Friday, 16 September 2011

China on a Shoe-String Food Budget and Mid-Autumn Festival

We have been in China for three weeks now, and H and I are just about settling in. First week here was crazy! We had to find an apartment, buy the bare necessities (cutleries, plates, pots, pans, linens, toiletries, etc.), subscribe for internet, open bank accounts, get ourselves Chinese sim cards and do a full medical check-up as part of the process for our alien resident permit. Most of the time, we were assisted by a representative from my H's workplace; even so, it was not easy to have everything you want to know or ask about be translated by a middleman. After many miscommunications and lost in translations, we finally feel more at home now.

Moving to a new home is certainly not cheap or easy, let alone moving country! H and I are currently living on a tight budget since we spent a lot for deposits and fees for this and that. Good thing with China, food, especially vegetables, are cheap - a kilo of tomatoes, potatoes and carrots for just a dollar or even less! So if you know how to cook smart, a budget of $3 - $4 to feed two people a delicious meaty and healthy meal should be sufficient. Here are some of my budget home-cooked meals.
 Chinese Sausage Fried Rice topped with Shrimp
Duck a l'orange served with Mashed Potatoes, Hyacinth Peas and Carrots
 Lazy One-Pan Dish of Rice, Fish Fillets, Bok Choy and Tomatoes Topped with Spring Onions
Chilli Garlic Chicken Drumsticks with Carrots Served with Steamed Rice 
Pork Strips Cooked in Tomato Served with Bok Choy and Steamed Rice 
Chilli Pork and Onion Sausages Served with Potatoes and Carrots 
Pan-Fried Chicken Breast Served with Diced Green Bell Pepper, Eggplant, Tomatoes and Onions on a Bed of Steamed Rice

Eating out is not exactly expensive either. If you look for small, almost stall-like restaurants you will be spending similar to what you would be spending when you cook at home. Down side to eating in these small cafes: they don't have English menus; you can always just point at pictures on the menu that looks appetizing for you or if you feel adventurous, you can point at a random menu item and hope for the best! So far, I have never been disappointed with my choices. 
Make-Your-Own Noodles
 Noodles with Liver
 Zha Jiang Mian
Beef Stir-Fry served on a Bed of Steamed Rice
Duck served with Cabbage and Steamed Rice
 Braised Pork Belly and Rice

If it were up to H, we would be eating out everyday, but I oppose to that. Don't get me wrong, I love eating out, but I also like to know what goes into my food. So to make it fair for both of us, we balance our meals by sometimes dining out and sometimes having a home-cooked meal by yours truly!

On a different note, we were lucky to be here in time for the Mid-Autumn Festival or Mooncake Festival. I wanted to experience how locals would normally celebrate this occasion, so I did some research. Apparently, a lot of families would go to the park and appreciate the moon while eating mooncakes and fruits. So that's what we did. It was definitely a nice cultural experience going to the park for the festival. We opted to go to the less crowded Central Park, and witness families spending quality time with their kids. There were also many kids playing with their lanterns. We really enjoyed the whole moon-gazing event, but for next time, we would prepare a bountiful picnic basket that is not limited with mooncakes and fruits! Most families brought picnic baskets wafting with scrumptious aromas of yummy food that made H and I so hungry; H ended up running to the nearest convenience store to buy some food to compensate for our lack of preparation.
 Riddles on pieces of papers were posted all over our apartment lobby. If you solve a riddle you get a fruit or mooncake as a prize.
We were early birds at Central Park with our fruits and mooncakes.
Families dotted around the park enjoying their picnic while appreciating the full-moon.

P.S. As for my baking affair, it would have to wait for a while. There are still things (more practical things) that H and I have to invest on while we are on this budget crunch. So just be patient with me, I will be baking soon!

Bisou bisou,

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