. If all this happened to me the first time I came to China, I think I would have been more stressed out.

This time round, I’m more accustomed to the environment, I know what to expect and how to deal with it. And I know I have people here to help me when I need them.

But I PRAY to my angels I don’t get sick again… I have no one to bring me tea in bed. 😦

Aisling.

Should You TEFL?

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Where I’m from, not many people have done TEFL  (Teach English As A Foreign Language). So I was going into unchartered territory when I signed up to teach English. I had no prior experience teaching anything, let alone teaching a language, which made me a little apprehensive at the whole idea of (trying) to embed knowledge into student’s minds.

So if you’re thinking of teaching English, here is a list that I compiled of why you SHOULD TEFL.

Meet new people– I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some lovely people, from all over the world. You learn so much about them and what they want to do with their life.  From the people I have met, they decided to TEFL because they wanted to experience something different.  Like me, they didn’t have a clue what they wanted to do in life, so tefling is a great way to try new things and find out what you would like to do (and not do) in life.

Experience a new culture– When I arrived in China, I was shocked at how different it is from Western countries. You watch about far off countries on the TV, read about them in the books, but it’s not until you actually live there that you get to experience the culture. You learn so much about its history, food, people, customs and beliefs, it makes you more appreciative of the country, but also for your own country. I realise what I love about my country (lush green grass, open fields, castles) and how I took certain things, for example our education system, for granted.

Try new food– Although I’m not adventurous with food, with regards to chicken feet and creepy crawly foods, I did try horse and fish (which I still hate). When tefling, you will try so many different types of food, many of which will be delicious. You will most certainly eat, whatever country you choose to live in, their most famous dish.  There will be food you don’t like, while you won’t be able to get enough of others.

Learn a new language– In today’s society, the ability to speak another language is becoming increasingly important when looking for jobs. It’s not until you live a non-english speaking country that you realise the importance of learning that countries language in order to, not only communicate with others, but it also makes it easier for yourself in daily life. Although my Mandarin is definitely not fluent, I plan on improving it.

You learn more about yourself– I have learned so much about myself since my time in China. I’ve realised that I CAN speak to a large group of people. I am more confident and independent that what I previously thought. I’ve also realised, that, at the moment, I just can’t see myself living in Ireland. Maybe in the future I will settle down here, but at present… no.

Live in a new country– simply, you get to LIVE IN A NEW COUNTRY. How exciting is that??!

Moving to a new country, leaving your family, and teaching English is a big step. But, if you’re unsure about what you want to do in life, want to experience a new country, or just want to push yourself and see what you’re capable of, then teaching English is the way to go. It is an experience you won’t forget!

Aisling.

Stir-fry Anyone?

Oh yes, I forgot to mention my stir-fry experiment. My Sweet and Sour stir-fry was a complete success! Now I did end up chucking my bowl (plastic by the way)  into the extremely hot wok by accident, along with the raw chicken still IN the bowl. Instead of my instincts kicking in, which would be to quickly grab the bowl, I decided to do a hysteric dance thinking ‘oh s***t!!’ while the plastic sizzled away in the wok, the chicken casually lying in the bowl taking it easy. I literally thought it was going to go on fire… but I managed to  grab the bowl out and I just dumped my chicken in, I was far too distraught/annoyed to care anymore.  The underside of the bowl (newly  christened ‘chicken-bowl’) now has a new white hue to remind me of the incident.

In my first post I stated ‘I hope I don’t burn a hole through the wok’…. how nearly right I was. Nevertheless, it was actually lovely (after all that). I’m now content knowing that I can actually cook something when I go to  China… or I might just check out a food vendor to be safe.