"Come to Xi’an! I'll show you the food of my hometown." The invitation from my long-time friend Jing was ever present in my mind. This was around March earlier this year, and Hangzhou was just warming up with days of uninterrupted sunshine urging the flowering trees of West Lake to burst open. It was the best time to be here, did I really want to travel all the way to the interior of China and leave the comforts of Hangzhou? But Jing is a food lover, like me; she wouldn’t be in Xian for long, and I knew there would be nothing better than a food loving local showing you the best a city has to offer. With that thought, I promptly hopped on the Z89 train for the 16 hour overnight ride to Xian. There are plenty of direct flights from Hangzhou to Xian of course, but a train is so much more atmospheric and puts you in the mood for adventure, don’t you think?
The train pulled into Xi’an station in the morning. I spotted Jing at the exit waiting for me, and we went to find our hotel. I had booked a hotel within the old city walls so that we would be well positioned to explore. After a little rest, we were ready to go out to graze.
Our first stop was Three Sister’s Dumplings (三姐妹饺子) on Jixian Alley near Nanxin Street. We ordered a Dry Mixed Pork and Shepherd’s Purse Dumpling (干拌野菜大肉水饺18RMB). The dumplings were boiled then drained and mixed with a vinegar chilli soy sauce and topped with peanuts, cilantro and sesame seeds. It was just a simple boiled dumpling but why was it so flavourful and the skin so firm and bouncy? "We never freeze dumplings in Shaanxi province. Dumplings never sit around for more than an hour and are usually made fresh to order." I could cry a river for all my years wasted on eating frozen dumplings in China.
Muslim Quarter Food Street
Next we headed towards the Muslim Quarter. As the starting point of the ancient Silk Road linking China to the West, Xian was a melting pot for new cultures and ideas. Islam was first allowed to be practiced in Xian in 651AD during the Tang Dynasty. Today there are 70,000 Chinese Muslims living in Xian’s Muslim Quarter and it is a vibrant neighbourhood. The Great Mosque, built in 742AD, is worth a visit as it beautifully exemplifies the mix of east and west, Chinese and Islam.
The Muslim Quarter is just west of the city center, north of the Bell Tower which itself is a lively area with souvenirs stands and pomegranate juice vendors. Walking around the Bell Tower, a delicious smell drew our attention. We walked towards the scent and found the source: Sizzling beef pastries frying in butter! Not the best thing for our waistlines, but we liked to think the calories would be useful to fuel our walking tour.
We reached the Muslim Quarter and headed to the food street Xi Yang Shi Jie (西洋市街) with stalls selling lamb sticks (羊肉串 yang rou chuan), meat steamed with flour (粉蒸肉 fen zheng rou), sesame sauce cold noodles (麻酱凉皮 ma jiang liang pi), meat in buns (肉夹馍 rou jia mo) and flatbread crumbled in lamb soup (羊肉泡馍 yang rou pao mo).
"It's gotten too touristy, and prices have increased." Jing lamented. Nonetheless, it is a good place to try many different local foods. We had sesame sauce liang pi (5RMB) and fen zheng rou (10RMB). The noodles in the sesame sauce liang pi are made from steaming wheat flour paste then cutting it into strips. The soft noodles are covered with a thick sesame sauce and a bit of chilli oil. The meat in the fen zheng rou in the Muslim Quarter will definitely be beef. You’ll find some raw garlic on the table for you to eat with it, and they add a sharp bite to the shreds of beef mixed with dense steamed flour.
As we were leaving the Muslim Quarter to go back to the hotel for the night, we saw a vendor selling freshly made buckwheat noodles. He put a ball of dough in an extruder, pressed down on it and out came strands of noodles ready to go into a steaming pot with lamb or beef for topping. Since we were quite full already, we could only admire the process and make a note to try this next time we’re back in Xian.
While the sesame sauce liang pi are found in the Muslim Quarter, there are many other kinds of liang pi around Xian. There’s one called gan mian pi (擀面皮, 5RMB typical price) that is rolled flat and chewy and one called mi pi (米皮, 5RMB typical price) made with rice flour. Both are mixed with a sour spicy sauce, shredded chicken and bean sprouts. Liang pi is as ubiquitous in Shaanxi as hamburgers are in America. You can find them on street side stalls for take-away, in little sit-down shops and even in fast food chain restaurants.
On our second day, we went to eat another specialty noodle of Xian – Biang biang mian. Biang biang mian can be found throughout Xian. We went to a restaurant at 80 Nanyuan Men (南院门). I asked Jing, "What does biang biang mean?” "It's from the sound the long band of stretched noodle makes when it hits the table ‘Biang Biang!’"
