The debate continues: Tianjin’s Jianbing Guozi (天津煎饼果子) Take II


Who gets claim to the (now) world famous jianbing? This Northern Chinese classic is now sold in LA, New York, Chicago and I even saw one cart in Christchurch, New Zealand.  In my opinion these fusion versions with chicken (?) peking duck (?) cheese (?) can’t compete with the originals.  But what is the original? Food historians claim Shandong as the home of jianbing, invented to feed hungry soldiers, who used their iron shields as the first crepe griddles. Shandong-style bing are enormous and the batter is rendered thin and very crisp. Beijing is where I first came to know and love this breakfast delight, and indeed it was the inspiration for Beijing Haochi and our epic 4-part jianbing recipe. Beijing’s soft, chewy mung bean skin and greasy crisp baocui layer just says “home” to me and I remain loyal.  Tianjin has yet another version, and I have to say, neither Shandong nor Beijing has a thing on Tianjian jianbing guozi when it comes to sheer heft and sticking power – I do believe it can serve as breakfast, lunch and dinner.  After all, it’s a giant bean-based crepe stuffed with eggs and two salty fried cruellers. Gotta love it.  And I did, during my first visit to the great port of Tianjin (after 7 years in China, I finally made it!). Continue reading

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You’ve Stollen My Heart: Recipe for Old-School Dresden Fruitcake (Schhtollen!)


I’m not quite sure how I got fixated on making a traditional (i.e. rum-laced and patiently-aged) German Stollen, but



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Tell someone you love them (aka More things to do with fruit)

IMG_0467Why send a boring old valentine (or these days, text a beating-heart emoji), when you can give the gift of love AND vitamins? For 10RMB, you too can give your sweetheart a “Like You” apple complete with shapely His & Her silhouettes. I ♥ Markets.

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Jam of Immortality! Enjoying seasonal peachy abundance


While I have grumbled about the limited selections in the local markets, one thing I always appreciate about Beijing is the abundance of seasonal produce. Spring Summer or Fall, whenever there is a big harvest of a fruit, sales spill over into the backs of trucks parked on street corners, or stacked in crates along the hutong alleys.  Peaches, or taozi 桃子, have a special place in the hearts of the Chinese – peaches are a symbol of immortality, peach blossoms form a bride’s bouquet, and the peach tree is the tree of life.  The pile upon piles of them on the streets at harvest time bring a much-needed blush of color to Beijing’s grey, and I’m always tempted to buy them by the bushel. This year I was inspired by my neighbouring coffee/snack/art shop WuJin’s (五金) many homemade jams to make a quick Peach Rosemary jam. Continue reading

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Making a new friend: Green bean jianbing (绿豆煎饼)

greenbean jianbing

In the years since I’ve lived in Beijing, I’ve seen many new variations on the classic Beijing jianbing.  There is the purple glutinous rice version (more chewy and delightfully lavender), and there are the new-fangled monster jianbings, which weigh in at at least 1 kilo and include – I kid you not – coleslaw, bacon, kebab meat, and cheese.  Oh, and a slathering of thousand island dressing just to make it that much more vomit-inducing.  It has me thinking back fondly to the days when the craziest thing that happened to jianbings was when foreign students brought slices Kraft singles cheese to the little carts and asked the JB craftsman to create pseudo-grilled cheeses.

So I’m pleased to say I found a new love in the green bean jianbing. The batter is a pale creamy hospital green, and after cooking, it sizzles up into a pea-green bundle of joy. The flavor of the green bean is mild, the batter a little less dense, and the trimmings are classic. However, I have to admit I love them mainly because hey, if it’s green, its finally a healthy breakfast option right?

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A New Dumpling (jiaozi 饺子) for A New Year

Happy Year of the Goat/Ram/Sheep! You can’t live in Beijing and not live for (or at least on) dumplings.  My first meal upon moving here five years ago was at Xian Lao Man for dumplings, and I still live spitting distance from there, not by accident.  And there is no better time than Chinese New Year to wrap up these little packets of goodness to share with family and friends – and as an expat for oh-so-long, your friends are your family.  This year the crack jiaozi (see past post for recipe) made a showing, but I also created my own – a cabbage, peanut, and Yunnan ham concoction. Continue reading

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Chinese Kettle Corn: Hot or Not?


While the end is in sight, Beijing’s still in the midst of winter chill, and during the Chinese New Year, the streets are filled with snacks of all sorts.  I’ve sampled and savoured freshly roasted chestnuts, sticky date and chestnut steamed cakes, and nothing keeps your hands warm and belly happy like a coal-roasted sweet potato.  The other day though, a new snack showed up on my corner, looking like wacky spun foam insulation and smelling like … well, kettle corn! Continue reading

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Eating Cantonese anew in new Canton (aka Vancouver)

vancouver chinese

It’s no secret that Vancouver has some of the world’s best Cantonese food.  Mass migration from Hong Kong and Southern China in the last few decades, coupled with a teaming supply of fresh seafood and local produce, makes it a mecca for authentic (and massively portioned) Cantonese food. It certainly made living in Vancouver more enjoyable for my grandparents when they immigrated, and the whole slew of aunts and uncles that followed, not to mention my own pa.  It’s my comfort food, and while I’ll always first crave a charsiu and siuyuk fan(roast pork rice 叉燒饭, 燒肉饭)it’s been a while since I’ve had new dishes that tickled my tastebuds and made me appreciate afresh the delicacy of Cantonese cuisine. Continue reading

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Recipe: Stir-fried greens from harvest to table (炒青菜)


In my last post, I chronicled the birth of my little slice of hutong heaven (aka my container garden).  A month later, we had our first harvest of a crop of tender leafy bak choi 白菜 and you cai 油菜.  Now, these were tender and slender young things, unlike the chunkier, stouter variety we see in the market stalls.  Sure, a number of leaves were shot through with holes where bugs feasted before us, and more than one little slug was nestled inside the white stems, but it was oh-so-satisfying to harvest these pesticide-free greens to fry them up and taste chlorophyl and sunshine – with a dash of salt.    Continue reading

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Farming in the Skies: Container gardening in the hutongs

imageIn this grey city, I find myself longing for my own patch of greenery and for years have kept as many pots and pans of green plants as I could squeeze into my flat. But in the face of China’s food safety fears, why not try a little backyard farming? Novel, greenery that’s not just ornamental, but that you can eat.  Thus armed with the prospect of growing some luscious little cherry tomatoes and pesticide-free greens to munch on, we rolled up our sleeves, I conquered my fear of heights (no rails up here after all) and transformed my tiny rooftop into a container garden. Continue reading

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