Category Archives: Food & Drink

Behind the Scenes with the Bees

Guest Editor

As the camera operator on the shoot in Sichuan, this week’s film holds a very special place in my heart.

Fengtongzhai is a rural village four hours outside of Chengdu. At the time of filming, all the roads were under construction, and the only way for us to reach the village was bypublic transport. We took the coach to our hotel in Ya’an, then took another coach to Baoxing County, and THEN took a small bus up the mountains to the village.  All together, it added up to a 10-hour journey. Luckily, we were pretty much asleep the whole way.unnamed-2

After a long and exhausting journey, I was ready for a rest. However, when we arrived, the crew and I were so amazed by the beautiful nature and the hospitable farmers in the village that I perked right up. It was a completely different world for a city girl like me.

We stayed in the village for 4 days, and I still consider it to be my most memorable shoot. Some of the trickier moments for me include trying to work out how to charge the batteries for the camera when we could only get power from 8pm-11pm, waking up to the roosters’ “cock-a-doodle-do”, holding a beehive whilst trying to find the queen bee and even sharing the toilet with some pigs.

As well as all this, my highlights include having breakfast on the street whilst waiting for a timelapse shot, being offered “honey alcohol” to drink by the farmers daily, watching the sunrise and sunset surrounded by the beautiful mountains and forest and detoxing from the internet! Throughout all of this, I loved communicating with the locals and sampling local food. It was such an amazing experience and I feel so lucky that we conquered the challenge and made our way there. I think it is a great film, but it was also a precious life experience for me.

I still remember Chen Yanyu’s smile as he talked about how much he likes his bees. He earns just enough to live, and he doesn’t demand a lot from life. All he cares about and wants to do is to take care of his hardworking babies. Watching him was probably my favorite moment of the whole trip!

Can you be a Vegan in China?

News and Travel editor

Is it possible to be a Vegan in China? You may be travelling to China for the first time and worried about your options, or could just be curious to know if it’s possible. It’s true that it can be a challenge to maintain a Vegan diet on your trip to China, but it is definitely possible and we’ve got a lot of tips to help.

How to tell people you are a vegan

The first thing you need to know is how to tell other people that you are a Vegan. There is no direct translation, which can be a bit frightening! However, don’t panic. What is often recommended instead is the phrase ‘Wǒ chī sù’, meaning ‘I eat vegetables’. Check out the pronunciation here.

What to watch out for

In China, most cooking stocks are made from meat, and meat is added to just about everything.

When you’re eating out, be aware that the further away you venture from tourist hotspots, the less likely you are to find English translations on the menu. In a similar vein, being in a big city means that vegetarian restaurants and cafes are more frequently available, such as this fine-dining restaurant in Beijing.

Don’t assume that most Buddhists in China are Vegan or Vegetarian. Some temples DO have Vegetarian restaurants attached but certainly not all.

Make sure to bring snacks on Chinese Airlines, as you’re unlikely to be offered a Vegan option on the plane.

Keep an eye out for…

Fruits and Vegetables

We could be here all day, so I’ll just mention a few of my favourites. Star fruit, lychees, rambutan, jackfruit and baked sweet corn are all delicious and easily available from markets and street food vendors.

Tofu

Tofu needs a whole blog to itself, as it’s so versatile and a staple in the diet of Chinese vegans and non-vegans alike.The Chinese have been cooking with Tofu since the Han dynasty, 2,000 years ago. Enjoy it crispy and fried, spicy Szechuan-Style, or Kung-Pao style with rice and vegetables.

You Tiao/Dough Sticks

Delicious long golden-brown deep-fried strips of dough served with Soy milk. Just be sure to check what the strips are fried in before tucking in!

Hot pot

The varieties here are infinite. Of course, many varieties of hot pot do contain meat and meat stocks – but there are so many veggie-filled vegan examples to satisfy even the pickiest taste-buds. Get it hot and spicy or keep things mild – it’s up to you! At a hot pot restaurant, you order the ingredients and cook it all yourself in a boiling broth at the table. Make sure to specify that you need vegetable stock, and it becomes a great way to guarantee that no animal-based ingredients managed to sneak in.

Congee

A silky rice porridge that is a breakfast staple in Chinese homes. Have it plain with some side dishes, or add vegetables like mushrooms, edamame, and pak choi. In restaurants, sweet versions are often the safest bet for a Vegan dish.

Noodles

Noodles are a great option, as you can point at what vegetables you would like with them. However, be aware that often the soup they will be served in is Chicken or Beef. If you want to make noodles for yourself, check out this video.

Spring Rolls

A personal favourite of mine, I couldn’t bare to leave them off the list. Crispy, packed with vegetables and dipped into a sweet-chilli sauce is how I like them.

Green Pea Pudding

The only dessert on the list, this traditional sweet pudding is eaten like candy with toothpicks or served with afternoon tea. Also known as Pea Cubes or Pea Jelly Squares.

Want to read more?

For more advice on Veganism in China, check out these bloggers:
Peacefull Dumpling
Liuzhou Laowai
Heart of a Vagabond

Do you have any more recommendations that I left off this list? Let me know in the comments below!