Biang biang noodles are thick and wide wheat noodles and can have a variety of toppings and sauces. We had the House Special noodle (三合一面(招牌), 16RMB small bowl) with eggs and tomato, meat sauce and stewed pork. It was tasty and springy. A comforting kind of dish. The simplest topping for Biang biang noodles is vegetables, green onion, hot chilli oil, soy sauce and vinegar. "You'll have to come back again to try that." A familiar phrase during my two day visit.
Our final pilgrimage was to a location just outside the city to eat Lamb Soup (水盆羊肉, shui pen yang rou). The bus passed under the arches of the South Gate as we left the walled inner city. All around Xian there are reminders of its great history. These city walls are the only intact ones in China and were built during the Ming Dynasty. You can get on top of the wall and walk or cycle the whole 14km perimeter. It’s a pleasant two-hour bike ride or a four-hour walk. Bicycles can be rented at the South Gate.
Shui pen yang rou is similar to Xian’s famous yang rou pao mo, but without the bread. In a pao mo, you get a thick piece of bread that you tear into pieces and drop into your soup. Having tried this before on a previous trip to Xian, I found it a bit heavy. So this time we forewent the pao mo and opted for shui pen yang rou. Our destination was Liangji Jinhong Shui Pen Yang Rou at 24 Zhuque Dongfang (梁记锦弘水盆羊肉,朱雀东坊24号).
"Why shui pen?” I asked. Even Jing was flummoxed. She queried the restaurant owner who answered that shui pen literally means water dish and this soup has more liquid than pao mo. You can order the lamb soup Normal (普通, 16RMB) or Quality (优质, 24RMB) depending on how much meat you want. The owner will also ask if you want lean or lean/fat meat. Our bowls of lamb soup arrived quickly. It was a clear soup with rice vermicelli noodles, green onions and cilantro, similar to Vietnamese pho, but heartier. The thin slices of lamb were really good – soft, tender and tasty. There was some spice on the lamb, perhaps cinnamon or cloves. This was one of the most memorable things I ate during the two days in Xian.
Xian is a great place to go for a city break. Aside from the terracotta warriors, there are lots of tasty local foods to discover. Direct flights from Hangzhou take a little over two hours. The daily Z89 train takes 16 hours from Hangzhou to Xian with costs starting at 337RMB for a hard sleeper to 530RMB for soft sleeper.
The Impossible Burger patty in a Burger King Whopper is the biggest bang so far in the galaxy of plant-based meats, and now that bang is even bigger: The Impossible Whopper goes nationwide at all 7,200 Burger King locations in the US on Aug. 8. After a successful test in St. Louis, which is battleground over the definition of "meat", the Impossible Whopper spread to San Francisco, Las Vegas, Miami and other cities, but national rollout has always been the benchmark of a new era in fast food.
Nationwide availability of the Impossible Whopper does much to assuage concerns that plant-based patties are a fad, a concern cited as a reason that McDonalds hasn't yet made a similar move. When and if McDonald's does choose (really, anoint) a plant-based "meat" patty it will be a bellwether, thanks to the brand having twice the number of locations and nearly four times the sales as Burger King in the US. McDonald's introduced a McVegan in Germany using a plant-based "Incredible Burger" from Nestle that has all the hallmarks of clear broadside at Impossible.
The new McVegan made with Nestle's "Incredible Burger" debuted in McDonald's German locations shortly after the Impossible Whopper was announced.
While the big food chains offer burgers, tacos, breakfast sandwiches and soon bacon made with plant-based meat, an even bigger battle is shaping up in grocery stores. Impossible just cleared a major hurdle toward offering its plant-based meat in stores, thanks to a favorable FDA ruling over the safety of heme, the plant ingredient that allows the burger to "bleed." Barring any objections that offer new proof the heme is unsafe, Impossible could have its burgers in grocery cases by this fall.
Aside from a specially formed Impossible Burger patty that conforms precisely to Burger King's bun diameter, the Impossible Whopper features the same bun, cheese and condiments as a traditional Whopper.
The Impossible Whopper has moved from regional availability to taking its place on Burger King's main menu page.
"We're making meat from plants. That's never been done before," Impossible Foods founder Pat Brown told me, tacitly demoting competitor Beyond Meat's plant-based burger, which has been offered at most of the 1,100 Carl's Jr. restaurants since the beginning of 2019. "People have made plant-based replacements for meat, but they haven't made plant-based meat."
One way the Impossible Whopper will indeed differ from the original is price, costing a significant $1 more in an industry where brands have gone to war brandishing menus of items that only cost a dollar. As with electric cars, price parity with the established choice is a future linchpin to mainstream success.
