Thai Delicacies: Roti Pancakes

Have you ever noticed that most countries have their own version of a pancake? China has the za liang jian bing or fried pancake served as a breakfast food from street food vendors. The French like their pancakes thin, crispy and savory while Americans prefer them fluffy and doused with maple syrup.

Thailand has their own version of pancakes too. The first difference that you will notice, is their shape. While the rest of the world makes pancakes round, in Thailand they are square. They are deep fried and very crispy with a choice of various ingredients sandwiched in the middle. These can be Nutella, bananas or even tuna!

These pancakes are called “Roti” and it’s origins are debated. Some say that they come from India where they are also known as chapati. Chapati is a flat bread made from stone-ground wholemeal flour. Others say that the pan-fried bread has Muslim origins.

Whatever it’s origins, the fact is that Roti are delicious pancakes. They resemble crepes and are served hot, cut into bite-size squares. Like most pancakes around the word, they are meant to be eaten for breakfast. Here’s a video that shows how they’re made.

You can read more about different pancakes around the world here. I’m on a mission to try them all!

23205063-crispy-pancake-named-roti-fried-bread-with-butter-and-egg-stock-photo
Photo from:

http://www.123rf.com/photo_23205063_crispy-pancake-named-roti-fried-bread-with-butter-and-egg.html

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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.

Sexist Sushi in Japan is Awesome… for Women!

Sushi is probably my favorite thing in the world and Japan is the best place to eat it. Since I can never get enough, I’ve been researching all-you-can-eat sushi restaurants in Tokyo. Turns out that most restaurants have different prices for men and women when it comes to all-you-can-eat menus. Women pay up to 2,000 JPY ($17) less!

With apologies to any feminists reading this, but realistically speaking the average man is stronger, faster and eats more than the average woman. If you can come to terms with this fact, then it’s not at all sexist to make all you can eat food cheaper for women. Is it? Although I admit to eating more sushi than any person should, my husband still manages to eat more. So he should pay more!

Now let’s factor in salary… unfortunately, it is still a common practice to pay women less than men. In the US specifically, statistics show that women made 80 cents for every dollar made by a man in 2015. You can read more about that here. Anyways, this makes the wage gap 20%. Now lets take another look at those sushi prices…

Tsukiji Tama Sushi is located in Ginza, a town known for it’s fresh sushi made with high quality ingredients. They offer all-you-can-eat sushi for “couples”: women pay 7,000 JPY, a man and a woman pay 8,000 JPY and two men pay 9,000 JPY.

9,000 JPY is about 78 USD so 7,000 JPY is 61 USD. That makes it almost 22% less for women! Coincidence? Probably. But it’s still awesome! Although if we get really technical and add the wage gap to the fact that women eat less than men, then women should be paying at least 40% less…

Personally, I’m happy to take while I can get. While the rest of you argue about inequality and food prices for women, I’ll be in Tokyo paying 20% less to stuff my face with sushi.

SMLXL

Living in Huaqiao: Cooking your own Food (Guest Post)

Strawberry season, and other tips about shopping in Huaqiao!

Written by Olivia Hall, this 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.

Where and how to buy your own groceries, cooking utensils and supplies:

Local Supermarkets:

E Mart:

Where: Lu Di Da Dao

What: Wide range of basic household supplies and groceries including fruit, veggies, snacks, meat and some dairy.

Wet Market:

Where: W Ring Road, off Lu Di Da Dao, close to the school (near colorful apartments).

What: Fresh fruit, veggies and meat in an open style market.

RT Mart:

Where: Anting Mall

What: Larger version of E Mart with a little more variety including meat and dairy products.

Metro:

Where: Take the metro to Malu station then take any bus a couple of stops. The signs are blue and yellow!

What: Similar to E Mart and RT Mart, with a few more imported goods.

City Shop:

Where: Take the metro to Nanxiang Mall

What: Similar to Metro with even more imported items.

Shanghai Supermarkets

Carrefour:

Where: Zhongshan Park Metro station in the B1 level of the ‘Cloud Nine’ Mall.

What: Originating in France, you can now find Carrefour around the world. Its basically a western supermarket. You can pick up your tobacco sauce or a selection of cheeses.

Avocado Lady:

Where:274 Wulumuqi Lu, near the Changsu Lu metro station.

What: Fresh produce and lots of imported items. There’s almost a cult following among foreigners in Shanghai for the Avocado Lady!