 

 

How to haggle in China

News and Travel Editor

Haggling for the first time in China can seem a bit daunting. Remember, it is expected by vendors, so there’s no need to feel awkward or embarrassed. With these tips, you’ll be ready and prepared to hit the markets, just like Hyper-Trypsy in today’s video.

When Can I Haggle?

  • It’s important to know when to haggle and when not to.
  • Haggling is a big part of shopping in China, but it is not acceptable everywhere. You should always barter with street vendors, at open air markets and in small, independent shops.
  • In large shops or chain stores, department stores or supermarkets it is not acceptable to haggle.
  • You cannot usually negotiate on price in restaurants, the only exception is if you are in a large group.

How do I prepare?

  • Before you start haggling, walk around the market/store and do some mental price comparisons.
  • Have a look at different stalls where you can buy similar items – being able to say that you can buy the same thing for less nearby will help you get the price down.
  • Remember that the marked prices may be well above the seller’s actual minimum price.
  • Make sure you’ve got small denomination notes and plenty of change.
  • Set yourself a limit of how much you’re willing to spend

How do I haggle?

  • Don’t be afraid to start low – far below what you’re actually willing to play. The vendor may act insulted, but don’t worry – it’s all part of the drama of the process.
  • Act like you’re not bothered. This is a top tip, the keener you are, the more resistant a seller will be to lower the price. If they think you’re definitely going to take it, they’ll be less inclined to lower the price to tempt you.
  • Don’t be afraid to walk away. If the price is still too high for you, just leave. Hopefully, the seller will call you back to negotiate further. If not, just try somewhere else!
  • Use a calculator to show the vendor how much you are offering if they cannot understand you. Most vendors always have one handy for this exact purpose.
  • What surprised me the first time I was in a small Chinese market was that, in China, people count on their hands differently from in Europe. Have a look at the illustration below to familbbce4c46525b643b425632e30a09b1f6

What do I say?

Knowing a little local language goes a long way and sets you apart from other tourists. Try memorising these four phrases to help you haggle.

  • Duō shǎo qián? – how much money.
  • Jià gé – price, cost.
  • Tài gui le! – too expensive!
  • Pian Yi Dian – Make it cheaper

If you want to see travel and tech blogger HyperTrypsy having a go at haggling for Coco’s Kitchen, check out the video below. If you have any questions or any top tips for haggling in China, let us know in the comments!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAKL3PdXWMc

A Connoisseur’s Guide to Chinese Tea

News and Travel Editor

There are so many different types of Chinese tea it can be hard to know where to start and what to order! To help navigate your taste buds through this diverse world, have a read of this first timer’s guide to Chinese tea.

 

Iron Goddess 

800px-Tieguanyin2Comes from… Anxi, Fujian Province

Tastes like… This Oolong tea variation is named after the Chinese Goddess of mercy Guanyin. It tastes slightly different depending on the time of year, with the most popular being the sweet and fruity taste of the Spring yields.

 

Big Red Robe 

Comes from… Northern FujianDa_Hong_Pao_Oolong_tea_leaf_close

Tastes like… This full and floral Oolong tea has a taste that lingers in your

mouth after drinking. The legend goes that drinking this tea cured the mother of a Ming Dynasty Emperor, so he sent red robes to cloak the bushes that it came from. This prestigious variety of tea is incredibly expensive, worth over a $1m/£600,000 per kilogram! There are cheaper varieties grown from the cuttings of the original plants, if you want a taste without breaking the bank.

 

Pu’er

Xiaguan_1992_tuo_cha

Comes from…Yunnan Province

Tastes like…A dark, fermented tea, Pu’er is named after Puer city in Yunnan

It is commonly believed that this tea tastes more delicious the longer it is left to

age. The tea is pressed into shapes such as bricks, balls or discs and has a deep

earthy flavour.

 

Snail Spring 

urlComes from… Dongting Mountains, Jiangsu Province

Tastes like… Dongting Biluochun is named after the mountains on which it grows, and its snail-shaped rolled leaves. A light, refreshing green tea!

 

Dragon Well 

Comes from… Longjing village, Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province800px-Xi_Hu_Longjing_Tea_01

Tastes like… This hand-produced green tea literally translates as ‘Dragon Well tea’ after a Well close to Longjing Village. Dragon Well gets it name because rain falling on its surface supposedly creates a twisting boundary in the well water, which looks like a moving dragon! The flat pan-roasted leaves taste slightly sweet, mellow and grassy. If you want to really look like you know what you’re doing, brew in a Yixing clay teapot!

 

White Peony 

Comes from… Fujian Province800px-Baimudan.JPG

Tastes like...This white tea is sweet and floral! You can tell if it’s good stuff by the proportion of long, furry buds. The more of these tiny hairs floating in the water – the better the tea! Yum?

 

Lapsang Souchong 

Comes from… Wuji Mountain, Fujian Province

Tastes like… This black tea is dried over a pine fire, giving it a deep and smoky flavour! The story of this drying process goes that the tea was created during the Qing era when the passage of armies delayed the annual drying of the tealeaves in the Wuyi Mountain. To catch up for lost time, the tea producers sped up the process by drying tealeaves over fires of local pines!

800px-JacksonsLapsangSouchong_low

Once you’ve made up your mind, watch how to brew the perfect cup: