Tag Archives: lamb

Our first lamb lunch and the ruins of Knossos – Greece Day 3

24 Nov

This post is part of our adventures in Greece during the fall of 2013.  To see other posts in the series, click here.

After an early morning bus ride and a visit to the museum in central Heraklion we looked for a place to grab lunch before heading to the ruins of Knossos.  Greece is famous for its lamb and so Li decided to try his first set of Greek lamb chops.  Even though the restaurant seemed very ordinary the lamb was excellent – it started us on a quest to try as much lamb as possible during the remainder of our visit.

The first set of lamb chops - that we continually

The first set of lamb chops – that we continually tried to top

Then we found the bus stop and road the bus to the end of the line where the reconstructed ruins of Knossos waited for us under sunny skies.  Because of the special event that weekend – World Tourism Days- entrance was free, so avoiding a guide who tried to sell us a pricey tour, we entered.

Layout of the palace - with the original descriptions from renovation #1

Layout of the palace – with the original descriptions from renovation #1

The ruins had been reconstructed nearly 100 years ago in a way that was very modern – it was supposed to give you a sense of the way that the palace was laid out.  However, since that time, archeological practices have changed so we eavesdropped on several guides who were explaining that many of the descriptions and renovations are now not seen as culturally accurate.  Under any case it did give you a sense of grandeur of the Minoan civilization and gave me a sense of wonder that so long ago this very large building with multiple levels and staircases was constructed.

Ruins with the pines and mountains behind

Ruins with the pines and mountains behind

A recreation - to give a sense of what may have been

A recreation – to give a sense of what may have been

View of a storage room with many jars

View of a storage room with many jars

Recreation of the Minoan Bull mural in one of the rooms at the top

Recreation of the Minoan Bull mural in one of the rooms at the top

We wandered for a couple of hours then headed back to the city of Heraklion where we discovered the rest of World Tourism Days waiting for us.

Another recreation evidenced because I don't think cement was commonly used at that time - you can see how there were multiple levels

Another recreation evidenced because I don’t think cement was commonly used at that time – you can see how there were multiple levels

The beautiful blue sky

The beautiful blue sky

An ancient road - think who may have walked along these steps...

An ancient road – think who may have walked along these steps…

Where have you seen your favorite set of ruins?  Does ancient history or modern marvels sit at the top of your list?

Apologies for the delay in the posts – my travel continues, but I’ll get on track eventually.

My Shanghai – High end hot pot at Hai di lao

9 Jul

During the winter months we are consistent visitors at our neighborhood hot pot place – a branch of 小肥羊(The little lamb) which is known for it’s lamb hot pot and affordable prices.  As the weather gets hotter, our tastes change and we will seek out cooler options that don’t leave you drenched in sweat and smelling like chili.  This spring before the weather changed to permanent heat we decided to try another famous hot pot chain called Hai di lao (海底捞).

They even give you a bag to put your cell phone, lest you get soup on it!

They even give you a bag to put your cell phone, lest you get soup on it!

Haidilao is known for exceptional customer service – and exceptionally long wait times.  As people wait they have games for you to play and even offer free manicures.  We decided to go late on a Saturday between the lunch and dinner rush so there was no need to wait, but even at 2pm there were lots of folks in the restaurant.

Waiting for the pot to boil in our special hot pot aprons.

Waiting for the pot to boil in our special hot pot aprons.

I thought hot pot was only for cooler weather, but now that I have visited Taiwan, I have changed my point of view.  The heat there is in the 90s every day, but the hot pot restaurants are everywhere – and full!

For this trip we got a mixed pot and also a mix of veggies and meat to put in.  I like spicy but sometimes the mild is also nice and then your dipping sauce can have the spice.

This pot was 50% spicy and 50% mild.

This pot was 50% spicy and 50% mild.

Before the feast - with a custom sauce that we mixed ourselves

Before the feast – with a custom sauce that we mixed ourselves

A big plate of tasty food - tofu, veggies, meatballs and lamb

A big plate of tasty food – tofu, veggies, meatballs and lamb

As a special treat – they have one dish that comes with a performance, the special noodles.  We got to watch twice as people around us ordered it.  The second time I got my camera out to capture the master twirling the noodles.  Do you think you could do this?

Can you do that with your pasta?

Can you do that with your pasta?

Or this?

Or this?

Or this?

Or this?

I definitely could not. 

A long time later we succeeded in eating almost everything we ordered and made our way slowly home.  Haidilao is part of my Shanghai.  Have you had hot pot before?

My Shanghai – Xinjiang food

5 Feb

One of the types of Chinese food that I had never even contemplated before I moved to China was Xinjiang food.  Xinjiang is the province to the very west of China, with a capital called Wulumuqi.  Wulumuqi is a five hour flight from Shanghai, meaning that I can get to Singapore in the same amount of time it would take me to get there.

Li has been to Wulumuqi and the surrounding area many times for work.  He has shown me pictures of beautiful lakes (Kanas Lake) and mountains.  The terrain looks closer to that of Switzerland than anything I expected in China.  Unfortunately because it takes so long to get there, travel is quite inconvenient.  Since he’s already been so many times he’s not looking to go back.  If anyone is willing to take a trip – please let me know!

Xinjiang is closer to Kazakhstan than it is Beijing and the food and people that live there are not anything like the stereotypical view of China.  The majority of individuals historically who have lived in this area are Muslim of the Ugyhur race, so they do not eat pork which is a mainstay on tables across most of China and instead lamb in all its various forms appears on the table.  In addition, since they are closely linked to Russian and Turkish routes, coming from the west instead of the east, they look more Caucasian than Chinese.  In a Xinjiang restaurant if I were wearing a veil, I could pass for a local.

I don't really know which dish is which on this bill as it is not written in Mandarin or English.  At this restaurant we heard almost no Mandarin.

I don’t really know which dish is which on this bill as it is not written in Mandarin or English. At this restaurant we heard almost no Mandarin.

The most ubiquitous Xinjiang snack is lamb kebabs, served at street corners throughout Shanghai.  Sometimes they will pitch the portable charcoal grills right outside bars so that the less than sober patrons can purchase their wares at the end of the night.  It’s a street food.

Lamb kebabs - the dish that started it all

Lamb kebabs – the dish that started it all

My first introduction was from a friend who lived close by.  She took me to a small restaurant no more than a five minute walk from my house and started ordering dishes – lamb kebabs of course, but then Xinjiang noodles, chicken and potatoes in fragrant tomato sauce, flash fried crispy eggplant, bread that was flattened and pressed and perfect for soaking up the sauce left at the bottom of the bowls.  The two of us gobbled up everything.

Dapanji (大盘鸡) literally translates to a big dish of chicken.  It's chicken and potatoes and peppers with spiced tomato sauce - one of my favorites

Dapanji (大盘鸡) literally translates to a big dish of chicken. It’s chicken and potatoes and peppers with spiced tomato sauce – one of my favorites

Xinjiang naan bread topped with lamb served in a tomato based sauce - a little like a wet pizza, but with lamb

Xinjiang naan bread topped with lamb served in a tomato based sauce – a little like a wet pizza, but with lamb

Since then, I have become a regular at that small restaurant (whose name I don’t know).  They recognize me and I have tried other things on the menu, spicy shredded potatoes, little lamb chops, different types of noodles and veggies, all with a mixture of spices that seem slightly exotic and very familiar.  When friends come to visit, I try to take them there to shake up their idea of traditional Chinese food and to a person, everyone has enjoyed the experience.

Since I like it so much we have even started to explore other Xinjiang restaurants – looking for the best lamb kebabs, the best bread (called Naan – but not like Indian naan at all), and the best service.  I anticipate it will take many years to find the ultimate place and I’m up to the challenge!

Xinjiang food is something below the surface of the tourist Shanghai.  Eating it makes me feel like I am understanding something more about the culture of the place where I am living.  Xinjiang food is part of my Shanghai.

What’s special about the food where you are living?

Lamb scorpions (羊蝎子)

8 Jan

During Shanghai’s winter – spicy food becomes a necessity. There is an expression in Chinese “CHI RE 吃热” which literally means to “eat yourself hot.”  Think of how a spicy bowl of chili warms you up, or how that super hot sauce will cause sweat to drip off your forehead.

We both like to eat spicy food and so it is common that we will meet friends at Sichuan restaurants which specialize in all types of spicy food.  Per a recommendation from my Chinese teacher we recently went with two other friends to a new place called Ho Wei, a local chain – always packed – with overall great food.

The winter specialty of the house is a dish that literally translates to Lamb Scorpions. There was a lot of teasing going on at the table while I asked what we really were eating.  The dish is actually lamb backbones – kind of like eating ribs – with the large vertebrae in the middle and lamb on the outside.  The dish came to the table bubbling with chili peppers, turnips and potatoes and green onions on top.  We ordered the “large pot” and did not have leftovers.

In addition to the lamb backbone, we had several other dishes, the other one shown here are small steamed buns which are hollow if you turn them over.  In the hollow you then scoop a spicy mix of pork with chili peppers so the bun cuts the spice.  With the dinner we also drank plum juice which is a palate cleanser against the fatty, oily, warm dishes.

I would definitely go back to this restaurant and can’t wait to have some more spicy food in the coming months – if this is the type of “scorpion” they mean – bring it on!

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