Archive for culture

Tibetan Restaurant

Hohhot has been good to me the last two days. (last week, not so much!) I’ve had good experiences at new places and hope you’ll enjoy these places too!

 I’ll break them in to separate posts so they’re easier to search.

The subject of today’s post:

Zhuo Ma Tibetan Restaurant

卓玛臧餐吧

成吉思汗大街阳光诺卡商业街西侧107号

 

I’ve passed this restaurant multiple times when I’m in the vacinity but never had an opportunity to try it until Friday. I think part of my hesitation about not going before was also not wanting to be disappointed. My very first trip to China was spent in Tibetan areas and I’ve always had a soft spot for them. Years ago there was another Tibetan restaurant near the square but it was disappointing not only in service, availability of menu items, but also in that it was owned and staffed by Mongolians. I like Mongolians too, but one would hope Tibetans would run a better Tibetan restaurant than Mongolians. 

Anyway, the place above was fantastic. It’s decor makes you feel like you’ve left Hohhot for Amdo lands. The staff, cooks, owners are Amdo Tibetan, and the food was delicious. 

We ordered three dishes. All were so good. 

webwxgetmsgimg (79) webwxgetmsgimg (80) webwxgetmsgimg (81)

The left is some kind of bing 饼 with sweet cream/cheese like filling. The middle dish is called “Nepal Tofu” and the sauce was sort of like an Indian curry sauce. The dish on the right…..that, my friends, is a very close substitute for a chile relleno. It’s green chile peppers stuffed with seasoned yak meat and smothered in a tasty sauce. Pretend it’s enchilada sauce and your taste buds can be back in the southwest United States 🙂

They also have more traditional, standard Tibetan cuisine like tsampa and milk tea but we wanted to try some of the more unique dishes. 

I didn’t get pictures of the menu or the place itself, but below is the business card so you can stop in yourself.

 webwxgetmsgimg (77) Tibetan restaurant in Hohhot

The address is on the business card and written in Chinese above. It’s north of gong da, south of Genghis Khan Road, and east of Zhe Li Mu Road. 

cook like a local: hua juan(r)

A friend shared these handy photos and recipes on her wechat today and gave permission to share them. Maybe you’d like to try to make this Chinese classic?

They are a steamed bun shaped like flowers. 

Here are your instructions:

 

 Three full bowls of flour

 use one spoon of yeast and warm water until a soft dough is formed

cover with plastic wrap 

wait about 30 minutes and dough should look like the above picture

roll out the dough and spread butter on top 

roll up the dough and cut into triangles

They should look like this

 

turn the pieces over so the widest part is towards the bottom

press down the middle with a chopstick to make the flower-shaped pattern

From the bottom, pinch the middle together

now it looks like this

Put on a steaming tray for 15 minutes.
Enjoy the delicious results!

 

Instructions in Chinese:

和大家分享一下做黄油花卷全部过程

️~~满满的三碗白面
️~~面里放一勺安琪,用温水或面(软)
️~~最后用保鲜膜包上
️~~等待30分钟后拿出来
️~~擀面皮、刷黄油后卷起来
️~~卷好的面切成三角形
️~~切的不要太大
️~~切好的面宽的下面窄的上面摆放
️~~正中间用筷子按压
🔟~~从后面捏一下
️~捏好后花卷的造型就出来了
️~上锅蒸15分钟
️~美味的花卷出炉咯

Hohhot songs

Well friends, if you’ve wanted to increase your repertoire of songs to sing at Chinese banquets or KTV that will make your local friends swoon, this is one to try out! The post below is dated yesterday and there’s a song embedded in the wechat link. You can scroll down to read the lyrics (Chinese only) as it plays.

I’ll be honest, I don’t love the guy’s voice, and the song, while nostalgic, takes “cheesy” to a whole other level. That said, it mentions all the classic Hohhot icons and it would still win you friends to learn it 🙂

There are some great photos in the post, worth a scroll through even if you don’t listen to the whole song.

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If the page doesn’t display correctly try this link.

