In Beijing there are a lot of small tea shops where they sell an endless range of fragrant smelling teas. You can sit down and have a tasting session in the style of a Chinese tea ceremony. I love tea and I drink it all day long, so I know I’ll be buying a couple of my favorite teas before I go back to the Netherlands.
During the big baking session a couple of weeks before my departure we made these aromatic Jasmin cookies. I was a little sceptical at first, so I placed the cookies on a plate in the kitchen for my housemates to eat them. Turned out I actually loved the combination of a crisp buttery cookie with a non-overpowering taste of Jasmin tea and I ended up finishing the whole plate.
I can’t really get excited to using the kitchen in my dorm building. The top of the cabinets is clean and there is enough space, but these might be the only positive things you can say about this kitchen. That’s why I bought my own little hot plate for my own room today, so from now on I’ll be able to make easy and quick things like a fried egg or a grilled cheese sandwich.
Oh how I have been craving Western food. Chinese food is great; it’s delicious, it’s comforting and there is a lot of variation in the cuisine. But despite my love for Chinese food I’ve been secretly dreaming about Western food late at night. A plate of pasta carbonara or a slice of rustic sourdough bread topped with Dutch cheese have made regular appearances in my dreams.
Yesterday was my lucky night as we found ourselves getting dinner at a Western restaurant and as you can see in the pictures I had quite a decent meal. Actually this pizza was my friends’, when my pizza arrived I couldn’t wait to dig in so I forgot to make a picture. It was the first decent Western meal I had since I left the Netherlands and it tasted goood – it was a total jizz in the pants dinner. Maybe a pizza and a chocolate cake with ice cream as dessert isn’t the most spectacular meal ever, but it sure felt like one.
Before I left I had all these expectations – which can also be called worries – of what my life would be like here in Beijing. I worried about my classes being too difficult, about my lacking Chinese language skills, about making new friends and about everything else you can possibly worry about – luckily non of these worries keep me up at night any more. The only thing that I didn’t worry about was the food: I knew I would be in the luxurious position of having multiple delicious meals a day. This became reality and every time I’m about to eat something I get really excited cause I know it will be sooo good. Another thing I expected was that I would be eating a lot of Peking Duck 北京烤鸭 and that might be the only food-expectation that, unfortunately, didn’t happen, yet. I’ve been here for one and a half months and I haven’t had the dish where Beijing is so famous for. So for next week I think I’ll be focussing on getting myself some Peking Duck.
Even though I didn’t have the Peking Duck dish, I did eat some duck. We’ve made this incredibly delicious and succulent braised duck in one of the cooking classes. It’s not al all difficult to make, the only thing you’ll need is patience to let the duck braise for an hour (or more) and the result will be all worth it.
Beijing is notoriously known for its pollution and smog filled skies. When my plane was about to land at Beijing airport I was trying to look out the windows to catch some glimpses of the city. Cause I couldn’t see a thing I thought we were still in the air when all of a sudden the plane landed on the ground. Since Beijing welcomed me with smog I was totally prepared to have smog all day, every day. I don’t know if the last couple of weeks have been exceptional or that it’s always the case in post-summer time, but we’ve been having a lot of clear blue skies. Just to give an idea how smoggy it can get: here are two pictures of the street just outside my campus (on the left you can see the beginning of a road leading to our East Gate). I took the pictures on different days, but with the same amazing camera (my iPhone) and I haven’t edited the pictures in a single way. It’s a good thing I never smoked, so now Beijing air can mess up my lungs in the next two years.
Yesterday was one of my lucky days: my day started with an awesome trip to a local Chinese market and then it got even better with two interesting, fun and delicious Chinese cooking classes. In the morning class we learned how to make a chicken, a duck, a fish and a broccoli dish. In the afternoon class we learned how to make dumplings and how to make these incredibly delicious noodles. Not only were the classes really fun, but the setting was just amazing, since the classes were held in a hutong (traditional courtyard houses).
Making these noodles is even easier than making home-made pasta, since the only ingredients you’ll need for the dough are flour, salt and water. It probably will take some practice to get really comfortable making them for a weekday night, but it’s a thing I definitely see myself doing in the future – when I’ll be in the lucky position of having a kitchen to my disposal that is. But until then I’ll just have to enjoy all the noodles in the restaurants and street stalls here in Beijing.
*For those of you who wonder if I really am in Beijing after seeing this Dutch-style apron – don’t, I really am in Beijing.
It’s not that I haven’t been posting about the food that I’m eating that much because the food is no good, it’s just that we never ever cook here, so going out for food isn’t that special anymore. I still intensely enjoy every single meal I’m eating, but I always forget to make some pictures. Moreover, most of the times we are so hungry that we immediately dive in when the food appears on the table that there are no picture opportunities left.
One of the places where we had dinner this week was at this place which we lovingly call “the back alley place” and where we’ve been coming at least a couple of times a week. Since I cannot read all the dishes on the menu I have to guess a lot, but luckily with some help from the lady of the restaurant we end up having good food every time we go there. One of our favorite dishes is the big pile of Chinese style-French fries in the picture above. The dish is called 香辣土豆丝, translatable as fragrant spicy shredded potato and it basically consists of deep-fried very thin potato fries with big pieces of chilli and coriander. Even though the chillies really aren’t that hot they always end up being left behind on the plate.
The food on the picture was not all we had for dinner, but on the picture you can see some pork dumplings 水饺, really spicy dan dan noodles 担担面 and big bottles of Chinese beer. The hairy German arms weren’t on the menu.
*I’ve booked two full days of cooking classes in next weeks holiday, so I’ll definitely be posting about the dishes that I’ll be learning there.