Where to eat in Shenyang: Korean BBQ

A couple of days after LB started working, we were invited to dinner by his boss and a couple of colleagues. I was pretty excited to have my first “real” dinner out in China after the move. We had been eating out some, but I don’t really think it counts considering we were eating at Ikea (three times in 2 weeks actually. Who’d have guessed we’d move to China and start on a diet of Swedish Meatballs), Pizza Hut, and the restaurant in the Kempinski Hotel. Turns out my first authentic meal in China wasn’t “Chinese” at all, but Korean style barbecue.

Korean barbecue restaurant in Shenyang

The restaurant was really interesting. We had a private room (This is very common in China. Most of the nicer restaurants have many private rooms you can reserve for larger parties.) with a long table in the middle of the room. In the middle of the table, they brought out large bowls filled with red hot charcoal. On top of the bowl, they laid a copper looking metal grate (kind of looked like a giant square tennis racket). Built into the table was a vent that sucked away the smoke and kept the charcoal smoldering.

It was a pretty awesome way to have dinner… kind of like camping. But with style.

Great restaurant in Shenyang

They change the little metal grill every so often. They said it was because the blackened burnt bits that build up on the grill aren’t healthy for you.

I had to smile at that…

Especially considering one important little healthy detail seemed to me to be overlooked… they only gave us one set of chopsticks. One set of chopsticks to put the raw meat on the grill, take it off, and eat it with.

I’m pretty sure that’s a BIG no-no in the US. However, after watching everyone else just dive in like it was normal, I figured I’d just go with it. They apparently don’t have the same kind of germs here as we do back in the States. For the record, I’m still alive and well, and nothing terrible happened as a result from mixing raw and cooked meat. I figured it’s probably just like sushi. Raw meat won’t hurt you as long as you eat it with chopsticks, right? Or maybe that whole idea is just a big myth they like to spread around the US to make us buy more Clorox. Or maybe I just ate enough dirt growing up that I’m immune to that sort of thing. That’s probably it… just eat more dirt.

We had so much food on the table that they had to stack the plates on top of each other. We had several types of marinated beef and duck, mussels, and shrimp (shell and eyeballs included. yum.)

And can you tell what the orange dish is?

Korean Restaurant in Northeast China

If you look closely…

do you see the little suckers on the tentacles?

It was a very spicy octopus dish. Pretty good. I think you really need to spice it up to overcome the rubbery texture.

And for the grand finale… a Shenyang specialty!

Best silkworm dish in Shenyang

This is a dish that can be served “raw” or cooked. I’m pretty sure no amount of peer pressure could make me eat



silk worms.

Our host chose cooked. I was very thankful.

And I have to admit it… these things are YUMMY! They are battered and sauteed in some kind of awesome seasoning that is a little spicy, but sooo good.

In case you were wondering, silk worms don’t taste like chicken. Much more like some kind of nut. Maybe a walnut, or pecan. Quite good. I would definitely suggest trying them if you ever make it to this side of the world.

If you are brave enough to try the raw ones… let me know how that goes. I’m not quite that adventurous.


The one that almost got away…

Eating in China
Photo by benketaro.

The food here is different than it is in the US.

Sometimes it’s just a little bit different, but sometimes it’s a matter of life and death – literally. For example, I was at a seafood restaurant with a bunch of my Chinese colleagues. It was an all-you-can-eat buffet, hot pot style. Hot pot is a lot like fondue back in the US but instead of oil, they use broth. Usually you order lots of raw foods and have them delivered to the table. But at this buffet, you could go grab whatever you want and come back and throw it in the pot of boiling broth on your table to cook it.

So, I happened to be one of the last ones in the restaurant and when I got to the bar, most of them were heading back to their seats, plates loaded down with food. (It is really no wonder the Chinese guy always wins the eating contest.)

I grabbed a plate and walked up behind one of the guys. I noticed he had a crab on his plate and was picking up another one with some tongs. As he dropped the second one onto his plate he turned toward me with a look of panic. When I looked down at his plate, I realized that he was desperately trying to twist his plate around like a tilt-a-whirl trying to keep both crabs on there…

They were both desperately trying to make a break for it!

I’m not sure what the next three seconds means but you’ll have to judge for yourselves. My reflexes led me to reach my empty plate out just in time to catch the crab on the front in midair as he jumped off the plate. My colleague instantly reached down and grabbed my plate. In one smooth motion, he flipped it over, slammed it (and the crab) down on top of the other crab on the original plate. We stood staring at each other for half a second and then he grinned, gave a quick “Xie xie” and walked back to the table.

