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Musings and food photos from Northeast China + beyond.

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Musings and food photos from Northeast China + beyond.

Postby gonzochicago on Fri Mar 17, 2017 12:43 am

Hey.

If you're not keeping track, I live in Northeast China now. I've been here since, well, after the PRF BBQ in 2015. I did a 3 month stint in Indonesia, filming their underground scene, wrapped some b-roll for my second film in Korea and Japan, and moved here afterwards.

I'm teaching English here. Actually, my boss is from the old Green Bay punk rock scene, and we were at the same shows at Andy Junk's "_____ Haus" and Concert Cafe, 17 years ago. We never really talked back then, from what my PBR addled brain could probably never remember anyway.

So, yeah. This is a weird ass city, Harbin, in Heilongjiang province. It's negative 30 degrees all winter, basically, polluted as fuck, and brutal over-all. Basically, Siberia. Summer's are dry and hot, and nice. However, there's not much going on as far as music, aside from a few classical concerts, lots of beer, and street food.

There are many reasons for a city of 10 million to not have a music scene. Mostly, China. However, it's so far up to the Northeast, almost in Russia, that tours don't get up here nearly as much as the south. It's just...not a thing. I'll spare all the details for now.

I wander the streets taking photos, and exploring this strange city.

This will be a long over-due home for food photos, stories, and weirdness from up here. I'll be here until June 2018. That's the plan at least, and then I will dive deep into something else in Asia that I'll discuss later. This dive, it was supposed to happen this December, but I need to stick here a bit long to be responsible.

Anyways...after about 8 months of nothing happening, we decided to push hard and book a few shows. The first fell into our lap. We finally got a bar on the main "bar street" of the city that understood what we were about, and they agreed to have shows. Perfect. So it went. The second was all local with Shaun's band, and a Russian band. The third...well, we booked it at said bar street, and China intervened in a way China often does. The show was cancelled.

One day later, we got a message saying we should try this on-again, off-again space that "nobody goes to" (per one of the partners.) We decided, fuck it, and went for it.

Image001 by John Yingling, on Flickr

P.R.C.M (中國絞肉機) a few nights ago, in Harbin. Moving shows can be a disaster. I am AMAZED at how this went down. Six acts performed in just over three hours. Artists from Yunnan province, Changchun, Switzerland. Live visuals. A kraut rock band. A lot of people showed up. They actually put money in the donation hat. I have seen hundreds of rooms totally clear out for more tame things than much of last night, but everybody stuck right where they were, all the way until the end. I can't begin to describe how happy it all made me. It really meant a lot.

So, I'll try to add this to my long list of "things to update" when I have something I feel is worth saying.

I have taken a few trips for pure noise-seeking purposes. One was to Chengdu, Sichuan province. The other was to Indonesia and Malaysia, a second time. They were both amazing. You can read about those trips in detail here : http://www.theworldunderground.com/blog

My Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook are where I do many of the posts I will go back and re-do here, over time, and going forward, so you won't see those past music related posts in the link above, though I highly recommend you peruse that.

Backlogged food photos and stories to come.

Cheers.

- Yingling
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Re: Musings and food photos from Northeast China...

Postby Seby on Fri Mar 17, 2017 3:35 am

This is amazing. Street pics please!
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Re: Musings and food photos from Northeast China...

Postby Stinky Pete on Fri Mar 17, 2017 4:22 am

Yeah, looks cool! Post more please
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Re: Musings and food photos from Northeast China...

Postby OrthodoxEaster on Fri Mar 17, 2017 8:03 am

gonzochicago wrote:This is a weird ass city, Harbin, in Heilongjiang province. It's negative 30 degrees all winter, basically, polluted as fuck, and brutal over-all. Basically, Siberia. Summer's are dry and hot, and nice.


A cousin of mine studied there in the early '90s and basically had as much to say, albeit in a more diplomatic way. I'm sure the pollution is much worse now.

Please do post some food pics and info. I like what Dongbei-style dishes I've tried, but most of that has consisted of lamb dumplings, German-influenced charcuterie from the former colonies, and almost Korean-leaning pickles.
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Re: Musings and food photos from Northeast China...

Postby gonzochicago on Fri Mar 17, 2017 8:07 am

OrthodoxEaster wrote:
gonzochicago wrote:This is a weird ass city, Harbin, in Heilongjiang province. It's negative 30 degrees all winter, basically, polluted as fuck, and brutal over-all. Basically, Siberia. Summer's are dry and hot, and nice.


A cousin of mine studied there in the early '90s and basically had as much to say, albeit in a more diplomatic way. I'm sure the pollution is much worse now.

Please do post some food pics and info. I like what Dongbei-style dishes I've tried, but most of that has consisted of lamb dumplings, German-influenced charcuterie from the former colonies, and almost Korean-leaning pickles.


