Coming Soon!

19 May

Rachelle has uploaded and organized all our photos since 2009, which means I no longer have any excuses to not write some back-posts about our travels over the past half year or so.

But first, I have a Pilates class to teach.

With the return of hot, swampy weather comes a triumphant explosion in the local mosquito population.  And apparently I’m the best thing on the menu.  Yay?

One of the few luxuries we maintain here is a housekeeper who comes around for two hours on one of our busiest days (Wednesday, that is.)  For about ten dollars, we can leave and get all our work done for the day and return to a clean apartment in the evening.  This helps promote sanity and the continued health of our marriage.  The floors will be mopped, the laundry hung up outside, the dishes washed…and this time of the year, the apartment will be full of mosquitoes.  When we’re home, we try to ensure that no window or door to the outside is open for any longer than it absolutely needs to be.  Mosquitoes will exploit any opportunity to get closer to a meal, after all.  Our Ayi is a little less concerned about such things.

Last night, there was a particularly persistent mosquito (or a small swarm of less-motivated ones) buzzing around while I slept.  I woke up looking like a plague victim, or perhaps an unfortunate teenager–swollen red splotches all over my face, and body, even a few on the soles of my feet.  Rachelle managed to squash one against the wall, and it left a bloody smear the size of a quarter.

We have tried a few ways to mitigate this issue, but we currently don’t have mosquito netting, and keeping ourselves covered is just not feasible in this weather.  We have a fan blowing across our bed as we sleep, and that seemed to work for a while, but I think they may have been evolving stronger wings lately.  When Rachelle isn’t around, when I see a mosquito I just surround it with a cloud of Raid, but that’s not really a good long-term solution.  Until we can get a better system to repel them, I may have to go to bed covered in bug repellent.  Or, maybe I should just give up and slather myself in barbecue sauce for them.

By the time I leave China, I’ll either be completely immune to mosquito bites, or dead from malaria.

Oh, Rigel wanted to get in on the biting action too.  Since he likes wind, when I blow on his face he’ll stretch himself out towards me and I’ll usually give him a kiss on the nose.  Last night he decided he’d much rather try to bite my upper lip off.  Time to consult the book of Armaments…

  • Author: krysztov
  • Category: Gripes

Rachelle wanted to make chicken salad, but we didn’t have pickles.

I used to make fun of her for saving every olive jar we ever had.

I don’t do that anymore.

Fuck yeah pickles.

Fuck yeah pickles.

A lot of things we take for granted back in the states are either super-expensive or nonexistent in China.  For a while we could afford to get cheese and olives and tortillas and cans of beans and tomato sauce whenever we needed them.  But as money gets tighter and our stateside bills become more and more burdensome, we first learned to do without, and when that sucked too much we figured out how to make our own.  Tomato sauce, usually 39 cents a can back home, can go for over three dollars here in China.  One day I brought back a large-ish sack of cherry tomatoes from the market and Rachelle decided she was going to make her own tomato sauce, as it is an imperative for making our favorite foods.  This ended up being almost as cheap as an American can, and a little bit tastier to boot.

The pickles cost us perhaps about a dollar to make two jars (and we could have made more had we more available jars).  A single jar at the imported foods market would cost us about 39 kuai, or over six dollars.

We still can’t make good cheese or nixtamalize our own corn for tortillas, so for the time being we have to reserve enchiladas as a special meal to treat our friends.

** Rachelle Says:  “Alternate Titles of Post: A Pickle A Day Keeps the Ums at Bay; What A Pickle!; Pickle Me Tickle Me Too.”

  • Author: krysztov
  • Category: Food

I know that whenever I need some material for a post, I can always turn to something I’ve recently eaten.  As any regular reader should know by now, there are all sorts of culinary adventures available for a foreigner in China.  Recently, a friend of Rachelle’s and mine invited us out for an authentic Cantonese dinner at 炳胜(bing3 sheng4) restaurant across the street from the TaiKoo Hui shopping center.

We were going to take the B9 bus there, which uses Guangzhou’s BRT system–basically a highway for buses that cuts through the city and carries up to a million passengers a day.  But apparently they had changed their plans and the one bus that stopped by was only going as far as Zhujiang New Town, so we gave up before the rain started falling too hard and took the metro, because hey, why not get packed in a rolling tin can like sardines.

We found the place rather easily, and our friend arrived shortly after.  We let him make most of the choices, since we’re still not exactly experts on Cantonese cuisine, and in fact we can’t even speak Cantonese.  Oh well.

In true Cantonese fashion, the dishes arrived as they were ready.  We started out with some Pu’er tea, and marinated lotus root slices.


This tea comes from a particular part of Yunnan province and is fermented extensively, sometimes for decades.  I don’t think our tea was quite that old, though.  It is supposed to help digestion, especially of fatty or oily foods, and it had a delightful earthy taste.  The lotus root marinade complemented it nicely, actually.  For those who haven’t had lotus root before, it’s crispy and a little slippery and reminds me at least of a mix between water chestnut and raw potato.  It’s also full of little holes, as you can see.  Water plants love being hollow.

Next, the soup course.


So this soup had starfruit and papaya and pork.  It was sweet and savory and quite good, although I didn’t end up finishing it before the next dish came out…


THE GOOSE.  Rachelle and I love Cantonese goose.  It took me a little while to be able to bite through the crispy skin, the layer of fat, and the meat all at once while still working around the bones (of course there’s bone, silly) and I still can’t not use my fingers a little to maneuver it around in my mouth, but still.  Yum.  You know, after that I could go for something lighter, maybe a vegetable or someth–



This veggie is called 通菜(tong1cai4), and in English has a few names, most commonly called water spinach. Here is is sauteed with garlic.  I will keep an eye out for this one in the market.


This is three flavors of tofu, in sauce, and topped with beef and shrimp and whatnot.  I didn’t notice a very strong difference in the flavors, although they all were good.  Rachelle noted some differences, and said the dark one in the middle was kind of earthy and tea-like.  This tofu was a lot creamier than the kind I usually get in the market, almost custard-like.


In Cantonese cuisine, chicken is done a little differently from how you might know it.  First off, the head is often staring at you.  It’s also very lightly seasoned, if at all.  Cantonese cuisine is all about the natural flavors of components, and so on.  Sometimes this leads to terribly bland foods, but the natural taste of a chicken that isn’t stuck in a battery cage and fattened with corn and chemicals is actually quite delicious.  This actually came with a little bowl of garlic dipping sauce, which was also great, but I mostly ate it plain.  By this point, I was pretty sure that was all there was to the meal.


But then the pork arrived.  And wow.  It had a lot of fat, which is a feature it took me a while to get used to in food around here, but once you get used to it, you can enjoy food like this.  The glaze on it was sticky, and slightly sweet, and just…well it made me happy to eat it.  Okay.  That was the meal.

Wait, dessert.


This is a pumpkin soup.  There’s some stuff we think is tapioca on top.  It was a perfect end to the meal.

Fuck yeah.  Also, that’s another person we’re gonna make enchiladas for.