Archive for food safety

Vaccine problems in Inner Mongolia

I wasn’t blogging last week, but I was still on wechat. If you were paying attention to your moments (朋友圈) at all, you were probably inundated with the news of expired/damaged/unsafe vaccines being distributed and given to babies and children in 24 provinces across China, including Inner Mongolia.

If you somehow missed the news, here are a few articles in English about the situation:

Shenzhen Daily

China Daily

Guangdong Emergency Management


And here are some links to the articles that were circulating on wechat (in Chinese)




This one a doctor posted with the title “Be more reasonable about the vaccine situation” so perhaps it’s a little less alarmist

And I think you’ll like this infographic


If you have a child you think may have received an improper vaccine, my understanding from the articles above is that the chart on the articles above is for the contact person for each region where you can call to get information about when and where in your area the improper vaccines were distributed.


market finds


If you’ve been away for the holiday, as you return to your regular shopping routine, you may notice something like this at your local supermarket. Most of our American friends in the US weren’t very excited about a Chinese company buying Smithfield Foods in 2013, but for those of us living on this side, the case above is what that acquisition means to us here in Hohhot: US style bacon and ham readily available at local markets for local prices. The pork is not imported, but is processed by Smithfield and whatever local affiliate they’re partnering with.

Read more about that buy/merger here.

and here.

What do you think? Does the Smithfield label make you more likely to choose this bacon over another? Have you tried any or all of the products yet?

I tagged this in “stuff foreigners like” because of bacon. Am I right?

Free Meat!

A local beef and mutton company has a fantastic promotion going on now: GET FREE MEAT!

The full details are in Chinese below, but the basics are you go to their store on January 30, scan their QR code, take a photo in the store and share it on your moments, and walk out with 2 boxes of mutton (a 118 RMB value).

There are other promotions if you spend 500 or 1000 RMB, or just get your free meat.

Here are the two addresses: (maps are on the link below). Click here if it doesn’t display properly.

This one is near dong wa yao.


This one is a bit south and east of the exhibition center.
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cook like a local: men mian

I’m excited to share this recipe with you! Our house helper, who actually works for three foreign families here, taught this to the other families she works for while we were back in the States. Turns out, she had been holding back on us! Since we’ve learned to make this dish, we have it about once a week and I think the other families do as well.

Check out our other recipes here

This is a local dish called “men mian.” (For the record, I thought the pronunciation of this dish was meng mian for years and I still hear locals say it with a “g” but officially it is actually men mian).

There are a number of great places to get this dish locally if you don’t want to cook at home, the most famous one being the chain Tie Guo Yi Ju 铁锅一居  that has multiple locations throughout the city. However, I think after you try this and see how delicious and simple it is, you’ll eat at home more often.

Some attribute this dish to being a local dish of Ba Meng, but others say it comes from Shan Xi. My guess is that it’s both. I think a large number of Inner Mongolia’s population migrated from Shan Xi to IM so they probably brought this dish with them. (Thanks to JS for the help finding the sources).

Let’s not get caught up in arguing over where it originated and just get started learning how to make it!



Meat: we use a tender cut of pork, but you can also use ribs.

Vegetables: Must have green beans and probably potatoes, but the rest is up to you. The tomato is needed to make sauce during the cooking process.

We used: 1-2 carrots, one large potato, about 2 cups of green beans, and one large tomato

Seasoning: green onions (2-3), salt (to taste), soy sauce (about 2 teaspoons), and shi san xiang (13 spices) (about 1 teaspoon, or less, to taste)

Noodles: qie mian or cut noodles. These are available at your local flour/grain shop, supermarket, and sometimes even the small vegetable seller stalls have them.

cooking oil (1-2 tablespoons)

water (1-2 cups)


pork, carrots, tomato, and green onion


potatoes, carrots, and green beans


qie mian or cut noodles


shi san xiang (13 spices)



Heat oil in skillet and add meat. Stir fry until almost done.

