Tag Archives: tea

Succulent Surprises!


Before arriving in China, the two things I was worried about most were the language barrier and food.

We’ve all heard the stories. Dogs, monkeys, frogs, bugs, the Chinese have developed a bit of a reputation for their adventurous eating habits. This, plus the extremely limited communication between the Chinese and non-Chinese speakers had me seriously worried that I’d find something very undesirable on my plate.

Even in the United States I’ve never been a huge fan of Chinese food and frankly, the Chinese food in Malaysia was by far my least favorite among the options.

But to my delightful surprise, the Chinese food from China was SOME OF THE BEST FOOD I’VE EVER EATEN. In fact, aside from Thailand, China was the only other Asian country where I continually sought out local food for the entire duration of my trip, instead of the usual “I need pizza and pasta” cravings I usually get after a few days. And, also to China’s credit, I only got food poisoning on two occasions, which is not bad considering my track record and the fact that I spent two months there.

I will say, however, that unless you really love bones, avoid the chicken. After initial experiences picking the stringy and unappetizing chicken pieces off the bones (the Chinese believe it tastes better that way), I soon gave up and decided to stick to beef or pork for the remainder of the trip.

Below is a list of the best and/or most interesting food experiences I had in China.

Char Siew and Roasted Goose

Char Siew and roasted goose in Hong Kong

One of my favorite Chinese dishes in Malaysia, char siew is essentially barbecued pork, a specialty in Cantonese food in places like Hong Kong. On the right side of the plate is roasted goose, another fan favorite for Hong Kong, though I think goose will never be my favorite…

Dim Sum

Dim Sum in Hong Kong

Another Cantonese specialty, dim sum is the original Sunday brunch where family and friends get together to share a series of small, often steamed, dishes. My lovely friend Althea and her mother took me out for dim sum while I was in Hong Kong, and we had a great time. Though her tricksy mother did try to sneak in some shrimp-filled dishes despite my strict no-seafood diet.

Althea’s Mom: “Did you like that dish?”

Me: (The one with the obvious fish taste to it I had politely ignored) “It was ok.”

Althea’s Mom: “Ha, there was shrimp in that! You like it, see?”

Me: “Uh huh…”

Chicken Head

Ivy shows off my surprise chicken head!

In China, they like all parts of their meat, and I mean, all parts. But for some reason, the discovery of the chicken head inside our steamed chicken at Grandma’s Kitchen in Hangzhou still surprised me, and I did a little jump in my seat before bursting out laughing at my own squeamishness. I think my host, Ivy, was a little freaked out, but she was still a good sport :).

Peking Duck

Peking duck in Beijing after a long day visiting the Great Wall!

THE dish of Beijing, my picky self was fairly confident that I would not be a fan of the Peking Duck. Gotta say, though, add in a tortilla and some plum sauce, and the stuff is pretty good and a wonderful ending to a long trek on the Great Wall :).

Szechuan Food

Local Sichuan food while having dinner with my host in Leshan.

Also spelled “Szechuan,” Sichuan food is known for its spicy, bold flavors. The region is famous for its food, which is often full of garlic, chillis, ginger and oil. I don’t really know the details of what I ate, I would just point to things and enjoy :).

Tibetan Butter Tea

Tibetan butter tea in Western China

You either love it or hate it, and I definitely loved it! Consumed throughout the day by Tibetans, butter tea is essentially yak butter melted into tea. It was thick and salty and had an overall warming effect, much appreciated when up in the mountains. I thought it tasted like liquid brie!


Best momos ever, though technically found in Nepal…

Though technically dumplings themselves, momos are a Tibetan style of dumpling which seemed to me to just be extra delicious. Dumplings all over China were amazing, though you can find momos in Nepal, northern India and other nearby regions as well. Pictured here are the best I found: homemade, road side steamed momos stuffed with chicken and vegetables discovered outside a temple in Nepal (ok, so technically not China, but you get the drift :)).

Tea Tasting at the China National Tea Museum

Tea tasting at the China National Tea Museum in Hangzhou

Though I am no tea connoisseur (yet ;)), I love tea! While green tea might be China’s most famous, I think my favorite Chinese tea is the ginseng oolong, a light tea that leaves a deliciously sweet after taste. This photo was taken while tea tasting at the China National Tea Museum in Hangzhou, situated amongst its famous green tea fields.

