Liuzhou Laowai

Random thoughts on life in Liuzhou, Guangxi, China

Friday Food 169 – Burdock

Friday Food is an occasional article about one of the more unusual food items to be found in Liuzhou that week. This time, we are going underground. Roots, mon.

When I was a kid, aeons ago, we used to drink dandelion and burdock. This was traditionally a slightly alcoholic beverage, but the soft drink companies sold a non-alcoholic version. It went out of fashion, but I’m told sales have increased recently.

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I knew what dandelions were. A ubiquitous weed, only useful for blowing off the white seeds and chanting “She love me; she loves me not” until they were all gone, thereby announcing your likelihood of consummation with the object of your desires. It is also a well-known diuretic to the point that the French for dandelion is “pissenlit” which literally means “piss in bed”.

But I had no real idea what burdock might be. Not that I particularly cared. Turns out it is the root of another, botanically related, weed, and in addition to its appearance in my childhood brews, is used in a number of other ways. It is NOT recommended that you go dig it up yourself. The roots are very similar to other roots which can be fatally poisonous.

It is used as a popular vegetable in Japan (ゴボウ; gobō) where it is often added to stews and soups, or served in salads. According to Wikipedia, “The root is very crisp and has a sweet, mild, and pungent flavor“. Mild and pungent? Contradiction, surely.

In China, burdock (Arctium lappa) is known as 牛蒡 is less often used as a food but is mainly used in herbal teas and traditional medicines. It is most commonly sold dried and pre-sliced.

Burdock - 牛蒡

Burdock – 牛蒡

It is also a diuretic and is noted for helping shift “gas and other blockages”.

It costs around ¥36/kg. The amount in the picture above is about one-third of a bunch I bought for ¥5.70. Available from any traditional medicine store.

There is more information and a recipe for the fermented dandelion and burdock drink here. Dandelion in Chinese is 蒲公英. Have fun, but don’t stray too far from the nearest 厕所.

Whole Lotta Shakin’

Typical. I leave Guangxi for a few days and the place starts falling apart. I spent last weekend back in my old haunts in Hunan, where I lived 20 years ago. Almost as soon as I crossed the border, Guangxi has an earthquake!

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The magnitude-5.4 quake, centred on Wuzhou city to the east of Liuzhou, is estimated to have displaced 1200 people and damaged 200 homes, but there have been no recorded injuries.

The tremors were felt by some people in Liuzhou and even as far away as Hong Kong. Minor earthquakes aren’t that uncommon here, but it has been over 400 years since anything major.

Anyway, I had a great time in Hunan: great company, great food. And I didn’t suffer the shakes.

Friday Food 168 – Longan

Friday Food is an occasional article about one of the more unusual food items to be found in Liuzhou that week. This time, we are looking at dragons looking at us.

It is longan season! One of the best.

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Longan (龙眼 or 桂圆 – the latter being more common for the dried fruit) is a relation of the lychee, but smaller, less juicy and more sweet. The name 龙眼 literally means “dragon eyes” referring to the fruit’s appearance when shelled. It has a solid black seed which can be seen through the translucent white fruit, supposedly resembling a dragon’s ocular device.

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The season is relatively short for fresh fruit, but they are also dried and, in this form, available year round. Usually known as 桂圆, these are used in some dessert-type preparations, but also added to soups or “sweet and sour” dishes. They come in two forms: the whole fruit can be dried as is, or the fruits are peeled and de-seeded then dried, Of course, they are also used in traditional Chinese medicine. What isn’t?

Dried Longan

Dried Longan Pulp

Drying the fruit also darkens it in colour. Some can be near black.

Fresh fruit is available now from all markets and supermarkets, but be quick. Around ¥20/kg. The dried whole fruit is around ¥30/500g, where as the dried flesh costs ¥100 and up/500g.

Liuzhou Seaplane Operator in Fatal Shanghai Crash

The operator of the recently introduced seaplane service here in Liuzhou, Joy Air General, is China’s largest commercial seaplane operator.

On Wednesday 20th July, while launching a new service in Shanghai, their Cessna 208B crashed into a bridge while carrying eight guests (local government officials and members of the local press) and two crew. Five were killed. The pilot was one of the survivors.

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The cause of the accident is being investigated. I’m keeping grounded.

More Miao Embroidery

Well! I didn’t know you were all such embroidery fans. But, in response to my many readers’ requests, here are a bunch more pictures from the Miao embroidery exhibition I mentioned in my last post.

There are 33, I think, so loading might be slow. Sorry. Random order.

The exhibition has still more, but they really were impossible to photograph well. A couple were even too badly lit to be seen.

Here we go

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And that’s your lot.

Miao Embroidery Exhibition

Liuzhou Museum is holding yet another of its free temporary exhibitions.

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This time its an exhibition of embroidery. Now, if you had told me about this I would have responded with a sarcastic “How fascinating!” I’m not the embroidery type.

However, I wandered in yesterday (I regularly use the museum’s front and back doors as a shortcut) and popped in for a quick look. To my astonishment it was quite something.

What we have is a collection of Miao ethnic minority embroidery art from Guizhou Province to the north west of Guangxi.  The intricacy and level of details of many of these works is astonishing. What I saw was definitely art rather than craft.

Here a few photos which sadly do not do justice to the originals (the museum’s lighting is awful).

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There are dozens more – a selection can be seen here. The free exhibition is in the temporary display room on the first (ground) floor of the museum. It will run until August 7th. Closed Mondays. Open Tuesday – Sunday, 9am to 5pm. No entry after 4 pm.

Friday Food 167 – Sweet Potato Shoots

Friday Food is an occasional article about one of the more unusual food items to be found in Liuzhou that week. This time, we are looking at another of the myriad examples of greenery found in the supermarkets and markets.

Sweet Potato Shoots

These are the young shoots and leaves of sweet potatoes. Known locally as 红薯苗, although there are at least a dozen different names in use in China. They are widely available and very cheap.

Usually, they are simply stir fried with garlic and a bit of salt and served as a side dish. They can also , like most examples of greenery, be added to hot pots and soups, though that is much less common.

KFC Toe Job

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Local users of social media are up in arms following a report in yesterday’s local paper that a young woman was spotted eating alone in the KFC beside Gongmao Department store – Liuzhou’s first, but sadly not last, KFC.

Her offence wasn’t being alone. Her offence was that while eating whatever KFC sell instead of food, she was simultaneously clipping her toenails.

Personally, I applaud her for attention to foot care. You need your feet. Nothing wrong with a well trimmed toe, says I.

I do worry about her diet, though.

Random Photograph No. 89 – June 2016

Random Picture No. 89 is one in a series of pictures, taken in Liuzhou, which amuse, baffle or otherwise interest me.

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Liuzhou Infant Milk Scare?

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Western media is reporting that a new China “fake milk and baby health scare” is being discussed on Chinese social sites such as WeChat and Weibo. This time the attention is on Liuzhou.

According to the reports, a number of nurseries in Liuzhou have been sourcing milk products from “an unlicensed ‘dairy'” which supplied the milk substitute to 29 nurseries.

Chinese media has reported that some 10,000 individual containers of milk products have been seized. Liuzhou media is resolutely silent, as always.

Social media users have been posting photographs of sick children, mostly toddlers, who have allegedly been given these products in their nurseries.

Guangxi government have denied everything, which they always do. One day, maybe,  they will wake up and realise that their stonewalling actually contributes more to the wave of rumour which they are trying to stem.

Social media posts using the hashtag #MilkProblemFlowsIntoPreschools have so far received more than 2m reads. Many of them criticise the authorities for “silencing” the scandal.

More information here.


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