Thursday, March 24, 2011

Chairman Wang Woks my Broc!

About a week ago, all one could think about--at least if you are just a stone's throw or kungfu-arm's length away from Japan--was the devastating earthquake there, the Tsunami, and of course the then-growing emergency at the Fukushima reactor.

So I meant to write about earthquakes--China has it's own share of earthquakes, we happen to live on a (minor, we hope) fault line ourselves, and Paul of course stays in business because of the never-ending series of disasters around the world.

But, I couldn't do it. Somewhere on this computer is floating a draft blog post about earthquakes -- and one day I'll find it again and finish it off. But not today.

So today's blog post is about another kind of earth-shattering experience: A couple friends and I had a delicious dinner at a cooking school and restaurant downtown Beijing. The place is called Black Sesame Kitchen. When you come to Beijing, I'll take you there.

Here are some mouth-watering pictures:

This was the menu for the evening, I kid you not. Pan fried dumplings, fried shitake and coriander (yum, yum, yum!), flash fried lamb and leeks, red braised eggplant, wok-fried string beans, red braised pork belly, garlic broccoli, cashew kungpao chicken, pine nut and beef stirfry, and candied sweet potatoes with ice cream.

These are the chefs, Chairman Wang and Chef Zhang. They are cooking in the kitchen, just steps away from your table.

Pan-fried pumpkin dumplings. The sauce is just a bit of vinegar with chilies. Delicious!

Did you ever have a Chairman steam your broccoli?

Wok-fried string beans.

More steaming broccoli.

Restaurant owner and author Jen Lin-Liu. Originally from California, Jen joined a Beijing cooking school in 2005. After dinner, I immediately bought her book, Serve the People, A Stir-Fried Journey Through China. If only for the sub-title.

Chairman Wang.

The three musketeers.

Oh, the entrance. I just wanted to show you this place is a bit off-the beaten track. Well, not really, as Jen is locally quite famous. But really - maybe they should have turned on at least one light at the gate - it was a bit hard to find.

My method of finding things in Beijing: I took a picture of the pub on the corner, so I can remember where to search for the restaurant's entrance...

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Giant Buddha's at Datong

Back in February I shared some pictures of our road trip to Datong. You could see some pictures of the highway, but you never arrived with us at the final destination.

So especially for you, today some pictures of Datong and the Yungang Grottoes just outside town.

A pagoda at the entrance to the grottoes.It was bitterly cold, so there weren't many people around and we had the place to ourselves.

Your tour guide for the day.

This guy doesn't look that big...

But compare him to the tiny people in the foreground.

There are a totla of 51,000 statues at the Yungang grottoes. (Many thanks to whomever counted them all.) By the way, the site stems from around 460-525 AD, when the Northern Wei dynasty was in charge and adopted Buddhism as a state religion. In 2001, the Yungang Grottoes were made a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Try not to get this guy against you.

Look at me! (Bottom of statue)

Top of statue.

The outside of the grottoes. (All the Buddha's on the pictures before are inside these caves.)

Two classic guys.

Praying for good fortune and winning soccer matches.

One giant Buddha in the distance, and a little one up front.

Datong in the evening.

Wanna buy some meat?

This road in the middle of Datong wasn't particularly great.

These are possibly the best noodles I have ever had. You get the noodles, choose a topping (for me veggies), and then put some cilantro or other greens on top. Yum! We found out later that Shanxi province noodles (Datong is in Shanxi province) are very famous. For good reason, I would have to say.

Slurping is allowed! Sshhluuuuuhrmmhphm.

Simon loves noodles (but doesn't necessarily show it in this picture) :-)

Datong by night. Good night!

In het Nederlands: Dit is het vervolgverslag van ons tripje naar Datong in februari. By de Yungang grotten zagen we vele kleine, grote en enorme Buddhas. In Datong zelf heb ik de lekkerste noodles ooit gegeten.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Sauerkraut with Chopsticks

After a day of politics, let's go back to some more domestic issues.

Our lovely ayi, ms. Li, who runs the household and makes sure we have clean clothes to wear, does everything (well... not mopping the floor) with chopsticks. She cooks and stirs with chopsticks, and eats rice, noodles, but also things like pizza and cake with chopsticks.

Recently I made a Dutch dish with sauerkraut (zuurkoolstampot uit de oven), which she thought was delicious and of course... ate with chopsticks. (Sauerkraut by the way, turns out to be easily available here, as the Chinese eat it themselves. Suan cai (酸菜, translated as sour cabbage, or zure kool) is what it is called. Easy peasy!

In het Nederlands: De foto spreekt misschien al voor zich: Onze hulp in huis, de ayi zoals dat hier heet, kookt, roert en eet altijd met stokjes. Zelfs de zuurkoolstampot die ik gemaakt had werd met stokjes naar binnen "gelepeld". Chinezen eten ook zuurkool (suan cai) dus het is altijd makkelijk te vinden.

Monday, March 7, 2011

China's State of the Union

Today I've got some interesting news for you. Saturday morning, Paul went to Tiananmen Square (het Plein van de Hemelse Vrede) to hear in person from the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao what the government is planning to work on the next five years.

Wen Jiabao presented the famous "12th five-year plan" during the opening ceremony of the National People's Congress, which was held at the Great Hall of the People, just steps away from the Forbidden City. This is kind of like the State of the Union in the U.S. or Prinsjesdag in The Netherlands: an occassion for the government to present how things are going (great, lots of progress) and what they are going to be focussing on over the next couple of years (continuing the great work and tackling new complex and urgent problems).

According to the China Daily, "[n]early 3,000 National People's Congress (NPC) deputies from across the country, and more than 2,000 members of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the top political advisory body, are present in the Great Hall of the People at the opening meeting of the Fourth Session of the 11th NPC."

Well, them, and a Paul from The Netherlands. (Paul of course got invited through his work.)

The event was also in the news everywhere. On the NOS Website: China vreest onrust door inflatie; and in the Washington Post: Chinese parliament opens with grand pledges. You can also read the full report at the Wall Street Journal's blog on China.

Here are some pictures:

Traffic has never been this quiet on the 2nd ring road (normally a parking lot). The police was managing traffic to make sure the important visitors could easily make it to Tiananmen Square.

Arriving at Tiananmen Square with the other VIPs.


Inside the Great Hall of the People. (The Grote Hal van het Volk.)

The Chinese emblem. The five stars - shining above Tiananmen, the Gate of Heavenly Peace - symbolize the unity of the Chinese people under the leadership of the Communist Party. If you look carefully, you can spot the grain (representing the peasants) and the cogwheel (representing the working class).

Wen Jiabao, in case you missed him in the crowd.

Great view.

The attentive audience.

Important information.

The five-year plan is presented.

Streaming out of the Great Hall of the People.

Firetrucks at the ready.

Outside the Great Hall of the People, back on Tiananmen Square.

In het Nederlands: Paul mocht afgelopen zaterdag aanwezig zijn bij de opening van het Nationaal Volkscongres in de Grote Hal van het Volk in het hartje van Beijing. Premier Wen Jiabao presenteerde het werkverslag van de regering en kondigde aan waar men de komende vijf jaar aan gaat werken. Dat meerjarenplan is het "Twaalfde vijf-jaren plan" voor China, en er is met smart op gewacht want het maakt nogal uit voor de rest van de wereld wat voor belissingen China maakt op het gebied van financien, werkgelegenheid en energiegebruik. Dit artikeltje op de NOS Website, Volkscongres: hoe en wat, geeft een (klein) beetje meer informatie over het Volkscongres.