Chinese Menus

This was the menu of a restaurant where we had dinner one night in Nanjing

Doesn't Hog Intestines in Spicy sauce sound great?  How about Wing & Web?  – a juicy wing and a webbed foot.

Might you be tempted by the Fried Sparrow Gizzard?  If not there is always the Yu Fu with Shepherd's Purse (not so sure this is the herb!).

Mmmm – what could be better than Large Intestine with Stinky Tofu:

I love how every item is a vegetable!

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Eating Chinese…

Chinese food in China is very different to that which is cooked for Western tastes.  The first restaurant in the town I grew up in was a Chinese restaurant  – as was probably the case in most Australian country towns.  The biggest decision would be whether to have Sweet & Sour Pork or Lemon Chicken.  We did not see them at any meal we had in China:  

In the 16 days that we were there we ate many different and wonderful things.  Sometimes we had no idea what we were eating as we were on our own and pointing at pictures.  Sometimes when we asked our host we were told that they didn't really know the English for what we were having – that was a bit worrying – the Chinese eat every part of an animal!  We got through our trip without any major stomach upsets (though I had packed Imodium & Pepto Bismal tablets just in case).

I tried everything that I was offered and if I did not like it I just did not take anymore.  There was only one dish which I just could not swallow  – Stinky Tofu. As the name suggests it has a really obnoxious smell – some combination of jockstraps and joggers & other nasty sweat odours.  I did get a small amount into my mouth but I was truly overcome by the smell and started gagging – I had to spit it out!  I'm sure our hosts were somewhat shocked as I had been very polite up till then!! 

The dish on the left is Nanjing Duck – this was my favourite dish and I ordered it whenever we got the chance to order our own food. It is cold & white and incredibly salty.  The flesh tends to spring back like rubber if pressed. Does it sound delicious?   Actually, once you get past the saltiness it has an almost vanilla taste.

Also pictured is a 1000 year egg (also known as a Century egg) ….. 

Presenting a challenge to eat were these incredibly small prawns – they are basically impossible to peel.  The "correct" way to eat them is to put them whole into the mouth and somehow manage to get the head on the chopsticks to put back on the plate.  I saw a few people just eating them whole. 

This is lotus root:  it tasted much better than it looks

This is tofu – but not the stinky kind!  On the right is another dish of Nanjing Duck –  

Another dish that I found myself liking was pigeon.  I first had pigeon in London in the late 1970's – served as pigeon pie – so I was not grossed out by the prospect of eating it.  The head is a delicacy. We had this dish a few times:  

I did not eat from the street vendors but the astro-dweeb did a number of times – he just pointed at what everyone else was having.  These looked a little too much like rat tails:  

We think this was an oyster – though it seemed too big!!  

We were honoured to be included in an  80th birthday celebration for Professor Ye Shuhua, a Former Director of the Shanghai Observatory – a fascinating woman, with better English than most of the young scientists, and who had seen a lot of changes both in China and in Astronomy in her 80 years.   After a Chinese rendition of Happy Birthday was sung followed by a version in faltering English, the candles were blown out and the cake was cut into chunks and put on the lazy Susans at each table along with all the other food.  People would dig their chopsticks into some pork and then into the cake to grab a piece – then into a fish dish – then back into the cake!   The cake did not indicate the sweet ending of the meal!!    Actually, huge plates of watermelon arriving at a table indicated that a banquet was over.  Underneath all this super bright icing was a plain butter cake:

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Shanghai to Nanjing…

Wow!  What a slack-arse I have been!  4 days since I posted something.   Isn't slack-arse a great expression?  

Anyway,  when we were in China we rode the very fast train from Shanghai to Nanjing.  It travels at 100+mph and spends its day travelling back and forth between the two cities.  It has an engine at both ends so that it doesn't have to be shunted around to face the other direction at each end. 

The stations are so organised that when the train stops those exiting do so from the front of each car (there were 9 cars on our train).  On the platform those waiting to board are standing in a neat line on a yellow square – exactly where the rear door of the car stops.  There is a less than 5 minute stop at each station.