Wow!!! Cool! I cannot imagine how much is different now. Even just a few years is night and day in China. My boss has been here since 2009 and he says the difference is staggering.

As for pollution, it has gotten better, so they say.

Thanks for the interest, folks.

I edited my first post to say this, but :

I have taken a few trips for pure noise-seeking purposes. One was to Chengdu, Sichuan province. The other was to Indonesia and Malaysia, a second time. They were both amazing. You can read about those trips in detail here : http://www.theworldunderground.com/blog

My Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook are where I do many of the posts I will go back and re-do here, over time, so you won't see those music related posts in the link above.

However, I highly recommend you peruse that as well.

Shit...I guess I'll go way back and start posting my stories from the beginning. If it's all too much I will cherry pick my favorites, and continue from there.

Cheers!
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Re: Musings and food photos from Northeast China...

Postby gonzochicago on Fri Mar 17, 2017 8:12 am

Alright. Let's start at the beginning.

The first dish I ordered when I got here, was one of my favorite things I found on my very first time in China. It just so happened to originate in this very province.

November, 2015 :

Image002 by John Yingling, on Flickr

Guobaorou (锅包肉) - One particularly late night, a few years back in Beijing, Brad M. Seippel brought me out for dinner and suggested this. My eyes glazed over at the first bite, and I was hooked. Guobaorou is similar to your American style "sweet and sour / orange chicken" except with pork, and not super shitty. Think little pork chops, breaded, and covered in sauce. What's great for me, is that this dish actually originated where I am now, Dongbei. Some come with a honey like sauce, some more sweet, sour, spicy. I've barely scratched the surface on any other regional specialties here.

(My...how things have changed since then.)
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Re: Musings and food photos from Northeast China...

Postby gonzochicago on Fri Mar 17, 2017 8:17 am

December, 2015 :

Image003 by John Yingling, on Flickr

Ah, the small noodle shop. 6 menu items. 6 tables. The owners are super nice, giving me an excited greeting in English when I go. I've had their whole menu, and this is my favorite one by far. The English translation says "hot and sour noodle". Suan (sour) La (hot) Dao Xiao (sliced) Mian (noodle). No idea on the specifics of it. The broth is as the name suggests. Hot, but not too bad despite quite a few chilis. Sour, but I'm not sure from what. Can't be all vinegar. I'd rather remain blissfully unaware on that. Noodles are ran through a whirring slicer for every order. They're thick, which gives them a good chew. Some pickled vegetables. Greens. Peanuts. Unidentifiable bits of dried jerky-like meats. Really nice. Glad this is a skip across the street from me.
Total cost : 9¥ (or about $1.30 USD)
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Re: Musings and food photos from Northeast China...

Postby gonzochicago on Fri Mar 17, 2017 8:20 am

December 2016 :

Image004 by John Yingling, on Flickr
The Baozi lady.

Image005 by John Yingling, on Flickr

I'd probably have never stepped foot inside this place if it weren't for a teaching assistant telling me I could find Xiaolongbao, the intensely delicious, steamed, soup-filled bun. If you look from the tiny door outside, you see a wall, and a gas tank. However, once you step in, there's 8 seats off to the left. These are not Xiaolongbao, the impossibly thin, bag-like, god-like Shanghai style soup dumplings. They're buns with fillings. This particular kind are not nearly as thick as normal Baozi I have had, though they have some of the chew. Like half-way between the two. Either way, when I asked for them, I got these. Delicious as hell. Pic your poison. Pork, Veggie and Egg. Whatever, they are all good. Going to make it a priority to dive into more unassuming places this year. Sometimes you never know until you poke your head inside.

Total cost : $1.20.
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Re: Musings and food photos from Northeast China...

Postby gonzochicago on Fri Mar 17, 2017 8:22 am

Image006 by John Yingling, on Flickr

My old apartment's door in winter. Fuck winter here.

February 2016 :

Image007 by John Yingling, on Flickr

The Ice Festival.
It's also Lantern Festival, which marks the end of the New Year's festivities. As I type, fireworks are still going off. It reminds me of the 4th of July in Chicago, where your amusement fades, but a lot longer, and with a hell of a lot more firecrackers. The Ice Festival was neat, but man, it bears repeating, this city is damn-hell-ass-cold. We even went on, what I'm told, was a historically mild day for it. Even so I still found myself bewildered by my frozen feet. Surely could have dressed better. Summer should be really nice here, and I'm looking forward to it. Onward and upward, 2016. (ha.)
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Re: Musings and food photos from Northeast China...

