Food of Yunnan 3: 乳饼 – Rubing Cheese

You don’t find a lot of dairy food in China. This is usually ascribed to the fact that many Chinese people are lactose intolerant, though there is some debate over whether this causes the lack of dairy in the diet or is caused by it.  There are also remarks upon the fact that dairy farming is a far less efficient use of land than growing rice or raising pork for meat.  But regardless of the cause, one thing you will almost never find anywhere in China is cheese.  The featured food in tonight’s post is the exception to that rule.

Rubing (乳饼 – rǔbǐng) is a cheese made by the local Bai and Sani minorities of Yunnan province, and is quite popular there.  It is a farmer cheese, which means that it is served fresh rather than aged, and is made from goats milk that has been soured with the extract of a local vine called 奶藤 (năiténg), or literally “milk cane”.

Rubing is similar to the Cypriot cheese called Halloumi in that it does not melt when heated.  And like Halloumi, Rubing is most commonly served fried.

Often is it served mixed with tomatoes and broccoli or other vegetables.

Sometimes it is just deep-fried and served with salty or sweet dipping sauces.

These are the most traditional ways of serving Rubing, but modern restaurants in the region have been experimenting with departures from the tradition.  Some serve it with a local cured ham called Xuanhua, while others are experimenting with chocolate or rose flavorings.

It is yet another local delight I will be keeping my eyes out in our coming visit.

Sources:

The photos and serving information come from gochengdoo.com

Information on the making of rubing comes from wisegeek.com

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Travel booked! #ibmcsc

I got word last night that our friends at Digital Opportunity Trust have confirmed the booking of my travel plans.  I arrive in Kunming on 12 October, fly from Kunming to Beijing on 10 November, and return home to the UK on 17 November.  The intervening months will fly by in the blink of an eye.

Meanwhile on the home front, my wife was just accepted to graduate school, and in September will begin studying for her masters in psychology at the University of Derby.  She will begin her studies in late September, shortly before I head off.

What an amazing summer it has been.

 

 

Food of Yunnan 2: 宜良烤鴨 – Yiliang Roast Duck

Under the old British Colonial system for spelling Chinese words with roman characters, called the Wade-Giles system, the capital of China,  北京  (literally “northern capital”) was called Peking.  In 1958 the Chinese government published their own official romanization scheme, called Pinyin.  In Pinyin,  北京  romanizes to Beijing, and after the US normalized relations with China in 1979, Pinyin became the international standard and English publications around the world started calling the Chinese capital Beijing instead of Peking.

But though the capital is now referred to universally as Beijing, the old usage of Peking still survives in a few places.  One is in the name of China’s top university, which is still referred to as Peking University – don’t ask why; a good friend of the family got her degree there and even she doesn’t know.  Another such linguistic remnant is that culinary marvel: Peking Duck.  Most of you will at some point have eaten or at least heard of it: a whole duck, slow-roasted for over 24 hours in a special oven through a special and involved process (see the Wikipedia article), served with thin pancakes, green onions, and hoisin sauce.

Peking duck has been around a long time – the first known mention of it was in a cookbook published in the year 1330.  And in 1901, during the closing years of the Qing dynasty, a Yunnanese restauranteur named Zhang Wen went to Beijing to study cookery there, most notably the art of preparing Peking Duck.  When he returned to his home town of Yiliang, he opened a restaurant called Zhibin Garden at the local train station.  But restauranteur Zhang was not content to merely reproduce the Beijing Duck of the capital; he wanted to localize it and make it something unique to the region.

Zhang used a mud oven instead of a brick oven, honey instead of malt syrup for the glaze, and most distinctively pine branches and needles instead of the Gaoliang hardwood normally used for Peking duck.  The end result is now called Yiliang Duck and has become a Yunnanese speciality.  One I certainly intend to try when we arrive.

Sources:

History of Yiliang Duck: China Daily and welcomechinese.com
Photos: Yunnan Tourism Administration and the Ming’s Footprints travel blog

 

Meeting the team!

Well, the project has become that much more real.  This week, I got the chance to meet the other members of my China deployment team, otherwise known as Team China 18, for the first time.  It was strange — from everything I heard and read about the IBM Corporate Service Corps, I went into this teleconference already expecting everyone to be articulate, passionate, and as excited about this endeavor as I am.  But knowing it and feeling it first hand, even over the phone, are entirely different, and I have to say I was really impressed by the people I will soon be working with.

As our first group assignment, we had put together slide pack to introduce ourselves, both to our prospective clients and to one another.  To share this slide pack with you, I have created a permanent page on the blog — see About Team China 18 in the menu bar above.  Head on over and meet the team!  You’ll be hearing a lot more about them, and with any luck you may be hearing from them directly, in the weeks and months to come.

A hint of what lies ahead… #teamchina18

Yesterday we received the first indication of what challenges lie ahead.  Digital Opportunity Trust, our NGO facilitator, sent us the following little tidbit of information

The following table presents several options for continued high impact CSC program opportunities in China building on the past successful CSC Program implementations of DOT with IBM in China during 2009 – 2011. The final scope of work will be decided upon discussion with local partners and stakeholders.

