Wok Wednesdays – Dry-Fried Sichuan Beans

This recipe comes from Stir-Frying To The Sky’s Edge by Grace Young page 233. It is  part of the Wok Wednesdays project which can be found on Facebook and www.wokwednesdays.com

Dry-Fried Sichuan Beans, note the steam!

Dry-Fried Sichuan Beans, note the steam!

We could not get enough of this dish. I thought the beans were a little old, but they cooked up wonderfully. I followed the instructions to cook beans for a minute or so to let the beans brown and blister a bit and then stir-fry for 30 seconds and repeat the process.. Total bean cooking time was about six minutes.  They were tender crisp and nice and hot. Note the steam rising off the beans.

Pat Chun Preserved Veget

Pat Chun Preserved Vegetable

I used preserved vegetables (not Sichuan preserved veggies as the recipe called for), because that is what I had on hand. Next time, I will add some Sichuan peppercorns to give it more spice, but this was nice for those that might not want a spicy dish. My husband tasted these preserved vegetables and started eating right out of the jar with his rice.

I have marked this as one of my top five recipes made so far from SFSE. Could eat it everyday!!

Did you feel the earth move a bit last week?

 

Mahjong Tiles

Mahjong Tiles

Last week in an international mahjong competition held in Toulouse France, the Chinese were given a “French Lesson” according to the South China Morning Post. French players won gold, silver and bronze prizes. Fourth, fifth and sixth place were taken by two Italians and a Dutch player. The closest Chinese player ranked seventh out of 108 players. Thirteen of them were Chinese. This is like an all-Chinese team from Beijing winning the World Series of Baseball.

I guess the Chinese did not see it coming. On Sina Weibo (Chinese version of Twitter), the news went viral. Most were in disbelief. There was even a comment that stated “we cannot let foreign devils beat us!” That comment surprised me. Although I could not beat many at mahjong, I guess I am a “foreign devil!”

Hundreds of years old, Mahjong is a game of tiles and is mostly a gambling game. To me, it reminds me a bit of rummy and dominos. It is addictive and after taking a class, I enjoy a game which can go on for hours.

Steve shared the news of the Chinese defeat at the office and they were in disbelief. Several people in the office are mahjong players, and one is reported to be very good. Excuses were made that the rules must be odd and allowances given. However the most interesting question/observation came when Steve was asked if he read this in “an expat newspaper.”

I’ll take the word of an “expat newspaper” any day while we are living here.

That is a whole other topic for a post.

On the Road to Burma (Myanmar) Part I – Yangon

Rainy Yangon St.

Rainy Yangon St.

I was relieved as we approached the the International Terminal at Yangon airport. We could see from the taxi that our overloaded luggage cart was still there. After a busy, stimulating, inspiring, beautiful week-long visit to Burma (Myanmar), we hastily had left our baggage out in the open at the airport security desk in Yangon for more than four hours. We had planned to check our bags at the airport and go to dinner at our guide, and now friend’s, flat about 12 miles away. Our flight did not leave until 1:00 a.m. and we arrived from Began at 6:30 p.m. fully loaded down with bags.The Dragaonair ticket counter did not accept checked luggage before two hours from departure. We had done our very best to spread our money around in Burma and we had a lot to lug and show for it, too much to haul across town in a taxi.  At the assurance of two well-meaning English-speaking travelers, we left our baggage cart and headed for a taxi. Airport security had agreed, through our volunteer translators, to watch our bags. Not thinking twice about it, we jumped in a taxi and sped away. Only after we were in the taxi a few silent minutes did it sink in what we had just done. We left our bags without a ticket or a name or anything but a nod and smile. Oh well, worst case scenario would be that it was all gone when we returned. I could live with that.

Found safe and sound in the Yagon International Airport

Found safe and sound in the Yagon International Airport

So ended a fantastic trip to Burma (I will continue to call it Burma at the behest of Aung San Suu Kyi). It is a wonderland for those wanting to see an authentic and emerging country. Tourists are finding their way to Burma, and it will change dramatically and quickly. The Burmese people are anxiously awaiting the changes and hoping for all good things ahead. After the visit of President Obama and Hillary Clinton, the Burmese are eager to welcome American travelers of which there are very few compared to other nations. Never did we feel unsafe  and the Burmese people are welcoming and genuine. Obviously we felt this safety and friendliness as we did not hesitate to leave our belongings so easily.

We started our time in Yangon. We had a recommendation for a guide that had worked with other Americans traveling from Hong Kong. Mr Han (mr.han1000@gmail.com) is a treasure. He works for a local tour company, but is on the cusp of operating his own operation independently. He is well organized and plans well and he uniquely tailors your visit with your interest and considers safety in food and lodging above all else.

