Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Good Stuff

I always liked Chinese food growing up. When we went to our favorite Chinese restaurant, which was a place right around the corner called Jade Garden, I was always delighted. I loved the shrimp with lobster sauce. If you ask my brother and my dad, they'll have slightly less found memories because I didn't want to share my shrimp with anyone. If they tried to take a shrimp from my plate, I cried. Sounds like Raelynn, huh? Anyway, I still get teased about this. Except when they come visit me IN China because at least here in Qingdao, there is no shrimp with lobster sauce.

Yes, Chinese food in America is quite Americanized. But that doesn't mean that all of it is made up to pander to our American palates.

You might think based on my Someone Made Me Eat This posts that I dislike authentic Chinese food. True that I grow weary of it if I have to eat it daily, I truly like Chinese food. When it's prepared properly. And we've seen how MIL prepares it. Jeremy laughs every time I tell him his mother makes me hate Chinese food. And he also smiles big when I tell him he makes me fall back in love with it.

My husband knows a thing or two about flavors. Plus he's lived abroad in Korea before and he's eaten food from other countries. So when he cooks, he really makes things taste good. I wish he'd show his mom how to cook.

Sure, she makes some things good. Her dumplings are pretty good, especially the ones she makes with leeks and pork. But I hate that she uses the flour that she uses. It makes everything taste very gummy and glutenousy. Jeremy once didn't understand my complaint about the flour. Why couldn't I use it to make pie crust or bread or all the other stuff I wanted to make with it? Why did he need to buy more flour when we had a giant sack of it? Now he knows better. But she still doesn't. She insists the flour she buys is the best. Of course she does.

On weekends, we like to go out for a meal. We're mostly saving our money for America, but we can afford to eat out somewhere at least once a week. Places that serve Western food are usually much more expensive so unless it's a special occasion or I'm dying for something I can't make at home, we usually go out for Chinese food.

Even though MIL cooks for us 4 days a week, I really don't mind going out for Chinese on a Sunday afternoon. Because we always go somewhere good. Like the Sichuan place.

That's what I call it. There are tons of Sichuan restaurants here. This one is close to Minjiang Road. It's always got gobs of people in it. My friend Jon and his wife introduced it to us and we keep going back because it's really quite good. They've got lots of spicy things, which is why we're thinking of taking my parents there when they visit in February, if it's still open during the Chinese New Year that is. If I want to eat there, I just tell my husband "The Sichuan Place" and he knows what I want.

Sometimes, I simply request barbecue. Chinese barbecue is so popular in Qingdao. There are lots of good places. I just let Jeremy use his expertise as most of them can be dirty. And by that, I don't mean the floors (most places in China have dirty floors) but the food. My husband says that many barbecue places will use rotting meat or lie about where the meat came from. He looks for places where you can see the kitchen and where it's very crowded. We're currently trying to decide which place will be open during the Chinese New Year because squid on a stick and beer will make my dad the happiest daddy ever.

But my favorite of the casual Chinese places in Qingdao is without a doubt the one I call "Ugly But Delicious." This place rules.
Excuse the craptacular photo. I was sitting in the car with the children while my husband ran in to get an order of dumplings on our way home from church the other day. I'll get to those in a moment.

This place is called Jiaozi Guan, which Jeremy says basically means "House of Dumplings." It has other stuff too. It's a hole in the wall, as my folks would call it, but if we have a chance, we'd love to take them here. The decor is blah and the floors are often scary but the food is served up by a chef that's quite famous in Qingdao. I admit, the first time my husband took us here, I was very skeptical. Then I took a bite of the food. Since then, I often request we eat at this place.

They have pepper steak, which you'll find in Chinese restaurants in America and it is SO good. The Sichuan Place I mentioned before also has that dish but this place does it much better, much cheaper and gives you a larger portion too.

Because of MIL, I feel kind of blah about dumplings now. Unless we get them from here. Especially if they are filled with cucumber and egg. I know, I know. That sounds barfy but let me just tell you how fanfreakingtastic those are. I am entirely serious when I say they are the best dumplings I've ever had.
Unlike MIL, they use a good flour and they focus on the filling, not the wrapping. When Jeremy told his mother how wonderful these dumplings are and how we like that the casing is so light and not too thick she told him that they were being cheap for not using enough flour. I'm not joking. I laughed so hard I cried. Even Jeremy laughed. God, she's hilarious, right? Yes, that's it. Because flour is so expensive. NOT! MIL flies through flour and oil like the world is coming to an end and she needs to use it all in one night.

Anyway, if you're in Qingdao and reading this, Jiaozi Guan is on Jiangxi Road. Take a Chinese person with you if you cannot read or speak Chinese as the menu is completely in Chinese with no photos. It's worth it though, I promise. Amazing food, and great prices too.

Oh, there is one more thing I've found to love about food here in China. And that's these little snack sandwiches. We had them at a barbecue place not too long ago and I fell in love with them. While out shopping in Taidong the other day, Jeremy saw a place selling them and picked us up some to try. He watched as they were prepared, mentally taking notes so he could try to make them for us at home. The ones he bought us were really delicious. That night, Jeremy made us some more.
 Here's Jeremy's Chinese sandwich after a few bites. Very tasty!

 My husband, the sandwich model.

Mmm...mmm...mmm! That's one tasty sandwich! It's slow-cooked pork chopped up with onions and peppers. Only we didn't have onions and peppers so he left that out this time. It was still good though, but I am looking forward to his next batch. Thanks for helping me enjoy Chinese food again, Honey! I love you!

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