If you’re interested in another Hohhot song, you can look up “Hohhot Night” 呼和浩特的夜晚. It’s available on xiaomi music and I’m assuming any Chinese music player app. I haven’t found the song above on player apps yet.

Also, after listening to both songs it seems there a list of things that must be included when writing a song about Hohhot. Here are some of them.

  • drinking alcohol
  • the grasslands
  • chi le chuan
  • the sky
  • evenings
  • romance (even better if it didn’t quite pan out)
  • ding xiang (lilac trees)
  • zhong shan lu, xin hua square, or other famous location
  • bei zi, hot pot, or other famous food. 

What else needs to be included to write a hit song about Hohhot? Leave your suggestions in the comments. Bonus points if you actually write song lyrics and leave them for us!

a Hohhot movie

I haven’t seen it yet, but recently saw this posting on wechat about a film about Hohhot, filmed in Hohhot, and even uses the local dialect as the language for the movie.
You can use a translation program for the details of the page embedded or linked below, but the basic plot is the story of a boy born in Hohhot in the early nineties, the struggles of his family, and the changes his family experiences as China (and Hohhot) change around them. The Chinese title is ba yue (August) and the English title is Summer is Over. 

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If embedding does not display properly, try this link.

 

If you’ve seen the movie, leave us a comment with your thoughts.

Anda Union getting good press

If you haven’t heard of Anda Union, you should check them out! They are arguably the most internationally famous performers to come out of Inner Mongolia. 

This week they made international news again, being included in this list by the Huffington Post of the best albums of 2016 that the Grammy Awards missed. 

If you want to hear them, both links above have video! 

I haven’t heard this particular album yet, but I’m glad they’re getting some recognition. What do you think? Have you heard the album? Is it Grammy-worthy?

Leave us a comment!

Da Yao Jia Bing

If you’ve lived in Hohhot any length of time and haven’t had a Da Yao yet, you haven’t really lived in Hohhot. If Hohhot had an official drink, I’m pretty sure this would be it. It’s a soda produced and bottled right here in HET. There’s the standard flavor, which according to my husband tastes like carbonated bubble gum and there’s a citrus-one. I’ve only ever seen bottles, but there’s photographic evidence below that cans also exist.

photo from Da Yao Jia Bing wechat account

photo from Da Yao Jia Bing wechat account

What I didn’t know until last week is that you can follow da yao on wechat. The link below is from their public wechat account which is a compilation of fan-submitted photos.

Take a look at it here.

Here’s what I need to know from you in the comment section:

Da Yao: love it or hate it?

Da Yao: describe the taste in your own words.

What is the best meal to pair with a bottle of Da Yao?

14 years in (and out of) Hohhot

 

Early September marks the anniversary of my first arrival to Hohhot in 2002. Although I haven’t been here continuously, coming in and out for 14 years I’ve gotten to see some pretty amazing changes in the city. I posted articles in the past from news sources about some of the changes, but this post is my own reflections on what has changed in the Blue City since I first arrived.

Airport Arrival

When I arrived in 2002 the current airport wasn’t in existence yet (the old HET was a few hundred meters to the east of the current location) and the road (Xin Hua) into Hohhot proper wasn’t paved.

Western Food and amenities

There were 4-6 locations of KFC, two locations of Dairy Queen and that was the extent of international establishments. The newest big “thing” was the mall that’s now called Kai De, although it had a different name then.

There was, surprisingly, a decent sit-down Western restaurant that could rival, and arguably upstage, Hohhot’s current Western restaurants.

Currently Kai De mall, the newest large shopping center at that time.

Currently Kai De mall, the newest large shopping center at that time.

Communication

I didn’t have a cell phone. Some foreigners and very few locals I knew did, but they weren’t a necessity. Every convenience store had a red public use phone one could use for a few mao.

This situation meant that one had to know the full Chinese name of one’s local friends because you weren’t calling them directly. The mother, father, roommate, etc might answer the phone and one had to be able to ask for Wang Shao Hong (or whomever).

I also think this made us (foreigners) learn the city better since we had to be able to get to a location without the aid of being able to call multiple times along the way when going to meet someone.

