Apr 212013
 

Last night Mike and I met two other couples at Little Sheep Hot Pot on Ngong Rd.  It’s just west of Adams Arcade, Green House.  Little Sheep is a restaurant chain in China and has quite a few locations in the US too.  My mom and I went to the one in Beijing in 2008.  It’s debatable whether or not the one in Nairobi is an official chain or if they just took the logo and name. 😉  The restaurant is literally in someone’s house that was converted, so the dining tables are in 3 different rooms, complete with floral wallpaper and paper lanterns and decorative fans hanging.

There were the classic two broths, chicken herbal and spicy.  Sometimes the spicy broth is way too hot for me with the Sichuan peppercorns, but last night it wasn’t too bad–just right!  I ended up using the spicy broth the most.

Our Meat and Vegetables Cooking in the Herbal Broth and Hot and Spicy Broth

Our Meat and Vegetables Cooking in the Herbal Broth and Hot and Spicy Broth

With 6 people, we got to order a bunch of different plates: thinly sliced lamb and beef, lotus root, two different types of noodles, seaweed, dong tofu, shitake, tofu skin and sheets, dumplings, and fish balls.  And believe me, we ate it all!  Our heat plate wasn’t working and then we blew a fuse, so they had to replace it.  There was a lot of fiddling with the outlet and the extension cord under Mike’s seat.  So it took a while to get it boiling so we were hungry by the time we could eat the food.  The good was great–I’ve really missed hot pot!  Reminds me of when we were in China and we had it all the time there.  I think that’s where Mike got sick of hot pot. 😉

The owners of the restaurant are really nice.  They’re from China (we think Jiangsu province?) and apparently they’ve been in Africa for 10-15 years.  She was really cute, coming over and speaking Chinese to us and saying “I like to listen in on your table since you speak such good English!” (there were 3 Chinese speakers are our table).  There’s quite a large Chinese population here; I think someone told me 30,000 Chinese in Nairobi?!  So quite cool that you get the “real” Chinese food in Nairobi, not American Chinese food.  Funny, huh?

For dessert, we topped it off with sweet sesame soup dumplings (tang yuan).  Yum!  Hope we go back soon.

Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot - Thumbs Up!

Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot – Thumbs Up!

 April 21, 2013  Posted by at 4:11 pm Food, Kenya, Nairobi Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  2 Responses »
Feb 162013
 

Last weekend was Chinese New Year’s – 新年快樂!I was lucky enough to be invited over to a new friend’s house to be a part of their Chinese feast.  It was a mixed crowd, but mainly Americans in their young 20s (I was the old one there!).  There are limited Chinese groceries here so you definitely have to improvise a bit.   I’ve been told the Chinese grocery store is in a place called China Center (of course) but I haven’t made it there yet.

For dinner, we had dumplings (pork/cabbage and vegetarian), fried rice, cucumber salad, sweet dessert dumplings, and then randomly a homemade nectarine/pear pie for dessert.  I made dumplings often enough in the States that we always usually have frozen dumplings on hand for a quick meal or snack.  But there are always dumpling wrappers you can buy in the store.  Not so much here.  So we  had to make our own dumpling wrappers, which is a pretty labor intensive job.  The host didn’t have a rolling pin, so I brought mine but everyone else helping had to use drinking glasses to roll out the dough!  I think also there was too much water in the dough and the wrappers ended up being really soft and falling apart when we boiled the dumplings. =)  But the ones that we fried in the pan turned out great and delicious!  It’s usually 3 parts flour to 1 part water for the dough, but I think the flour is different here, or blame it on the altitude, it just turned out differently.  It’s funny because I’m sure every Chinese family makes their dumplings a different way so the filling was definitely different than how I usually make them.  The little things you notice.  But definitely still yummy all the same!

Rolling out a ton of dumpling wrappers!

Rolling out a ton of dumpling wrappers!

Boiling homemade dumplings

Boiling homemade dumplings

Unfortunately, Mike was traveling in Mozambique for work so he couldn’t join.  But he was hanging out at the beach all weekend without me so don’t be too sad for him. =)  It was so nice to have a little bit of my annual tradition here in Nairobi and maybe next year Mike and I will be hosting our own group of friends.

