I spent the weekend in Shenzhen and it was lovely. As I walked around in the sunshine Sunday morning I suddenly realised why I’ve been so unhappy recently. Well, ISIS, WWIII is coming, all that; no reason to feel upbeat. But also: I haven’t been on a proper mainland trip for so, so long! Day trips really don’t cut it. I have to stay the night, wake up to the smell of street food…
A few months ago I wrote this column in the SCMP about finding the ingredients I need for Sichuan cooking, in Walmart of all places:
Now, unlike some of the more vocal progressives on Facebook, those on whom the irony is lost of their using possibly the most potent symbol of capitalism and the free market ever made, the internet, to rant against capitalism, I have nothing against Walmart. They sell stuff that people want and need relatively cheaply. They employ people. Excellent.
However, every time I’ve had to go there just to get some Sichuan peppercorns and dried chillies, I haven’t been over happy. The shop is underground, shaped like an MTR station, it’s crowded and it takes ages to pay. The stuff is packed in small, overpriced packages.
But yesterday morning, going back to the hotel from Walmart, I suddenly found myself inside a building much closer to the hotel, on street level… it was a huge market bursting with dried chillies, Sichuan peppercorns and everything else the Sichuan-loving heart may desire.
And, needless to say, to half the price of Walmart. The geezer spoke Cantonese (unlike the check-out girls in Walmart) and we had a good old chat! Sometimes things go my way.
辣椒乾 (Lat chiu gon – dried chillies)
花椒 (Fa chiu – Sichuan peppercorns)
南華早報 (Lam wah jou bou – SCMP)
everybody knows that. But how about beer, then wine, (Moet Et Chandon, saved since June 7th, thank you Teng and Lok!) then beer, then more beer and some beer? Queer is not a good description. Just – blah. Listless. Unable to concentrate. It doesn’t help that it’s the hottest day of the year and I don’t have air con. Never drink on Mondays! Even if it’s a friend’s birthday. It’s madness.
Still, it could have been worse. It could have been baak jau (Chinese rice spirit) that we were drinking. Actually no, no way. That stuff is so vile, I wouldn’t touch it even if there was nothing else to drink in the world and I hadn’t had a drink in a year. Vile! Death!
There is a recipe in my new book CHILLies! Sichuan Food Made Easy that explains how you should never drink baak jau (白酒 – white “wine”) under any circumstance but if you do, or if you have a normal hangover OR you just like the taste and texture of soft but firm tofu, here’s what to cook.
That book is available so damned soon!
Meanwhile avoid 白酒 (baak jau) like two plagues and a locust swarm. Drink MONS (雪花 -Suet Wah) instead.
香檳 (Heung ban – champagne)
貓0左 (Mao jo – shitfaced)
辣椒 (Lat chiu – chilli)
禮拜一 (Lai baai yat – Monday)
Is being a Luddite with a Mac an oxymoron? But sometimes I think that’s what I am. Here I am, trying to make Cantonese a world language – in Hong Kong! the very stronghold of Cantonese as a world language-ism.
It’s like making coals in Newcastle or, to use a slightly more up to date aphorism, like making fake CDs in the fake DVD factory.
To make Cantonese a world language, I of course have to take it to the world! Duh! And therefore, about 30 years after it was invented, I now proudly bring you: Cantonese by SKYPE!!!!
We tried it out the other night; Ah- La, Ah-On, Ah-Yan and I in the Honolulu, canto-ing away with ah-Dak who was in a hotel room in Guangzhou. It worked brilliantly! It was just like a normal session except slightly more surreal perhaps; but that was probably just me, who’s still in awe of the fact that I can press a thing on the wall and the electric light comes on.
So people of the world, rejoice. Now you can have Canto lessons with me now matter where you live! All your questions answered, all your existential angst resolved. Or even dissolved.
So delay no more, re-activate your Skype account and let’s get world domination-ing!