China Doesn’t Sugarcoat Meat-Eating & Neither Should You

Eating fresh meat comes at a price. Can’t bear to look? Then maybe you shouldn’t be eating it.

The meat-eating industry is not pretty. We all know the horrors that go on in slaughter houses but few of us go out of our way to stop it. I’m not here to shame anyone. I happen to be a regular meat eater and a cheese addict which causes even more cruel animal deaths. Living in China has desensitized me by showing me dead animals in various stages of production and I can’t commend them enough for being so open about it.

Have you ever seen one of those videos where a child finds out that the pork on their plate used to be a cute pink pig? Chinese kids grow up knowing exactly where their meat comes from which lets them make an informed decision about eating it. There may not be too many vegetarians in China but at least no one is kept in the dark about what they are eating and how it is killed.

As I mentioned before, I have become quite desensitized and no longer look away from the gruesome scenes in the market. I have always known how the meat I eat suffers and it would be hypocritical of me to look the other way and then eat it anyway. Before you judge me, it’s not easy to change your entire diet overnight.

Seeing squealing pigs squeezed into tight spaces for transport (which is hidden in the USA and Europe but is done openly in China) has impacted me. My husband and I no longer eat pork when we can avoid it and we plan on gradually changing our diets to eliminate first beef, then chicken and finally all other meats. But it takes time.

We are also aware that simply not eating meat is not enough to make the world a better place for animals. The milk industry is just as bloody, if not worse, the medicine we take is animal-tested and all means of transportation continue to destroy our environment. It is virtually impossible to live without harming the world around us and I have so much respect for anyone who tries to do less damage to it.

Anyway, back to China… When you walk into a market you will see meat in all shapes and forms. Entire skinned animals, cut off heads, bloody hooves, duck heads, chicken feet and pig testicles are put on display for everyone to see. Sometimes you will even see live animals that can be killed for you on request. There is no fresher meat! But it comes at a price.

A few weeks ago, Isaac and I were returning home after a day of e-bike riding and exploring the neighborhood. We ran into a large crowd of people standing right by the entrance to our apartment community. We had to investigate and we were so shocked by what we saw. Hanging upside down was a headless ram that was being skinned… and children as young as two were watching!

This reminded me of Christmas in Prague where children cheer as burly men with large machetes behead carp publicly. I would always look away but this time I didn’t. The ram was already dead and the preparation process was strangely mesmerizing. Once the hooves were chopped off, the skin was stripped off effortlessly all in one piece. The men from Xinjiang (the largest autonomous region in China) placed the skin fur down on the ground and used it as a mat for the ram’s organs.

The ram was hung on two hooks by it’s feet so that it could be chopped in half with an ax. Expertly, they first cut the ball sack in half and continued hacking down until they could remove the stomach and intestines. The liver, lungs, heart and who knows what else followed. All of these were neatly laid out on the ram’s own skin. The beauty of it all? Every single organ, piece of bone, drop of blood and inch of skin was going to be used. In China, no part of the animal goes to waste.

By the time we left, the ram was no longer recognizable and was chopped into four large pieces. After spending an hour in a nearby cafe, we returned to find a long line of hungry people drawn to the delicious smell of smoked skewers of meat. We joined the line and paid 30 RMB ($4) for a generous amount of the freshest meat we’ve ever tasted.

After watching the ceremonious preparation (although we were glad we missed the actual slaughter and bleeding) we felt like eating part if it was a way of honoring the dead animal – which is not something I ever thought I’d feel or think. The ethics of the meat eating industry are definitely complex and debatable. Feel free to share your thoughts or experiences in the comment section below.

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39 RMB All-You-Can-Eat in the Heart of Shanghai

What if I told you that 39 RMB is all you need to spend on a huge meal and a few beers in the very heart of Shanghai?

Dumplings, chicken wings, tofu, lotus, watermelon and Tsingtao beer. It can’t get any more Chinese. Or Cheap! Nanging pedestrian street is not the first thing that comes to mind for affordable food. Aside from chicken feet on a stick or over-fried chicken wings sold on the street, food prices can be pretty steep in the area.

This magical yet potentially stomach upsetting meal is offered by Jinjiang Inn between 11:15 and 14:00 then again between 17:15 and 20:30. So if you’re on a budget and have a steel stomach – you can save a lot of money by eating here once or even twice a day.

