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Monday, 16 January 2012

Food in China

By Johna Ferguson

Some people wonder just what we eat in China. Well, every locale has its own specialties or main fare.

There are several things that natives of Qingdao eat and one of them is cloves of fresh garlic. They eat them just like a piece of apple as an additional flavor to the foods they are consuming. Personally, I don’t like them that way, but do love garlic grated over cucumber bits and sliced cold jellyfish with a little vinegar.

Because rice is usually raised in the south where it is warm, northerners eat wheat instead; noodles and mantous. Mantous are big solid rolls which are steamed since no one has ovens, therefore they look like uncooked brown-and-serve rolls and they are very dense.

One can buy big ones, with about a six-inch diameter or smaller ones about three inches across. They actually look like a big rounded mound of uncooked dough but they are good. Well, by my standards, best when sliced and toasted for they take a lot of chewing even though they are tender.

We eat a lot of tofu. There are many varieties one can choose from; plain, flavored, firm, soft, super soft, smoked, deep fried, fermented (tastes and smells like cheese), dried and tofu noodles.

Zhou cooks our noodles in a big wok filled with water, chopped pieces of Chinese cabbage and bean noodles which are thin and clear when cooked plus a little ground pork for flavor. For spices, he adds a few peppercorns, sesame oil, ginger, and finely sliced green onions.

Jiaozi is a standby of northern people. They are sold in restaurants in the United States and usually called dim sum. But here they are made like small dumplings and boiled in water or fried in hot oil. They are filled with ground meat and some kind of greens or with shrimp, eggs and chopped cabbage - actually most anything is okay.

This is often a family affair, one person mixing the dough, another rolling it into long rolls about an inch in diameter, another breaking off bits to then be rolled into small circles by another person. Then someone puts the filling on the circle and pinches it together and they are cooked and joyfully eaten. I have been known to devour 15 or more plus other side dishes at a dinner.

Because Qingdao is on the Yellow Sea, we have lots of fresh seafood available. Small manila clams are a favorite of mine. Zhou stir fries them in the wok with oil, ginger and vinegar.

Fresh water crabs and fish are available but I am not fond of either for they are a bother to eat, especially the fish as they have so many bones. But I do like fried, very small octopus, body and legs. Shrimp are very popular here also and often added to lots of dishes, but usually with head and shells. The eater just sifts through it all with their teeth and spits the shells out.

Of course, all these foods are consumed with lots of Tsingtao beer. When the Germans took over Qingdao in the late 1800s, they built a German brewery and that beer is now sold world wide. But only in Qingdao I have I ever seen it sold on the street in plastic bags.

In warm months, on many busy corners are kegs of beer. The seller asks how much you want and then he pumps it into a plastic bag hanging from a scale, just like the bags you get at the grocery store. You take it home and hang it on a door knob until you want to drink it. Pretty simple and no bottles to get rid of.

Below are pictures of the two sizes of mantous, our small kitchen where Zhou cooks delicious food and making jiaozi at a friend’s house.


Johna's Kitchen in China

Making Jiaozi

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Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


I am such a "foodie" that I got a vicarious thrill reading about your delicious-sounding diet while in China. And it obviously is healthy, too, since you remain slim and vital. Do you have much fruit available to you while there? You didn't mention it or desserts--both of which I would have trouble living without!

My mouth is watering for all except the fish and meat. I notice that much of the garlic I buy at the supermarket comes from China. I tried to grow my own last year without success and am giving it another try this year. I not only cook a lot with garlic but also swallow a chopped up clove with water at the first sign of a cold.

Tofu is also a favorite. I order it frequently for takeout at the Chinese restaurant and use it in many of my home recipes.

I find your stories most interesting. Thank you for sharing.

Fascinating story, Johna. Having traveled in China with a guided group, I always wondered how much of what we were fed was actually like what residents of that country eat. I think the answer is "not much."

What a fascinating look at another culture! I can't even begin to imagine beer in a bag. It would be too tempting to pour it over my husband's head when he got on my nerves! Thanks for sharing.

I love reading your stories about your life as an American in China. I was served shrimp with their heads on in Japan and found them difficult to eat with their eyes staring at me.

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