Postby gonzochicago on Fri Mar 17, 2017 8:24 am

Image008 by John Yingling, on Flickr

Offerings to the spirit world. Happy Chinese New Year. Fires are out in full force in Harbin. I've never been in China to experience it. I love how it just spills out onto the sidewalks and street corners, ash blowing everywhere. We stocked up on a few things, but even though many places will shut down or keep shorter hours, it seems it will be business as usual for a few of my favorite places. We're not going anywhere this time around, as prices to get out jump to insane levels. After seeing some of the photos friends posted, I'm happy to bunker in. Hope you're all well. Cheers to you in the Year of the Monkey.

Image009 by John Yingling, on Flickr

Who needs blinds anyway...
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Re: Musings and food photos from Northeast China...

Postby gonzochicago on Fri Mar 17, 2017 8:28 am

Chinese New Years, February 2016 :

Image010 by John Yingling, on Flickr

My boss and friend, Shaun, had us over to his in-laws house for the New Year. Beautiful home. Great food. Really nice time. After 8PM, people start going off with fireworks. We jumped outside and lit a few off ourselves, watched as others bounced shells off cars, windows. Hopped in and out of the CCTV NYE gala special. The parents watched as they made dumplings on their bed for midnight. Shaun's wife drove us around, past the cold unlucky who waited for taxi's that would no doubt take forever to come, or even be going their way. She stuck her head out of the window and flagged one down for us, and off we went. We have the rest of the week off, so we're rolling ahead on all the other cylinders. A great couple of days. Thanks for having us, Shaun. Cheers.

April, 2016 :

Image011 by John Yingling, on Flickr

Signs of summer... (finally)

Image012 by John Yingling, on Flickr

Boat docks off the middle Songhua River. Inches from the famous "walking street" everyone loves in this city. I like to visit this area every few weeks, as it's a slap in the face reminder that this is a big city. This area is teeming with people, on a Monday afternoon. Almost 3.5 million people live here, a mere blip on China's radar. So, sure, no music scene, but turning that into a positive has been good. It'll force me to visit neighboring Changchun and Dalian. There's a whole spectrum of shit going on here that I have no idea about. It's been fun poking my head above water, finally. Will keep exploring. Cheers.

May 2016 :

Image013 by John Yingling, on Flickr

麻辣刀削面 - "Numbing" Hot Knife Cut Noodles. From what I know, this began as a Sichuan thing. Preservation, back in the day. (Má, or literally, hemp, or "pins and needles") You mix the giant glob of chilis on the left, and it seeps into the broth giving the whole thing multiple layers. I really wanted to find out if this noodle shop was a chain, as the provinces were all over the place. I asked a worker what she was eating, if it was on the menu, and she said it was. I pointed to each thing and gave a good guess as to the province. She nodded. Out came the translator, and I asked about their locations. I can never tell with some signage. She shook her head. All their own recipes. Their only location. This is a pretty ubiquitous noodle dish, but I still really like it. I will be back. Nice people! Support your local noodle shop.

Spring :

Image014 by John Yingling, on Flickr

Adventures in BBQ. China has a large population of Uighur Muslim people. It's filled with tension. Another thing I know very little about. I can recall my first trip to China, reading some official piece on how their BBQ stands were causing the pollution in Beijing. Right... I believe, Beijing "officially" still has a summer outdoor grilling ban in place, but it's mostly been business as usual when I've been there. They'll round up and destroy some of their carts in the night, and from what I've seen, that's about it. This was right before the rather vicious 2014 knife attacks, for which they were also blamed. I'll be posting a few more photos from this night in the next few weeks.

Image015 by John Yingling, on Flickr
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Re: Musings and food photos from Northeast China...

Postby OrthodoxEaster on Fri Mar 17, 2017 8:30 am

gonzochicago wrote:Guobaorou (锅包肉)


Seems to be the ancestor of the American Chinese takeout staple sweet and sour pork, only... delicious-looking! I've had the famous Beijing-style chops in NYC, but they tend to be larger and w/o those nice julienned vegetables (or pickles) from your pic. That looks damn good.

The bao in that photo look proper and fluffy, as well. You probably know this, but the Fujianese also combine the pleasures of thicker, more bread-like steamed buns w/a meatball surrounded by soupy, almost xiaolongbao-style filling. So delicious.

Also lusting after the shots of Indonesian steam table food (there's a great place for this in Philly called Hardena, located in an old couple's house) and Sichuan hot pot (which is all over NYC and, especially, Taiwan) in your link. So cool that you get to try this stuff at the source: no doubt revelatory!

Will read and peep more if work is slow or later on the weekend. Thanks for posting!
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Re: Musings and food photos from Northeast China...

Postby gonzochicago on Fri Mar 17, 2017 8:34 am

OrthodoxEaster wrote:
gonzochicago wrote:Guobaorou (锅包肉)


Seems to be the ancestor of the American Chinese takeout staple sweet and sour pork, only... delicious-looking! I've had the famous Beijing-style chops in NYC, but they tend to be larger and w/o those nice julienned vegetables (or pickles) from your pic. That looks damn good.