It can be easy to miss the Inn. We actually stumbled in by accident on our way to Shanghai First Foodhall. The address is 680 Nanjing Road pedestrian street and the eating area is on the second floor. As long as you arrive before 13:30, you’ll be let in and there will be plenty of time to sufficiently stuff your face.

Vegetarians may want to avoid this place. When I said there was tofu, I didn’t mention the meat that’s stuffed inside it. It’s also served on top of the mystery-meat meatballs. Pediatricians are better off and can enjoy “fish gluten” which are some sort of fish balls. Despite being a sushi fiend, I did not enjoy these at all.

Non meat options include toast, sweet bread desserts, lotus, cooked cabbage, some other steamed veggies and of course, watermelon and kumquats. However, I assume that the selection of food varies by season. We came here in early February.

Finally, there’s drinks. Tea, surprisingly good coffee, several sodas, orange juice and of course, over-sized bottles of Tsingtao. After Snow, this is the second most popular beer in the entire world! Most Westerners will turn up their noses at the 2-3% beer.

Although Tsingtao only has a one-out-of-five star rating on RateBeer, a draft lager at the Qingdao brewery is a completely different story. The real thing is 4.6% alcohol and a much higher rating, so don’t be too quick to judge all Tsingtao beers!

Anyway, 39 RMB ($5.5) is definitely the best deal you will ever get on all you can eat and drink in China. Don’t expect a gourmet meal, you get what you pay for. I definitely recommend this place for a cheap meal or if you want to try a wide variety of Chinese food without breaking the bank. Thank you Jinjiang Inn for offering budget travelers an alternative to Western fast-food!

Chinese Delicacies: Calorie Bombs on a Stick (Tanghulu)

Candied fruit on a stick seems like a healthier choice than ice cream. Think again! This delicacy has more calories than a McDonald’s cheeseburger!

Tanghulu (糖葫芦) is a popular Chinese snack that can be sweet, sour or both at once. If someone is selling it nearby, you’ll smell it from miles away. Just follow the caramelized scent until you find the brightly-colored sugar-coated fruit on a stick!

Also known as bingtanghulu (冰糖葫芦) the name can be translated as “frosty sugar gourd” although no one knows where “gourd” comes from. The most commonly seen tanghulu is made with hawthorn berries. Until I came to China, I had no idea that hawthorn even existed. In case you know as little about the mysterious berry as I did, here’s some info:

Hawthorn is a useful plant and it’s flowers, leaves and berries are commonly used in medicines for heart disease, blood pressure irregularities, digestion problems and many others. It looks like a small red apple the size of a strawberry. It can be eaten raw but it’s extremely sour and has an unusual texture. Instead, it is used in jams, wines, fruit leather and the reason we are all here: tanghulu!

I’ve eaten two different kinds of hawthorn tanghulu. My favorite has the berries flattened and I assume preserved in some sort of way, because they are quite sweet on the inside. After they are dipped in caramelized sugar with sesame seeds sprinkled on top.

The second kind of hawthorn tanghulu is simply raw berries on a skewer. It is much more sour than the flattened kind, less crunchy and full of seeds that you need to constantly spit out. I strongly recommend trying a different kind on your first try. Luckily, there are so many to choose from! You can use a variety of fruits and even tomatoes to make tanghulu.

Fun fact:
There is no fruit-vegetable debate in China when it comes to tomatoes. You will find them in fruit juices and the fruit section of buffets. Anyway, cherry tomatoes are a common alternative to hawthorn but they also use melon slices, grapes, plums and strawberries.

While tanghulu seems like a relatively healthy treat, especially when it’s made out of “negative-calorie” strawberries. But don’t be deceived, it is estimated that they have 400 calories on average. That’s just as many as a double cheeseburger from McDonald’s! But at least it’s rich with vitamin C.

In China, the tanghulu is more than just a traditional snack. According to legend, it saved the life of emperor Guangzong’s most beloved concubine during the Song Dynasty. She got sick and was unable to eat anything. The emperor was desperate when his doctors failed and asked the villagers for help. A common doctor suggested eating 7-8 candied hawthorns with each meal – this saved her life! For more interesting facts about tanghulu, go here.

Have you tried tanghulu? Share your experience in a comment below!

Chinese Delicacies: 2,000 Year Old Pancakes

Chinese fried pancakes are soft yet crispy with a coriander finish! People have been eating them for almost 2,000 years! Read more…

Comparing za liang jian bing (杂粮煎饼) to a crepe burrito is probably the easiest way to describe the food that has foiled my New Year’s weightloss resolutions. Jian bing translates to “fried pancakes” and the recipe originates from Shandong province in Northeast China back in 220 – 280 AD!

