Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Bit of Korea in China

Today, Monday, is the Chinese National Holiday known as the “Duanwu Festival”, or the “Dragon Boat Festival” to us Westerners.  I have read several different reasons for the holiday, but since I didn’t understand any of them I wont try to explain them here.

We had wondered what the day would bring, but soon realized that it is basically a day for families to gather and eat lots of food.  We did see several people out washing their hair on the sidewalks, so WE decided that it is really “National Hair Washing Day”!!  Then on Tuesday morning everybody seemed to have clean clothes hanging out to dry so maybe it is “National Washing Day…..Hair and other stuff:”!!

We walked to Carrefour, wondering if it would be open, and were not disappointed.  It was actually busier than ever and we stood in a long line to check out.  The purchase of choice for today were Tea Boiled Eggs and Zongzi.  I mentioned these in an earlier post but here is some additional information (care of Wikipedia)….

Zongzi is a traditional Chinese food, made of glutinous rice stuffed with different fillings and wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves. They are cooked by
steaming or boiling.

The woman who runs the office where we sit was concerned that we would get hungry on the long weekend so she gave us a large box of them in various flavors.  We have yet to try them but will do so tomorrow.

We were originally supposed to have lunch with Jialin and her mother (at their home) today but her mother was called away to see a sick relative.  Since her husband is working in another province, she invited us to have lunch at one of her favorite restaurants.

We hailed a taxi and showed the driver the address card that Jialin had given us.   He nodded “Yes”, we climbed in and were off.   As he approached the area, he slowed down to a crawl, looking for the address.  He finally stopped, got out of the car and asked a local man where the place was.  He came back to us and gestured that the shop was a bit further back down the street.  

We thanked him and started heading in the direction that he had pointed.  We turned into an open plaza and Michael realized that it was one that we had visited when we were here last year.   Sure enough, at the end of the plaza was the restaurant that we had dined at.  I was really impressed that he was able to recognize the area so quickly!!!

We walked back toward the main street and stopped to ask a woman where the address was.  She pointed us back up the way that we had come.  We figured that we were now within a block or two of where we needed to be so we decided to stroll slowly between the two streets and let Jialin find us…..we do stand out, you know!!

We finally asked a man selling newspapers and he pointed us to a wonderful bakery (more about that later).  Jialin showed up and ushered us back into the plaza to a small Korean restaurant.  Because the weather was so fine, we chose to sit at a table out front.  Jialin made a few comments to the owner and here came the food…..

First to arrive were cups of tea and these three bowls…..

 _6062750 ….filled with Fermented Cabbage (Jialin insisted that it was NOT Kimchi, a potato-type vegetable and a type of Greens.   Now these may look innocuous, but they were SPICY, SPICY, SPICY.  We ate a few bites and quickly requested a Tsingtao Beer.  Fortunately it cut the spice so that our mouths cooled off before the rest of the food arrived.

Then came a hot plate, another set of chopsticks and these two bowls….

 _6062753 ….the powder is a mixture of chili powder, cumin, sesame seeds and other unknown, but fragrant, spices.   The liquid is Soy sauce with onions and herbs.

When the plate of marinated beef arrived, along with a huge plate of vegetables the fun began….

 _6062756 We placed the meat and vegetables into the pan and let it cook while we talked and laughed.   The second set of chopsticks were used for the cooking process so that raw meat never touched the chopsticks that you were eating with. 

Isn’t this a pretty (and delicious) sight…..

_6062760 The vegetables included thin slices of onion, carrots, potatoes, mushrooms, yams and eggplant.

As they would cook, you would use your “eating” set of chop sticks to pick up what you wanted, place it in a small bowl and then season it with the powder or liquid.  My favorite were the potatoes dipped in the powdered spices.

IT WAS SO GOOD!!!!!!

Now, many of you have been incredulous that I have been using chopsticks while we are here, but I now have documentary evidence……

 _6062758 That orange thing that I am holding is a carrot…..which I dropped as soon as the camera clicked!!!   But I really am getting better!!

OK…one would think that this was enough food.  But noooooo.  Two more dishes arrived…. a pork and vegetable stir fry and a potato-noodle vegetable dish.  

 _6062763 _6062765  Both were extremely tasty but entirely superfluous.

And then came the cold noodle soup……

 _6062764 This colorful concoction had a magnificent flavor but we were simply too full to eat much of it.  To quote Anthony Bourdain….”It was a symphony of a soup!!”

You may have noticed in the previous picture that Jialin is pregnant (due in August).   As soon as I heard this, I knew that I wanted to bring her a quilt.  I had an appropriate  top already pieced, so I quilted it and presented it to her. 

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I am not sure that she knows entirely what it is, but she was very thankful and appreciative!!

SO…..two hours later, and stuffed with food, we left the restaurant and headed for……the bakery  (told you there would be more about this).

This luscious shop is filled with acrylic bins that contain an enormous variety of pastries, ranging from sweet, cream filled buns to savory, beef infused breads.  Many of the bins had English descriptions and Jialin filled in the rest.

When we first walked in we picked up our tray and set of tongs…..

 IMG_0232 We then roamed the store, selecting one of these and two of those and having a wonderful time figuring out what was what. 

Jialin told us that these cookies were husband and wife cookies.  The wife ones (on the left) are sweet (as it should be) and the husband ones (on the right) are savory (sounds about right)…..

IMG_0234

….and I thought that this bread was gorgeous (regardless of how it tastes)…..

IMG_0233   When we had completed our selections, we took the tray to the check out counter and the clerk meticulously packaged each type of pastry into individual packages.  The cost for everything…..12Y  ($US1.77)

The best news of the day came when Jialin told us that this store is part of a chain of stores and that there is one located across the street from our Carrefour……YIPPPPPEEEEEE!!!!!

When we got back to the apartment, we rested for a couple of hours, spent a few minutes in the office (by the way we were the ONLY ones in there), and then headed back up the street to visit a small (remember that word) park that we had passed several times. 

We entered “Lotus Pond Park” and this was the first thing that we saw…..

 _6062797 We started walking down one path and FORTY FIVE minutes later we returned to our starting point and I don’t really believe that we covered the entire park.   It was a gorgeous area with lush vegetation.  Here are a few photos from the walk….

 _6062793 _6062777 Those flowers are hydrangeas…..in an infinite variety of colors….

 _6062786 We came across one canteen-type area where there were 5 or 6 tables of people  (of all ages) painting various ceramic pieces and another table that contained 8 potter’s wheels.  This table drew the greatest crowd as people built pots.   I told Michael that, if I tried it, I could REALLY draw a crowd.   I don’t know if this is always set up, but if I find it on a quiet day, I might give it a try!!!!

_6062784

As we passed one of the gazebos, there was an older man and woman sitting in one corner.  She was singing as he played the traditional stringed instrument called an Er-Hu, a two-stringed fiddle.  The music made a soothing accompaniment to our afternoon constitutional!!

When we had returned to the front of the park we sat down on a bench for Michael to do some reading and for me to work on a quilt that I brought along.

The quilt that I am working on was started by my friend, Pat Kools, who passed away two years ago.   I have decided that I will add some beads to the top and hand quilt it.   I couldn’t help but wonder if Pat ever thought that one of her quilts would end up in China!!!!

While Michael went off to buy a bottle of water, a young girl shyly approached me.  I said “Hello” and she responded.  We both smiled nervously at each other, so I pointed to myself and said “My name is Frances”.  Her eyes brightened as she haltingly said “My name is ****”.    More nervous smiling ensued before she ran over to Father who had been videoing the entire encounter.  I am sure that we will both remember this day!!!!

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