Only in China…


I was the seafood…

A little story from the Left Brain of this operation:

Last weekend the company hosted a workshop/retreat for my department. Part of the deal was getting to visit some hot springs a couple of hours outside of Shenyang. First of all, nearly every other guy there was wearing a Speedo (or the Chinese equivalent). It was a little awkward. But that’s to be expected. I already stand out like a beacon just being American, having on my bright orange board shorts didn’t really make much of a difference.

So we’re going around trying out these different pools and I realized that they add stuff to all of them for different therapeutic purposes. I hopped into a coffee bath, a red wine bath, a beer bath, and a milk bath. They kept reminding us not to drink the water.

Really? You’d have to be pretty desperate to get buzzed off a hot spring but whatever. Apparently someone must have tried it at some point or they wouldn’t need to warn you, right?

In one of the other rooms, I jumped into a mint bath and an aloe bath. Then, we’re getting ready to head up to the lounge and grab some food when we run into one of the other German expats. He tells us we need to join him in the “Fishbowl”.

Now, I’m not sure what the “Fishbowl” is. It sounds pretty harmless, right? Probably just a big pool that’s got glass around it so everyone can see you or something. So…of course I agree. In the month we’ve been here I’ve already learned that this is a very dangerous thing to do – agreeing to something you don’t understand. Bad idea. I should have listened to my gut.

In this case, the “Fishbowl” turned out to be a pool…

Full of fish.

That nibble on you.

Traveling China: the fishbowl
Photo credit to Pilotgirl

First thought – “Oh, that’s not so bad – it’s like scuba diving.”

Second thought, “The fish don’t bite you when you scuba dive.”

Third thought, “How the heck can I get out of here?!?!”

Now, it should be mentioned that there are 2 other Chinese guys and 3 Germans in this group. And as I’m looking for an escape route, one of the Germans proceeds to pay for all of us to use the “Fishbowl”. For half an hour. Fantastic. All hope of escape just went out the window.

I figure, what the heck, I’ll just dip my feet in or something. So I sit on the side of the pool, trying to look inconspicuous. Which works for about 45 seconds. Until one of the Chinese guys asks when I’m going to get in. I figure I can’t play it off for another 29 minutes so I bite the bullet.

Up until this moment, I’ve never in my life had a fish bite me before. This changes very quickly. These fish are like flesh-seeking missiles – with teeth. So, the first few bites are kind of interesting. It’s like a puppy nipping at your finger or toe. But after you’ve been in the water for a few minutes, it’s like 101 Dalmations all nipping at your fingers, toes, legs, back, stomach, etc.

Not so interesting anymore.

More like horrifying.

As if all this isn’t bad enough, think back a minute and remember that I’m an American. So, unlike all of the other guys in the pool, I’m not wearing a Speedo. I’ve never been so jealous of a Speedo.

I spent the next 25 minutes clutching my shorts to my legs with a death grip.

Eventually I realized that if you keep moving, they don’t latch on as much and will move to easier targets (aka my work colleagues). I start doing laps. Not really, but let’s just say I’m not really sitting still most of the time.

Finally our time runs out and I jump out of the pool. Just to be certain I don’t get roped into anything else, I head over to get some food.

I figure that whatever Chinese food they have has got to be better than the reverse, where I am the Chinese fish food.


How to stay warm in Shenyang

I did something today that I never thought I’d do…

Underpants for Shenyang

I bought spandex.

Well, fleece lined spandex to be exact.

But really, when it’s still October, and it’s already 30º F (-1º C), in the famous words of my awesome sister, “You do what ya gotta do.”

For those who don’t know, Shenyang is in northeast China. It’s near the Koreas, Russia, and Mongolia. And ridiculously COLD.

View Larger Map

I knew that it gets cold here before we moved. Everyone who knew where Shenyang is told us that. Repeatedly. (Right after they said… “why would you want to move there?”) So I knew it.

But I didn’t really KNOW it. I still don’t. It’s October. But we’ve already been getting little glimpses. Last night on our way out to catch a cab for dinner, it was snowing. In October. As in, BEFORE Halloween. I mean, what the heck? We get excited back in SC if it’s cool enough to wear long sleeves for Halloween. Most years it isn’t.

It’s very unfortunate that most of the winter clothes I have are still in boxes somewhere between here and the US. (Actually I think they are in Dalian sitting in a customs warehouse somewhere. I’ll post soon on the details about all of that, but for now, let’s just say China likes lots of paperwork.) But even when we get the shipment, I really don’t OWN a wardrobe for this type of weather.

Truthfully, I’m not even sure what to buy for this kind of weather. What are you supposed to wear when it is -40º outside?? My brain can’t even fathom -40º. All I can picture is the kid from A Christmas Story so wrapped up he can’t even move his arms.