Originally, the fried pancake was meant to be served as a breakfast food; today it is a popular fast food eaten around the clock. Even in tiny Huaqiao there are several vendors selling this delicacy, setting up their portable bike carts in the morning and evenings.

These pancakes generally cost around 4 RMB ($0.60) due to the cheap ingredients. The outer shell is essentially a crepe, the batter for it is made out of wheat and flour. It only takes a minute or two to make and watching the process is truly mesmerizing.

First, the vendor spreads the batter on a heated plate with a single sweeping motion. Then they crack an egg over it, spread that and add a thin layer of brown sauce. Once everything in evenly spread they add a spicy sauce, unless you ask them not to by saying “bu la” (not spicy). Then they add a yummy baocui (薄脆) a crispy fried cracker that gives the otherwise soft wrap a crispy texture.

Finally, they add some fresh herbs, mainly scallions and coriander. Sometimes you can add sausages, more spicy sauces, mustard pickles and other small ingredients. Personally, I like it as plain as possible to avoid drowning out the coriander which gives it an oriental flavor.

For almost 2,000 years za liang jian bing was only available in China and Taiwan because the recipe was a well kept secret. Today, it is still rare to find them outside of China but there have been authentic fried pancakes made abroad by Chinese-trained chefs.

Read more about the cultural significance and history of the za liang jian bing here. The article will also tell you where to find it in the USA. Alternatively, you can watch a video of it being made here. Just don’t do it on an empty stomach, trust me.

Living in Huaqiao: Chinese Food Review (Guest Post)

Chinese food is great! Here are some of the dishes you should try in Huaqiao!

Written by Alice Li, this is a chapter of the KCIS Survival Guide.
This guide was sent to all new teachers coming to teach at the Kang Chiao International School in Huaqiao.

If you are interested in trying Chinese food, there are a lot of good restaurants in Huaqiao. Generally, Chinese food is cheap and delicious. I recommend these five places for different kinds of Chinese food:

1. Traditional Beijing Hotpot/Lao Beijing

Average cost: 70 RMB per person

Here you get to try Chinese northern style hot-pot in the traditional way: a bronze pot with a small chimney heated by charcoal. There are 3 kinds of soup base: plain, mushroom flavored and spicy. Choose one base you like, or you can do two as well.

Order sliced meat (lamb or beef), leaves, mushrooms, tofu, boodles and many more. The dipping sauce is charged per person (6 RMB). You can find sesame paste, peanut butter, chili oil, leek sauce, soy sauce and so on. Mix them together to create your own. When the soup is boiling add the raw food for a short time.

The food cooks right in front of you! Pick it out of the pot with your chopsticks and dip it into your sauce – and ENJOY!

Must try: lamb, beef, see-you-tomorrow pin mushroom, fried dough sticks, crystal noodles and fresh tofu.

2. My Old Classmate

Average cost: 60 RMB per person

If you like spicy food, this is a good place to go. My Old Classmate features Sichuan cuisine, so more than half of the dishes are spicy. Its setting is quite different; the dining table is a copycat of the old-style desks in Chinese classrooms. Dishes and chopsticks are placed in the desk drawer. It is always crowded on Friday night so go early or make reservations.

Must try: mushroom buns, sliced beef and cucumber in hot chili oil, sliced chicken with bones in hot chili oil, crispy chicken strips, Chinese style beef steak served with 3 creamy mango rolls and stir fried potato chips with sour and spicy sauce.

3. My Family Style Fish with Pickles

Average cost: 60 RMB per person

Freshly cooked black fish is the specialty of this place. Both the fish and the soup are so fresh. A waiter will catch a fish alive in front of you, weight it, and pass to the chef to slice it. The fish is then served in a big ceramic pot with pickle soup. The soup can be made mild, a little bit spicy or really spicy. You don’t have to worry about fish bones. The fish slices don’t have many bones. This place also serves really good parathas with all kinds of flavors. The pineapple one is the best.

Must try: pineapple parathas and a little bit of spicy soup base

4. Yang’s Dumplings

Average cost: 30 RMB per person

This is the must eat food in Shanghai. Pan fried pork buns/dumplings are the most famous food in Shanghai and Yang’s Dumplings is a newborn chain restaurant. It was three kinds of buns: pork, pork with vegetables and shrimp. They are all really good.