On the left is the Impossible Whopper we hacked in Impossible's test kitchen. On the right, a traditional Whopper, indistinguishable visually and on the palate.
"Once we have products that taste the same or better and that cost less, plant-based and clean meat will simply take over," according to Bruce Friedrich, executive director of the Good Food Institute, which champions plant- and cell-based meats.
"So very little will change in people's everyday lives as more and more meat is produced either from plants or from cells. Consumers will continue to buy burgers, chicken sandwiches and sausages, [but] those products will simply not have the adverse impact on our environment and global health."
Impossible says its team spent an inordinate amount of time getting its burger to survive the "death-defying drop" at the end of the broiler-conveyor without breaking apart.
The Plant Meat Wars are Just Starting
Burger King doesn't break out sales figures for Whoppers, let alone its expectations for the more expensive Impossible Whopper, but some insights can be inferred from a 2018 survey by Faunalytics. Assuming price was no different between beef and alternative burgers, 65% of consumers polled said they'd still stick with beef, 21% would choose a plant-based burger like Impossible, and 11% would select a cultured burger grown from animal cells, which isn't expected on the market until the early 2020s.
But Impossible's Pat Brown feels such surveys leave out the qualitative experience. "If you give them our burger, and then ask them the question again, a very large majority of them say they would definitely buy it and would be willing to pay a premium for it."
Acceptance of plant-based meats turns not only on taste, texture and price but on overcoming momentum. Environmental and animal welfare arguments have triggered a million conversations and social media posts about meat's issues, yet US per capita meat consumption hit an all-time high in 2018.
A case of Impossible Whopper patties, the result of a long effort to comport to the realities of the fast food industry, not the other way around.
And while burgers are the American diet icon, steaks aren't far behind, and an even bigger challenge in alternative meat marketing may soon unfold at fast casual steak chains like Outback or Texas Roadhouse. Unlike burgers, steaks generally arrive on the plate unadorned, without bun, cheese or condiments to mask any shortcomings. Get steak right, so the thinking goes, and the plant-based dominoes begin to fall.
At the auspicious time and date of 10:08am, August 8th, Hangzhou International School (HIS) celebrated with a Groundbreaking Ceremony at its new site on Huxi Road (close to Yingcui Road). Students, Parents, Faculty, Board Members of the HIS Community attended along with a number of VIP guests, including Deputy Secretary General Of Hangzhou Mulnicipal Government, Mr. Cheng Hua Min, Deputy Secretary of Hangzhou Education Bureau, Ms. Zheng Li Min, Deputy Chief of Hangzhou Education Bureau, Mr. Mao Wei Min, Chief of Binjiang District, Mr. Li Zhi Long, etc.
Hangzhou International School (HIS) was first opened in 2002 at its current site in Binjiang, alongside the campus of No. 2 High School. HIS serves students from 2-18 years old and is the first International School and only IB and WASC accredited school in the region. The school enrolls over 700 students from over 50 nationalities. Graduates attend top universities around the world. The Director of School, Mr. Jeffry Stubbs, has worked with HIS for thirteen years and has seen the rapid growth of student enrollment over the past years. As the current school has reached capacity, the new campus will accommodate up to 1300 students and include state-of-the-art purpose-built facilities, including: 25-meter swimming pool, 650 seat theater, two soccer fields, three gyms, 3 libraries a design center, and separate early childhood facility. The new school will also meet the highest ratings for energy and environment design.
Since 2017, Hangzhou International School (HIS) has worked in collaboration with the Hangzhou Municipal Government, Hangzhou Education Bureau and Binjiang District government, to establish a new facility for future growth. In December 2017, HIS signed an agreement with the Binjiang District to lease land and build a new campus in the White Horse Lake area of Binjiang District. The new HIS campus is located at the foot of beautiful Langdai Mountain and surrounded by water canals and park space. White Horse Lake is located about a 15-minute drive from the current site. While the current HIS has been a wonderful home with many memories and achievements, the HIS community is excited about the additional facilities and 21st century design of the new campus.
HIS is an IB World School that offers the expatriate community in Hangzhou an inclusive international experience and curriculum (Nursery to Grade 12) based on the International Baccalaureate (IB) framework. HIS is the first and only international school that is fully accredited by an international accrediting association and authorized by the IB. The school currently serves students from over 50 nationalities. As a community, HIS administration, staff, parents, and students work closely to achieve high levels of success for every child. Graduates attend prestigious universities throughout the world.
Second time lucky: Daredevil French inventor Franky Zapata, 40, becomes the first person to successfully cross the English Channel on a jet-powered hoverboard a week after his first, failed attempt.