Swedagon Paya, The Strand Hotel, Feel Myanmar Food, the ferry to Dalah, Chaukhtatgyi Buddha, National League for Democracy (NLD) headquarters, Aung San Suu Kyi’s home, Inya Lake were some of the many destinations in Yangon.

Shwedagon Pagoda Yangon, Myanmar

Shwedagon Pagoda Yangon, Myanmar

Inside the Shwedagon Pagoda

Inside the Shwedagon Pagoda

Monks on the way to meal break in Yangon.

Monks on the way to meal break in Yangon.

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Chaukhtatgyi Pagoda Reclining Buddha in Yangon

One of the many roadside stalls for tea or meals in Yangon.

One of the many roadside stalls for tea or meals in Yangon.

Chili, sesame, pickled tea leaves, ginger, peanuts at Feel in Yangon

Chili, sesame, pickled tea leaves, ginger, peanuts at Feel in Yangon

 

 

The crowing event, and one of the most exciting and humbling moments of my life, was when we were present at NLD headquarters when Daw Anug San Suu Kyi, appeared. Being in her presence was palpable. She exudes grace, determination and peace. I was totally unprepared when she stopped and made eye contact with me directly and asked me “Where are you from?” Tongue tied, I managed to say the USA and how much of an inspiration she was to me and the world. She then extended her hand to me and replied, “Welcome to Burma.” With that, she was whisked down the stairs and into a waiting car. Wow……..my brush with greatness, I will never forget it.

Mr. Han managed to capture the moment. At National League for Democracy Headquarters, Yangon

Mr. Han managed to capture the moment. At National League for Democracy Headquarters, Yangon

Visitors II – Good Friends Make Shopping Kind of Special

Our great friend of many, many years, Andrea arrived in Hong Kong for fun, shopping, site seeing and a trip to Burma. She, just like Jim and Marcia, filled a grocery list of items to make our time here more like home. Thank you for that.

 Great time at Sugar located in the Hotel East. Hong Kong

Great time at Sugar located in the Hotel East. Hong Kong

 

We filled the two weeks with: Ten Thousand Buddhas, subway rides, plane rides, shopping, Macau, temples, Cat Street, Hong Kong Mailboxes, shopping, dinner at Feast, gin and tonics,hydro ferries, shopping, martinis, horse and buggy rides, wine, shopping, woks, photographing cats on the street,BLACK flag rain storms, lunch at Himalaya, vegetarian dim sum, Star Ferry, Big Rubber Ducky in the Harbor, shopping, a stroll on the Ave of the Stars, Orwell’s Burmese Days, Sham Shui Po, cyclones, Shanghai St., dinner at Fernando’s,thunder and lightening, Ruins of St. Paul, shopping, Long Wah Tea House, shopping, lunch at Chi Lin Nunnery, Hong Kong Park, parasols, scheming, Aung San Suu Kyi, lunch at the Tea House in HKG Park, a hike to The Peak, shopping, “one of the best meals of my life,” (X2 after Fernando’s), rubber shoes, Amitav Ghosh’s The Glass Palace,lucky money, temples, shopping, palm readings, oh yeah….did I mention shopping! Mom would be proud!

 

On the Walk of Stars in Kowloon.

On the Walk of Stars in Kowloon.

Return to Vietnam

Twelve years ago, we took a trip of a lifetime with our daughter and two friends. We traveled from Ho Chi Minh City to Da Nang to Hanoi, Vietnam. We ate fantastic food, and visited magical beaches, museums, ancient ruins, and rural villages. We also met two very good friends, Duong and Toai.

Da Nang Airport with Toai, Li, Steve, Jennifer and Duong

Da Nang Airport with Toai, Li, Steve, Jennifer and Duong

A lot has changed since that first visit. Vietnam is evolving and developing into a thriving country. And, Duong and Toai’s life changed in an instant when their daughter was killed in  a tragic bus accident on an icy Idaho road. Trang was the link between our families.She was studying in Boise and that is were we met. She introduced us to her parents and we visited and toured with them on our trip. It is bittersweet that our friendship with her parents was strengthened due to her death.

We met lots of family and friends and also made a trip to visit Trang’s tomb in Hue.

Toai's parents in Hue. Toai was born in this house.

Toai’s parents in Hue. Toai was born in this house.

A very special dinner with very good friends in Duong and Toai's home.

A very special dinner with very good friends in Duong and Toai’s home.