Add all vegetables except tomatoes and green onions and continue stir-frying. This dish is going to cook in the rice cooker, so you don’t need to stir fry until completely done, just until vegetables have softened a bit.

in wok

Add spices

Add in your soy sauce, 13 spices, and salt. Stir fry until thoroughly mixed, fragrant, and veggies softened (again, you don’t have to wait for them to thoroughly cook yet).

add spices

Transfer contents of wok to your rice cooker. Add enough water to cover about 2/3 of the contents of the cooker. The dish should be dry, not saucy when finished. However, if it’s too dry the first time you try, add more water and/or more tomatoes the next time you try.

before tomatoes

Add tomatoes and green onions in a layer on top of the cooked mixture.
add tomatoes


Place the noodles on top of tomatoes and close the lid of the rice cooker. When we make this, our rice cooker is FULL by this stage. (like lid barely closing full, but that depends on the size of your cooker). Use the setting you would use for rice. For us, it takes about 35-45 minutes for the cooking process to finish. I’m sure the time will vary based on the amounts of vegetables you used and the size of your rice cooker.

in cooker 1


When the rice cooker has finished, it will look something like this:

in cooker


Mix the noodles in with the mixture on the bottom and you’re ready to serve!

It should look something like this:

men mian

This is really a delicious, easy, cheap, local meal to make. You have some prep time washing and cutting and a little time stir-frying, but mostly the rice cooker does the work for you.

If you try it, leave us a comment and tell us what you think. Does it rival Tie Guo Yi Ju?

“Green Food” Exhibition-Five More Days

From today and for the next five days there’s an exhibition of locally (across Inner Mongolia) grown “green food.” When I say green food I’m translating directly from Chinese because some will say this means organically grown, but other locals are distrustful if it is truly organic. I’m not savvy enough to know what standard is used to give it the “green food” labeling but if food safety and locally grown produce are important to you, it might be a great event to check out.



As you can see from the last photo, it looks like they have non-food products as well. It might be a great chance to pick up some gifts!

Photo credit for above photos: Togtoh

The event is at the International Exhibition Center, which is just east of the East Second Ring Road on Da Xue Lu. Here’s a map:
international exhibition center

Are you bold enough to eat at these five restaurants?

Apparently the five restaurants listed in the link below had issues with the National Food Quality Supervision and Inspection Center. The article is in Chinese, but there are pictures of the restaurants to help you recognize if you eaten there (or to help you recognize which ones to steer clear of).
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If the embedded page doesn’t display correctly, try this link.


Cheddar cheese in Hohhot (and information about buying non-UHT milk)

If you don’t know this yet, I’m American. And, generally speaking, Americans like cheese. Especially cheddar cheese, which is seemingly lacking in Hohhot. I did find some at the second store mentioned in this post if you are willing to pay for it and buy in large quantities.

If not, here’s an article NPR posted today about how to make a “cheater” cheddar in an hour! I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m ready for it to rock our cheese-consuming world.

I’m not sure which of the spices needed are available locally because we generally bring those with us. You’ll also need rennet. I have no idea if that’s available locally either, but here’s a link for how to make it yourself.  (the home made version also requires stinging nettles. I don’t even know what that is!)

The recipe calls for non-UHT milk.

Here is what I know about buying milk that is not UHT:

It is available at most of the small milk bars/shops throughout the city. One brand/chain is called niu ma ma and has a green and white sign with a cow. (There name is on the bag in the picture below). It is boiled briefly to pasteurize and is sold in bottles by the jin or kg. A bottle is about 6-8 RMB, depending on if you already have a bottle you’ve paid a deposit for, how much you’re buying, etc. We’ve taken our own containers and they seemed happy to put the milk in our containers.


Another option is to make friends with someone who is a herdsman or who has family who is. They can help you acquire farm fresh milk.

The next option is to learn when the milk guy sells in your neighborhood. It’s normally a set day (or days) early in the morning at a certain location. You’ll need to have your own container. They generally have a van, or a cart with a big stainless steel tank. I know it may seem crazy to buy milk from the back of a van or a cart. But here’s our theory: If it was “bad” or contaminated, there is a much shorter chain from cow to your consumption. In this scenario, it’s generally cow to family member who sells the milk to you. If there’s a problem you can confront the seller directly and there’s not really anyone else he/she can blame. There may be less government oversight, but realistically, does that seem to help any situation? In the grocery store scenario there are many other vendors, suppliers, etc that they can shift blame to.

However you decide to get your non-UHT milk, you’ll need a gallon for this recipe.

And apple cider vinegar is readily available at larger supermarkets.

If you try this, leave a comment and let us know how it turned out! Happy cheese eating!

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