Live Chinese Food

Dinner awaits outside a restaurant in Yangshuo

It was not an uncommon occurrence to see cages, buckets or tanks outside restaurants filled with what would become tonight’s meal. While I prefer to live in the blissful ignorance of not thinking about the animal that had to die for my dinner, China sort of puts it all out there. I remember having a quite delicious rabbit stew with my host in Leshan (my first time eating rabbit!) and then feeling quite conflicted upon spotting the sweet, white bunnies locked up in cages out the front door. In the pet vs. food dilemma, I think I may have to keep the bunnies on the pet side…


Tsampa inside a Tibetan nomadic tent in Western China

A Tibetan staple, tsampa is a simple meal made of mostly barley flour and butter tea. It wasn’t particularly tasty, but definitely gives the body what it needs when trying to stay warm up in the mountains!

Chinese Noodles, Szechuan Noodles

Delicious street noodles in Chengdu!

Whether it be in a restaurant or on the street, you can never go wrong with Chinese noodles! These spicy Sichuan ones here cost about $1 in Chengdu and made for one happy girl!

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Cars, Cameron and Cherating


With some of my recent trips, I haven’t had much time to actually write about life in Malaysia. Things have calmed down for a bit now, and I’m happy to say that life in Malaysia has been pretty good lately. This last month in particular has been really fun with lots of positive changes :).

The biggest change is that I finally bought a car. Yes, I am now the proud owner of a light green, 2002 Proton Wira, a medium-sized Malaysian car that was within my budget and not the size of a clown car. No more fighting to communicate with non-English speaking taxi drivers, no more long journeys on the LRT subway, no more staying at home because going out is too much  of a hassle, I AM OFFICIALLY MOBILE!!!

My car

Now, I’m not going to lie. For the record, I still HATE Malaysian drivers. Seriously, they are the most impatient, selfish drivers I have ever seen.  People cut you off constantly, motorbikes weave in and out of traffic without looking and everybody parks wherever they want, regardless of whether or not they are blocking traffic or visibility for others. I have woken up in the middle of the night at least three times now with an overwhelming fear that I would die in a car crash here. I wish I was kidding, but in the end, all I can do is hope for the best and triple check my mirrors :).

Me at the Boh Tea Plantation

Along with getting a car, I have also had the chance to explore deeper into Malaysia and see some really cool things. In March, I joined some fellow CouchSurfers on a weekend trip to the Cameron Highlands, a cooler area of Malaysia within its Titiwangsa mountain range that is a popular weekend getaway. With cooler temperatures, the area is full of tea, vegetable and flower plantations that offer breathtaking views and a welcome relief from the heat. We spent most of our time at the Boh Tea Plantation, one of Malaysia’s most established tea producers, and it was incredible. All around are hill after hill after hill of rich, green tea bushes, all manicured into neat little rows. The air is much crisper there with a vague scent of tea, and you just feel fresh as you breathe it in. I felt like I was in the Great Valley (where are my Land Before Time peeps at? :P).

At one point, we even got a glimpse of Malaysia’s former prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (2003-2009) who was also enjoying tea that day. Though I really know nothing about him, it was still pretty cool :).

Last weekend I was finally able to check out some of Malaysia’s beaches with a weekend trip to Cherating, a small village on Malaysia’s east coast known for its surfing. My Malay friend Omar invited us to join him on his weekend surfing trip, and it was a blast! Omar showed us how to surf, and though we were pretty bad, we just enjoyed jumping in the waves! As a Michigan girl, what was especially refreshing was jumping into water that wasn’t freezing cold. Though not exactly crystal clear, the water was a perfect lukewarm temperature, making it irresistible and easy to spend the entire day in. I couldn’t get enough!

Me and the baby meerkat

Perhaps equally as cool as the surfing, however, is I got to hold some exotic pets! Yes, we all know my weakness for small, furry animals, and I was absolutely delighted when I discovered one of the village families had a baby squirrel, a baby meerkat and a baby monkey! Seriously, HOW COOL IS THAT??? I have always wanted to hold a squirrel (they just look so darn cute outside), but honestly, they’re much more rodent-like than I expected, and I was quickly disenchanted. The meerkat, however, was the sweetest little thing. It was like a small, grey “Timone” and would just sit inside of my hand, so cute! The monkey, however, was my favorite. If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that monkeys are kind of a big deal, but this was the FIRST TIME I was actually able to pet one! “Kiki” didn’t really like to be held, plus after my first monkey attack, not sure how close I wanted to be to its teeth, but I was able to feed him with a baby bottle and pet him a little, which was still really awesome!!!

So now I sit here, nursing my bright red skin, looking forward to this weekend’s trip to Perhentian Island in northern Malaysia. My face maybe sunburnt but at least it’s smiling :).