Archives for category: Food

My life is complete. Today Benoît and I went over to our favorite restaurant (known by us as the 口香牛肉 mouth-fragrant beef restaurant) well before dinnertime to learn the secrets of the trade, something I had been hoping to do since we first tasted the dish. Adding urgency to the matter (besides leaving in two days) was that the last two times we had been there we had been shocked to find that they changed their recipes for many of their dishes (including 口香牛肉 and 糖醋里几 sweet & sour pork) much to their detriment (including what at the time we guessed was ketchup into the latter and today verified). So we had made clear the last time we were there that we wanted to learn the old recipes for the dishes.

We headed over there at 4pm, me arriving first on bike. Shared some of Hangzhou’s famous Dragon Well tea with the owner 王春元 Wang Chunyuan as we waited for Benoît. After he arrived we drank and chatted some more before heading to the kitchen to get started.

There were three cooks in the kitchen, all younger than us, one preparer, one cooker, one finisher. Sometimes the owner helps out if there are many customers. Today they were going to prepare five dishes for us, as Fabrizio, Giacomo, and Patrizia were going to come later to share in the food. The dishes were: 口香牛肉 mouth-fragrant beef, 芝麻土豆丝 sesame potato snippers, 农家炒粉丝 peasant pan-fried noodles, 糖醋里几 sweet & sour pork, and 地三鲜 earth's three fresh foods (eggplant, potato, red/green pepper). They cooked the last one because he had asked us what we eat when we're not at his restaurant and we had replied that we sometimes go to the northeastern restaurant 东北菜 nearby and get 地三鲜. Since here they don't cook it in a northeast style, it's not really similar (= as good) but we're not going to say no.

They started with the 芝麻土豆丝, with the preparer cutting them taters. The owner is to the right.

Special cutting technique to get them in snipper form.


Custard powder added to give the potato a more yellow color, and sesames mixed in.


Cooking commences, with the wok at around 60-70 °C. Cooking is fast.

The King of Dishes, 口香牛肉, is begun. The owner actually invented the dish himself, as he did the sesame potato snippers. We believe him, as we’ve never seen them anywhere else.

Spring/green onion, garlic, ginger.

The beef meat. After cutting it they rub a little salt and ??? (oil starch powder?) on it. See below.


Then they roll the meat in 面包糠 (dumpling flakes). See below.

Large, flaky, no flavor. Acts like bread crumbs.

Our three cooks. The cook in the middle really liked WWE… I don’t really know much about it post-Hulk Hogan and Stretch Armstrong.

The 口香牛肉 is continued with the breaking of pre-made, uncooked rice cakes (called 宫廷锅巴).

An amazing mixture of peanuts and not-spicy pepper chunks (a little oily too) is also added (called 香辣酥).

Then the 口香牛肉 cooking begins.

The rice cakes are quickly cooked so that they’re ‘popped’ / leaven / whatever rice become, then taken out.

The meat is then cooked, then the rest of the pieces of the dish are added to it (the rice cakes, the peanut-pepper mixture, the spring onion & garlic & ginger, spices abound).

Some spice.


Two done so far.

The 糖醋里几 (s&s pork), 农家炒粉丝 (noodles), and 地三鲜 (eggplant, taters, peppers) in counter-clockwise order from bottom waiting to be cooked.

Next up is 糖醋里几 (sweet&sour pork). The pork is pre-covered/cooked in the same 油生粉 (oil starch powder?) that the 口香牛肉 meat was rubbed with but not cooked.

One of the sauces they add to it. So much better than ketchup…

At work. Giaocomo, Patrizia, and Fabrizio came a bit before the food was ready, so got to join in.



Why I’m never actually going to be able to recreate this.


Then the 地三鲜 and 农家炒粉丝, but those are pretty easy / not as important.



We clapped every time a dish was finished, it was a very enjoyable time.

But more enjoyable was the eatin’




With the food we got our usual free bottle of 白酒 baijiu, really strong (~56%) clear liquor. Blarghlk. That’s the sound I can’t help but make every time I drink some.