My hosts for Chinese New Year

My hosts for Chinese New Year

 February 16, 2013  Posted by at 4:23 pm Food, Kenya, Nairobi Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  No Responses »
Feb 092013
 

Mike always likes to joke that I love Chinese noodle soups so much I’ll probably turn into one.  It’s true, I could eat them ALL the time.  There is one noodle soup that would probably be my last meal because it reminds me so much of home, my mom, and always makes me feel better when I’m down or feeling sick.   It’s passed down from my mom, and I’m sure I’ll be making this dish my whole life.  It’s a chicken broth base, and there’s no chicken broth here, so I’ve been making my own.

My Feel-Good Bowl of Noodle Soup

My Feel-Good Bowl of Noodle Soup

Here’s the recipe:

  • 1 spring chicken (1-1.3 kg or 2.5 lb)
  • 2 onions quartered
  • 4 cloves fresh garlic
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ head Chinese napa cabbage (I use the top half)
  • 6-8 dried shitake mushrooms
  • Wheat noodles
  • Optional: bamboo shoots or sliced water chestnuts

 

  • Soak the dried shitake mushrooms in hot water for a couple of hours until soft all the way through.  Using dried mushrooms has more flavor than fresh shitake mushrooms but I’ve used both.

 

  1. Fill a large pot with water and bring to boil.  Put in chicken, onions, 3 whole cloves of garlic, and bay leaves.  I use frozen chicken and it’s fine—just remember to take the plastic pouch inside out.  Skim any sediment that rises to the top.  Keep at a simmer for 3 hours.  Add salt to taste.
  2. When broth flavor is to your liking, strain the broth and put it back in the pot.  Let the chicken cool a while and peel all the meat off the bones.  It should pretty much fall off the bones.  Set meat aside.
  3. Slice shitake mushrooms and napa cabbage.  Mince the last clove of garlic.  Heat up oil (I use grapeseed oil) and sautee garlic 1 minute until fragrant.  Throw in the mushrooms and sautee for a few minutes.  Then put in napa cabbage to cook a bit.
  4. Once the cabbage has softened a bit, pour the broth to cover vegetables and simmer until cabbage is soft.  You can add in bamboo shoots or sliced water chestnuts here if you want some extra texture.  Put the chicken meat in and cook your noodles in the broth to give the noodles extra flavor.
  5. Once noodles are cooked, you’re done!  We like to add a little spicy sriracha sauce at the end and tear up a sheet of dried nori (seaweed) to put in the broth.

Enjoy!

 

Feb 042013
 

One of the first trips I did when I got back in January was to Accra, Ghana.  The flight is about 5.5-6 hours from Nairobi—quite a distance!  I had a 3 day business trip where I was going to run a digital workshop there.  I didn’t have much of a chance to sightsee since I was rushing home to make it back to celebrate my birthday with my hubby.  Accra is like a more developed version of Dar I would say.  What was hilarious was I found out One Direction was in Accra the same days as me because in the digital workshop I decided to see what was trending on #ghana.  Ha!

Sunrise from My Hotel Window

Sunrise from My Hotel Window

I did get to see a little bit of Accra one night when a coworker was nice enough to take me out.  Accra is much more like Dar, with its hot humid weather and its along the coast.  I didn’t get to see the beach during the day, but I heard it’s pretty nice.  My coworker took me to a Chinese restaurant (because I’m Chinese?) on Oxford Street which is a busy, happening street downtown.  The food was okay but I suspect we didn’t order what the Chinese people order when they eat there. =)  Then we went to Tawale, which is a reggae beach bar right on the sand.  The reggae was LOUD.  Wow, I could not hear a thing.  But for a Wednesday night, there were a decent number of people out.

The thing I loved most about Ghana was the food!!!  Wow, it was so good and this is just me having the food that was provided at lunch at our workshop.  It was spicy and had so much flavor.  One day we had spicy goat light soup.  They call their clear broth soups “light” versus the thicker groundnut soups.  I actually thought it was beef at first, the goat didn’t taste gamey at all and was really tender.    A lot of dishes are accompanied by banku, which is fermented corn and cassava dough and tastes like sourdough.  The maize version here in Nairobi is called ugali but doesn’t really have much of a flavor.  I really loved the banku.  A great combination with the spicy dishes.  Then there was spicy mushrooms and yam leaves.  I must get the recipes from my coworkers there and I’ll be sure to share them here!

