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Born in the UK but now living in Australia, Paul Fox has travelled to many places throughout China. He has seen the lighter side, the darker side, both the gentle and the seedy sides. He documents his experiences and is willing to share them with anyone who wants to listen. He is not afraid to say things exactly how he sees them, and is quite happy to "name and shame" when necessary.
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PoC - Christmas    

By Paul Fox
1452 Views | 3 Comments | 11/28/2015 5:13:39 PM

~‘I’ll take you to a good western restaurant’ a friend of mine said to me back in 2009. ‘Great’ said I,with ecstatic enthusiasm. Not knowing a single word of Chinese back then, my friend took over the ordering and soon I found myself with a plate of steak, chips and salad - awesome ! - or so I thought......



The thick, brown sauce that covered the steak looked a little strange and so, very gingerly, I tasted it.....

‘It’s COFFEE!’ I said in disgust.

It was a thick, VERY strong-tasting, coffee sauce that had been smothered over my steak and was extremely bitter and nasty.



‘WTF?’ I said to my friend

‘Well you are western and westerners like coffee - right?’

‘Yeah, but not on my fking STEAK!’



I scraped it all off to reveal my ‘steak’

I say ‘steak’ in inverted comma’s because it deserves to be in inverted comma’s

Thick fat surrounding a tiny bit of meat attached to a huge BONE!

This was food for the DOG .....minus the remainder of the coffee sauce of course!



Needless to say, the owner and ‘chef’ in this so-called ‘western restaurant’ was......you guessed it.....CHINESE!

Now stop and think for a moment.....if you....in Australia, Canada, USA, Britain etc, went out to a Chinese restaurant on a Saturday night and found that the chef was a westerner, maybe you could be forgiven for being somewhat sceptical about what you were about to be served.

Before coming to China to work at the beginning of this year, I had previously been here over 50 times, been to more than 30 different cities in 12 different provinces. There is only ONE western-STYLE place that I have been to that has served me half-decent western food, and that is a BAR in Nantong, (JiangSu province) that’s called ‘The Captain’s Table’ (It’s worth a mention here in case anyone finds themselves in Nantong as it’s actually not bad at all)

All other ‘western restaurants’ I have been to in China are simply awful!



Fortunately, I LOVE Chinese food, so any time I REALLY get that longing for a good western meal, I cook it myself.

But herein lies a LITTLE problem......

Even trying to BUY some western ingredients sends you on a wild goose-chase, and with Christmas fast approaching (along with winter), it’s time to get prepared for some serious western nosebag!

I’m not a huge fan of Christmas-cake, but I’ll kill you for a good, old-fashioned mince pie and Christmas isn’t Christmas without Chrissy pud and custard.......not forgetting TURKEY, and of course.....STUFFING!



Alas....this is CHINA! Their idea of Christmas is to throw up a Christmas Tree in a shopping mall and then play ‘Jingle Bells’ 24/7 until it drives you up the wall!



So it was time to dust-off Granny’s book of knowledge and read a few of her hand-written proverbs.

The 2 that got my brain-cells in motion were -

“Necessity is the mother of invention’ and ‘If you can’t fkin buy it, fkin make it’ (which was probably one of her own proverbs written one night after a sherry-or-two, lol)



So I sat down one night and made a list of what I REALLY needed for a good Christmas nosh-up



Lamb fat (for roasting potatoes)

Turkey

Lard for making pastry for mince pies

Mincemeat (for mince pies)

Christmas pudding

Custard powder

Sausage-meat (for stuffing the turkey and making sausage rolls)

Puff-pastry ( for sausage rolls)

Caster Sugar (for dusting over mince pies)

Muffin tin (for baking mince pies)

Sherry (for getting rat-arsed on Christmas Day)



Well there’s eleven things to begin with, and even though they are ALL available in EVERY western supermarket, NONE are available off-the-shelf in my ‘quaint little village’



So, with Granny’s proverbs in the forefront of my mind I began my quest to procure the aforementioned items......



Being a lazy S.O.B at times, I decided that my first port-of-call would be to post a message on a rather lively WeChat group that I am part of. It consists of 81 foreigners from all over Europe and the Americas

Nothing.................. Not a single response!

In fact, the next message to be posted was ‘I’m fairly new in town. Does anyone know where I can get a decent western breakfast?’

Haha, no response!

Considering the Chinese are given credit for inventing the sausage, there’s not a half-decent sausage to be found in ANY of the major supermarkets, including WalMart!



Nigella and Jamie to-the-rescue (so I thought) - but the problem with their web-sites is that they just ASSUME we can go out and buy the ingredients that we need - we CAN’T in China!



There is ONE ‘life-saver’ in China.....it’s a web-site called TaoBao. They say you can buy ANYTHING on TaoBao (but it’s all in Chinese), so I decided to put it to the test (with the help of my Chinese friend)



Here’s what we found out.....



“Mr Kipling’ (the famous British mince-pie maker) is a gay farmer in Wales

‘Bernard Matthews’ (the famous British turkey-farmer) is a trans-gender bus driver in York

‘Richmond Irish Pork Sausages’ don’t exist

‘Mincemeat’ is diced pork meat with heaps of fat

‘Puff-Pastry’ is a name given to Chinese gay men

‘Stuffing’ is either feathers or little cubes of foam

‘Lard’ is a medical condition

‘Turkey’ is a European country

And ‘Sherry’ will call round and give you ‘full-service’ if you book her in advance!



Well done TaoBao!





To Be Continued...................


