Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Savings Fail

Coming to China might be considered a big leap, a considerable sacrifice, and perhaps foolhardy to many. I decided to take this adventure since how often will this opportunity come again? I know there are enough reasons not to do something risky, but it's not in the same league as jumping out a plane without checking if the parachute works.

It is however a financial leap, and one that carries a large risk. If I end up not saving anything at all, there goes the last of my savings and I would prefer not to wonder how to recoup everything in my forties. I live considerably leaner and tighter than I did in Manila, and perhaps the choice of city is a good one; this place has little to offer in terms of cultural curiousity.

Each week, I set out a day I call "No spending day," usually a day I spend at home, doing chores, reading, writing, knitting, meditating, listening to music, doodling, daydreaming. Today was meant to be one of those days, but, I failed today's goal. After going through my list of to do's and having fulfilled them to the best of my ability, I figured I should go to the supermarket to get two things I did need. I ate some edamame so I wouldn't be tempted to buy food, and had written down the two things I planned to buy. I ended up lugging home two bags of things, and noting down some interesting items I sure would like to get the next time I have to go to the supermarket (not the next NSD!).

For example, I mentioned to friend J that I saw a whole roasted rabbit in the pre-cooked section of the supermarket (it sat near the whole roasted ducks, and other roasted meats). At 20 yuan per 500 grams, I think that might be quite a gourmet steal for the next group dinner. I believe the rabbit has been roasted in a soy-based marinade, but will have to update this information after I get to taste it. The rabbit looks quite lean, but meaty, this is no tiny bunny.

The other item that caught my eye were little pots of caviar for 60 yuan each. Granted this isn't beluga we're talking about, merely lumpfish or wild alaskan salmon fish roe, but it is a nice little luxury I feel will go well the next time I make poached eggs.

The damage I ran up for the day was pretty much what I planned to spend the entire week. Since most of the items I purchased were food products, there's no reason why I can't just do packed lunches every day. At least till the next NSD.

Back to the wok

Grazing online I saw that Wandering Chopsticks has a weekend wok round up going on, while on EatingAsia, Robyn and Dave shared their recipe for a sausage and cucumber salad that sounds quite delicious. I might make that salad later in the week, all the ingredients are easy to find in my neighborhood markets.
But what caught my attention was the notion of the wok. I grew up with woks around the house, but I knew them as more like your regular frying pans without knowing they had a special name; my mother may have just called them calderos. We had several of varying sizes, most of them were iron or steel, quite heavy and I learned how to make fried rice, eggs, and fried chicken on them when I was a kid. We always used gas burners, the maids only seemed to know one level of heat, and that was high. Took my mother time to get them to understand they could adjust the level of heat, especially if it was a new maid.
Over the years, in different homes in my life, I have had to cook with a variety of heat sources, and in some dorms, we were forced to cook on little electric burners, or built in cookers that didn't cause the fuse to conk out. I can't recall what I was using to cook on in HK, but I shall assume it was an electric burner. And in my last residence in Manila, I made do with an induction burner.
My apartment here in WZ has a small kitchen, just enough for one person to turn around, counterspace is at a premium. But it has two burners, and yes, it is gas. For the first few weeks, I made do with a pot I found in the closet, but I recently bought a rice cooker and a wok. I didn't make a conscious decision to get a wok, I just figured I needed something multi-functional and would work with the style of food I plan to make while I'm here. Again, eat local, eat the style of food available.
In the week I've had my wok, I've used it to make eggs, fried rice, and a quick saute of chillies. Vegetables, some soup, maybe steam up some dimsum one day, all for the future.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Friday follow-up

One chicken gone from the cage (I glared at the three tables full of customers in the restaurant, wondering which one decided the fate of the hapless bird).

Cherries now at 58 renmimbi, about P410 a kilo. Do I wait three more days or give into my urges now? On the other hand, I could buy a kilo of luscious looking bayberries coming into season as I speak for 40 rmb.... And I know they'd be worth every penny!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009


It's been a quiet couple of days, spring has been particularly pleasant here, and minus a few days of rain, the days are sunny, but cool. This afternoon, I felt a chill entering my bones, threw on a few more layers, and on my walk to a meeting, felt the weak sunshine on my skin. I passed the daily parade of roosters in a cage outside a restaurant; a few weeks ago, they had a rather noisy duck out there too, but he's probably been eaten by now. Three chickens, robust looking beasts, watch the world go by, not knowing they are waiting out their fate.

A couple of corners down the road, I spy an unfamiliar sight. A grey dappled pony, led by his owner. Four or five trike drivers were likewise parked on the sidewalk, making comments about the horse. I don't think the horse was for eating, he looked like he was being brought to show some of the kids in the playschool nearby. He made some indignant noises when he was left by the tree.

Seeing the horse made me think of chinese words, the word for horse "ma" (third tone) is typically used by chinese language teachers when explaining the four tones. Ma (first tone) could refer to Mother; ma (second tone) may refer to the character used for hemp or numbness; ma (third) for horse; and the final tone of ma is normally only used in cursing or ending a interrogative question. We would practice the tones by saying ma four times, differentiating each tone, hopefully clearly, otherwise you're sort of just saying "Your mother's horse, or your mother is a horse."

Another sight on the road today, the local firemen were in training, I suspect they were being tested on speed. How quickly can they connect the hoses to the firetruck, or perhaps how quickly they could unroll the hose... Unlike Western firemen, however, there's nary a hunk among them. Deep sigh.

Tasted a new fruit, what looked to be a large cherry like fruit in a range of colors from green to orange. They're tart, and texture leans towards apricot/plum, with a pit. I'm not overjoyed by them, even though they are juicy enough. Perhaps they'd go well dipped in salt. The fruit store was also selling bing cherries, I nearly went for them until I saw they were 70 renminmbi per kilo (approximately P500 a kilo). I think I'll wait till the end of May, perhaps the cost will drop a bit more. I bought two kiwis instead.

Am fighting off the urge to go to the nearby supermarket and buy a bag of chips. I'm hoping that I can wait it out till 9 so the store will be closed and I won't want to traipse down four flights of stairs in the dark, with only my small flashlight to guide me.

Watched The Reader on dvd yesterday, and found the young actor playing Michael Berg (David Kross) very appealing and sexy. Yeegads, my cougar instincts!

In other news: Long overdue payment for Filipino veterans is included in the US Department of Defense budget. Took the US government 64 years to make a long drawn out situation right.

So ends May 5, 2009.

Pike Market Peonies

Pike Market Peonies