Transportation

EVERYONE with the exception of professional drivers and government officials rode a bicycle. I didn’t even know anyone who owned an electric bike until 2006 and didn’t know anyone who owned a car until 2007. (And I wasn’t a hermit who sat inside and didn’t know people).

The only vehicle on the road were taxis, public buses, deliver vans, and black government cars….and LOTS of bikes. Lots and lots of bikes.

Also, the size of the city was much smaller. The second ring road was an anticipated enigma much like the subway now and places that are now six lane roads were dirt alleys then.

My first bike, purchased on day two or three of my arrival in Hohhot. This one was in my possession less than 36 hours before the transfer of ownership to bike thieves. (Some things never change!)

My first bike, purchased on day two or three of my arrival in Hohhot. This one was in my possession less than 36 hours before the transfer of ownership to bike thieves. (Some things never change!)

Intersection near Manduhai Park circa 2003

Intersection near Manduhai Park circa 2003

Standard of living

Perhaps the biggest change, though, is the standard of living in the average person’s residence. Housing in Hohhot has come a LONG way in 14 years. For the first few years I lived here, one would have to inquire if a home had hot water all the time, or just the standard two days per week. The public water service provided heated water through the pipes at set times, twice per week, and landlords were only just becoming willing to fork over money for a hot water heater if one wanted hot water all the time.

I only knew of one complex of “high rise” apartments (I think it’s called the Metropolitan, west on Da Xue Lu). Otherwise, most lived in 4 or 6 story walk-ups and some in ping fangs.

Not an uncommon sight in 2002

Not an uncommon sight in 2002

Many homes still had plain concrete floors and interior design wasn’t a thing.

BUT, we’re all paying for those upgrades in our rent now. The first two bedroom house I rented was 450 RMB/month. The second one, 4-5 years later was 600 or 700. Even in 2007 I only knew 1-2 people (families with kids) who were paying more than 1000/month.

Interesting enough, though, it was much more common to be invited to someone’s home for a meal, instead of being invited out to eat. My guess is that economics is the reason for this. Meals could be prepared at home much more affordably than eating at a restaurant, which was still a luxury for many.

Entertainment

There was roller skating, bowling at the Xin Cheng, and KTV was big. The squares, particularly Xin Hua, had lots of cool things it doesn’t have now….a camel to ride on and take a photo with, and cars like these, below. They weren’t bumper cars and they weren’t for kids. Just small electric cars for adults to drive around the square.

mayfair 303 mayfair 302

Other old photos

Chang Le Gong

Chang Le Gong and the New York New York Club used to be located in the same building.

I've heard that this was the tallest building in Hohhot until the late 80s or early 90s.

I’ve heard that this was the tallest building in Hohhot until the late 80s or early 90s.

Inner Mongolia Museum

We have guests visiting us for a couple weeks (hence the lack of posts). We took them to visit the museum yesterday which made me realize I hadn’t dedicated a post to it before.

 

The museum used to be located in the building with the white horse on top in the center of the city.

IMG_2838

In 2007 or 2008 it opened in its current location. (map below) It’s across the street from Wanda 万达.

mseum map

It is closed on Mondays. Tickets are free but you have to stop at the ticket window on the south side of the building before entering through the main doors. And as of yesterday, they had a notice posted that foreign visitors have to present their ID to enter.

dec 2013 053
The museum is truly well done, although the English signage is not always great.
dec 2013 054
The third floor has three main rooms: one for the ancient peoples who pre-date Mongolians, one for Mongolians, and one for the other minorities in Inner Mongolia.
dec 2013 056

dec 2013 063

Mongolian wrestling outfit

The second floor has exhibits about China’s space program. On both the second and third floors on the north end is the dinosaur and other fossil display. The dinosaurs move and roar and have a light show (kids will love it) but only the official tour guides can turn it on, so get in line behind a tour group if you’d like to see it.

Speaking of kids, there’s a cool room on the south end of the third floor with hands on activities for the kids. Pictures of the kids room are below.

