Signs of Our Times

You see some interesting signs in China. English usage is increasing, as are attempts at bi-lingual signage.  The first sign, in the Sign of Our Times entries, was seen in a local men’s urinal.


Deformed Person.  I didn’t use the deformed persons cubicle as I assumed it was meant for a disabled person.  Indeed there is a picture of the internationally acclaimed stick figure and wheelchair, to indicate so.  I must admit I found the signage amusing for a number of reasons.  First, most disabled persons are going to struggle to use this squat toilet with no handrails.  Second, I doubt there would be universal acceptance and uptake of the word deformed to refer to disabled people.  Third, deformed conjures up quite a different picture to disabled.

Personally I wouldn’t recommend the use of this deformed persons toilet.  It has access issue, the cubicles have been designed door-less, there’s no toilet paper, there’s no soap and I’m fairly sure the toilet drains into the canal it sits above.  The deformed persons toilet is an attempt to provide convenience for all, but as with a lot of things around here, the execution is foreign.


Family Dog

A good friend of mine took me for a long bike ride just last week. It was exhilarating. On the final leg of the journey he insisted on taking me for beer and snacks, local styles. He knew the place. Eight tables, four occupied. He left me to order beer whilst he went and chose snacks. That’s the way at most of the restaurants around here; you go into the kitchen to order the food, so you can see what’s available. The beer arrived it wasn’t cold, it wasn’t warm either, I can live with that. The food arrived. Dog MeatFour dishes, more like dinner really. We talked about our ride and how bad my Chinese is. It’s a hard language. Finally we got around to the food. Fried broad beans, green vegetable and mushroom, peanuts and what I assumed from the taste was beef. No. It was dog. I had seen dog heads for sale around town. Dogs for eating he assured me. I wasn’t sure what to make of that. I couldn’t imagine eating Betty the Alsatian, we have befriended from down the road. Maybe dogs for eating were dogs I hadn’t seen roaming the streets. The meat was tender, tasted like corned beef and was flavoured with Sichuan pepper and slightly gelatinous. Knowing it was dog tripped me up momentarily. ‘Local food’ my friend assured me. Thankfully, more beer arrived. I was convinced I had enjoyed it. My friend assured me we were stronger for eating dog. Later at home I started to feel a little green. Almost like my stomach was rejecting its contents. I had a cup of tea and a lie down. In the morning I still felt a little under the radar. Could I face it again? Probably. Would I? Depends if it’s a dog for eating or not.

Homemade Tea-smoked Bacon Part 3

Well it has been a while since I lasted posted about my bacon making endeavours.  There is now a final product and it is pretty damn good.  I am really surprised at how easy it was to do, once I had sorted out the process.   I don’t have a smoker so what appealed to me about the recipe used, is that it makes it easy for you to make a smoker out of your wok.   No excuses then!

I made up the smoking mix of rice, sugar, tea, cinnamon, star anise and Sichuan pepper and packaged it nice and neatly in some aluminium foil.  This was placed in the bottom of the wok with a rack over that.  The cured bacon was then placed on the rack.

At this point I realised I didn’t have a lid to fit my wok, so I tightly wrapped the top of the wok in aluminium foil, making sure there were no gaps for the smoke to escape from.  I then turned the gas to med-high for 5 minutes followed by 1 hour on medium-low.  After that time the bacon was left, covered, in the wok for another hour.  Once cooled in the fridge the bacon was ready for the taste test.

The bacon sliced easily and hit the pan with a sizzle.  It didn’t take long for the bacon to crisp up nicely; what a smell and so much fat!  A piece of thick white toast, a little salt and vinegar and voila, my first homemade tea-smoked bacon sandwich.  It was delicious, however I am trying to make it last longer than the weekend.  I already have the next piece of pork curing in the fridge, this time a piece of loin, so am going to try some back bacon next.  Will let you know how I get on.

