Making Baozi (BJ Bucket List #5)

Yes, this is super late. But we’ve moved countries, stayed in four different houses, are looking for our own place and I’m pregnant again! Sheesh. Nothing like keeping things interesting.

I’m sure you picked up from the last post that food has been a big part of this adventure for us. I’ve done quite a few cooking classes in our time here, mostly at The Hutong, but the one thing that seemed to have escaped the menu was baozi, or steamed buns.

Luckily, our ayi is a very good cook, so I asked her to teach me.

The hardest thing with ayi is to get her to teach you something from the start. I don’t know if this is a common ayi problem, but she wants to reduce my effort in the kitchen, so she pre-prepared the filling and dough. Annoyingly, I really wanted to watch that being put together, as it’s so much easier to replicate later if you get your hands dirty, however, she did tell me the recipe.

Baozi dough

  • 1+kg SR Flour
  • Add water until the dough comes together. Knead.
  • Allow it to rise for about half an hour.
  • The dough should be softer than jiaozi dough.

Baozi filling 

  • 500g minced meat (we used pork)
  • oil (we used olive oil)
  • sesame oil
  • fresh ginger, grated (or finely chopped if you can do it small enough)
  • Chinese five spice
  • ground cinnamon
  • pepper
  • spring onion, finely chopped*
  • tofu, finely chopped*
  • cabbage, finely chopped (salt and leave to sit to remove water)*
  • mushroom, finely chopped (香菇, xianggu)*

*Because I am not an expert chopper, unlike my ayi, I would use the food processor whizzy machine for these ingredients.

IMG_3111

The tricky part of this whole recipe is really the construction. Instead of rolling the dough traditionally, Ayi turned it around in her hand and poked a hole in the middle, teasing it into a donut shape!

She then broke the long “strands” into pieces. They were then flattened into circles, the filling was place in the middle and she magically shaped them with her hand, balancing the base in the palm of her hand and using her dextrous fingers to close the buns.

IMG_3118

This is one of mine… ayi’s were much prettier

Really, the magic is in watching the construction. It’s just too hard to describe. So you can find some short videos that I took here:

Donut Dough
Rolling circles
Filling baozi

We steamed these babies for 15 minutes.

IMG_3120

And they got the tick of approval from the little one.

Fave restaurants (Beijing Bucket List #4)

In our last few weeks, we made as much of an effort as possible to revisit some of our fave restaurants. It’s hard to make a list because one of the main reasons we have loved living in China is the food. We have so many wonderful food memories.

But here are some of our faves, which we just had to visit one last time. Click on the restaurant name for the address.

Baoyuan Dumplings – Amongst our friends, this place is either known as the ‘purple jiaozi restaurant’ or the ‘crack jiaozi restaurant’. Purple, because the purple ones with crispy rice inside are the most amazing dumplings on the planet, and Crack, because you can get seriously addicted to them.

Yongle Restaurant – This place has been our go-to for Beijing Duck. We discovered it when we lived near Gulou, in fact, on the day we moved into our new apartment, we went there and bought lunch for our friends who had helped us move. They do all the Beijing standards. Their duck has a ‘special option’ that comes with sesame buns, sprouts and plum sauce. Yum! Other highlights are the Japanese Tofu (hongshao riben doufu) and an AMAZING deep-fried lamb leg. We can never remember what it’s called, but they have a picture menu (or show them this pic).

20121021_192040

Meizhou dongpo – Meizhous is a chain that pops up all over Beijing. They are a sichuan restaurant and do delicious spicy food. They also deliver! Yay! We love their broad beans, spicy small potatoes, mapo doufu, tangsu liji, stuffed eggplant and bamboo shoots.

Pure Lotus – As well as being a restaurant, Pure Lotus is an experience. It has the most amazing decor, and unique serving dishes. You’re very likely to have a dish served on dry ice. Unfortunately, I don’t feel that I have really explored the menu because it is the most difficult and heavy menu to read on the planet. But don’t let that put you off – the food is delish! Highlights are the Tofu Spicy Chicken (laziji), black beans wrapped in lettuce and purple dragon baozi. There are plenty more, but they are what spring to mind!

Wuyishan Fujian Restaurant – This little dive is tucked down a side street along Maliandao, Beijing’s famous tea street. I was introduced to this place through The Hutong, where I ran a few tea tours. It’s such a dirty little place, but makes the most amazing food. Highlights are the okra and the red-cooked fish.

