Snakes. Why’d it have to be snakes??

So we don’t discuss work topics very often on here but I did have a pretty big change in my role earlier this year. I moved over to managing one of our teams as my big project finished with The Company. It wasn’t a huge adjustment as I was still working with many of the same colleagues. The biggest change came as I actually have a direct line management role now. One of the first things I wanted to do was have a team building activity (always especially popular in China).

I wanted to do something that would give both a Chinese and a Western feeling to the night. So, we decided to go bowling (which they have in China but which is not common) and then go to a Chinese restaurant. And I delegated the restaurant choosing to one of my team members. Who then surprised me (and most of my team) by sending the invitation. To a famous local restaurant. That specializes in…

Did you remember the post title?

Yep. Snakes.

Now I don’t like snakes. I like spiders less. But snakes are definitely top five in my least popular animal book. I’m not sure why but the concept of eating them didn’t make it seem any better. I’m not the only one a little shocked by the choice (one of the girls on my team seemed particularly disturbed). I announced that we would still all go to this restaurant but no one had to eat snake if they didn’t want to.

So we get there and order. And we find out that each order of snake has just enough pieces for everyone to get one (10, including one lady that had to leave after our bowling). Oh boy. They bring it out and it doesn’t look so bad actually as they fry it. CFER and I are from the south (I’m adopted southerner anyway) and everything there is fried so I figure, why not, and dig in.

And find out there is one very good reason most people don’t eat snakes. They’re all bones!! It actually didn’t taste so bad, just was too hard to eat…So I finish the snake. Now, normally this is the end of the story, right? Not a chance – this is where it really starts to get good…

You see, I realize that there’s a quite engaging conversation going on between the servers and a few of my team members. They inform me that what we just ate is actually not the most important part of the snake. The real thing that you are supposed to do in China, after eating a snake, is to drink two things. Can you guess what they are? Here’s the picture below to help.


If you said:

1) Snake blood
2) Snake gallbladder juice

Congratulations, you’re ready to move to China!


Grocery Shopping in Shenyang… American style.

I’ve told you before about the local markets I like to buy meat and produce from, but what if you need cheese, bread, and canned goods? These items are not commonly used in Chinese cooking, but fortunately, Shenyang has some nice new grocery stores to fill that import food need.

Yoo Hoo:

  This is the grocery store in the basement of the Richgate Mall, beside the Lexington Hotel. It’s just down the street from the North Train Station so you can even get here on the Shenyang Subway line 2 (Bei Zhan stop.) This place reminds me of a Whole Foods Market. They carry only import goods from all over the world. They have a great cheese and deli section. And sometimes avocados in the produce section! It’s pricey, but if you really need a guacamole fix, sometimes it’s worth it.


This store opened about a year ago in the new MixC mall (Wan Xiang Cheng) on Qingnian Street just north of Zhanlanguan (Exhibition Hall) also accessible on Subway Line 2 (zhanlanguan stop). There is an exit from the metro that takes you directly into the basement of the MixC and right past Starbucks toward Olé. It’s similar to YooHoo but doesn’t have quite the selection they do. They are comparable on price, but Ole is easier to get to so it’s good for a quick trip. I usually buy ciabatta bread, and sometimes cheese here. They also have the best bacon in town.

Riverside Market (aka. The Little Store.)

This place was like a treasure chest and Christmas all rolled up into one when I was first introduced to it. Keep in mind, the above 2 grocery stores didn’t open for six months and a year after we arrived so this little place was IT for the good stuff.

It’s actually still a like a weekly treasure hunt because their stock changes frequently and you never know what’s going to arrive. There’s a Shenyang expat rule you better learn fast or you’ll be frequently disappointed, if there is something you see that you think you might want in the future, buy it. immediately. And probably buy several. Don’t wait and plan to come back tomorrow. It WILL be gone. And there’s a good chance you won’t see it again for months. Or maybe ever.

The is the place to find the American comfort foods. Breakfast sausage, Doritos, Tortilla chips and salsa, Kraft Mac & Cheese. Last week, they even had frozen waffles.


This store has been in Shenyang for several years. French owned, it is similar to Wal-mart in the US. They have the best prices on import goods although their selection is pretty slim. I usually buy milk, cereal, and a few can goods here. The one at the big circle overpass at the intersection of Qingnian and Wenhua Road has the best import section. Bring your A-game for a trip here because it is cah-razy. Like Black Friday on steroids. To save your sanity, don’t even try to go on a weekend.

Notice that I didn’t mention Walmart. While Shenyang does have several, they don’t have the import goods you’d expect. Walmart tends to cater to local tastes and in my experience tends to be kind of dirty. I usually stick to the above mentioned stores (plus the market) for most of my shopping. Although you should definitely make at least one trip to a Walmart in China, just for the experience. That’s one you just have to see for yourself.


Just another reason I’m jealous of Beijing

Because for 1. They have international restaurants. Hundreds. All types of food. Even Mexican.

