Thursday, March 29, 2018

It's Coming!

Attention, dear readers! Gather 'round and listen, for I have been waiting more than six years to make this wonderful announcement: We have a publication date for the book!! May 25, 2018 will be the first day that any interested parties--you, for instance--can personally own this beautiful book:
I am so excited for you all to be able to read and use this guide to explore the wide variety of foods available on the streets of China. I really and truly hope that it will be of use to travelers in the Middle Kingdom. With this book in hand, you will never be at a loss of foods to try.

Watch this space for more updates in the coming months--it should be a thrilling time.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Yù Lán Bĭng

As I mentioned in my last post, I expect to have some big updates on the publishing front in the near future. To celebrate, I thought I'd post a new street food review (that's really why everyone comes here, right? Let's be honest...). Today's spotlight is on Wuxi's yù lán bĭng (玉兰饼): one of my favorite Chinese street foods in the "small snacks" category. Wuxi is so close to Shanghai that it doesn't seem to get the credit it deserves as its own city, but I actually found that some of the food there gave Shanghai cuisine a major run for its money. Yù lán bĭng is a good example of such a dish. The basic description is simple: a fried, hollow ball of glutinous rice is stuffed with a sweet pork meatball. That’s all it is. And yet it is completely delicious.

Simple on the outside

Heaven on the inside 

The glutinous rice ball is fried to a crisp golden brown on the outside wall, while the interior wall is left white and sticky. The pork meatball inside is mildly sweet (some vendors' recipes include rosewater!) and succulent—very juicy. A lot of meat-in-dough foods in China end up with the stuffing clinging pretty closely to the casing, but in the case of yù lán bĭng the pork and the rice are distinct from one another. Like two nesting dolls, the meatball just sits inside of the glutinous rice ball. This unassuming little street food is oily, sweet, chewy, and meaty, just bursting with juice and flavor. Buy yourself one or two or ten—you won’t regret it.

I'm Back! (But Did I Ever Really Leave?)

Friends, it's been much too long since I've posted here. Perhaps you thought this project was dead. That I had abandoned it like yesterday's jam. Like a film you keep meaning to watch but keep putting off because you're not in the right mood and then eventually it goes off Netflix and you pretend to feel regretful for a short time (I had planned to finally watch it this weekend, I swear!) and then never think of it again. Like an old shirt lying unused and forgotten in the back of your closet, thought of now and then but never taken out and worn, until one day it is thrown out unceremoniously in a frantic moving day purge.

Well, I'm here to tell you today that this project is not dead. It is, in fact, most vibrantly alive. Why has it been so long since I last communicated with you through this humble website? Lots of reasons! Some good (e.g. fun job, new baby, old baby--all keeping me busy), some not so good (e.g. deaths in the family keeping me busy). The core of the matter, though, is that I simply had nothing to report. Things were plugging along with my publisher but I had no tangible news to share. The first piece of anything I had seen in a while was a draft of the cover that came in last fall. It wasn't ready to share publicly yet, so I held my tongue for the time being. Now it looks as though there will be some news coming through pretty soon, so I thought it was time to start things up again around here. Dust off the old writing gloves and stretch those old typing fingers. So here I am. Back again. Ready to talk about street food. Keep your eyes out in the coming weeks for more posts. I hope you're as excited as I am.