The whole crew. The owners are in front (the wife woke up part of the way through us cooking, and hung around in her sleeping clothes… took some effort to get her in the photo).

Goodbye 口香牛肉 place! Goodbye awesome owners! We’ll miss you!

How to Make Heaven; A Dinner was originally published on Travellerspoint.

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It’d been a while since I’ve been to Grandma’s Kitchen 外婆家 and leaving time’s getting closer, so I invited friends to a dinner there on Thursday. It was also a belated birthday dinner since I couldn’t arrange it back then because of the trip to Shanghai, and then heading out to Korea. They don’t take reservations, so I arrived an hour and a half before the scheduled 7pm eatin’ time to get a number and wait. Filled out my ‘add additional visa pages to passport’ application, drank a ginger ale I brought.

We got an intimate table (= bit too small) but it worked out.

From right to left:

Dasha (Ukrainian), Victor (Russian)

Fabrizio (Italian), Fabian (Austrian), Nelleke (Nellie, Dutch), (Spanish)

Jessica (Italian), Annunziata (Titi, Italian)

Titi, Benoît (Belgian)

Patrizia (Italian), Laurie


After filling ourselves to the brim with food and drink, we headed over to the Spicy Frog Bar next to Maya Bar to watch the Italy vs. Slovakia game in the drippy rain.

Suffice to say the Italians were patriotic, singing the national anthem with gusto.
(courtesy of Fabian)

It was a good game, but Italy followed France’s path out of the World Cup (albeit with much more respectful scores).

(courtesy of Fabian, I didn’t think it would be nice to take pictures then…)

Afterward we drank and ate ’til the night was old, me, Victor, and Benoît. They drank very strong rum and cokes, I ginger ale.

Benoît REALLY LIKED the street food I got for him. He was… slightly… drunk.

Victor demanded a photo of me and Benoît drinking rum and cokes.

I acquiesced.

At around 2am we loaded up on street food, took a taxi one block to the dorm (Benoît’s decision), and then joined the Japanese, Ask (Dane), and Robert in my classmate 山下’s room to watch the Japan vs. Denmark game. Lots of snacks and good times were had, and it was a very nice game. Then we started watching the following game, and at some point we all headed to bed around 5am with light coming in through the curtains.

A Farewell Dinner and Futbol was originally published on Travellerspoint.

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A large contingent of our class had a farewell dinner for one of our classmates, 东梅 Dongmei, a Thai girl who had to return home early for school. We ate at a Korean restaurant, whetting my appetite for potential future Korean eatings.

From right to left:


Robert (USAn), Laurie (Austrian), 美如 (Thai)


the lady of the evening 东梅


Khanzada (Kazakh), 金城 (Thai)


乔诘 (Japanese), 美智 (Korean), 愉庆 (Korean), 山下 (Japanese)


山下 (Japanese), 多惠 (Korean), Cindy (Indonesian)


Very tasty food. Chicken and large cylindrical noodles is a spicy red sauce cooked at the table. Plethora of side dishes.

A Bit of a Farewell Class Dinner was originally published on Travellerspoint.

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For listening & speaking class today we talked about how to make a traditional food item from our country of origin. I decided to do the immortal PB&J sandwich, which allowed me to make a dozen or so little PB&J sammiches for my classmates and teacher.

It's cute, but for most people a peanut butter and jelly sandvich is weird creation: both my Italian and the Russian friends here don't understand the appeal of peanut butter, and a Thai classmate asked if you can add cheese to a PB&J. I talked a little about the different schools of thought regarding the peanut butter used (smooth or crunchy), the variety of jams/preserves at your disposal, crust vs. no crust, the type of bread, even whether it's diagonal or straight cut.

In the course of my extensive research on the matter (wikipedia) I found a study that found the average American up to the end of high school would eat around 1500 PBJs. My classmates expressed surprise when I replied to a question on whether Americans eat hamburgers every day with a no.


whole wheat
straight cut

Sammiges was originally published on Travellerspoint.

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