In Shenyang, we may have 10 (if you don’t count McD’s, KFC, or Pizza Hut). Now, don’t get me wrong, I like Chinese food. It’s good stuff (if you know what to order). I just don’t want it everyday. I need burgers in my life. And tacos.

And for 2. Because some genius started this website…


They have over 100 restaurants. That wouldn’t normally deliver. They set up the menus online (usually not the full menus, just the stuff easy to deliver), they place your order, and then… bring it to you. at home.

It’s genius, I tell you. Think of all your favorite restaurants. Then think how awesome it would be if you could eat that without even leaving the house. Awesomeness. No matter where in the world you are. Especially for hermits like me.

(Ok, so not really me, I like to go. But LB definitely would be a hermit if I let him. And even I like to hole up during Shenyang winters. Although, honestly, I’d probably no longer be able to leave my house I’d be so fat if this service was available to me.)

Why don’t we have this in Shenyang? Anybody out there? Will you please build this? You will have customers. Many customers. (Although, you may need to build a few more Western restaurants while you’re at it. I vote Mexican food!)

Jinshisong even delivers Kro’s Nest Pizza! Have you been there? The next time you’re in Beijing, you absolutely must! It is a top notch pizza joint. Some of the best I’ve ever eaten. in my life. (Confession: I was in Beijing last week with some girlfriends and we ate there 3 times. in one week. It’s good stuff, I tell you. But it really deserves a post all its own.)

So if you live in Beijing, you should definitely take advantage of this service. Because fo’ real, I’m jealous.

If you’re not in Beijing, sorry I just made you jealous too.


It’s the same… but different.

A couple of days I stumbled upon this box of cookies at Carrefour, I had to pick them up.

I could tell from the packaging that they were a little taste of home. Chips Ahoy! And even better, the chewy kind. my favorite.

Now I don’t normally buy a lot of cookies or junk food. Not because I have anything against it, it just usually ends up cluttering up our pantry for months because we don’t really eat it. But in this case, I wanted a little taste of home.

So I bought them.

I was very impressed because they were only a few kuai. Less than 1 US dollar. Not usually the case with imported foods.

After dinner that night, I pulled out my box of cookies. It was a box. Not the same as the plastic trays with the crackly wrapping like in the US. And a little smaller.

And when I pulled out the little tray, I was a little surprised.

Not because the cookies were different. Thankfully they were exactly what I expected. This time. (That isn’t always the case. I bought a similar package before and was surprised to find that instead of chocolate chips, they were filled with blueberries.)

I was surprised because that whole box only contained 6 cookies.

The hubby never did find out I bought chips ahoy cookies. Six just isn’t enough to share. At least in my book. Btw, this is the OTHER reason I don’t buy junk food.


Italian Ravioli using Chinese Ingredients

I’ve learned a lot since moving to China, but I think one of the best things I’ve learned is how to cook from scratch. I was a decent cook before we moved to China, but like many of my generation “cooking” for me including boxes of pasta, jars of sauce, and cans of soup.

Then I moved to China, and I had to REALLY learn to cook.

Those boxes, jars, and cans I was used to just aren’t so easily found around here. Before you get too scared let me clarify, you CAN find them. It’s just not easy. And when you do, they are NOT cheap. Plus, remember you have to carry all the groceries that you buy. Cans and jars are heavy.

At first, I think it was just the challenge. I can buy the fresh ingredients SO CHEAP here. And they are so much better for your health. And I really just wanted to learn how to use them well.

So now, when one of my favorite recipes calls for a “can of” or a “jar of”, then I just head over to and find a “from scratch” recipe for it instead. And I have to say, it really doesn’t take that long to just make it from scratch. I was amazed. I think we’ve all been sold a lie. That it’s so much easier and so much faster to use the ready-made stuff. Well, from my experience, it’s so much better and in most cases, just as quick (quicker actually, if I factor in the extra time it takes to hunt for the stuff at the grocery store) to make it from scratch. And did I mention, tastes so. much. better.

Here’s one of my recent concoctions using fresh dumpling wrappers, ground beef, and a basic bechamel sauce. It was inspired by this post at Pioneer Woman Cooks although I made my own filling recipe using what I had on hand.

At this point you can either drop them into boiling water for about 3 minutes to enjoy right away…

OR you can pop them in the freezer (still on the cutting mat) for about 2 hours until they get hard, then dump them all in a ziploc bag to save until later!

Top it off with the extra cheese sauce or just some olive oil and cracked pepper. Yum!


How to cook frozen dumplings

I’d like to introduce you to one of my (many) favorite things about China…


Seriously, I love them. And all their yummy fillings.

If I’d started this blog AFTER I moved to China, I probably would have named it “Country Fried Dumpling” because the truth is, I haven’t had one egg roll since I’ve been here. Apparently they aren’t really common in Northern China. Really. I wouldn’t even know where to get one.

I recently decided I’d like to try to find a way to make the dumplings at home so I wouldn’t have to wait until we go out to get them.

So I found these frozen dumplings at the store.

But like most things in China, I ran into a few problems.

