Archive for » October, 2012 «

Xiao long bao

“Liang ge tian doujiang.” (two orders of sweet soy bean milk)

“Yi ge youtiao.” (one order of Chinese doughnut)

“Yi ge xiaolongbao.” (one order of steamed dumpling)

“Yi ge Shianghai chao nian gao.” (one order of Shanghai rice cake)

“Yi ge tangmian.” (one order of noodle soup)

“Yi ge Shianghai xian chao.” (one order of Shanghai stir fry)

I gave my orders to our waiter without glancing at the menus. I sport a habit of ordering the same dishes at all our favorite restaurants, which makes ordering really easy.

“You used “ge” for everything,” Hubby stated to me, as soon as our waiter took off with our order.

“What?” me.

“You used “ge” for everything. You didn’t use the proper counter words for the dishes.” Hubby.

He is such a nerd. I ignored him.

“Sometimes, they correct you when they repeat the orders back to you. But this waiter didn’t bother.” Hubby kept on going with it.

I stared back him, looking unamused.

Then my 12-year-old caught on to this flaw in my Chinese, and chimed in, “Wait! You don’t know the counter words in Chinese EITHER?!”

“I do!!” me.

“So I used improper Chinese. “Ge” kind of works for everything. I was just being lazy.” I shot a look to my husband.

But both kids were looking at me with wicked purpose. I felt the need to defend myself.

“Liang bei tian doujiang.” (two glasses of sweet soy bean milk)

“Yi tiao youtiao.” (one stick of Chinese doughnut)

“Yi long xiaolongbao.” (one basket of steamed dumpling)

“Yi pan Shianghai chao nian gao.” (one plate of Shanghai rice cake)

“Yi wan tangmian.” (one bowl of noodle soup)

“Yi pan Shianghai xian chao.” (one plate of Shanghai stir fry)

I repeated the order back to the kids with proper counter names. Then added with bitter indignity, “did I ever let you starve when we eat at Chinese restaurants?”

My husband didn’t know a single real word of Chinese until he met me, when he troubled himself with a year and half of Chinese lessons.

My good friend had once told me that his taking a year and half of Chinese didn’t do us any good, and she is right! His Chinese is no where good enough to converse with in Chinese, but just good enough that we no longer feel comfortable talking about him in his presence. And every now and then, he catches my improper Chinese and corrects me.

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White Rice Blues
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“YEAH!! Pig Feet!” my kids would cheer in unison when they see me preparing one of their favorite dishes: Pig Feet with Soy Bean.

I love to make this dish too. It is super cheap, and really easy to make. You can buy a nicely packaged pig feet in just about any Asian market for about three dollars.

Key ingredients:

Pig Feet: I usually buy the back feet. If you want more meat, you can buy the larger front feet pack.

One Pack of Pig Feet

Soy Bean: I use about half a cup of dry soy bean, and soak them in water overnight.

Soak Dry Soy Beans overnight

Garlic: A whole head of garlic cloves.

Green onion: 3 strings of green onion, cleaned, cut off just the ends.

Cooking wine: ¼ cup of cooking wine.

Dark Soy Sauce: ¼ cup of dark soy sauce. No salt is necessary, since dark soy sauce is already very salty.

Vinegar: 1/3 cup of dark vinegar.

Rock Sugar: These candy pieces come in different sizes, eyeballing about 1/3 cup worth.


Water: 1/3 cup of water. And add more as needed.

Cooking oil: 1/4 cup of cooking oil.

Preparation: 15 min.
Cook time: 3-4 hours (low heat simmering).

1. Prepare a large cooking pot with cooking oil.
2. When the cooking oil is hot put the garlic cloves in.
3. Then carefully lower pig feet into the frying pan. Braise the pig feet in high heat for about 3 minutes on each side.

Braising the pig feet

4. Turn off the stove. Drain the water from the soaked soy beans, then add the soy beans into the pot with the pig feet.
5. Add the rest of the ingredients in.

Pig feet with all the ingredients

6. Turn the stove back on with high heat, bring to a boil.
7. Then turn to low heat to simmer for about 3 to 4 hours. Turn the pieces in the pot every 30 minutes or so. Add more water if needed to avoid the pot becoming too dry.
8. Optional: just add more water if you want more of the sauce. This sauce is great on white rice.


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Last Friday night, I went to pick up my kids from their Chinese School. My baby emerged out of her classroom door with sad eyes and a pouting mouth.

“What’s wrong?!” I was immediately alarmed.

“My teacher gave us extra homework.” my baby’s voice was grave and barely audible.

“Oh. Is that all? We can handle a little extra work.” I found little empathy towards the baby’s unhappiness, but comforted the child with a little squeeze.

“She told us to write an essay!” the baby’s voice thundered in the staircase.

“In Chinese?” me.

“Yes. At least 30 characters.” baby.

“Well. She is new to our school. She is overestimating you kids.” I blurted out matter-of-factly.

My 9-year-old is enrolled in a 4th grade Chinese class, but she is miles away from writing essays. She is still battling with fill-in-the-blanks on her homework routine, and often loses.

For most of this week, I helped the baby with her regular Chinese homework, and did not press her to do the extra homework. I deemed the assignment unrealistic, and pretended the extra homework did not exist.

On Wednesday night, I was intently watching the presidential debate, totally ignoring the kids to doing their own things when the baby dropped this piece of paper in front of me.

9 year old's Chinese essay

“Your Chinese essay?!” me, incredulous…

The baby was beaming with a wide smile.

She managed all on her own to write an essay exactly 31 characters, many of them repetitive, all using the most rudimentary Chinese characters. Characters that can probably be found on Lesson One in a first grade Chinese textbook.

No one said it had to be hard. This kid is a genius.

Translation of the essay:

My family has 4 people, Dad, Mom, sister, and me. I love them. They also love me. We are very happy.

Related previous post: Losing Face at Chinese School
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A New Low – Part II
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