Liuzhou Laowai

Random thoughts on life in Liuzhou, Guangxi, China

Friday Food No. 171 – Dongbei Wild Rice Stems


Friday food is a weekly article about one of the more unusual food items to be found in Liuzhou that week. This week, we are getting wild about rice.

I’m not sure what to call this. A number of resources label it as “Manchurian wild rice”, but Manchuria as a name is anathema to most Chinese as it refers to the puppet state set up by the Japanese invaders in the 1930s. The area is known to the Chinese as 东北 (literally “east-north”), so I’m going with Dongbei Wild Rice Stems.


In Chinese, they go by many names, but the most common seems to be 胶笋 or 胶白 or even 胶白笋. They look a lot like bamboo shoots and have been called “water bamboo” in older English texts, but are totally unrelated to bamboo – despite the Chinese name including , which usually refers to bamboo shoots.

They are the stems of a wild rice plant, Zizania latiflora, once an important grain in China. Today the plant is virtually extinct in the wild and the grain is no longer eaten, but the stems are still cultivated as a vegetable.

The stems are infected by a fungus, Ustilago esculenta which causes the stems to swell into juicy tubers. These are peeled, sliced and usually stir fried, although it can be eaten raw. The vegetable retains a certain crispness when stir fried, a desirable quality in Chinese cuisine.

The importation of the stems to the USA is illegal as there are fears the fungus would spread to native wild rice varieties. It is classified as an invasive species in New Zealand.

Around ¥3.00/500g from markets. I’ve only once seen it in a supermarket, and that was only for one day.

Random Ringo

For the last month or so, this pair of young gentlemen have been entertaining the passing citizenry by busking, mainly outside the Lianhua Century Supermarket in the city centre.


They bill themselves as 天空樂隊 which means “Sky Band” and advertise their phone number in case of any passing Chinese Brian Epsteins.

The chap on guitar and vocals manages to hold down a tune and, on a busker level, is competent, although I can’t see Tamla Motown rushing to sign him.

The percussionist, who is no doubt a very pleasant chap, is best described as enthusiastic. He has a collection of buckets and paint tins which bashes energetically and loudly. Unfortunately, rhythm and timing are not in his repertoire. I wonder if he can count to four. I’m sure he wouldn’t know a backbeat from his backside. To my ears it is just random thumping.

Still, they draw a crowd on weekends, although I noticed most people today were laughing and few donating.

But good luck to them. They are 100 times better than the young blind beggar down the road a bit who “sings” without any sense of what music might be.



All of this holiday week, my internet connection here in Liuzhou has ground to a near halt at around 12:20pm and remaining slow until around 2:20 pm. Baffling.

I mean serious slowness to the point that I am getting timeout problems even with local sites. As for the VPN, forget it!

Although, astonishingly, Twitter was unblocked for about half an hour during this period today.

Anyway, the holiday ends today. With luck, we’ll be back to what passes for normal around here.

Friday Food No. 170 – Brake Root Vermicelli


Friday food is a weekly article about one of the more unusual food items to be found in Liuzhou that week. This week, broken black noodles.

I mentioned brake (and fiddleheads) back in Friday Food 95. Now we have a by-product, brake root vermicelli or 蕨根粉丝. The starchy root of the plant is the main source of a type of black noodle popular in Sichuan and neighbouring Shaanxi provinces. Mixed with sweet potato starch and vegetable oil, it is formed into a dough which is then shaped into thin noodles and dried.


The dried noodles are boiled for between 5 and 8 minutes, then refreshed with cold water. They are usually served cold, but can be stir fried or added to hot pots.


The instructions on the package come in beautiful Chinglish!


¥9.50/500g from here.


Brake Root Vermicelli, stir fried with pork (marinated in Shaoxing wine and garlic), bamboo shoots, green and red chilli peppers, green onions and soy sauce.

Here a few links and recipes:

Black Noodles

Mark Hix recipes: Our chef gets creative with pasta and spring vegetables

Slurping Shanghai I: Fern Root Noodles at Dunhuang Xiao Ting

Fern Root Vermicelli With Chicken And Dried Enoki Mushrooms

With This Ring …

I would be failing in my duty if I didn’t bring you this.

Earlier this month, an 18-year old Liuzhou man (boy) had to call the emergency services after enduring two days of pain when he decided to put a wedding ring on his penis, but then couldn’t remove it. His appendage became swollen (not for the most usual reason) until finally, he was in such pain that he couldn’t bear it any longer.


Medical staff put ice packs on his groin in attempts to reduce the swelling, but were still unable to remove the ring. Finally the local fire-fighters were brought in with heavy duty cutters and, after 90 minutes, were able to cut the ring away.




No explanation has been given as to why he did this, but the local social media has been having a lot of fun guessing, although the main topic is the size of the ring, or more accurately the apparent lack of size in the trouser department. In local reports, this last image was captioned as showing the lad covering his face in pain. More likely, he was covering his embarrassment.




Today, Liuzhou’s temperature hit 36ºC. I have no idea and even less interest what that is in illogical, antediluvian measuring systems only still used in one backward  country.

Most unusual for September, but over the next few days it is going to slide back to a more normal 26ºC.

Random Photograph No. 91 – Red Okra

Random Picture No. 91 is one in a series of pictures, taken in Liuzhou, which amuse, baffle or otherwise interest me.


Red okra at Guangya 广雅 Market, Liuzhou. Unfortunately, it turns green when cooked.

Barrier! Do Not Cross! Go Round!

This has been amusing me for a few weeks. One of the few places in Liuzhou you can get respite from the hideous silent killer e-bikes, or e-donkeys as the popular Chinese name means (something of a misnomer, I feel. The donkeys are usually the idiots who ride them) is the pedestrian street in the centre of town.

This, as you may know, is bisected by 公园路 which does carry motorised traffic. In order to prevent the hard of thinking ride their dumb bikes through the pedestrian area, the local authorities have installed these barriers which allow pedestrian access but challenge the intelligence of the donkeys..


Unfortunately, despite the wisdom displayed by the utilisation of these cunning devices, they would probably be more effective if they hadn’t left unfettered access right next to them.


Full marks for utter stupidity.

Fill ‘Er Up


These electric car recharging outlets are popping up across the city. Those pictured here are in the car park of Liuzhou museum.

China is strongly committed to electric vehicle development with the government actively supporting moves away from dependency on fossil fuels and the associated pollution. Both Chinese and foreign car manufacturers are developing vehicles for the Chinese market.


That said, when I visited,not one of the vehicles parked in the museum, including those blocking access to the rechargers, were electric. Indeed, I have have seen very few in Liuzhou, but that may change. One day it will have to.


I am slightly amused to see that the recharging units are designed to resemble filling station pumps.

Song of the Sirens


Japanese troops entering Tsitsihar, Northern China, September 18th, 1931

Those in Liuzhou this morning, Sunday 18th September, may have wondered what the wailing sirens were about. No, we aren’t under immediate threat.

The sirens wail to commemorate the Japanese invasion of China which started on September 18th 1931. They don’t do this every year, but only on significant anniversaries such as those ending in zero or five. Today is the 85th anniversary.

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