In other news, I spent a few hours last Sunday indulging in a non-food-related interest: checking out relics of bygone New York. Every year around the holidays the MTA digs into its collection of old train cars that ran way back in the day, and takes them for a few spins on Sundays in December to keep them in working condition. This being my first holiday season in New York in three years, riding a Nostalgia Train was high on my must-do list.
- Twitter - In case you can't get enough of this blog, Appetite for China is now also on Twitter. It's where I post random finds, solicit or dole out cooking advice, and connect with other food- and travel- obsessives.
- Cooking classes - If you're in Beijing this month, learn to cook that delicious Chinese food you've been eating around town. I'm teaching new Regional Chinese cooking classes, including Sichuan and Cantonese, at The Hutong. You can register online or call +86 10 8915 3613.
Okay, maybe "love" is an overstatement.
Not long after I filmed the Donghuamen Night Market segment with CBS (but before it aired), I was contacted by KGW, Portland's NBC affiliate. Stephanie Stricklen, the correspondent, wanted to shoot an odd street food story for the Portland area, and of course, I obliged. (According to an online pole, viewers had insisted she try scorpion.) She was also excited to learn that Jacob is an ex-Oregonian, and thus his appearance in the segment.
I always thought that if I ever tried eating bugs, it would be on a dare, for a ton of money. Then last weekend I found myself at the Donghuamen Night Market with a CBS crew, trying centipedes, silkworms, and other odd critters for a CBS Early Edition segment. (More photos following the video.)
In the past few weeks, international TV stations and reporters have increased tenfold around Beijing. And more than a handful of media outlets have pounced on the fact that the Wangfujing and Donghuamen snack streets sell some of the weirdest things to put in your mouth. Beijing Boyce is even documenting the scorpion-on-a-stick love affair with a running tally of stories this month. Locals and expats may snicker, knowing full well that nobody eats this stuff but tourists. But at some point everyone has been equally awed at seeing the critters for the first time.
CBS correspondent Jeff Glor was supposed to be the one sampling all the "snacks", but I ended up eating my fair share. So if the video wasn't enough, enjoy the pictorial tour, complete with tasting notes. I ate this stuff so you don't have to.
These are the starfish that in the video I said tasted like saltwater eel. They basically took the entire thing and deep-fried it, then whacked it open so we could eat the insides. You can also bite into the shell, like an older gentleman nearby did.
Scorpions were simply crunchy, like the tiny little bits that end up in the bottom of your french fry carton. Didn't try the beetles. Did I mention that nobody in Beijing eats bugs unless they're capturing the moment on film, just to disgust their friends back home?
At the night market, the vendors slice up cow's stomach and boil it with some broth and vegetables. While I didn't have it at the market, I definitely have eaten this at some point in my life (out of sight, out of mind.)
As expected, silkworms were pretty disgusting. Think rotten, overcooked scrambled eggs.
In my opinion, the centipedes were the worst. This was one instance in which the deep-fry-everything-to-get-out-any-bad-taste philosophy failed. It was almost bitter.
A foodie's guide to Beijing that I wrote and photographed is in this month's Theme, a glossy culture and lifestyle magazine out of Brooklyn. As part of their Olympic issue, they have contributions from a bunch of Beijingers, including gallery recs from the art editor of Time Out Beijing and club recs from the sound engineer of D-22.
If you're in Beijing or plan to go soon, check out the guide, complete with street food introductions, Chinese and Western restaurant recommendations, and photos from Appetite for China. There are also a few recommendations from two other correspondents as indicated by **. I don't vouch for the spots personally, but to each his own taste! Bon appétit, or 干杯 (gan bei).
Update: Please note that this blog entry is from 3 years ago. I am no longer in Beijing and back in New York teaching cooking classes. If you would like to see my schedule of classes in New York, please visit Classes & Events. If you are looking for cooking classes in Beijing, visit The Hutong School, where I used to teach and where Chinese and other Asian cuisines are still taught. Thanks!
Want to earn extra kitchen cred for saying you learned Chinese cooking in China? I recently started teaching cooking classes at The Hutong, a workshop center founded by two Aussies. They have hands-on classes each week on different Chinese regional cuisines, tea tasting, qi gong, tai chi, TCM, and just about any other topic you would want to learn in China. Feel free to drop me an e-mail to find out which classes I'll be teaching.
In other news, a couple of articles I wrote on New York (still where I call home) got published this month. In this past Sunday's Boston Globe there is an article in the Travel section on chocolate cafés in New York. As in, not only can you buy truffles and bon bons, but also eat chocolate sandwiches, sip chocolate teas, or quaff chocolate beers.
And in July's US Airways Magazine, I have a short piece called "Literary Nightlife", on bars where you can soak in literary readings and poetry slams.
For this month's That's Beijing, a local English-language magazine, I wrote an article on exploring Beijing's spots that serve absinthe. (I know, it was quite the tough gig.) Absinthe has been in the news back in the States ever since last year, when it was un-banned and subsequently started popping up on many bars' lists. So I decided to explore Beijing's options and found a few places that served not only shots but also tasty cocktails. (It's still not online yet, so perhaps I wil have to make a PDF to link to.)
More self-promotion (after all, this is what food blogs are for): In the feature, the 2007 Restaurant Awards for Beijing, I was on the "panel of experts" and gave my picks for restaurants in cagetories including Best Sichuan, Best Indian, and Best for a Romantic Dinner. Though I do have to point out the wording mistake (not mine) in my profile at the end. In NYC I worked as a pastry cook for several months, and did not go through the years of work it takes to become a pastry chef. To those outside the restaurant world this is a minor word issue, but to those who work in the industry, it's a huge distinction.
Minor grievance aside, this issue is a handy guide for anyone looking for restaurant recommendations in Beijing.
This past Saturday Appetite for China was featured on BlogHer in a nice little write-up in the Food & Drink section. Check out their site for other blogs, on food and just about every other topic, written by women.
In other news, I have been bombarded with work, taxes, and catching up on the news out west. Living inside China I'm getting the full brunt of the state media and citizens' reactions, but as an expat and a current events addict I have the luxury of more resources for information. Maybe when I have more time I'll try to get my thoughts together coherently about this messy situation in a way that won't get me blocked or simply reiterate other Western perspectives.
In the mean time, I'm remembering the delicious momos and gyathuk ngopa from Tsampa, a lovely little restaurant in NYC's East Village that was an oasis of serenity from the more frenetic world outside.