Charming Barbeque Flavor

I must admit it was the purple packaging that drew my gaze to this snack.  It’s an endless pursuit to find edible potato chips where we live.  These chips are called I’believe.  That definitely appealed to my sense of judgement.  But what could Charming Barbeque Flavor really taste like?  Charming and barbeque are not words I often encounter in the same sentence.  Sure, I’ve shared some charming barbeque moments but I must admit to being intrigued as to what flavour charming barbeque was.


The initial taste is slightly sweet.  There is no hint of barbeque, spice or heat.  I can only imagine the picture of barbequed meat on the front of the packet is a decoy.  The initial sweetness gives way to a mild tangy cheesiness and that’s about it.  They are chips in a thin cut sense but the potato semblance is vague and disconcerting.  These aren’t a chip lover’s potato chip, they are the chip of an ill-informed never experienced the real thing, uneducated, reconstituted chip market.  They didn’t even go soft and stale after being opened for 8 hours.  I don’t believe.

Don’t Look Now, I Can Hear You

Don’t look now, no one else is.  Default behaviour where we live.  Maybe you think that by merging into traffic before looking, you are taking the guesswork out of your visual capabilities?  Maybe you haven’t noticed that you are driving up the street the wrong way?  Maybe, by not having a mirror on that E-Bike you trust in your non-evident indicating skills?  Does being a pedestrian mean you have default proxy on crossing the road, anytime, anywhere, without a cursory glance?

Don't Look Now

Use the horn.  I’m stuck in foot traffic on my E-Bike inside the local market.  I’m in a vehicle bigger than yours, speeding and coming up behind you.  I see your standing safely on the side of the road.  I’m behind you waiting at the red light.  These are all perfectly justifiable situations for use of the horn, tip of the iceberg scenario.  I swear they could design vehicles here that come with intermittent horn sounds, whenever the vehicle is in motion.

Don’t look now.  Unless as you do you have seen me, in which case you are going to look again and stare.  Looking European in a small town in China is stare worthy.  If you see me be sure and say out loud ‘foreigner’ as well, even if you are by yourself.  If you have a small child with you, be sure to point their gaze in my general direction.  No don’t look now, your too busy on your E-Bike, talking on your mobile phone with three kids in tow anyway.


Suining International Fridge Turning On festival is one day on the local calendar I personally look forward to.  It occurs sometime in spring and I’m convinced it works off the lunar cycle.  Normally it occurs too late for my liking, at a time when the weather is warm enough to mean latent temperatures equate to warm beer.  It coincides with a polar shift in the retail mindset around here, where beer cans and bottles get dumped into fridges and fridge switches are unceremoniously flicked to their ‘on’ positions.  You are likely to soon see me tweaking supermarket and shop fridge temperatures further downward, willy-nilly, in an attempt to get beer colder, faster.  So end the dark days of having to buy beer and wait for it to cool in the fridge at home. It’s one day of the year, that to me, marks a return to sanity.

Homemade Tea-smoked Bacon Part 2

So last week I started the process of making bacon.  I bought about 1.5kg of pork belly from the friendly people at the market outside school.  It cost me 29 元 (which is about the price of a glass of beer).  This allowed me to start the first process of bacon-making, that being the curing of it.  I made a mixture of salt,  brown sugar, pepper, crushed bay leaves and fennel seeds and then lovingly rubbed half of it into the pork.  This is important as you want the curing rub to cover everything and get into every little crevice.  This helps draw moisture out of the pork and imparts some flavour. Once that was done, it was into a zip-lock bag and into the fridge.  A couple of days later, the bag had a good amount of juice in it, so I drained it off and rubbed the remaining curing mixture into the pork.  All up the pork has been curing in the fridge for the past 7 days.  It is firm to the touch, no squishy bits, which is what you want.  Tomorrow I will take it out and get ready for the final part, tea-smoking.  As I have already cut the piece of pork belly into two manageable pieces I am wondering whether I should just smoke one half or do both?  Decisions…