Duong meets with 10 ladies in Hue when ever she can. They have been friends for 49 years. It was an honor to spend the afternoon with them hearing stories and practicing English.

The Ladies of Hue with Steve at a dinner.

The Ladies of Hue with Steve at a dinner.

Tomb marker for Trang in Hue

Tomb marker for Trang in Hue

Da Nang is quickly becoming a destination for beach lovers. Resorts line the shoreline. The famous China Beach is a well-used public beach.

 

this is 6:00 a.m. on China Beach. There were thousands recreating so early in the morning.

This is 6:00 a.m. on China Beach. There were thousands recreating so early in the morning.

Da Nang is a river city. At least three new bridges have been built across the Han river in the last 10 years. Two of the bridges have been designed by Americans. The most impressive is the Dragon Bridge. It is beautiful in day and in night.

Dragon Bridge spanning the Han river in Da Nang

Dragon Bridge spanning the Han river in Da Nang

Some things have not changed much. One thing that we loved when we visited before was the basket boat. In Da Nang, there is still many basket boats in use.

Basket boats on the beach in Da Nang.

Basket boats on the beach in Da Nang.

 

There is so much more to the story of our experience in Vietnam. Future posts will chronicle. For now, we are enjoying the memory and and looking forward to returning in September.

 

Wok Wednesdays – Velvet Chicken with Asparagus

This recipe comes from Stir-Fry to The Sky’s Edge page 128 by Grace Young

Velvet Chicken and Asparagus

Velvet Chicken and Asparagus

My husband says, “This is the way to do chicken breast.” Steve is not a fan of chicken breast. He eats it because I prepare it wanting to create a more healthy dish. However, this dish requires very little oil and very little corn starch. The dish is very fresh if the asparagus is done correctly. It is easy to overcook. I chose to blanch and then put the asparagus in ice-cold water to stop the cooking. Also, we added our own sauces on the side. I added Indonesian sambal and Steve picked Vietnamese chili sauce to spice it up.  As always, very good recipe and great dish to eat!!

They payoff...plated Velvet Chicken with Asparagus

They payoff…plated Velvet Chicken with Asparagus

What does this sign mean?

 

Sign in the window of a KFC in Shenzhen

Sign in the window of a KFC in Shenzhen

Recently in Shenzhen, Steve came across this sign in the window of a KFC. Of the American fast food restaurants in China, KFC is very popular; however, you would never recognize the menu choices as the American KFC we know.  It made a big statement, so Steve snapped a photo.

We wondered what it could possibly be saying.  A big and strong fist coming at you. Steve thought it was maybe “fist bump” advertising that they were hiring. “Come be part of our team.” All I could see in it was the old Soviet propaganda posters. The simple graphics and colors.

Back at the Shenzhen office, Steve showed the photo and asked for translation. What it says is:

Strictly choose rest-assured chicken.
Science of cultivation, Without hormones.

What it means is that the chicken is safe. In the wake of the H7N9 virus and worries, they want you to continue eating their chicken.

I never would have got that from a big fist. I can only guess that it was used to catch your attention. That it did and apparently the message spoke to the clientele, because the restaurant was very busy with people eating an Asian-style version of the Colonel’s recipe.

Visitors!

“Nothing says Easter like a trip to the monkey park!” Our first visitors to Hong Kong left just one week ago today. Jim and Marcia returned to Boise, ID wearing the special badge as our “first visitors to Hong Kong.” Put that in your Foursquare stats! They came with just one request, and that was to visit Kam Shan County Park in the New Territories to see the wild monkeys roaming freely. Easy enough, and we planned to fit it in on Easter Sunday.

Drinks at Sugar- Mar 2013

We made many a memory that week (besides visiting the monkey park). Starting with the fact that the Lyons arrived on the stormiest night we have had since our arrival in Hong Kong.  Thankfully, the storm paused long enough for them to make a safe and on-time arrival. The storm resumed later that night with pounding rain and so much lightning and thunder that the sky was white with light. Even though Hong Kong is experiencing an uncharacterically cool and wet March, we had many a moment of nice and dry times which made for an enjoyable week weather-wise.