The train was incredibly comfortable – though we were riding in first class so I can't vouch for the comfort of the whole train but I think there was basically only one class – 1st class might have meant that our seats reclined more.  It was wonderfully air-conditioned and a LCD display gave our outside temperature and train speed as we travelled, as well as the names of the towns we went through.

I was intrigued by all the signs posted in the toilet -  

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Today, last year..

This time last year we were in a National Park Forest in China.  We had gone to China because the astro-dweeb had been invited to give a couple of talks at Nanjing University and the Purple Mountain Observatory and then to participate in a workshop at a Remote Observing Station.

We travelled about 4 hours on a bus from Nanjing with about 40 Chinese nationals, into Xuyi Province and a National Park Forest.  We were given a tour of the remote telescope – conducted solely in Chinese!  Our guide was so caught up in the tour that he forgot to translate!

Our hotel was eco-wilderness – minimal everthing.  Called the Tieshan Temple Forest Holiday Inn I am pretty sure it is not part of the Holiday Inn chain. The water from shower and handbasin drained into an open pipe which finished just below floor level. The hot water was only turned on between 8pm-10pm – and then it was just a dribble.  

It seemed that just about everyone on our bus was a smoker  – there was not one smoke detector in sight and no signs asking them not to smoke in bed but plenty asking them not to smoke in the forest!  


There were mosquitoes everywhere and yes, the thought of malaria crossed my mind. In the evening the hotel girls would bring in funky little burning things meant to keep the mosquitoes away.  There was a huge spider web under one of the beds!   I sprayed Deet around the perimeter of my bed – on the bed linens!

For 3 days the astro-dweeb went off straight after breakfast for the workshops – which were also conducted in Chinese except for his presentations!  He got plenty of time to work on codes etc!

This left me in the company of our bus driver and the hotel staff.  No-one, absolutely no-one spoke English!  If I wanted anything I pointed and gestured and there was usually much giggling but eventually we would work things out.

The hotel was about 10 miles from the nearest village so I was basically stranded.  On the first day of wandering I came across a group of 200 school children camping.  There was great excitement as they wanted to practise their English so for a little while I had people to talk to.  They were very excited to find out I was Australian and then many of them wanted to have their photo taken with me  – for a short time I felt like a movie star!

I spent my time reading some precious (foreign language) English books I had found in Nanjing and wandering with my camera.  It did rain for 2 of the days though so my photos were a bit blurry.

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Third tagging ….

I have been tagged, for the third time, to write 8 random things about myself – this time by Strixaluco

1.  I'm a fairly obliging person!

2. When I was young, I was made to go to school no matter how sick I was. The school would contact my grandmother to come and get me and I would stay with her until my father came to pick me up. One day I was sick and thought I would save everyone some trouble and walked off to my grandmother's at lunchtime (of course I didn't tell anyone).  When I got there she wasn't home so I walked back to the school.  I must have taken the scenic route because when I got back, the school was deserted.  "Someone" found me trudging the street crying and picked me up. I learnt a valuable lesson – don't run away from school on a Tuesday as that was Nan's day out.

3.  I love all sorts of cheese except plastic, bright yellow and any that comes out of a can!

4. Eight is starting to seem a big number!  Well, it does take 2 hands to count it.

5. I really, really dislike baseball. I have so far managed to avoid going to a game. This was easy when I first came to DC as we did not have a baseball team. When the city was trying to secure the Nationals I took part in a phone survey on whether I thought baseball would be good for the city and how we should fund the cost of a stadium. I  happily played along because I did think it would be good for the city …. The very last question was: So, how many home games would you attend?  I couldn't very well say "none" after having been such an enthusiastic supporter on paper, but I had no idea how many home games are in a season.  The woman told me some ridiculously high number and I struck a figure somewhere around a fifth of that.  I do not intend to honour that!

6.  I have driven on the wrong side of the road in both America and Australia. 

7.  I am really liking Sangiovese wines at the moment. Sangiovese 101  -  I started with Rosemount Sangiovese in Australia and have tried Italian & Californian ones since. 

8. This time last year I was in China.  Actually, I was  probably in a forest in the middle of no-where with a bus driver and hotel staff who did not speak English. (and I don't speak any sort of Chinese).

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