The bao in that photo look proper and fluffy, as well. You probably know this, but the Fujianese also combine the pleasures of thicker, more bread-like steamed buns w/a meatball surrounded by soupy, almost xiaolongbao-style filling. So delicious.

Also lusting after the shots of Indonesian steam table food (there's a great place for this in Philly called Hardena, located in an old couple's house) and Sichuan hot pot (which is all over NYC and, especially, Taiwan) in your link. So cool that you get to try this stuff at the source: no doubt revelatory!

Will read and peep more if work is slow or later on the weekend. Thanks for posting!


Exactly.

I have not have Fujian style Baozi!!!! Want to... so, so much variety here. Everywhere is different.

That Indonesia trek was a trip and a half....personally, I think everyone should go there. Tour there. Just go drink coffee and talk to children. Whatever. The joy and learning it brings...tough to describe.

I'm amazed at how much original cuisine is leaking out into America now that people's tastes are evolving. It's great to see!

Alright, I'll let you all chew on this. I did all of that in like...20 minutes, so I should be able to bang out the remaining 50 or so posts in mere days, because I'm a piece of shit.

Cheers. :)
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Re: Musings and food photos from Northeast China, and beyond

Postby Neuloveyou on Fri Mar 17, 2017 10:08 am

Man I do love Chinese food. I have never made it very far away from Beijing and Shanghai but my Beijing-living friend is married to a lady with a granny in Harbin, my girlfriend's granny visited Harbin for the ice festival a few years ago (her granny is Western but spent a lot of time in the Middle and Far East due to her husband working for HSBC) and even my dad has been to Harbin on business. I've always been a bit fascinated by it but thought it sounded a very tough place to live.

Those Uyghur laghman noodles are the business - you can get a pretty good rendition of them in north London, directly opposite Arsenal's Emirates Stadium.

Amazing food pics.
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Re: Musings and food photos from Northeast China, and beyond

Postby OrthodoxEaster on Fri Mar 17, 2017 10:34 am

gonzochicago wrote:Boat docks off the middle Songhua River.... Adventures in BBQ. China has a large population of Uighur Muslim people. It's filled with tension.


I'm amazed at how picturesque those docks are, given that Harbin doesn't exactly have a reputation for quaint. Then again, neither does say, Taipei, but it's filled w/beautiful nooks, too.

Uighur barbecue carts are all over NYC's Chinatowns and even in a few areas away from those. Quality, fat content, and spice mixes vary a little, but they're generally reliable and the blazing charcoal is always a sight to behold on a snowy winter night. Some of those guys wear gasmasks while they cook, which makes it all the more surreal.

You're not kidding re: tension. I ate a ton of Uighur (and Dungan, aka Hui aka Han Muslim) food in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. Definitely heard complaints about the Chinese Communist Party and the situation in Xinjiang, the bulldozing of the old city, persecution of Muslims, etc.

Those restaurants generally had my favorite food in Central Asia. There was this one dish that would get translated as "pickled chicken," but it was actually bits of bird that had been soaking/brining/aging in some kinda relatively sour marinade for a while, which was then flash-fried, then dry stir-fried w/crispy potatoes, a few vegetables, and some Sichuan peppercorns and dry chilis. Major "ma" action in terms of flavor. No idea if this was a Hui or Uighur dish. So tasty. (Central Asian Korean food was also really interesting, as Silk Road spices and mutton had replaced most of the Far Eastern influences. Plenty of kimchi but virtually no seafood, fish stock, seaweed, or dried seafood pastes.)

These are wonderful pics you've posted.
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Re: Musings and food photos from Northeast China + beyond.

Postby gonzochicago on Sat Mar 18, 2017 9:21 am

Wow...Neu, that is really great. Honestly, if I were you, I'd take a skip on Harbin, and get yourself to Chengdu, or Xi'an.

Orthodox...that is really amazing. I'd really like to move to NYC some day for this reason, but having worked shit office jobs my whole life, I don't know what in the world I'd do that would keep me remotely alive and with a decent lifestyle.

If / when I move back to the U.S.A., I will be so depressed if I don't have some serious melting pot action. Eh...tastes changes though, so I guess we'll see.

Thanks for the kind words!

Let's keep this rolling.

June 2016 :

Image016 by John Yingling, on Flickr

Absolutely wicked weather today. A hail storm with intensity I haven't seen in a really long time. My side street was demolished. This photo was right after the rain broke. An icy mess of a bubble bath, with kids wading through knee high water, cars daring the drive through. None got stuck, but Shaun has some great videos of cars just floating along with the newly made rivers in other areas. Truly a shitshow. I left a bit early to head to work in case it was hell out there, and one corner really was. There were a half dozen kids with SLR's snapping away at this chaos. I puddle hopped the dry areas through one road to the next. It's all drying up here now...bless this climate. All's well. Some weren't so lucky. I've been there. Hell of a day.