IMG_20150602_103828 IMG_20150602_103845 IMG_20150602_103651 IMG_20150602_102910 IMG_20150602_103550

You can learn about more about the museum by following the wechat account nmgbwysjb.

Have you been to the museum? What do you like best? Leave us a comment.

 

Hohhot: a city of opportunity?

Last month China Wire re-posted a story from Enterprise Innovation about a study recently done on China’s 2016 cities of opportunity. (You can download the full study at the last link)

Guess what?  Hohhot wasn’t on the list.

But here are the cities that were: “(in order from north to south and from east to west): Harbin, Changchun, Shenyang, Dalian, Urumqi, Lanzhou, Xi’an, Tianjin, Qingdao, Zhengzhou, Nanjing, Wuhan, Suzhou, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Fuzhou, Xiamen, Changsha, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chengdu, Chongqing, Kunming and Nanning.” from PwC

I feel like that list of cities is a good sample of different kinds and sizes of cities, it just didn’t happen to include our little slice of paradise. (insert the emoticon of your choice here)

And guess what else? No one asked my opinion. But, that’s one reason I have this blog. So, using some of the categories the article mentioned I’m going to rate Hohhot on the same factors. I have no idea how they measured, but I’m going to use a scale of one to ten. One being the lowest and ten being the highest. Here we go.

 

intellectual capital and innovation: 3

This one I don’t have enough experience to really evaluate well, but I wouldn’t say Hohhot is known for pioneering ideas, great inventions, or cutting edge innovation.
Although I think 20 years ago or something Nei Da was involved with cloning a sheep (details hazy)

important regional cities: 8

It’s definitely the educational and cultural center of Inner Mongolia, but there is arguably more enterprise in Baotou or other nearby cities (Taiyuan, Zhangjiakou, Yinchuan, Ordos,  etc)

technology readiness: 4

This is another category I have no real knowledge in, but I feel like even apps and such are slower to take off here or are being used in other cities but not here.

healthcare, safety and security 3,8, 4 for an average of 5

I won’t give healthcare more than a 3 until there is the ability to wash one’s hands in the bathrooms of our hospitals. Assuming you stay away from dodgy places (and people) Hohhot is safe, but I rated security lower because of theft and the complacency of those in protection roles (security guards, airport/train station baggage scanners, police, etc)

transportation and urban planning 5

The traffic situation deserves a -3 or something, but other transportation factors are improving. (number of flights, diversity of locations of flights, more rail, faster rails, plans for a subway, etc). And if you haven’t been to the City Planning Exhibition Hall, check it out and see what Hohhot has planned.

sustainability and the natural environment 6

This number drops substantially if you go outside the city, but the city itself is above average when compared to other cities its size with pollution, right? Our air is better than most. There’s not much “natural” in the city, but when comparing to other similar Chinese cities, I’d say we’re just above middle ground.

culture and lifestyle    7

I think most reports say that Hohhotians have more expendable income than other cities which gives them points in the lifestyle category. (What? you actually want me to site things?  If I find a link I’ll add it here later).  Although “culture” in the sense of ballet, fine art, and theatre may be lacking there is plenty of culture in the minority arts genre.

economic clout 3

Anything that pairs Hohhot with the word “clout” gets a low rating. For some reason it still has the persona of being “backwards” or underdeveloped. Ordos is making a name for itself in the economic clout category, but I’m trying to keep these ratings focused on Hohhot.

ease of doing business 2,6

2 for the “ease” (I mean hassle) of starting and 6 to continue doing business. Having spent 8 months of the last year in the business registration process, Hohhot should just be happy I didn’t rate that one in the negative, too. Once you get up and going it gets easier, but they don’t make it easy to start.

cost 8

I mentioned this point above, but lower housing prices and decent salaries mean a pretty nice standard of living for the growing middle class. Lower commercial rental rates make business costs lower and I’m assuming taxes are comparable to other similar cities.

 

The gives us an overall rating of 4.9.

 

So this is my blog and therefore my ratings. Leave your ratings in the comments. 🙂

 

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