A New Yuan Shipwreck

A shipwreck dating from the Mongol-led Yuan dynasty (1271-1368 ACE), has recently been analyzed by a team of archaeologists from the Shandong Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology in China. The ship was found at a construction site in Heze City in 2010, and has been under study since that time. The ship itself was of wooden construction and measured over 21 meters long (over … Read more

The Uyghur Musical Instrument Workshop

In a world of mass production and consumption, it is wonderful from time to time to appreciate the beauty and increasing rarity of hand-crafted goods. One of the ways that I was recently able to do so was during a visit to a Uyghur musical instrument workshop in Kashgar. There I found a variety of instruments crafted from mulberry or apricot wood that, in addition … Read more

The Color of Pomegranates

He grabbed a pomegranate from the table next to him and flashed a shy smile my way as I approached. I nodded and a quick flash of steel followed by a skilled twist and the fruit was open. He placed half on the machine, spun the wheel and a few seconds later blood-red juice flowed from its silver jaws into my glass. The scent was … Read more

On Earth there is Donkey Meat

天上龙肉,地上驴肉 In Heaven there is Dragon Meat, and On Earth there is Donkey Meat That is the saying in Northwest China, in Gansu province and the bordering areas of Xinjiang, Qinghai, Ningxia and Inner Mongolia. Donkey is revered as the earthly equivalent to dragon meat, and it is widely sought after and enjoyed by many. Donkey meat is also available in Beijing, Shanghai and most … Read more

Silk Road “Muslim-Grilled” Steak

This is a dish that is served all over China. In the east and southeast it is called “Muslim Grilled” and in the west and northwest it is just called “steak” or “beef”. Tender meat rubbed with onion and garlic or given a light coat of the ground vegetables mingles with crushed cumin and black cumin along with lots of black pepper, some Szechuan pepper … Read more

Midday at the Oasis

Imagine yourself in a lush trellised garden of grape vines and mulberry trees. A brook babbles nearby and a light breeze filters through your leafy bower. Birds flit amongst the vines and provide music for your sojourn. You recline on a woven silk carpet of red and white that covers long wooden benches painted bright turquoise blue. Perhaps you sample the abundant local fruits and … Read more

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow – The Gobi Desert

The Gobi Desert. Ever since I was a little girl, those were words of wonder for me. Back then, it was a vast, far-away place that had reluctantly yielded some of its ancient treasures – dinosaur eggs and bones – into the hands of modern scientists. Back then, my mother would bury bones from our dinner and we would go on expeditions – finding fierce … Read more

The Tea Way

We drink tea to relax, to socialize, to mark important events in our lives, to apologize, for an energy booster, for our health, and to honor a valued guest. The Doctor even requires it to repair his malfunctioning TARDIS. Tea is so ubiquitous a drink in our world that to NOT offer a cup in some places is considered a social faux pas. It is … Read more

New Year, New Day

The large brush laden with water is drawn from the bucket by the old, steady hand and moved in deliberate strokes across the pavement. One stroke, two, three or more until the complete character develops. Luminous lines, black on grey stone he moves onto the next character. The words from the ancient Tang poem begin to take shape. Even in the afternoon sun its bone … Read more

Goose Fire Pot on a Wintry Day

I love to eat hot soups and stews to chase away the chill of a cold day. Asian soups are wonderful for this purpose. From Korean Doenjang Jjiggae to Central Asian Shurpa, Asian soups are hearty, delicious and offer unusual flavor combinations for warding off winter weather. The Chinese have a dish that is an intermediary between a soup and a stew for warding off … Read more

Peking Duck in Beijing

Crisp, amber skin atop moist, flavorful dusky meat all carved and rolled into parchment-like pancakes and brushed with sweet bean or hoisin sauce: Peking Duck is perhaps the dish we most often think of when imagining Chinese cuisine. It is listed in brochures and books as being the “must-have” dish for travelers to Beijing, where preparing it is still considered an artform. I grew up … Read more

There and Back Again

We returned home from China a few days ago, my mind is still awash with all of the fantastic food I encountered on our combination family vacation and food research trip. We sampled a wide variety of food from fine restaurants in big cities serving national and regional specialties to street vendors dolling out snacks for a single yuan or two. We toured outdoor markets … Read more

The Best Hot and Sour Soup You’ll Ever Make – This one goes to 11

We have been having some cool and wet weather to usher in Autumn – barely topping 50 degrees Fahrenheit by mid-day. On days such as these, there is nothing that warms body and mind better than a big bowl of homecooked soup. Sometimes it’s a bowl of Central Asian Shurpa, sometimes a hearty Korean soup like Doenjang-jjigae, but the effect is the same – a … Read more

The Origins of Tea in Burma . . .

Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river . . . And she feeds you tea and oranges that come all the way from China . . . I grew up hearing Leonard Cohen croon these words over and over. Telling perhaps about my age and background, but important as an introduction to the history of tea as well. As a global drink, … Read more

Silk Road Sojourners

The University of Pennsylvania Museum displays artifacts from Caucasian travelers on the Silk Road. In a desolate, eastern world of salt and sand, where blinding windstorms were common and potable water was rare, the mummified remains of people from the west have been found. Why they died, where they came from and where they were traveling to is unclear, but for a short time, they … Read more