The correct way to eat this kind of bun is to first bite the wrap to open it, then give it a few seconds to cool down, suck the juice and finally eat the remainder. Be prepared for a stream of hot liquid squirting everywhere if you’re not careful! Yang’s has a few kinds of side fishes and noodle soups as well.

Must try: shrimp buns, and sour crystal beef noodle soup

P.S. A Hui’s Dumplings is a copycat of Yang’s. There is one at the Pyramids next to My Bakery and one on Guangming Road. There is also a dumpling shop in the E-mart food court.

5. Zhonghe Wang’s Taiwan Style Noodle House

Average cost: 25 RMB per person

This little place serves good noodle soups and rice combos with low price. According to the waitresses, the rice grains used in the restaurant are shipped from Taiwan. It does taste good. Except fried food, everything else is served really fast.

Must try: fried chicken leg, braised pork with rice and beef noodle soup.

Living in Huaqiao: The Ultimate List of Places to Eat (Guest Post)

There are SO many food options in Huaqiao! Here’s just a few to pick from…

Written by Olivia Hall, this is a chapter of the KCIS Survival Guide.
This guide was sent to all new teachers coming to teach at the Kang Chiao International School in Huaqiao.

If you’re getting a little tired of eating at the hotel or school cafeteria, don’t worry! There is a plethora of delicious dining options out there if you’re willing to explore. The options range from traditional Chinese cuisine to Italian and German restaurants, sushi, burgers and Korean BBQ are all just a stone’s throw away! Here is a list of local dining locations you might like to try as you get settles in to life in Huaqiao:

Near the School

— The Muslim Shop —

10 – 20 RMB per person

Highlights: Massive bowls of noodles and 6 RMB sandwiches.

Directions: turn right out of the main front gate then left at the first intersection. There you’ll find a line of shops and restaurants geared towards the large construction community. The Muslim Shop is further down the line next to a convenience store.

Top Tip: Outside drinks are okay.

 — Peater Parker —

10 – 30 RMB per person

Highlights: coffee (that isn’t instant) and cheesecake right on campus!

Directions: 1st floor, main building.

Top Tip: Open late.

Huaqiao Township

— Hot Pot —

Highlights: A non-oily hotpot option! Watermelon and oranges on offer.

Directions: From school, head along Lu Di Da Dao toward E-mart/Hanting. Turn right at Megafit onto Huaqang Road. The restaurant is on the first floor of the building on your right.

Top Tip: No English menu!

— Frypan —

20 – 40 RMB per person

Highlights: Delicious boneless fried chicken with 6 different dipping sauces, and headache inducing beers.

Directions: From school, head along Lu Di Da Dao toward E-mart/Hanting. Turn left onto Huawang Road (opposite Megafit). Head through a couple of residential intersections and keep your eyes peeled for the restaurant on the left shortly after passing Huaxi Road.

Top Tip: You can order delivery (with the help of a Chinese friend).

E-mart Area

— Salad Works —

40 – 70 RMB per person

Highlights: Delicious, healthy, fresh and not drenched in oil! Salads and wraps all found in a trendy setting.

Directions: Find “The Pyramids” (oddly shaped, cubey thing) building, opposite McDonald’s on Lu Di Da Dao. On the ground floor of building 3 (the section closest to Lu DDD) you’ll find the restaurant.

Top Tip: Seats outside!

— Sushi —

20 – 40 RMB per person

Highlights: Salmon. So good!

Directions: Enter the E-mart mall and weave your way into the heart of the ground level. Here you’ll find a food court style seating area. You’ll see the sushi chefs dressed in black.

Top Tip: You can also get delicious dumplings next door.

— K’s Kitchen —

40 – 150 RMB per person

Highlights: Western, western, western foooooood. Burgers, pizza, risotto, churros!

Directions: From E-mart continue along Lu Di Da Dao a couple of hundred meters, passing the cinema on your right. Turn into a small roadway and you’ll see the light blue K’s sign ahead.

Top Tip: The upstairs area is perfect for a party!

— Casa Mia —

40 – 100 RMB per person

Highlights: pizza, pizza, pizza! Italiano in an intimate setting.

Directions: From Lu Di Da Dao, walk to the right of E-mart and follow a small lane to the right. You’ll spot a small sign on the right side of the alley, right?

Top Rip: It’s a one man show, so the chef will take your order and then cook. He might even have to fuck out to make a delivery while you dine.

— Lao Beijing —

40 – 100 RMB per person

Highlights: This is the place if you want hot pot and barbeque skewers. Their menu is extensive and the ingredients are high quality. The management loves its foreign patrons; they translated the entire menu into English!

