Friday, July 30, 2010

My fifteen minutes

During the train ride to Sunday's protest in Guangzhou, two reporters rode with us to interview Cecilie about her Cantonese teaching, her views on the language, etc. Because I happened to be there, I was interviewed as well. And, lo and behold, here I am in Tuesday's edition of The Hong Kong Economic Times:

I tried to ask the waiter at my favorite restaurant what it said, but he just laughed at me and asked for my autograph. So who knows? All I know is that I'm famous now, so I've got to work on my coke habit and endorsement deals.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Hot vegan (dumplings) OR How To Make Vegan Dim Sum and Amaze Your Wife

While I was off protesting on Sunday, my incredibly handsome husband did something totally out of character (to be honest, anything but working on philosophy papers and drinking coffee is out of character) - he attended a vegan dim sum cooking class. So when I finally stumbled home from the mainland on Monday afternoon, he offered to show off his new skills and make me dinner. I was understandably reluctant, with the Great Black Bean Fire of 2008 still fresh in my mind, but he was so excited it would've been cruel to deny him. So he popped into the kitchen while I hid in the office, surreptitiously wolfing crackers so I wouldn't starve.

BUT, to my surprise, the meal was excellent. The star of the meal was his vegetable dumplings. Here's a how-to guide.

Assemble the ingredients for the filling. Kelly used bok choy, mushrooms, and spring onions*:

Boil the bok choy for a few minutes until cooked through. While you're doing this, sauté the mushrooms in a dry pan until they release their moisture.

Once the bok choy is cooked, chop it finely and put it in cheesecloth (he actually used a laundry bag - the kind you buy for washing delicates) and squeeze the hell out of it to get it as dry as possible.

Your dry bok choy will look something like this:

Assemble all of your ingredients, then begin filling your dumplings (the dumpling wrappers are fairly simple to make, but they're also really cheap so it's just easier to buy them).

Kelly set up an assembly line on the living room floor so he could make dumplings while he watched "True Blood." I wished I'd swept the floor this week. Or month. Or since we moved in. Whatever.

Once the dumplings are assembled, pop them in the rice cooker to steam for a few minutes.

And then you're done!

He served them with a dipping sauce comprised of soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, and a drop of sesame oil, and a scallion pancake that involved so much kneading, rolling, and clouds of flour floating around the apartment that I can't bring myself to write about it.


* Next time, I think I'd throw in some ginger to give it a little bite.

Venice Hotel

I've stayed at several mainland hotels (and posted lots of photos), but the Venice Hotel in Guangzhou has got to be one of my favorites. Cozy and surreal, with heat and A/C that actually work, and lots of other things that don't, it's consistently China.

My room:

The street outside:

The channel I got on my TV:

View from my window of the psychedelic neighboring building, which will surely be torn down soon to make room for yet another blue-glass-fronted soulless skyscraper (colours slightly enhanced, but only slightly):

And because it's a "business hotel", they have important information for the busy man on the go:

and are able to bend the time/space continuum.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I say tomato, the government says get a room

If there's anything I like better than being for something, it's being against something, so when I heard about the protest going on in Guangzhou on Sunday I immediately headed for the mainland.

You see, the Guangzhou government has deemed Cantonese a "useless" language (except, presumably, to those sixty million people that speak it) and has decided to replace all Cantonese-language television programming with Mandarin. They have, however, graciously allowed that Cantonese can still be spoken in private homes.

Chinese message boards lit up with news of this protest and, even though the organizer was arrested the night before, thousands of people showed up to sing, chant, and converse in their mother tongue. Here, chanting "Cantonese! Cantonese!":

The police found themselves greatly outnumbered and when they tried to make some arrests the crowd was so overwhelming that they were forced to back off. Even when they called in reinforcements, they were still exceedingly polite (for mainland police) in dispersing the crowd. Here they are right before they asked me - very nicely - to put my camera away:

Of course, the police may be on their best behavior because they've gotten a wee bit of criticism lately over the number of people who've "accidentally" died while in police custody from causes such as "death by drinking water", "death by picking at acne", or "death by nightmare". I didn't think to mention this to them.

And, as usual, as gweilos speaking Cantonese we were objects of fascination, delight, and multiple cameras (I'm sure photos of me are floating around hundreds of Chinese blogs):

After the rally, sweaty and righteous, we found an excellent Sichuan restaurant (verily, there seems to be no other kind) and feasted kung pao chicken, braised eggplant, japanese tofu, sichuan fries, stir-fried chilies and dry-fried long beans:

Fat and happy and riding a wave of cho die di victory, I returned to the "Venice Hotel" (more on that place later) to collapse. Another successful mainland venture.

One unrelated note: When you go to the movies or to KFC you get a big paper bucket for your popcorn or chicken. When you go to a fast-food restaurant or picnic or festival, you get paper cups for your drinks. I'm sure you've always known that these were made in China, but you didn't know exactly where. Well, today one more of life's little mysteries gets solved for you, because I found the home base. Meet "Disposable Tableware Confluence":

You will sleep well tonight, my friend.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Fried chicken day!

I'm finally back in Hong Kong after another visit to Texas to see the family. It was the typical whirlwind of beer-drinking, river-swimming, and bbq-eating, enhanced this time by my killing a snake, stepping on a scorpion, and being bitten by a feral cat. Despite these minor setbacks, I survived (due in no small part to my copious beer consumption) and am now ready to rest up for a few days before I'm off to Europe for August.

But first, a story about small-town central Texas:

** This post has been deleted because it was potentially offensive. It was incredibly insightful, hilarious, and wildly entertaining. But now you'll never see it. I'm so sad for you! **

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Back in the saddle again. Sort of.

I haven't posted for a while because my laptop, which had been gamely limping along for several months, finally gave up the ghost. First, it refused to charge. I easily fixed that problem by slamming it against the wall. The charger then worked, but all of the keys on the right side of the keyboard would only produce numbers. For example, typing "U" would produce "4." So I gave up completely and brought the thing along with me on my Texas visit so I could blast the hard drive with my dad's shotgun. You know - to protect my privacy.
I'm still in Texas but headed back to Hong Kong tomorrow, where I have access to the husband's new computer and will begin thrilling you all once again.