Image017 by John Yingling, on Flickr

This is what happens when you insist on being in the foreigners ferris wheel ride. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Image018 by John Yingling, on Flickr

Serious commitment to balloons. Excellent weather lately!

Image019 by John Yingling, on Flickr

Ah, the illusive two-fer! Not only a couples shirt, but a slogan tee gone wrong! They didn't know of any Chinese bands. #punkneverdie

Image020 by John Yingling, on Flickr

My apartment got sold, so I had to move. I was told upon coming that I could throw a small amount of my own money in each month, if I ever wanted a nicer place. Since I've decided to sign on for a full year here, starting now, this seemed like the perfect time to do it. A little bit did, indeed, go a long way. What I got was a cozy, clean spot on the 29th floor of a 30 floor apartment building. This is my new balcony. For only 7 months, there were a lot of heavy emotions tied to that old spot. The frazzled nerves of wondering if this would even work out. The first brutal winter. Getting my feet wet with it all. This couldn't have happened at a better time. Thanks to the staff here for the cosmic, refreshing lay-up. To a new season. New projects. New energy. Stay safe out there, and be well.

Image021 by John Yingling, on Flickr

小炒肉 - Xiǎo Chǎo Ròu. I am an absolute sucker for Sichuan food. My go to is 回锅肉 (Twice cooked pork), thinly sliced, salty as hell pork belly. If it's around, I will not hesitate to eat more than any human should ever consume. Xinyu Zhang, who's from Nanchong, let me know of a great spot near her school to get great stuff from the province. We went, and ordered two plates. This was her pick, and I've been rotating back and forth ever since we went. Harbin's portion sizes still astound me. It's probably ill-advised for one man to eat a whole plate of either of these things, but it's these dishes I could still taste upon a mere thought, being anywhere else. There are Sichuan and Hunan places all over Harbin, but not all of them are local approved! Really solid. Thanks, Xinyu. Forever grateful.

Image022 by John Yingling, on Flickr

Ah, Chinese BBQ. Another win for exploration. As with any city in China, you can barely walk around without seeing a BBQ setup. It's all very low hassle. One night, I came home particularly late. I decided to take a quick walk and see if anything was open. I stumbled into this tiny unassuming shop, peeked into their meat cooler, and saw the large lamb sticks I've been hunting for these last few weeks. Every dish I got had a unique twist to it. I've gone back a half dozen times in mere weeks. Last night, I brought my banker friend who helps me change money without hassle. I've always loved this stuff, but man it's sweet when you find a really good quality shop. Thanks, summer! Not pictured, tripe hotpot, grilled bread.
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Re: Musings and food photos from Northeast China + beyond.

Postby gonzochicago on Sat Mar 18, 2017 9:22 am

summer 2016 continued :

Image023 by John Yingling, on Flickr

This is Katie. She was one of my favorites. Super smart, insanely adorable, and someone who lit up the room and always made my day better for the short time we'd spend together. It's almost funny to me to say that about someone who realistically, totally can't communicate with you on any normal level, but if I've learned one thing in China, it's that deep connections can be made on the most surprisingly basic ends. Her mom would always give me snacks. She added me on Wechat (China's social media). Katie had to leave. Off to a private school or something. It's been a few months, and I still think of her, say hello to her mom. Her absence is felt. I brace for it with some of my other students. Inevitable, on both sides. Anyways, thought I'd share a cute photo and story. Cheers.

Image024 by John Yingling, on Flickr

Rè Gān Miàn (热干面), Sichuan style. This is from a Chongqing noodle shop, but I recognized the characters to be Wuhan's famous "hot dry noodle". I double checked, then asked the counter guy. He replied, simply "it's Chongqing style hot dry noodle" nicely enough, without a hint of "you idiot foreigner." This place has multiple spots, and I doubt it's a Harbin thing. Either way, solid efforts from a chain. With hundreds of options for noodles everywhere you step foot, I still find myself cycling around what I know, peppering in new stuff along the way. It's nice to get hooked, but I'll never stop exploring. These look simple, but there's a good amount going on. Mix it up, and you get a nice bit of Sichuan heat, but solid flavor remains. Total cost : about 9RMB, or $1.30 USD.