Copyright owned jointly by Author and CyberCupid Co., Ltd. Breach of copyright will be prosecuted.
Comments
(Showing 1 to 3 of 3) 1
#2015-11-27 13:25:17 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

Paul, this is a very funny article (once again), and I remember during the first 6 years of my tenure in China going through a similar process throughout the year and especially leading up to Christmas. Not actually planning to cook Christmas dinner. I'd rather have a Chinese busboy cook my Christmas dinner than me cooking it. But I mean trying to find a decent Western restaurant, and especially trying to find one that might serve a passable Christmas dinner.

Eventually I found some, but certainly not in a little rinkydink town of only 4 million people. However, in Beijing during a stay there hanging out with @Justin who used to blog for us and is a close personal friend, he showed me a great American style restaurant where I had the best steak and eggs breakfast ever, and I lived in the USA for several years and in Canada we pride ourselves on our breakfasts too. But this was extraordinary.

Same week we hung out in a cool little cafe/bar just off the square between the two bell towers and I had a shepherd's pie to die for.

My wife and I spent a few days in Yangshuo, near Guilin, where there is amazing scenery and a touristy but nice old town. A lot of Expats hang out there. To get a good feel for the place you guys should view this video, and I recommend on a HD big screen TV:

https://player.vimeo.com/video/107995891.

While there I spotted a sign hanging over the entrance to a small restaurant on a sidestreet in old town that said (and you will love this) "Best Fking Hamburger in China". "Fking" was spelled in full. So I had to go test that out. Turned out the place was owned by a young, very attractive Chinese woman, about 24 years old or so, who spoke good English and had an American boyfriend. And guess what? That was not the best Fking burger in China. It was the best Fking burger anywhere.

She only served three a day, and her father headed out every morning and went to a special butcher shop to pick up the special groundbeef. He was delivering it while we were talking to her. My wife and I each had one and we agreed we had never had a burger that good.

And finally, I found an Irish Pub in Guangzhou, the city you and I both love to hate, that put on a pretty good Christmas Turkey Dinner, including a great gravy and excellent ham on the side.

So don't give up, keep looking.

Now, one more thing about your blog:

"Lard for making pastry for mince pies"

Barry, don't read this blog!!! :o Cover your eyes! I cannot imagine your reaction to someone looking for lard to make their pastry.

LARD??? Paul, are you trying to experience a stroke up close and personal?

Oh, last thing, you wrote fking (well you wrote more but I shortened it to fking) 5 times. Now I have added it 3 times in my comment. That is enough that Google might consider it a keyword and that this article is about "fking". We might be ranking on P1 on Google search for the keyword fking someday soon. Now there's something to be proud of. Good work! (rock)

#2015-11-27 16:42:15 by paulfox1 @paulfox1

@johnabbot

You said

LARD??? Paul, are you trying to experience a stroke up close and personal?

Haha...............oh ye of little knowledge, Sir !

I guess most people would tell you that the best form of any 'cooking oil' is extra-virgin olive oil - and they would be correct. Olive oil contains around 77% monosaturated fat (good fat)
I guess if you or your wife make pastry then you use butter (most people do), and butter contains around 30% monosaturated fat
Right there in the middle is Lard with around 50% monosaturated fat - (Lard has less BAD fat than butter)

The best shortcrust pastry is made using 50/50 lard and butter

Lard got its 'bad name' thanks to a crafty American firm that made an oil they named 'Crisco' many years ago. It was made from cottonseed oil (terrible stuff) but also contained lard
They said that the TASTE of their product came from the cottonseed oil, when in fact they added the lard for FLAVOUR as cottonseed oil is tasteless

Lard makes the best roast potatoes, fried eggs/meat etc etc. In the early part of the 20th century lard was used instead of butter and was spread on bread
It has a tremendously long shelf-life and is certainly not worthy of its bad name

You can check these facts on the internet

That said, store-bought lard contains all kinds of other ingredients and is also hydrogenated so home-made lard using internal fat (around the pigs heart and kidneys) from a good-quality pig is the way to go. It's certainly a lot healthier than butter and the 'one-molecule-short-of-plastic' Margarine!

#2015-11-27 19:16:24 by Barry1 @Barry1

@paulfox1

"Lamb fat (for roasting potatoes), Turkey, Lard for making pastry for mince pies, Mincemeat"

I must say John was correct, Paul.

Reading the ingredients for your Christmas feast almost made me gag.

The ONLY thing you mentioned in it that I'd consider eating was the Christmas pudding, as long as it wasn't too sugary. The more tart it was, the better.

I tend to eat very simple foods, such as seeds, nuts, a few greens, fish, fruit and eggs. Certainly nothing like the heart attack promoting foods you've just mentioned.

But you know what? At age 61, I jogged 13kms the other day, followed up by a quick 10km jog the day afterwards. I routinely jog 5 to 7kms nearly every day at the University. I feel great. So the simple foods that I eat must be plenty good enough to lead a healthy, active lifestyle.

I know you're also a smoker. As a friend, let me say that I'm genuinely concerned about your lifestyle choices, as far as food, smoking and exercise are concerned. By the time you're in your mid sixties, I fear that you'll be a sitting duck for serious cardiovascular or pulmonary illness. That's only ten or so years away, Paul. This is said in the context that my brother's wife at age 59 has contracted terrible lung cancer that's now insidiously spreading to her bones. She's allergic to some of the chemotherapy drugs being dished out to her - landing her in the intensive care ward - so the cure's almost as bad as the disease!

You mentioned also that you've purchased an electric motorcycle where you live. I urge you however to WALK around the city, rather than jumping on this contraption. Even if it's 10kms you need to travel - walking the journey will do you some good! Having a cute little electric scooter will always tempt you to take the easy choice of riding it, rather than walking.

Lifestyle choices, Paul. This is the key concept. Which ones do you intend to live by? :^)

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