Supporting Local Industrial Cluster Development Helping local Hi-Tech industry cluster in guiding local private economy, especially SMEs engaged in ICT, service outsourcing, bio-tech and modern processing/manufacturing to move toward a good and healthy development Local Hi-Tech Industrial Parks
SMEs Transformation and Innovation Helping local government in building a smarter strategy in upgrading competitiveness and international business cooperation. Using IT technology in creating a worldwide network Local commercial bureau
Supporting Local NGO/Industrial Ass. Development Supporting Youth/Women  entrepreneurs development Youth League/Woman entrepreneurs association, etc.
Community Service Interacting with rural schools by involving IBM China’s ODC programs Education Organization, selecting 1-2 rural high schools

Many of you reading this are not familiar with what I do on a day-to-day basis, and might well read this and and think to yourself, “That doesn’t actually tell me anything about what he will actually be doing!”.

Some of you, however, have a deep working knowledge of my profession, in many cases greater than my own, while others of you will be colleagues who actually work with me on a day-to-day basis.  You will greet the above table with a knowing smile, and say to yourself, “That doesn’t actually tell me anything about what he will actually be doing!”.

Rest assured, this lack of specificity is not lost on me.  I’m certain this is because the DOT are still working with the targeted organizations to finalize the scope of our engagement, and are probably just now figuring out the team assignments.  In truth it makes sense for them to wait until these tasks are complete to share such details with us.

But that doesn’t make the waiting any easier :-)

First conference call with our team members is Thursday; am really looking forward to meeting them.

 

Ashima, a folktale from the Yi people of Yunnan

The Stone Forest, Yunnan Province

In the heart of the Stone Forest, a remarkable limestone formation about 60 kilometers from Kunming, is a very special stone called the Ashima stone.  Legend has it that this stone was once a beautiful woman named Ashima, which literally translates as “more precious than gold”.  How did she become a stone in the Stone Forest?

Ashima

China’s first color movie

There is a long epic poem that tells the story.  It is hundreds of years old, but was first written down in 1813. The legend of Ashima figures into local marriage customs, and was the subject of the first color movie made in China, in 1964.  The best English synopsis I was able to find comes from the University of San Francisco; it reads as follows:

 

 

Once upon a time, a girl was born in a poor Yi family. Yi people were one of 56 of the nationalities in China. The parents hoped the girl would be as beautiful as flowers and as shiny as gold. They named her Ashima.

When Ashima grew up, she was very beautiful. Many young Chinese men were attracted by her singing and dancing. But Ashima was in love with Ahei, who was a brave and wise young man. They were engaged to each other at one of the torch festivals for Yi people.

One day, when Ashima was on the market, she met the son (Azhi) of the village leader. Azhi thought Ashima was very pretty. He wanted Ashima to marry him instead of Ahei. Azhi was very rich, and Ahei was very poor. Still, Ashima loved only Ahei and wanted to marry him.

When the fall came, Ahei had to leave the village to work in the field. When he was gone, Azhi kidnapped Ashima and forced her to marry him. Ashima cried and insisted she loved only Ahei. This made Azhi very angry. He whipped Ashima until her whole body hurt. Still, Ashima believed Ahei would come to rescue her.

When Ahei heard about Ashima’s kidnapping, he rode his horse home without delay. When he got to Azhi’s door, Azhi would not let him in to see Ashima. Then, Azhi proposed a song contest with Ahei. The contest lasted for three days and three nights. Ahei won the contest, and Azhi had to open the door for him.

After the contest, Azhi asked Ahei to stay overnight in his house. He promised to let Azhi leave the next morning and take Ashima with him. However, it was a trick. During the night, Azhi unleashed three tigers to kill Ahei. But Ahei was ready for the attack, and killed the three tigers with three arrows. The next morning, when Azhi found all the dead tigers, he allowed Ashima and Ahei to leave together.

But Azhi did not give up. He wanted to kill Ashima since he could not keep her. When Ashima and Ahei were playing by a river, Azhi used his power to flood the river. Ashima was drowned. Ahei could not find her. He kept calling Ashima’s name, but he heard only his echo.

Ashima was turned into the river stones. Later, whenever Ahei missed Ashima, he would face the stones and call out Ashima’s name and talk to her. He always heard the echo of a response. In this way, Ahei lived with his beloved Ashima forever.

I am very much looking forward to visiting Ashima when we go to Kunming.  Who knows; maybe she will talk to us.

Photos from Wikipedia and china.org.cn

The Kunming Wolfdog

One of the group activities for Team China 18 this month is putting together an introduction pack for DOT to use in introducing our team to the communities we will be working with.  Each of us are supposed to provide a mix of professional and personal details about our lives that will help people to know us better.

In these slides, several of my colleagues have indicated a fondness for dogs; this got me wondering if there were any notable breeds of dog from Kunming.  And sure enough there is one.   So Brett and Renata, I give to you the Kunming Wolfdog.

The Kunming Wolfdog

The breed was started in the 1950’s in response to the need for a common standard of dog for China’s military and police corps.  In 1988 it was recognized internationally as a distinct breed.  The main antecedents are German Shepherds and a group of wolf-dog crossbreeds developed in Beijing, but there were also a number of house dogs of indistinct breed in the initial breeding pool; detailed pedigrees were not kept.

Physically, they strongly resemble German Shepherds, but their wolf heritage is evident in the taller rear haunches and in how they carry their tail.  They are a very active breed, and require significant exercise every day to stay healthy and happy.  The breeding guides all say that they require at least one long walk every day.

They are primarily working dogs and seldom kept as pets, though this may be changing over time.  But even though they are mainly working dogs, the breed is quite popular.  There is an annual dog show in Kunming every October that features the breed.  The 2011 show was held on October 15, so it is not impossible that we will be there at the right time.

The 2011 Kunming Dog Show

So there you have it.  The Kunming Wolfdog.  I shall keep my eyes posted during my visit for a glimpse of this very handsome looking hound.