Image025 by John Yingling, on Flickr

Another day off wandering around Central Street. This area really takes some of the manic-depressive edge off this city. I honestly have not found living in China to be too isolating an experience, even with little language knowledge, in a cold brash city such as this. However, I am poking my head around more than most would. It doesn't help that most locals I've met ask why I live here, call it boring, dirty, can't wait to leave. That's many cities, though. I have found a pocket of people in my time here, that have utmost respect for the progress that's happened here. It should be really interesting to see how I feel in a year or so. Summer's been kind to me, so far. I hope to be less lazy with the language, and peel back even more layers before winter. Constant change brings good exploration.

Image026 by John Yingling, on Flickr

Floating along. There are many reasons I made the move to China. Firstly, it was the softest landing possible, due to my friend Shaun, and the staff here. To take some weight off, in every regard. A sort of quiet retreat to a few million-large desolate nowhere. Out of my element, when I want to be, but close to the things I love. A blind but well researched crack at a job I knew I'd be good at, if I put my mind to it, and it's been wonderful.

The city is far from my first pick, but past conversations of doing just this, have always stuck in my head. Get your feet in a "smaller" city, learn ropes, to assimilate, wrap your brain around a process that you can never really be ready for, but just have to dive into. It's a conversation I've had time and again. That said, this is a good city for getting things done. Less push to go out all the time, more push for working, learning. Traversing a real element, if that even exists anymore. I thought it to be the best move for me at the time, and I do believe time is proving this to be the case. Honestly, I'd love to stick here at least 2 years. (ha...almost there.)

This would do wonders for me financially, creatively on a back-log of footage and episodes of my project to release. Aside from good stability, and learning all the things that come with being here, it would afford me opportunities to continue exploring this continent, which I realistically have seen nothing of, despite all my travel. Get back to areas and people I love (I'm looking at you, Indonesia) at a lower cost. (all of this is still true, especially the bit about indonesia, which is delayed, but coming...shhh)

I'm pushing hard to keep exploration levels up, spirits up, and creative juices flowing in all regards. One can always do better, but it's important to remember what's being done. In my travels of this place, I've gotten into some routines I find very comforting, in the fact that few foreigners are regularly treading these waters. I don't feel uncomfortable...quite the opposite. Some of the things I've accomplished here, despite dreadful language skills, I can only close my eyes and laugh as it all happens. I try to embrace that I really am pretty far out here. It's gone well, so far, but more can be done. My plan is to finish a BA while here, and edit up the next 2 films, with a rough cut of Indonesia in the pipeline, toward the end of next year. (getting there)

That's a tall order, but taking it piece by piece, it will be done. For now, it's medium effort, taken over a longer period of time. I'm well aware the other shoe can drop at any moment with this type of life, but there's few trappings here, as long as I stay focused...and I intend to. If you've read this far, I hope you continue to enjoy reading about these things. It's no crazy rock n' roll dispatches, but there's a lot of that coming. I've always tried to live my life as an open book, a public record, and will continue to do so, mostly for my amusement. Thanks for following along with it all. These are crazy times. Be well out there. (crazier times now...be well, still, please)

Image027 by John Yingling, on Flickr

Guangdong style dim-sum. Honestly, not the best quality...but, i'll take it.

Went to Beijing for a bit to wrap a final interview for Episode 2. When I came back :

Image029 by John Yingling, on Flickr

Being back in Harbin is like a visit to your grandmother. Everything is easy and low-key. I try to keep a constant reminder of just how many layers of stress were shaved off. Having the privilege to not worry cannot be understated. I doubt I'll be itchy enough for art and music, to move next year. Focusing on monthly goals, rather than the anxiety of thinking years out, must be my main purpose. Small but potent doses of monthly effort should lead to striking differences. I'll take this cocoon. Let it envelop me. Break free in small bursts, hopefully stronger, more focused. This should be easier, the longer I'm here. There's strange comfort in the desolate north, for now. These are crazy times. Be well out there.

Image028 by John Yingling, on Flickr
Last edited by gonzochicago on Tue Jul 18, 2017 7:37 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Musings and food photos from Northeast China + beyond.

Postby OrthodoxEaster on Sat Mar 18, 2017 12:48 pm

gonzochicago wrote:I'd really like to move to NYC some day for this reason, but having worked shit office jobs my whole life, I don't know what in the world I'd do that would keep me remotely alive and with a decent lifestyle.


It's expensive in general and increasingly annoying to do anything creative here, but if it's "serious melting pot action" you want (and I sure as fuck did), it's the right place. Flushing or even Manhattan's Chinatown still surprise me on a regular basis after so many years.

Although I also moved here decades ago, when it was still cheap and relatively undesirable, which is how I've afforded to stay and live decently. No idea what it would be like to establish oneself nowadays, not sure if this is the city I'd pick. Still, I imagine it can be done if you're clever and willing to swallow a shit office job again, at least for a little while.

gonzochicago wrote:couples shirt.


Ah, yes, matchy-match was also very much alive in Korea and Taiwan, last I checked.

gonzochicago wrote:小炒肉 - Xiǎo Chǎo Ròu.