“I can’t put my arms down!”

“Put them down when you get to school!”

I may just become a hermit. Our apartment is nice and warm. I hear the market down the street will deliver groceries. So does KFC, Pizza Hut, and McDonalds. Now if I could just learn enough Chinese to be able to order what I want I’d be set.

So anyway, back to the pants.

I had heard through the grapevine, that the natives wear long johns under their clothes to keep warm. Makes sense, right? Well, after our little walk in the snow, I decided I needed to get some. So on my shopping trip to Carrefour this morning, I happened upon a rack of them. I was surprised. I always thought of long johns as being made of a thin knit material that fit really close to your skin. Well, I was right about them fitting really close to your skin. These things are like a wetsuit. Lined in fleece. And they’re thick. Now I’m really nervous about the weather I have to look forward to if I have to wear a wetsuit to keep warm.

Here’s something else I never thought I’d have to do.

Clothing sizes in China

Did you see the size on these things?? This is especially disconcerting considering I lost around 20 pounds over the summer before we moved. I now wear a Size 6 in most American clothes. Turns out the whole diet thing was a good idea. I doubt I would have even been able to find a XXXXXL. Then I really would have been up a creek with nothing but jeans to wear.

I noticed another really curious thing as I was going through some of the sizes. Most of them have 2 numbers to denote size. One is a waist and one is a length. I’m assuming. But here’s the thing. As you go up in one size, they automatically go up in the other also. So one pair I picked up was a 165/95. The next size up was a 170/100, and a 175/105. There is no such thing as a 165/105.

So they automatically assume, if you are bigger around, then you are also taller. Or if you’re tall, then you must be big around.

You tall, skinny people are out of luck.
Lucky for me, I’m neither of those things. And I’ll be warm tomorrow.

Well, warmer at least.


Would you like to know what I had for dinner?


…so would I.

This was one of the things that made it home with me on one of my first shopping trips to Carrefour. I couldn’t read any of the packaging, obviously, so I just got the one that had a cartoon chicken on it. I crossed my fingers and prayed that it was some indication of what was inside the breading. I was just hoping they don’t do mascots here like Chick-fil-A. You know, like the cute little chicken is saying “Eat More Brain” or something and I just can’t read it.

And how are you supposed to cook these?

I’m from South Carolina so you know what I did with them.
Deep fried in peanut oil.
Yum. That’ll make any kind of meat taste good. Doesn’t matter what it is.

I thought about trying to bake them (for about 2 seconds). We do have an oven in our apartment which is VERY rare in China. However, I can’t read the dials. And the temperature is in Celsius, which I still can’t convert correctly.

Just ask my family about my conversion skills. For about 3 weeks I thought we were only allowed 125 lbs in our air freight. We were told we got 275 kg. I packed all kinds of things into storage I would have brought because I thought we didn’t have space. Turns out 275 kg is actually 600 lbs.

oops. (should’ve been my middle name.)


How to take a hot bath in China

1. Find the largest pot you have. If you have 2 or 3 large pots it works even better.
2. Fill the pots with water and place them on the stove.
3. Turn the burner on high.
4. Heat the water until you start to see bubbles.
5. Using potholders (or folded up dishrags if like me you still don’t have potholders), carry the pots of water one by one into the bathroom.
6. Dump the hot water into the tub.
7. Repeat steps 1-6 until you have enough water in the tub to bathe with. Turn on the faucet to add cool water if the water is too hot.


Send an email to the realtor to get it fixed: (see below)

Hi. Just wanted to let you know we are having a problem with the hot water in the showers. Neither get hotter than luke warm. Definitely not hot enough to take a comfortable shower. The water in the kitchen sink gets quite hot, just not the bathrooms. Can we get this fixed soon?

Thank you.

The Response:

I just contacted with the management company and the staff told me the problem has existed about year.
After the management company transformed the pipe system in Wulihe Plaza.
And the problem extensively exist in the Wulihe Plaza.

Before the management company transform the pipe system again the problem can’t be solved completely.
But there is a temporary solution is before you do the shower please call the management company 2388****, they will send a worker to make the water warmer.

Hope that will help you.

Smack forehead with palm.

Really? You just want me to call you before I want to take a shower? Every day?

And wait? This is the solution for the WHOLE building? 24 floors of apartments.
Is there a guy whose sole job is to come heat up the water every time anyone wants to take a hot shower? There has to be. And how does he do it?

(LB is convinced that they send someone up with a blowtorch to heat up the pipes. I think we’re going to call them up, just to see how they do it. )

And when that doesn’t work: Refer to steps 1-7 above.

If you want to take a hot shower…

well, tough luck.