Xinjiang provincial restaurant – So, this wasn’t a fave restaurant. We only went there a few days ago for the first time. But, we LOVE xinjiang food, and frankly, there just isn’t anything good close to our house any more, so we thought we’d head across town to this one. And it was totally worth it. We had all the standards; chuan’r, dingdingers, dapanji, as well as a new one for me – xinjiang sweetened milk tea. It perfectly matches the spicy food.

IMG_3126

The Westin Financial Street Brunch – The Sunday brunch to end all brunches. This is the most indulgence you’ll have in a sunday brunch. Enough said.

Lush – The Lush burger is by far the best in Beijing. First we had, and last we had. Lush is way out in the student district, where we lived when we first came to Beijing. Many a drunken night was spent here, and even better, the burgers are half price between 2 and 4am. We just had to go and have just one more.

IMG_3136

Gungho pizza – We believe this to be the best delivery pizza in Beijing. Thin, wholemeal bases, a huge variety of toppings and great salads. It seems silly, but this was actually our final meal in Beijing. Why? Because it was one of our favourite things to do on a friday night after an exhausting week of work, and the business is such a symbol of why Beijing is a cool place to live. If you see a hole in the market, and you know how to do something well, you can fill that hole and become so successful. You can develop the concept of amazing customer service, you can have creative packaging designed by locals, you can have hilarious, distinctive pink bikes that are driven by drivers who call out to each other (Gung!!!!…… HO!!!!!…..) and you can cook good food well with good ingredients.

Hatsune – And finally, our fave of all time. Hatsune was the first foreign restaurant that we visited after moving back to Beijing. We went there for a friend’s birthday and were completely overwhelmed by the menu. Firstly, by the prices (we’d pretty much only eaten 5 yuan bowls of noodles up until this point) and secondly, by the most amazing looking sushi we’d ever seen!! We decided to ignore the price tag and just go with it, and it was the best sushi we’d ever eaten. Plus, our friend got the bill at the end anyway!! A few years later, Hatsune opened a second branch much closer to our home and we jumped in the air for joy! It quickly became a regular for a fancy meal. They also have really cool events, such as sushi making classes.

What’s your favourite Beijing restaurant???

The brothel has had an upgrade!

And all of a sudden… we’re no longer living next to a brothel! It really does feel like the end of an era. It has had an upgrade. No longer are there late-night Maseratis and Lamborghinis parked in the carpark. Instead, there’s a early morning stream of tour group families heading off for Beijing adventures.

It is now officially the Pacific Hotel!

(I’m sure, however, if you needed some of their previous services, they would still be available on request).

20130702_192223

But I still have a couple of funny photos to share from the renovations.

20130508_181859

From a distance, these toilet doors looked quite cool. Bond and Marilyn… good choice…

20130508_181904

…until you got closer and discovered that they were scary androids.

20130514_125614

Love seat removal blocking our street.

20130617_072102

Been looking for WMDs? I think I found one.

See some older photos here.

The Blue Zoo (BJ Bucket List #3)

In Beijing, we live opposite a soccer stadium. But it’s not only a soccer stadium. It’s a nightclub hotspot. It’s a popular family walking spot. It’s a place to show off your new sports car. It’s a place to watch big pop concerts. It’s a place to open an over-priced jewellery shop.

Oh, and there’s the “longest acrylic tunnel” in Asia, measuring in at  120m! Only in China would you find an giant aquarium under a soccer stadium and nowhere near the ocean.

I’m always a little apprehensive about zoos in China – they don’t have the best reputation. But aside from one section where some turtles and sharks were in a pretty small tank, it was actually pretty impressive! We also went half an hour before closing, so there was no one there! Fabulous!!

IMG_3055a

IMG_3057

IMG_3060

IMG_3063

IMG_3065

IMG_3069

IMG_3074

IMG_3079

IMG_3082

IMG_3083

The Beijing Tap Water Museum (BJ Bucket List #1)

There are a few things on my bucket list for Beijing. And this was the first thing we’ve knocked off the list!!

After parking the car in a ‘xiaoqu’ carpark, we followed the parking inspector’s directions to…

IMG_2805a

The Beijing Tap Water Museum!!