Looks proper and delicious w/just the right amount of red oil. Even legit places here tend to lean too heavily on the chili oil and/or black beans sometimes, but there are decent renditions around town. (Have also enjoyed in Kyrgyzstan and Taiwan.)

The shitty "Americanized Chinese food" version of this dish tends to use cabbage and shitakes, which is just bullshit. Those have no place in double-cooked pork, so much water content. And yeah, at a proper joint, the meat should be almost like slivers of slab bacon (w/ample fat, but not really crispy), which is a good unctuous foil for the heat and salt.

That portion size is indeed massive, at least way bigger than what you'd get at a Sichuan place in Taiwan or NYC, unless it specializes in lazy-Susan meals for families.

gonzochicago wrote:Ah, Chinese BBQ.


Meat is definitely looking plumper than what you find at the average NYC Uighur cart. Huge!

gonzochicago wrote:It's almost funny to me to say that about someone who realistically, totally can't communicate with you on any normal level, but if I've learned one thing in China, it's that deep connections can be made on the most surprisingly basic ends.


I'd say this is true of deep travel (and teaching abroad, etc.) in general. Well-said.

gonzochicago wrote:Rè Gān Miàn (热干面), Sichuan style. This is from a Chongqing noodle shop, but I recognized the characters to be Wuhan's famous "hot dry noodle". I double checked, then asked the counter guy. He replied, simply "it's Chongqing style hot dry noodle" nicely enough,


Shit, it looks exactly like Wuhan hot dry noodle (w/that sesame paste), or at least like the version of it they serve for $5 at a place called Taste of Northern China in Manhattan. I've only eaten famous Chongqing noodle once, and it was totally different, still w/peanuts and picked vegetable but in this wet red broth full of ground Sichuan peppercorns w/ground pork and greens (but not at all like dan dan mien). Maybe this Chongqing dry version is something else and that was the wet version I tried? The inability to read or speak Mandarin at all puts me at a huge disadvantage here.

gonzochicago wrote:I'm pushing hard to keep exploration levels up, spirits up, and creative juices flowing in all regards.


Would say you're succeeding wildly, from the looks of it.
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Re: Musings and food photos from Northeast China + beyond.

Postby warmowski on Mon Mar 20, 2017 11:00 am

I am walking around with the completely false sense I've hung around in Harbin. Cheers, FMGC!

Hey - a question about diaspora. I've been told the Chinatown in Chicago is a destination for people who come from rural areas, but when I hear the area names I'm not left with much understanding of geographically what we're talking about. You have any idea about this?

I'll hang up and wait for my answer.

-r
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Re: Musings and food photos from Northeast China + beyond.

Postby gonzochicago on Tue Mar 21, 2017 10:23 am

OrthodoxEaster wrote:
gonzochicago wrote:I'd really like to move to NYC some day for this reason, but having worked shit office jobs my whole life, I don't know what in the world I'd do that would keep me remotely alive and with a decent lifestyle.


It's expensive in general and increasingly annoying to do anything creative here, but if it's "serious melting pot action" you want (and I sure as fuck did), it's the right place. Flushing or even Manhattan's Chinatown still surprise me on a regular basis after so many years.

Although I also moved here decades ago, when it was still cheap and relatively undesirable, which is how I've afforded to stay and live decently. No idea what it would be like to establish oneself nowadays, not sure if this is the city I'd pick. Still, I imagine it can be done if you're clever and willing to swallow a shit office job again, at least for a little while.

gonzochicago wrote:couples shirt.


Ah, yes, matchy-match was also very much alive in Korea and Taiwan, last I checked.

gonzochicago wrote:小炒肉 - Xiǎo Chǎo Ròu.


Looks proper and delicious w/just the right amount of red oil. Even legit places here tend to lean too heavily on the chili oil and/or black beans sometimes, but there are decent renditions around town. (Have also enjoyed in Kyrgyzstan and Taiwan.)

The shitty "Americanized Chinese food" version of this dish tends to use cabbage and shitakes, which is just bullshit. Those have no place in double-cooked pork, so much water content. And yeah, at a proper joint, the meat should be almost like slivers of slab bacon (w/ample fat, but not really crispy), which is a good unctuous foil for the heat and salt.

That portion size is indeed massive, at least way bigger than what you'd get at a Sichuan place in Taiwan or NYC, unless it specializes in lazy-Susan meals for families.

gonzochicago wrote:Ah, Chinese BBQ.


Meat is definitely looking plumper than what you find at the average NYC Uighur cart. Huge!

gonzochicago wrote:It's almost funny to me to say that about someone who realistically, totally can't communicate with you on any normal level, but if I've learned one thing in China, it's that deep connections can be made on the most surprisingly basic ends.