At the  Ruins of St. Paul Church, Macau

At the Ruins of St. Paul Church, Macau

I did my research before Jim and Marcia arrived and came up with a pretty comprehensive plan. The List of everything we wanted to show, experience and eat was aggressive, and we managed to check off  a “Lyon’s share” of the items. Highlights included: the city-bus ride to Stanley; turbo jet ferry to Macau; the Ruins of St. Paul’s Church; rain and more rain; The Museum of Macau; a bright colored parade of umbrellas; a visit to our favorite Macau bakery; dim sum at the Lung Wah Tea House; taxi ride to Hac Sa beach; dinner at Fernando’s (accentuated by being inside to watch a gully-washer of a storm while we stayed warm and dry and well fed); a ride on the Star Ferry; rain and more rain; bus ride to the monkey park; Easter Sunday stroll through the monkey park; Easter supper at The Pawn; a visit to the Hong Kong film archive; a movie, A Fishy Tail, presented during the Hong Kong Film Festival; drinks at Sugar; dinner at Feast; breakfast buffet Hong Kong style (with wi-fi password) at the YWCA Garden Inn restaurant; checking in on Foursquare and Instagram; numerous photo ops; pursuit of the free wi- fi; walking through the Hong Kong Zoological Park and the Botanical Gardens; a trip on the Tram to The Peak; shopping for gifts; beef brisket noodles; a walk on The Peak trail; reading The Hungary Ghosts; wok-stir-fried dinner at our flat; visiting temples and cemeteries during Ching Ming; spiral incense; ash in the air from the burned offerings; spying a dog in Chuck Taylor’s; martinis; gin and tonics; Jenny Bakery cookies; Walled-City Park of Kowloon; a visit to the bird market; a visit to the flower market; navigating subways, taxi’s, buses, trails and hills. We even managed a nap or two in the midst of all this.

How about a pig knuckle or two? Dim Sum at Long Wah Tea House, Macau

How about a pig knuckle or two? Dim Sum at Long Wah Tea House, Macau

Bringing out the incense coils at Kun Iam Temple, Macau

Bringing out the incense coils at Kun Iam Temple, Macau

Marcia and Monkey- Mar 2013

“Say Cheese,” but don’t get any ideas. We don’t have any cheese! I’m not staring!!!

Our Monkey Friend- Mar 2013

 

Umbrellas of Macau- Mar 2013

Not icicles, just a good Macau gully washer.

Not icicles, just a good Macau gully washer.

 

Come out of the rain!

Come out of the rain! At Fernando’s.

What a delightful week it was. We so enjoyed showing off our new/temporary hometown. We are to so lucky to have such good friends that are willing to make the long journey to visit AND to bring a suitcase full of our requested US goods.Thanks Jim and Marcia! Thanks for the great memories. Thanks for being such great visitors! Thanks for your friendship; We love you guys! We loved the monkey park too!

 

Wok Wednesdays – Hakka-Style Stir-Fried Cabbage with Egg

Teh finished dish.

The finished dish-Hakka-Style Stir-Fried Cabbage with Egg.

This recipe comes from the fabulous cookbook by Grace Young, Stir-Frying to The Sky’s Edge page 204. It is part of the Wok Wednesdays project which can be found on Facebook.

Today, in Hong Kong and China, is the festival for Ching Ming (tomb sweeping day). Steve is home from work, and we just spent a great week touring our new hometown with our first visitors to Hong Kong. We both have spent the morning catching up on email, finishing an online course and trying to organize all the photos we have taken recently.

Luckily, I remembered that I needed napa cabbage for the Wok Wednesday recipe this week, and picked some up on my way through the wet market near our flat. I decided to make the Hakka-Style Stir-Fried Cabbage with Egg (this week’s Wok Wednesday recipe) for a brunch.

Washed, chopped and ready to stir-fry.

Washed, chopped and ready to stir-fry.

The ingredients are simple, and the stir-fry is quite easy and very quick once you complete the prep work.

Teh final stage, add the egg and stir-fry until egg is cooked and mixed through

The final stage, add the egg and stir-fry until egg is cooked and mixed through

This is great comfort food and perfect for a light meal. We had leftover stir-fried rice from an outing earlier this week, and it complimented the cabbage dish nicely. I would also do as the recipe recommended; serve with plain white rice.

I have really been enjoying the stir-fried cabbage dishes from all of Grace Young’s books. They are reminicent of the German-style wilted lettuce salads that my mom used to make with leaf lettuce, bacon drippings and vinegar. I did add a sprinkle of rice vinegar to my bowl of the Hakka-Style Cabbage. It was a nice compliment and enhanced the flavors. Steve added a bit of hot and spicy Indonesian sambal (homemade from our dear friend Ari). It was also an excellent compliment to the dish.

The Hakka people are known as the gypsies of Asia. Their histroy has been nomadic. Portable kitchens and quick meals with simple ingredients are characteristic of many Hakka-style dishes. If you would like to know more, see Grace Young’s notes on The Hakka Diaspora on page 102 of Stir-Frying to The Sky’s Edge. Also, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hakka_people for additonal information.