Tea Tasting Workshops

When I’m not being an English teacher, you might find me at The Hutong on a Saturday afternoon. The Hutong is a cultural exchange centre that runs a variety of classes linked to Chinese culture. I have experienced a number of amazing cooking classes there myself as a student as well!

 

 

My interest is tea started many years ago, and you can read the story here. I am so happy that I have been able to turn a hobby and interest into something that I can share with others.

Typically, I have a mix of expats and tourists that come to my classes. The class runs for 2 hours, and we usually taste 6 teas. I also run through the parts of the tea ceremony and equipment that you can use to recreate what you have learnt at home.

If you are interested in any of their classes,  here is The Hutong calendar of upcoming events.

Crab Island

Living in the concrete jungle of Beijing, finding beach and sun is quite a challenge. Though not as much of a challenge as many people may think! In search of adventure and a bit a cultural people-watching, I joined the Asia Obscura adventure to Crab Island!

Crab Island is a man-made park just off exit 5 of the Aiport Expressway. Upon arrival, we filed through the “Infectiou conjunctivitis check post”, a ticket checker who didn’t even ask us to take our sunnies off, and found ourselves being serenaded by a great ‘karaoke’ style 2-person band.

We made our way past the dominating music and found ourselves on a quaint “beach”. The sand was surprisingly clean! We hired ourselves a tent and set up camp on the shore.

We donned our bathers and ventured into the water. The backdrop of playful dolphins catapulting out of the water matched the blue concrete under our feet perfectly to create a seemingly perfect blue ocean. It was difficult, however, to ignore the slightly slimy feeling under of the ocean floor.

For lunch, we had a DIY BBQ of chuan’r – one of China’s favourite street snacks. This was the closest I’ve had to an Aussie BBQ experience in China! Beer, food on a stick and ocean views – what more do you need? (Maybe a few less budgie smugglers)

After lunch we explored a little further and found the water slides, kiddies playground and ‘the lazy river’. There were heaps of hilarious buckets that dumped water on unsuspecting victims!! A few random sideshows were thrown in for good measure. My favourite was the guns that shot at endangered animals.

The ‘lazy’ river was a little too lazy for our liking. I think a more appropriate name would be ‘The stagnant river’. Let’s just say that I was glad to be on the outside taking photos!!

All in all, it was well worth the trip! Sunshine, some water, good food, friends, laughs, tubes, water slides, buckets of water, fake coconuts… not bad for Beijing!

Dragon Boat Festival 端午节

Last weekend was 端午节 duanwujie (Dragon Boat Festival) in China. The traditional food that is eaten for the festival is called 粽子 ‘zongzi’. Basically, it’s glutinous rice wrapped in a bamboo leaf. The filling can vary, and it’s often red bean paste, fruit or meats. And to be honest I don’t really like them. So, I decided to set out to make my own! Inspired by a recent holiday to Thailand, I added some fresh, light Thai flavours.

I found the history of zongzi and a how-to recipe in my fav Chinese culture magazine, The World of Chinese (2010 Issue 3). Zongzis have been a traditional food in China for thousands of years, but they only became famous about 2000 years ago. Qu Yuan wrote romantic poems about his love for his motherland. He wrote to his leaders to urge them to fight against the Qin rule. When the Qins took over, Qu Yuan threw himself into a river in despair. The local people threw zongzis in the river to stop the fish from eating his body, and then took boats out to retrieve his body, starting Dragon Boat Festival.

I headed off to the supermarket to find the needed ingredients. I tried my best to find them by myself, but I had to ask in the end! They were hiding right in the corner behind the rice!

I started by soaking the bamboo leaves for a few hours. They take on a lovely fragrance when they’ve absorbed a lot of water.

The rice is called 糯米 ‘nuomi’. It’s very shortgrain glutinous rice.

I soaked the rice in coconut milk, lemongrass and ginger for a few hours.

I decided to pick some fillings that I personally like! I went with dried pineapple to complement the coconut flavours and some dried cranberries.

One complete zongzi! The shape varied depending the leaf. This was one of the prettiest! The longer the leaf, the best triangle shape was able to be made.  

I started by making a funnel shape and filled it with the soaked rice and dried fruit. Then, I folded the leaf around on itself to get the best triangle shape.

I thought they looked pretty cool in the end!

Then, I boiled them in a mix of coconut milk and water for 2 and a half hours.

The final product was steaming, hot and delicious!

When I make them again, I think I will steam them to try and concentrate the coconut flavour. They are a very satisfying snack. You get covered in sticky, gooey rice and can then lick your fingers just like a kid! I think there’s definitely potential to make these sweeter with condensed milk, brown sugar, chocolate… Endless possibilities!