Liuzhou Laowai

Random thoughts on life in Liuzhou, Guangxi, China

Sister City Update

Liuzhou has a number of Sister City or Twin City agreements. The longest running (30 years), best known and most active is that with Cincinnati in the USA. Here is an updated list.

Cincinnati, USA

Passau, Germany

Rayong Province, Thailand

Bandung, Indonesia

Mantinlupa, Philippines

Vĩnh Yên, Vietnam

N’Djamena, Chad

In addition there is a loose agreement on cooperation with Schwechat, Austria.

Here in China, Liuzhou is also twinned with Jilin City.

Friday Food No. 187 – Hemp Seed


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 hemped up.

What you are seeing here are seeds. Cannabis Sativa seeds, to be precise. 火麻仁 in Chinese.

Despite China’s well-known strict attitude to psychotropics, the cultivation of hemp for industrial and food use is permitted, provided it is a strain with lower concentrations of THC and higher concentrations of cannabidiol (CBD), which decreases or eliminates its psychoactive effects..

Hemp is used in the production of paper, textiles, clothing, biodegradable plastics, paint, insulation, biofuel, etc.

Hemp seeds can be eaten raw, ground into a meal, sprouted, or made into dried sprout powder. They are also added to granola type mixes or used in breads, etc. Hempseed oil is cold-pressed from the seed and is high in unsaturated fatty acids.

The leaves of the plant can be consumed raw in salads. Hemp can also be made into a liquid and used for baking or for beverages such as hemp milk, hemp juiceand tea.

As always, several health benefits are ascribed to hemp seeds, particularly for their vitamin B content and for roughage.

Seeds are available for 30元/kg.

Instant (Non)-Gratification

I’ve resisted. Not that there was much temptation. I have thought the whole idea ridiculous from the beginning. But some weeks ago, I was given a large box of them and they have been sitting in the corner annoying me.

Bags of “instant” luosifen (螺蛳粉). Please don’t misunderstand. I like luosifen. A lot. When it’s made properly. But making them properly is a mysterious process.

The stock/broth/soup base is based on the local river snails (螺蛳). These are boiled, along with pork bones, for anywhere between 3 and 10 hours. Additional ingredients include black cardamom, fennel seed, dried tangerine peel, cassia bark, cloves, salt, pepper, bay leaf, licorice root, sand ginger, and star anise. No one really weighs or measures anything. Each shop ‘knows’ how much of anything is needed. There may be other ingredients, too.

Once the broth is ready, rice noodles made from ‘old rice’ are added. The ‘old rice’ gives the noodles a firmer, more chewy texture than other rice noodles such as those used in Guilin Mifen (桂林米粉), for example. Alongside the noodles fried dried beancurd sticks, pickled bamboo shoots, black fungus, lettuce, peanuts and preserved cowpeas are also added. A hefty slug of chilli oil is necessary for authenticity. You may add more chilli, pickles etc to taste. Then you are ready to rock.

To prepare instant luosifen, you boil the wrong noodles, drain then start again with new water and a bunch of gloop from plastic bags.

So, yesterday I succumbed and decided to see what this miracle of modern technology would actually result in. What I had was this.

The bag contained nine smaller bags:

Inspection of the ingredients list broke these down as:

Rice noodle bag: dry rice noodles (rice, edible corn starch, water)

Sauce bag: fresh snail meat, vegetable oil, edible salt, spice, rock sugar, monosodium glutamate (MSG), chicken powder, bone soup, rice wine, cassia bark.

Small vegetable bag: sour bamboo shoots, black fungus, mustard, dried radish, capers, vinegar, salt, paprika, potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate)

Bean milk skin (fuzhu) bag: dried bean milk skin, sodium metabisulfite, edible oil

Peanut Pack: Peanut, Edible Oil

Spicy oil bag: cooking oil, chili, spice

The instructions told me to boil the noodles for 10 to 12 minutes (I choose the lower end of the spectrum), then drain and set aside.

I was then instructed to boil 350 ml of water and add the soup mix. Stir until well mixed, add the noodles and the rest of the ingredients to taste. In the interests of boldly going, I added everything.

I was convinced the 350ml of water was misguided but was determined to follow their recipe. Although the finished product looked right, it tasted awful.  Massively over-salted, over MSG-ed and tasting of raw chilli. While a good luosifen does pack a clout of flavour, it is also full of complex and subtle tastes. This was just a hit to the head with a blunt instrument.

