Guo Bao Rou

guobaorou

Guo Bao Rou is an incredibly delicious sweet and sour pork dish that originated in Harbin, a DongBei *Northeast) China city.

In Changchun, where our school is located, no restaurant dinner is complete without a platter of guobaorou.

Zheng Xingwen (郑兴文), the private chef for the highest officials in the Harbin government, first whipped up the dish in the early 20th century. Zheng’s technique was simple. He quickly stir-fried the pork in a hot wok, then poured a salty and thick sauce onto the pork so the meat absorbed its flavors, giving the dish its original name – guobaorou (锅爆肉, stir-fried pork in the wok). At the time, the Harbin government often welcomed Russian guests, but the original recipe was a bit too heavy for their tastes, so Zheng remodeled the dish by introducing its now distinctive sweet and sour flavor. The Russians were delighted, and much like the Ye He kung fu students 100 years later, ordered the dish every time they visited. However, the foreign guests had problems when they tried to pronouce the dish in Chinese, leading its name to morph to its current form, guobaorou (锅包肉).

Before the Xi’an Incident (1936), the northeastern provinces were administrated by Zhang Xueliang’s (张学良) family, and dishes cooked up for top Harbin government officials were kept a closely guarded secret.

Guobaorou was unanimously voted one of the chef’s most delicious dishes, triggering the spread of its fame across the country and beyond. After Japan occupied Heilongjiang Province, Zhang Xueliang began to lose his grip on northeast China, and his government’s secret recipes gradually began to seep out of Harbin and into the wider world. During a process akin to Chinese whispers, guobaorou was slightly altered as it traveled, with cooks in Liaoning Province adding tomato sauce as the final step, and other regional flourishes emerging according to taste.

Attribution: The World of Chinese

 

DongBei Women

fighting-women

DongBei (Northeast) China women have a reputation for being sometimes scrappy. And the more rural they are, the more ornery they are.  This is not to say there are no DongBei ladies who fit the stereotypical  demure and soft-spoken mold.  They can be found in abundance. But you will definitely  notice the presence of saucy DongBei ladies too.

Once, on a flight from Beijing to Changchun there were three women in front of me. For some reason, two women took offense at some minor slight of the third woman.  One of the DongBei ladies got up from her seat and slapped the third woman hard across the face. The two women appeared to be rural country-women and cackled with glee to each other throughout the one hour flight.

Another time I watched a Chinese teacher, frustrated with four students lined up in front of her, slap all four students across the face in a Three Stooges style single slap.

A veteran expat I knew gave me this advice, “N ever throw a Dongbei girl’s luggage down the stairs to evict her, ’cause you are going to be the one carrying them back up those stairs.”  In a heated fight, he threw his girlfriend’s luggage down the stairs to emphasize the point he was breaking up with her. For four days she sat on the stairs in front of his apartment, (a form of shaming) until he relented and carried her luggage back up the stairs.

One teacher in our school could not go home for days because a girlfriend’s relatives had surrounded his apartment building, highly incensed he wanted to end the relationship with their kin.

Thwe bottom line is this, treat Dongbei girls with respect. not because of what she or her relatives might do, but because, like a women, she deserves it.

Just Walk Away

 

fighting

 

You will see a lot of things in China. Some will be awe-inspiring, some heart touching, and perhaps a few repellent.Watching people and what they do is an excellent way to understand a culture.  But sometimes, being a spectator may not be your wisest choice. Let me provide an example.
When I first arrived in China I was walking with a friend back to our apartments. We found the alley next to our apartment filled with police cars, and police. Among them, a few civilian cars and people dressed in civilian clothes.As we watched, a police car backed into a civilian van, denting it slightly.The police car started to very slowly drive away.The “civilian”, (I believe he was off duty police) jumped out of his car and ran alongside the police car screaming for the driver to stop. The policeman driving ignored him.

Finally, the man simply punched the driver in the face and dragged him out of the window of the police car. They began rolling and fighting on the ground. The other police gathered around and watched.

In the midst of all this, a woman jumped into the fight. Presumably she was the off-duty officer’s wife. The other battling policeman punched her too.
Suddenly, all eyes turned to us. My friend said, “I think we need to go right now.” We left. He explained that watching, or taking pictures of such a scene made the crowd “lose face”. That could turn the crowd against a foreigner.

In my years in China since I have seen and heard of this behavior several times. Foreigners can find themselves the object of crowd anger for paying too much attention to certain behaviors.

Should you witness such an incident, you may want to pay attention to the mood of the crowd as well as what you are watching.