Directions: Find the small road behind McDonalds. Cross the bridge and you’ll find it directly in front of you about 40 meters from the bridge. You can see the private rooms in the upper windows.

Top Tip: You can customize a sauce for all your dipping needs.

** Reviewed by Anne Hale

Further Afield

— Anting Mall —

Highlights: All your standard fast food chains! Dairy Queen, Starbucks, Papa John’s Pizza, Costa Coffee, Yang’s Dumplings, Sushi Restaurant, Neolithic BBQ

Directions: Take the metro to Anting and exit into the mall… explore your culinary options at your leisure.

— Bier Garden —

40 – 100 RMB per person

Highlights: Hearty German food – bratwurst, bier and a regular Filipino cover band.

Directions: From the Anting Metro station head north along Moyu Road, turn right onto Changji Road and head over a small bridge. The Bier Garden will be on the left.

Top Tip: There’s a trampoline!

Ratings!

Following an extensive survey (of myself and one other) there are some ratings based on value for money and deliciousness…

The Muslim Shop – 4/5

Peater Parker – 3/5

Hot Pot – 4/5

Salad Works – 3.5/5

Sushi – 5/5

K’s Kitchen – 3.5/5

Casa Mia – 4/5

Lao Beijing – 4/5

Bier Garden 3.5/5

Living in Huaqiao: Food at KCIS (Guest Post)

Here’s what your food options are at KCIS. Teachers get a free lunch every day!

Written by Olivia Hall, this is a chapter of the KCIS Survival Guide.
This guide was sent to all new teachers coming to teach at the Kang Chiao International School in Huaqiao.

They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch but here at KCIS we are lucky enough to enjoy just that. Not only is our lunch free, but the options we are offered are varied and cover a range of culinary preferences. Here is what’s on offer:

Chinese A and B – these options are usually similar and include a portion or two of meat (including fish) and a couple of portions of vegetables. They also come with soup and your choice of fruit or yoghurt.

Chinese Noodles – this consists of a huge bowl of noodles, a side of veggies, and fruit or yoghurt. Wonton soup day is always a popular choice!

Global Cuisine – the title may be slightly misleading unless your definition of ‘global’ is limited to Asia. In saying that, Korean Ddukbokkie, Singaporean noodles and Thai curries are pretty darn delicious.

Italian – pasta, pasta, pasta with a side of veggies and soup. As always, you can pick up your fruit or yoghurt.

Sandwich – just like in Subway! Enjoy a different meat each day with the vegetables of your choosing. A cookie is the definite draw card for the sandwich line.

Vegetarian – now open to anyone, the vegetarian option is basically Chinese A and B sans meat. Spring rolls are a good choice and you always get a fruit juice to wash it all down.

If you decide to get dinner at the Cafeteria (25 RMB a pop), you’ll find the options similar to lunch, although from time to time pizza, burgers and fries make an appearance. You can also enjoy an 8 RMB breakfast which usually consists of some sort of bread, congee and milky tea.

How to get your hands on a free lunch:

  • Ordering.kcisec.com

Head to ordering.kcisec.com to check out your options for lunch. You’ll need an ID number to log in – see HR personnel for this.

Once you’re logged in, you can peruse the options. Hover your curser over the category for each day to check out the detailed menu. You can select up to two options per day for lunch so that when you show up to eat, you can go with what really appeals to you! Click submit, check your order then hit confirm. You’ve now ordered lunch for the following week.

  • Can’t remember what you ordered?

You need to complete your order by 5PM on Wednesday for the following week so it’s more than likely you’ll forget what you ordered when you actually get to the cafeteria for lunch. Luckily, you can jog your memory by scanning your ID card on the machines just outside the cafeteria door before you join the cue.

You can also check your order online at ordering.kcisec.com. Note that you can also order breakfast and dinner, however these will be charged 8 and 25 RMB respectively.

  • Join the Queue

Here are KCIS we enjoy many excellent privileges including our very own onsite café (Peter Parker). However, cutting in front of students for lunch is not one of them.

Unfortunately, we have to line up just like everyone else. Yes, we’re all pretty busy but you can make it work for you by avoiding the rush hour at the cafeteria. Try 11:10 for an early lunch, or 11:40 and 12:10 for a late lunch free of ques. The most congested times are 10:50, 11:20, 11:50 and 12:20 when students are released to their lunch breaks.