21 August 2011

Product Review - Milk Coffee

Some of the foods and flavors you experience in Asia capture your imagination and drive you to find them again back in the West. My first “food moment” came just the second night we were in China – a bowl of beef noodle soup in our little hotel restaurant. It cost just US$1 but was the most flavorful and tender meat I’d ever eaten. Since then, other foods and places have become icons to my heart (and stomach) – congee in Hong Kong, Japadogs in Vancouver, and a beverage called “milk coffee” in Tokyo.

A coworker who’d lived in France and traveled widely in Japan called milk coffee “just cafĂ© au lait,” but that doesn’t really describe its texture or taste, or the role it plays in daily life  in East and Southeast Asia.

Imagine a really smooth glass of chocolate milk, but with the rich roasted note – and caffeine kick – as a great cup of coffee. Then imagine it available in cans at every vending machine – and those machines warm the cans in the winter and chill them in the summer. Imagine it in 1-liter and 2-liter cartons at every convenience store and grocery, selling as fast as regular milk, and at a similar price. Imagine not just the dairy producers, but all the soft drink companies, beer brewers, and even tobacco companies offering competing brands. THAT’S how important milk coffee is in Asia.

In the Reviews section at weninchina.com, I'll compare three brands: Seattle's Best (from the USA), Pokka (imported from Singapore), and Freeze (imported from Thailand) - on the attributes of creaminess, flavor, price, and caffeine kick.

If you're headed for Asia, this is a taste to seek out!

17 August 2011

The Mid-Autumn Festival is coming soon!

Our 80th article has just been posted at weninchina.com - talking about the stories, foods, and celebrations around the Mid-Autumn Festival.

This holiday is very easy to blend into Western family life - grilling tasty meats, having friends and family over, sitting outside around a bonfire on an autumn evening to enjoy the full moon and twinkling stars. You may already be doing this, not realizing you're celebrating a tradition going back over 4,000 years!

The stories behind the holiday are the stuff of action movies and romantic tragedies. Read all about it at http://www.weninchina.com/People/Mid_Autumn_Festival.html

10 August 2011

Setting up a dedicated review section on weninchina.com

With so many ways to distribute content - just alone we have the website, this blog, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and a Flickr account I just started (and haven't loaded pictures into yet...) - I want to make sure good pieces like the book review from earlier this week don't get lost.

So I've set up a dedicated Reviews section at weninchina.com to start loading with product and service evaluations of travel, media, food, and anything else relating to getting around Asia with your family, or in raising multicultural kids.

I'll still be pushing content out through the other channels, too, but blogs, tweets, and wall postings don't organize as neatly as a website - and some of those services aren't available in the People's Republic.

07 August 2011

Book Review: Kosher Chinese by Michael Levy

Mike Levy was a language-arts teacher from Philadelphia suffering from a crisis of faith post-9/11. Wanting to use his talents toward a Big Global Purpose, he found himself in the Peace Corps in 2005 assigned to rural Guizhou Province teaching English at the university in Guiyang, getting paid the same subsistence wage and living in similar apartments as the local professors, and figuring out everything on his own with no outside support, for a two-year tour.

The 29 chapters go by quickly in a conversational and often funny tone, similar to a Bill Bryson or Sarah Vowell travelogue. Outside of a few weeks' training in Chengdu, Mike doesn't get to travel outside Guizhou, but that gives us readers the chance to really settle in and view an area that will never see a Hollywood film crew or breathless Travel Channel documentary.

As Mike gets to know his fellow teachers, his students, and other local kids, we get to hear the personal stories and decisions from real-life people with real-life ambitions, problems, and responsibilities. Should a professor put substantial money into buying an apartment, and can she find a mate when she makes more than most men? Will a talented and dedicated masters-student from Guiyang, knowing she has no career future in her home province, be able to find a future in the costal cities? What will the fates be of twin sisters, bright and hopeful and thirsty to learn, but born as ethnic minorities and living with their grandmother because their parents have migrated to the coast to find work?

Guanxi and party politics, ethnic contrasts and Chinese stereotypes of Westerners are all shown matter-of-fact, but the people are never shown as villains, just everyday folks doing what they've been taught or repeating something they've heard. It's a refreshing contrast to sensationalized mass-media China reports that never take time to have an authentic conversation with citizens, or who never leave Shanghai / Beijing / Hong Kong.

For those of us with children from China, this book strikes a powerful nerve as we can easily see our daughters and sons in the situations Mike relates. Would my daughter have faced a childhood of having to collect plastic bottles for the recycling money, or working in a back-alley kitchen, sleeping on a cot because home is too far to walk and she couldn't afford bus fare?

My little girl has an unbounded future. Reading this book reminded me of how much of an honor it is to be her father, and how much I owe it to the kids left behind to make sure she has the ability to pursue any dream.

Kosher Chinese is a 2011 release, available in softcover at a retail of US$15. Well worth a read for adoptive parents, for travelers heading inland, and anyone wanting a better understanding of everyday life in modern China.

04 August 2011

Yum, yum, Dim Sum!

We just didn't have the time to take in a real Guangzhou dim sum brunch when we were there to adopt our daughter. However, in our travels since then we've experienced a Saturday brunch in Chicago's Chinatown, and done the weekday dim sum at a great place in Hong Kong. We've also sampled the dim sum dishes at restaurants in other places in North America, too.

We have posted an article recently to share dim sum background and tips.

The single best piece of advice is to go with as many people as you can! The more your group can order, the more each person can try. Don't worry about ordering too much, as each dish is literally just a few bites. It's more fun in a big group, and you can be more fearless about taking items you don't recognize.

Take as long as you like - the food just keeps coming. Wow, I'm getting hungry just writing about it...

Dim Sum: http://www.weninchina.com/Food/Dim_Sum.html