Online Options

Fields:

Where: http://www.fieldschina.com

What: Online grocery store that delivers to KCISEC.

Kate and Kimi:

Where: http://www.kateandkimi.com

What: Online Shanghai based grocery store. Also delivers to the school.

Furniture and Houseware

E Mart, RT Mart and Metro all have basic housing essentials such as duvets, pillows, cutlery and cleaning products. For further specialty items try:

IKEA:

Where: Exit 7, Shanghai Indoor Stadium (Shanghai Gymnasium on Google maps). Follow Coaxi Road under the elevated road 100m.

What: House hold goods galore.

HCE Hotel & Catering Equipment:

Where : 345 Aomen Road Changshou Lu metro station

What: This store is open to the public but actually supplies all of the restaurants and hotels in Shanghai with their cooking supplies and tableware. If you’re a banking fan, you can get anything from muffin tins to pots you could cook a buffalo in.

Toabao:

Where: http://www.taobao.com

What: Online EVERYTHING store but advertising is by private sellers so you deal with different people and companies for each purchase you make. You’ll need a Chinese speaker to help you out!

JD.com:

Where: http://www.jd.com

What: Similar to Taobao but the closest distribution center is actually in Huaqiao; you’ll see employees commuting to work on their scooters in the mornings. You can buy all sorts on here including pianos!

Strawberries: The Light at the End of the Long Winter Tunnel

Let’s be honest, winter is pretty long and brutal here! Last year we worked from October to February with next to no holidays and it was rough! Luckily, we have a solid week off for Christmas this year. Strawberry season is also something to look forward to during the dark days of winter! From March onward you’ll find no shortage of farm fold out (especially in front of E-mart) with baskets of fresh strawberries ready to sell!

Living in Huaqiao: Korean Food Review (Guest Post)

There are some pretty delicious Korean food options in Huaqiao too!

Written by Maurice Mickle, 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.

Seoul Ga is my home away from home here in Huaqiao. I don’t have many local haunts, but this one is one of my favorites. It was a great relief to discover a Korean BBQ house just 6km away from the school campus. Like many expats in Asia, several of us have done a few years teaching in South Korea and miss the comfort food we grew to love there.

This restaurant is family owned and run by two Korean brothers and their wives. While they speak little English, they are always more than happy to work out what you need!

The menu is quite diverse and represents most of the major dishes you can find in Korea. The atmosphere is quite nice as well. It is located next to the water canal just a 3-minute walk from E-mart. They have 2 floors and an outside dining area next to the water. The prices are very fair. If you are drinking alcohol, the bill can escalate a bit, but it’s still pretty reasonable. On average, a party of 4 spends about 300 RMB/$46.

If you are craving fresh beef, marinated pork and pork belly, you won’t be disappointed. Of course, as with most Korean restaurants, there are free side dishes included with free refills. You won’t leave hungry, I assure you.

I must mention the best part of their menu, the Korean fried chicken. They really know what they are doing when it comes to frying chicken. It’s crispy and flavorful and can be ordered plain, spicy, or half and half. In addition to these main courses, there are some wonderful soups and “anjoo” dishes. Anjoo is usually the food that you eat while drinking. Anjoo examples: Korean omelets, steamed pork and kimchi, rice cakes in spicy sauce and many more. I’ll spare you the awful phonetic spellings of these dishes. If you are familiar with Korean food, you know what I’m talking about.

Last but not least, the question on the tip of your tongue “Do they have SOJU?” Absolutely, yes they do. They even carry the new flavored soju which has grown quite popular in recent years.

There is a second Korean restaurant a bit closer to E-mart and McDonald’s, similar to Seoul Ga buw tih a few minor differences. The name is Dalin Sutbulgui. It’s a bit smaller inside, but also has a nice outdoor dining area. One advantage of this restaurant is that it provides set menus which can make ordering for groups cheaper and more convenient. They also change their side dishes from time to time, which is nice if you’re a regular! They always make me smile when they put down some favorites such as cucumber kimchi and marinated anchovies with peppers. Not for everyone, but I love it. One important thing to note about this restaurant is there is a wait to get in some nights due to its smaller size.

Both of the places are beyond my expectations for Korean food outside Korea. And if you need a stronger endorsement, my wife agrees with my reviews completely. She is 100% Korean and she finds both restaurants to be excellent places to dine. Welcome to Huaqiao!

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.