Problem 1:

The whole “language” thing rears its ugly head again. I read a few characters, but apparently not enough. Dumplings come with all kinds of fillings. Pork, beef, shrimp, egg, cabbage, leek. And many combinations of these, too.

So yeah, how do you choose which package to buy?
Continue reading


Chinese Traditional Stories for Seasonal Foods

This is a note from my Chinese teacher, Summer, to teach you a little about the Chinese season, San Fu, translated “It’s seriously hot around here.” (My personal, somewhat loose, translation)

July 14th, 2011, based on the Chinese calendar, it’s the 1st day of the hottest season in a year. We call the hottest days “三(sān)伏(fú)”.

On a different day, we eat different food~

“三(sān)伏(fú)”: Total is 30 days and separated into 3 groups, each 10 days is one group.

Jiaozi. Chinese dumplings.

1. The 1st day of 1st Group: 2011. 7. 14. – We eat “饺(jiǎo)子(zi)” -dumpling

Story: In ancient China, people felt it was very hard to spend the hot days in summer. 饺(jiǎo)子(zi) was the luxury food that time, so they wanted to pray for a safe period during hard summer by a nice meal. Also the 伏(fú) in 三(sān)伏(fú) is the same prononciation with Chinese 福(fú) which means happiness, lucky, all the best wishes, and 饺(jiǎo)子(zi) is like an odd-shaped gold. The meaning is the happiness, lucky, all the best wishes in 饺(jiǎo)子(zi) ^^

Chinese Noodle Soup

2. The 1st day of 2nd Group: 2011. 7. 24 – We eat “面(miàn)条(tiáo)” – noodle

Story: The noodle is the noodle in hot soup. Why Chinese people eat hot food in hot weather? That’s because when the season comes to the 三(sān)伏(fú), all farmers just collected the flour. The new flour is very healthy, also the bad things and heat in our body can be removed by sweating. Because of that, also can mean we hope we can stop the bad things away.

Chinese Egg Wrap

3. The 1st day of 3rd Group: 2011. 8. 13 – We eat “饼(bing)和(hé)鸡(jī)蛋(dàn)” -Chinese pizza and fried eggs

Story: In ancient China, the hens will have a rest during hottest season until the 3rd Group when the weather becomes a little cool. So this period the new eggs are very delicious.

In fact, Chinese people mainly eat rice, but during hottest days, they prefer eating flour foods.

I hope all of you have a very nice summer and enjoy the fun of Chinese traditional stories!!

** Summer **


Dunkin Donuts Quiz: the answers

Earlier this week, we played Guess the Donut Flavor (it’s an official name) where you get to guess. The flavor of a donut. But not just any donut, three Shenyang specialties that Dunkin has created to cater to the local tastebuds.

We got some really interesting guesses, and I have to say, you guys are pretty good at guessing a donut by it’s cover. Or color.

Anyway, I’m super excited that 4 whole people read this blog of randomness, and even though Zach was technically the winner with 2 correct answers, I’ve decided that since you actually read this blog and you took the time to comment (which I very much appreciate), then you are all awesome and deserve to be winners. All four of you are going to get mail from China (how exciting!) although I highly doubt you are as excited as I am when I get mail from the USA. (Shout out for the Girl Scout thin mints I recently received… Can I get an amen? Thanks again, Ami!)

So without further a do… a due? ado?

um… You know what I mean, right?

Anyway, here’s the answers…

#1: Dried Pork & Spicy Dried Pork. (left to right) Do they still look tasty?
Dried Pork flavored donut in China

#2: Cheese Tuna This is one of the dangerous ones, looking all shiny and yummy on the outside, but with a “surprise” inside. Reason #2 why I have this rule.
Shenyang Cheese Tuna Donut

#3: Green Tea Mochiring They’ll flavor anything with green tea round these parts. But who cares when there’s a Boston Creme down below? yum.
Chinese green tea flavored donut at Dunkin Donuts

Thanks again for playing along and thanks for taking the time out of your day to leave some comment love. If you’re one of the awesome 4, send me your address via the Contact page, and you’ll receive a little surprise from the Far East!


Pop Quiz – Dunkin Donuts style

We have another fun little quiz for you today. It’s called:

“Guess the Donut Flavor” (what a title. I’m so creative.)

You know, it’s quite a popular thing right now for the businesses of the world to try to tap into the Chinese markets. McDonald‘s, KFC, and Pizza Hut have been here for a few years now. And while Mickey D’s does the best in the US market and KFC is barely hanging on, in China, it’s quite the opposite. McDonald’s does ok, don’t get me wrong, but their company policy that says you get the same big mac anywhere in the world just doesn’t fly as well over here. Their taste buds are just… different. KFC is huge here thanks to their policy of serving a menu suited to the local preferences. Pizza Hut does ok too, thanks to their interesting menu as well.

Dunkin Donuts in China

Dunkin Donuts, it seems, has taken on that same approach. And while they still serve some of the foreign favorites such as the Boston Creme, Original Glazed, and blueberry-filled powdered sugar donuts. They have also taken to serving things more suited to the Chinese taste. And while I can’t imagine who came up with these, apparently someone is buying them. Continue reading