I'd say this is true of deep travel (and teaching abroad, etc.) in general. Well-said.

gonzochicago wrote:Rè Gān Miàn (热干面), Sichuan style. This is from a Chongqing noodle shop, but I recognized the characters to be Wuhan's famous "hot dry noodle". I double checked, then asked the counter guy. He replied, simply "it's Chongqing style hot dry noodle" nicely enough,


Shit, it looks exactly like Wuhan hot dry noodle (w/that sesame paste), or at least like the version of it they serve for $5 at a place called Taste of Northern China in Manhattan. I've only eaten famous Chongqing noodle once, and it was totally different, still w/peanuts and picked vegetable but in this wet red broth full of ground Sichuan peppercorns w/ground pork and greens (but not at all like dan dan mien). Maybe this Chongqing dry version is something else and that was the wet version I tried? The inability to read or speak Mandarin at all puts me at a huge disadvantage here.

gonzochicago wrote:I'm pushing hard to keep exploration levels up, spirits up, and creative juices flowing in all regards.


Would say you're succeeding wildly, from the looks of it.


Thank You, OE.

I dunno, having had Twice Cooked pork all over China, but mainly in Sichuan, it varies. I have seen cabbage in it, here and there. I have had many version of it with crispy pork. YMMV.

"Da" is big. My first experience with these mammoth chuanr was in Changchun, and I hunted for the good quality ones in Harbin for a good bit. Even still, they can be hit or miss.

My first experience in Changchun, the guy wouldn't let us pay, and they were melt in your mouth. Still chasing that. Ha! :lol:

The version of Re Gan Mian I had at the CQ place was purely a "CQ version" of the dish. Essentially, the same, but just with less pickled veggies (Wuhan likes them like...whole) and some Sichuan peppercorns.

With all of this, cook, and timing, your dish may vary. I still haven't had the same type of Dan Dan Mian styles I had the first trip to CQ / Chengdu. It's mind-boggling.


warmowski wrote:I am walking around with the completely false sense I've hung around in Harbin. Cheers, FMGC!

Hey - a question about diaspora. I've been told the Chinatown in Chicago is a destination for people who come from rural areas, but when I hear the area names I'm not left with much understanding of geographically what we're talking about. You have any idea about this?

I'll hang up and wait for my answer.

-r


You know...I don't really know. I remember Chinatown as a place to get the actual good shit. That, and Joong Boo. But...I haven't been there in 5 years. Shit is probably way different now.

ANYWAYS! A few more, shall we?

Image030 by John Yingling, on Flickr

Adventures in chain noodle shops! 鸡丝拌面. Jī sī bǎn miàn. Though I passed this place a few times, I never stepped foot inside. It was always slammed, and looked way too daunting, with an open glass cook counter. Everyone would glare at me if I even passed by. I'd always order this dish at work, but the place closed, and the other variety on order was not good at all. One day, I found myself passing again. I stopped to look at the menu, and a woman came up and spoke English. I decided, fuck it, now's the time. This was on the menu. Chalk another one up to things I never tried my first two rounds in China. Chain or not, these rule. Chewy as all hell. No oil. Mix, and enjoy. Trying not to burn out on 'em too fast.

Image031 by John Yingling, on Flickr

Commitment to fish, all around. I mulled about as they tried to speak with me, but it was no use. They got excited, yelling at the water. It was a turtle. Going to try and wander the river as much as possible before this city turns back into a total goddamn icicle. Just a matter of time, and it's coming quick.

Image032 by John Yingling, on Flickr

Dusk.

Image033 by John Yingling, on Flickr

Young monks on their way somewhere. They had stopped to get ice cream at the famous Ma Di Er (马迭尔) shop. People love this stuff, and since it originated in Harbin, you get a lot of "Have you tried the ice cream!" type shit when meeting new people. If you look closely at this photo, nearly every one of them is clutching a phone, which I find amusing. This was near Central Street. Nice day.

Image034 by John Yingling, on Flickr

Nice storm over the city tonight.

Image035 by John Yingling, on Flickr

The owner of a Xinjiang restaurant getting ready for his day. I was on my way to Marhaba, a Middle Eastern restaurant. I really don't realize the flavors I've missed, until I have them again. A deep, eye widening experience. Shawarma, now, instantly reminds me of my day heading to Kuala Lumpur last year. I puked in the bathroom at the airport of Jakarta. Was so worn thin from being sick from the food, I couldn't help but just laugh, do a dog-head shake, and move forward. I rolled into Malaysia more hungry than I can ever recall, and popped out of the taxi to the best shawarma wrap I've had. Memory floods from food, always a magical thing, either way.

Cheers.
Last edited by gonzochicago on Tue Jul 18, 2017 7:39 am, edited 1 time in total.
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