This is one of the better brands, too. I’ve read a lot of the ingredient lists on these products and many don’t even contain snail meat – the whole point.

This morning, to restore my sanity, I went out and had a good bowl from my favourite luosifen shack.

My problem now is I still have eleven bags of the disgusting stuff. I’ll have to give them to people I don’t like.

Luosifen on Facebook.

Random Photograph 97. Military Man Aged Area

Random Picture No. 97 is one in a series of pictures, taken in Liuzhou, which amuse, baffle or otherwise interest me.

I have no idea who this military man may be or why he has been ageing areas.

(Liuzhou fire station,)

Random Photograph 96 – Yufeng Beer

Random Picture No. 96 is one in a series of pictures, taken in Liuzhou, which amuse, baffle or otherwise interest me.

A recent comment on this post made me remember this. The brief discussion was about foul-tasting alcoholic beverages in China and elsewhere.

Twenty years ago, there was a brewery here in Liuzhou which made and sold its local beverage, Yufeng Beer 鱼峰啤酒, supposedly in their sad deluded minds competing with local favourite, Guilin’s 漓泉啤酒.

It was utterly disgusting. Watery, insipid and strongly smelling of formaldehyde. Locals referred to it as ‘peasant’s beer’ on the basis that it was so cheap, it was the only beer the peasants could afford. It was ¥1 a large bottle compared to the ¥3 for Liquan at the time.

At one point, Liuzhou’s government held a large banquet for dignitaries and the then resident foreigners. They dished out locally made cigarettes, Golden throat lozenges, Liangmenzhen toothpaste and the dreaded Yufeng beer. Everyone refused to drink it.

Major loss of face ensued and lackeys from Liuzhou Hotel were send scuttling off to bring proper beer, courtesy of Liquan.

No one will pretend that Liquan is the  greatest beer in the world or even China, but it is Cristal champagne compared to that muck.

The brewery closed its door in ignominy shortly after this debacle.

World Baijiu Day

Car Park Blues

Somehow, I missed this last week. Better late than never.

A driver was detained by police this week after he was filmed deliberately banging his truck 11 times into an SUV which was blocking his way out of a car park in

yeah, Liuzhou.

The full story and video are here.

Old Liuzhou in Pictures No. 5

When it was built in 1956, Liuzhou Fire Station was by far the tallest building in the city. Originally, the tower was 36 metres tall, but was extended to 42 metres in 1982. As the tallest building, it was used to overlook the city and hopefully spot any fires, so enabling a quick response.

Of course, today it is overshadowed by many buildings, particularly the adjacent Diwang building, at 303 metres now the tallest in the city.

Being a “military managed area” (the fire-fighting service in China is a branch of the military), the station is not normally open to the public, although it occasionally has open days for schoolchildren.

The building is on 北站路, at the junction with 三中路, a short distance north of Liuzhou Museum.

Man the Barricades!

As usual, I have no idea what’s going on.

A few weeks back, Liuzhou museum, my favourite shortcut, decided to impede my progress from the back door to the font by installing airport style security measures. You have to empty your pockets and walk through one of those full body scanner things to enter, just in case you are some lunatic determined to hijack a museum and demand it be flown to Cuba! They haven’t yet asked that you remove your shoes, but some idiot in management soon will.

I can only assume they know something we don’t or they saw body scanners on Taobao and thought they needed new toys.

At the same time, some of the “military managed areas” around town have been installing what I can only describe as anti-tank defences. No doubt in anticipation of the post-museum fevered hordes deciding to take it all out on the “people’s” army.

It’s probably a communist plot.

Long Live Chairman Mao! Long, Long Live!

Long Live Chairman Mao! Long, Long Live!

I am delighted to report that I was mistaken in my last post and Chairman Mao has been resurrected. The Hunan restaurant which I sadly reported as having vanished after decades, has in fact just moved to new premises more-or-less opposite its original site.

It is on the second floor of this building on Gongyuan Road (公园路) just east of where the road bisects the city centre predestrian street.

Shaoshan Welcomes You

I can’t confirm that it is still decorated with huge portraits of the chairman – it was closed when I passed early this morning. Nor can I confirm that it is the same menu.

I wish them luck in their new venue, but that place has seen many residents over the years including one establishment where the entire staff came out on strike and the owner did a runner never to be seen again!

Thanks to reader, ‘canrun’ for the tip-off.

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