McDonalds in China

McDonalds in China…
is crowded on a Sunday at lunchtime.
They greet you, seat you, and take your order.
A waitress takes your order.

And they have a big creepy painting of Ronald on the wall…

And if you try and fail miserably at ordering a double cheeseburger with no pickles, onions, ketchup, mustard, or mayo with your horrific Mandarin. And they bring it to the table with ketchup and onions, having only omitted the pickles, mustard and mayo. If you stick your finger in the ketchup and say “Bu yao”, pronounced “boo yow,” rising then falling tone. They’ll take them back and bring the correct thing right away. Even if it was your fault because you stink at speaking their language.

Anyway, I’m pretty sure they just give those other sandwiches to someone else who did want ketchup and onions. I have no proof. I’m just guessing. I’m also guessing, even if that person knew, they wouldn’t care. Waste is a bad thing here.


Be careful of the taxi you pick after breakfast.

Warning: You should also be careful of the blog you read after breakfast.

This is where I normally insert a photo. You’re going to thank me for leaving it off today…

So this morning I checked us out of our hotel and we now are officially living in our apartment. In reality, we have been staying here most of the time for the last week but kept the hotel a couple of extra days because they have been working on the hot water here. Anyway, I had to get a cab back to Riverside and it was rush hour (around 9 am). At this time of day, you are just happy if there is a cab that will stop and let you get in. Sometimes they won’t let you get in when they find out where you are going. It is very interesting to me. I’m going to pay either way so I don’t really understand why they won’t drive me. Sometimes they just don’t want to drive that direction. It’s odd.

Anyway, this morning, a taxi stopped for me. Now it wasn’t the nicest taxi I’ve ridden in. Let’s just say it was a little rough around the edges… driver included. But he stopped. And was willing to drive me. So I tossed my bags in the back and got in the front.

People ride in the front of the taxis here. It took us a while to figure this out. But now, I really like it. It’s much easier to point, explain where you’re going, and I like to see the city as we’re driving.

Anyway, I got in this taxi, and he asked (in Chinese) if I was German… or American. I replied, “Mei gua ren” meaning American. He seemed very excited about this, smiled really big, and gave me a big thumbs up. I was pleased. Not really sure why that’s so great, but they really like Americans here. So I explained where I wanted to go (in Chinese… and he understood the first time, without the taxi book. I was very proud of myself.) and we headed off.

It’s actually a pretty quick little ride, usually only 5 minutes or so except it takes a little longer at rush hour. I was also pleased because this particular driver didn’t attempt to stare at me while driving. They usually do. Which I tend to ignore (what else are you going to do?) although it can be a bit stressful if the traffic is bad. I almost died yesterday because the driver was staring at me instead of the road and all the cars in front of us were stopped. Luckily, instead of dying, I only had to eat dashboard. On second thought, maybe the back seat is better. Then they just use the mirror but at least their eyes are forward.
But I digress… (ha. I’ve been hanging out with some British folks around here. Can you tell?)

We get about halfway down the road, and he starts to cough and clear his throat. I tried not to listen because I knew what was coming next…

For those of you who don’t know, spitting and “ridding your body of phlegm” is something that happens very often here. Apparently, the Chinese believe that any kind of mucus that collects in your body is a bad thing. So it’s expected you’ll get it out. And spit it on the ground, wherever you are. “Watch out, they spit.” (Quick. Name that movie!) I’ve heard the “farmer’s blow” is also popular, (you can click that link if you aren’t familiar with the term. However, I wouldn’t advise it.) although thankfully I haven’t witnessed this one.

So anyway, this taxi driver proceeded to cough up the biggest phlegm wad I’ve ever heard. I mean, it had to come up from his stomach or something. I don’t think your throat goes that far down. It was obvious he’d had some practice at this.

At this point, I’m trying not to gag.


he started chewing on it. I swear to you. He was smacking on it like it was gum.

Now, I’m just debating on whether I need to roll MY window down so I have somewhere for my breakfast to go in case the contents of my stomach decided to join his. On the outside of my body. I gave up trying not to gag. There was no use. I was definitely gagging.

I wonder if he saw me. I’m very glad this driver wasn’t one who stares at white people.
I wish you could close your ears like you can your eyes, without something so obvious as sticking your fingers in them. I think he would have noticed that.

At some point, he rolled down his window and finally spit it out. I’m not sure when, I was too busy trying to think of something else… ANYTHING else.

On a happy note… I did make it back to my apartment with my breakfast still in my stomach. It was quite an accomplishment I thought.

And now you know why Chinese people don’t wear shoes in the house.

And see, I told you. Aren’t you glad I didn’t post a photo?