After passing the ticket booth, where the guard insisted that we didn’t have to buy a ticket, we found ourselves in a big field with assorted exampled piping and old machinery. Some groundskeepers were watering the grass/weeds (perhaps to check the water quality?!?!?) and repaving the paths. We were the only guests of the field.

IMG_2807a

Look how big the pipes are to get water to Beijing!

IMG_2808a

No water at the tap water museum.

IMG_2810a

Oh wait, there’s a little bit of green water.

IMG_2811a

No pizza for you!

IMG_2812a

Well-watered lawn. I’m thinking it would be a great place for a picnic! I wonder what the guard would do…

IMG_2813a

IMG_2816a

Does this remind anyone else of the chamber from “Licence to Kill”?

IMG_2827a

Weedy.

IMG_2836a

IMG_2838a

Quite beautiful architecture

IMG_2840a

As we rounded the corner, we realised that there was a big museum inside the red building! It was mostly full of a lot of Chinese info, but it had big empty spaces for babies to crawl/run around and some cool models of the water system. There was one other family inside… not a big tourist attraction! The second guard did make us buy a ticket though.

20130526_103336

The Beijing water network

20130526_103314

Whoops! I think someone poked the Forbidden City.

20130526_103639

The Beijing Tap Water Museum in 1949 (can you see the train going through the city wall?)

20130526_103909

The Beijing Tap Water Museum “now”. We couldn’t see the giant water tower though… that must be gone. And the model seemed quite a lot more manicured.

Beijing is so full of random adventures! You may also be interested in Fake Disneyland, Crab Island and Wonderland Abandoned Amusement Park. Onto bucket list item #2.

Abandoned Amusement Park is no longer

The abandoned Wonderland Amusement Park is no longer… demolished to add another useless shopping mall to this city. Possibly will have had a bigger tourism industry from photography than it will ever have as a mall along a freeway in outer Beijing.

Lucky we got there in time!!

castlesmall

Click here to see our pictures.

And here for the news story on That’s Beijing.

Why we’re leaving China…

I’m feeling sad today. I took bubs out for a walk this morning to run some errands. And I was walking to the market, I ran into so many grandmas who wanted to say hello to bubs and exclaim over her. Then, a lovely lady started chatting to me, and we walked and talked for at least 5 minutes. No agenda – just a general chat about life. We parted ways as I headed downstairs to hunt for some buttons and she wandered off in search of cheap vegies. Why is this sad? Because a thought kept sneaking back into my mind… we shouldn’t be outside… the pollution is too high today… I should be walking faster so we’re back inside sooner.

Sad.

So yes, it’s sad. We’re sad. Super sad. It’s been a really hard decision. The hardest we’ve ever made. It’s weird. It should have been harder to leave Australia and move over here in the first place, but it’s not. It’s much harder to leave. We’ve created our adult lives here. We have a home and careers. But it’s time.

This year has been tough. We’ve put up with three months of intense pollution. Intense. We didn’t really have a break. In the past six years that we’ve lived here, winter has always been beautiful. Blue skies and winter sunshine has always dominated, despite the cold temperatures. But this year was different.

When we think back to our childhoods, we both played outside, in the backyard, on the beach and in the playground. If we stay, I fear Adella will be stuck inside an apartment too much. She loves going outside so much and I’m tired of that being dictated by the pollution report.

I also don’t feel like we’re living the same adventurous lifestyle that we were before. Yes, we have a kid now, but we no longer eat street food and we search high and low for organic, clean food. And I feel that more and more we are living a western lifestyle in China, rather than embracing the wonderful culture that surrounds us.

Speaking of surroundings, we’re going to miss our Beijing family so much. We’ve built such a wonderful, supportive community here. We’ve had some amazing adventures and we have been so lucky to have ayi for Adella’s first year, which has allowed us to go back to work knowing that she was being looked after so well.

How are we dealing with it? I’ve been busying myself with a lot of sewing, studying for the HSK and in the evenings, we’ve been working our way through 7 seasons of American Dad. Living slightly in denial…

I know that once we arrive back in Australia and are surrounded by family and friends, we will feel different. We get to enjoy the sunshine, go to the beach, eat amazing food and start a new adventure. It will be fantastic. I know that.

But today, I’m sad.20130328_075839

Because sometimes it looks like this…
20130423_082604

…but other times it looks like this.

(Same bridge, two different directions, obviously two different days).