Spicy Chicken Stew with Rice

Spicy Chicken Stew with Rice

All in all, I really loved Accra and hopefully next time Mike and I can go visit together and for longer.

 February 4, 2013  Posted by at 5:33 pm Accra, Food, Ghana Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  No Responses »
Oct 312012
 

My first week in Dar, I met one of Mike’s coworkers Drew at lunch.  When it came up that I liked to dance, he said that one of his friends, Karen, teaches hip hop here. (!) So I got really excited and we were introduced over email.  I went to her class at Nanasi (in Oysterbay Shopping Center) and we found out we had so much in common…almost too much in common!  Both Chinese and from LA, both went to Berkeley, both were president of Danceworx at Berkeley…she was just 3 years after me.  Craziness!  And to meet in Dar, of all places.  She’s currently in the middle of her two year fellowship here with the CDC.  Anyway, class was a lot of fun but I did take it with probably an 11 year old and a 14 year old. Hehe.  So maybe I will try teaching once I get settled here.

Anyway, Karen and I bonded and we decided to go get Chinese food.  She mentioned that there was a good one downtown since I asked her if there were any good Chinese restaurants here.  She lives in Upanga, which is a neighborhood closer to town and popular with younger people.  Her apartment building complex is huge and really really nice.  We would definitely consider this if we were working downtown, but it’ll probably be easiest to stay on the Peninsula.

We went to the restaurant downtown with her coworker Lindsay.  It’s called Tai Huo San Zhuang Restaurant, which roughly translates into Sun and Mountain Seafood Restaurant.  The restaurant is on Jamhuri St. right next to the police post (it’s actually on Google Maps!).  When we went in, it was a smoke filled place—ahh…feels like I’m back in China.  But the restaurant was definitely filled with Chinese people!  There is actually a large Chinese population here.  They are all here building the roads and buildings since China is investing heavily in Africa.  The menu seemed pretty Americanized, but Karen and I could make out some of the Chinese to order some “usuals.” We got Sichuan beef, hong shao tofu, vegetable in bird’s nest, and a chicken mi fun (rice noodles).  It was all really good!  I was impressed.  Good Chinese food in Dar.  Sichuan beef and the tofu were my favorites.  Hong shao just means “red-cooked” which means you have soy sauce, sugar, star anise, and rice wine.

I’m mad at myself because I was so distracted by the food that I forgot to take pictures until it was all gone.  Oops!  Next time.  But I did manage to take a photo as we were leaving the restaurant. =)

Tai Huo San Zhuang Chinese Restaurant

Pretty Good Chinese Food in Dar!

Aug 272012
 

Ever since I got back from our Asia trip, I’ve been reminiscing about all the delicious food we had in China.  One of our favorite spots was in Xian, where we ate almost every night in he Muslim Quarter.  They are known for a dish there called pao mo, which is a noodle soup, usually with lamb.  It includes tiny cubes of bread torn up to soak up with tasty lamb broth.  I had never had anything like it!

So now that we’re back in LA, I was on the hunt for some pao mo.  I searched on Yelp, and Shaanxi Gourmet came up in the results in Rosemead, about an hour northeast of us.   My mom wanted to check out the dragonboat races in nearby Whittier so I thought that was a perfect chance to hit up this place for lunch!

Shaanxi Gourmet was in a small strip mall plaza and parking was packed on that Saturday!  We couldn’t find a spot so we parked on the street half a block away.  The restaurant looked new and clean and was a decent size with two rooms for seating.  We ordered 2 bowls of pao mo, 1 lamb and 1 beef.  To start, we had ma la lian pi, which is a cold rice noodle with hot chili oil.  It came with some cubes of tofu and we devoured that.  SO GOOD.  Then we got the rou bao, which is a lamb meat bun.  That was good too, but not my favorite.  Then the massive bowls of pao mo came out.  And they were massive!  We couldn’t finish it all so we took some home.  It even came with a small plate of pickled garlic, just like in Xian.  The lamb and beef bowls were both good, but I preferred the lamb.  Great flavor and definitely pretty close to the real deal in Xian.  Will be a repeat for sure. In the end, it was one of those blistering hot days in LA, so with a belly full of pao mo, we ditched the dragonboat races and went home happy. =)

Hearty Pao Mo Noodles