· French inventor Franky Zapata has crossed the English Channel on a kerosene-powered hoverboard
· The 40-year-old is the first person in history to complete the flight following a failed attempt last week
· He landed on the White Cliffs of Dover after just 23 minutes of flight following takeoff at Sangatte, France
Flying Frenchman Franky Zapata today became the first person in history to cross the English Channel on a kerosene-powered board not much bigger than a tea tray – saying it 'feels magnificent!'.
The 40-year-old set off towards the White Cliffs of Dover from Sangatte beach, in Calais, at 7:16am UK time in front of a cheering crowd.
Within seconds he was soaring through the skies looking just like a high-tech version of Marty McFly, the character played by Michael J. Fox in the ‘Back to the Future’ films.
There were shouts of ‘Allez le Flying Frenchman!’ and ‘Go Franky, go!’ including from Mr Zapata’s wife, Kystal.
And at 7:39am – 23 minutes later – the triumphant Mr Zapata landed at St Margaret’s Bay in Kent, saying: 'Frankly, this feels magnificent!'.
The army reservist and former Jetski champion lifted an arm in the air in triumph, shed a tear, and savoured his incredible success.
'There were no problems this time,’ he told waiting reporters. ‘Frankly, I’m tired – I’m not on holiday, but I’m elated. Thanks so much my team, and to my wife'.
'For the last five to six kilometres I just really enjoyed it. Whether this is a historic event or not, I'm not the one to decide that, time will tell.'
'We made a machine three years ago...and now we've crossed the Channel, it's crazy,' he said, before breaking into tears.
Ms Zapata had been left hugely disappointed on July 25 when he failed in his first attempt to complete the same 22.4 mile journey.
Then, he had crashed off a refuelling boat 12 miles into the trip, but this time a larger vessel and landing platform were used.
The self-styled ‘Flying Frenchman’ travelled at a speed of some 87mph, staying at least 49 feet above the water.
French naval vessels kept an eye out during the crossing in case of trouble.
Calais authorities also gave him permission to keep the refuelling boat in French waters, something they had refused the first time around due to safety concerns.
Temperatures were above 25C on Sunday, the sun was shinning brightly, and there was next to no wind or waves.
The state-of-the-art device, which was built from scratch, resembled a souped-up tea tray and could reach an altitude of 10,000 feet. It was powered by five turbojet engines.
Mr Zapata wore a flying suit inspired by the lead character in the superhero movie Iron Man.
There was a maximum of 42 litres in Mr Zapata’s backpack, meaning he once again had to refuel half way across the Channel.
This meant landing on a boat, and swapping backpacks during a stop of no more than two minutes.
He added: ‘We created a new way of flying. We don't use wings. You are like a bird, it is your body that is flying. It is a boyhood dream. We want to follow a little bit in the footsteps of the pioneers of aviation.’
Mr Zapata hopes his device will one day enter commercial production, as a revolutionary piece of military hardware.
Last month, the board impressed crowds at France's annual July 14 Bastille Day Parade, where Mr Zapata zoomed through the air 50ft above Paris's Place de la Concorde dressed as a soldier and brandishing a rifle.
The Home-made Hoverboard that Flies at 120mph and Can Reach 10,000ft
Franky Zapata's designed his home-made hoverboard himself, which is inspired by the flying suit worn by the lead character in the superhero movie Iron Man.
Powered by five jet engines, the impressive 'Flyboard Air' can propel its driver through the sky at impressive speeds of up to 120mph and reach an altitude of 10,000 feet.
The state-of-the-art device, which he built from scratch, is powered by kerosene which is widely used as a fuel in the air industry.
Mr Zapata admits it is very similar to the hoverboard used by Marty McFly, played by Michael J Fox, in the Back to the Future films.
However, current models of the Flyboard Air can only stay airborne for about ten minutes on a single tank of fuel.
The impressive board operates via a small joystick and the rider must maintain a rigid body position while using small movements to help steer.
Last week, the Flyboard Air wowed crowds at France's annual Bastille Day Parade, where Zapata zoomed through the air 50ft above Paris's Place de la Concorde, donning soldier's uniform and holding a rifle.
Mr Zapata now hopes it will one day enter commercial production, as a revolutionary piece of military hardware - and he was even granted £1.26 million by France's Ministry of Defence to develop it.
Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly said that the board would be 'tested for different uses, for example as a flying logistical platform, or indeed as an assault platform.'
He previously broke a Guinness World Record by using the hoverboard to travel more than 7,388ft off the coastal town of Sausset-les-Pins - but was almost prosecuted by France's Civil Aviation Authority for the impressive feat.
He has since flown the Flyboard Air across a stretch of the Arizona desert.
Mr Zapata initially designed a board powered by water jets a decade ago, using a hose from the exhaust of a jet-ski to power an aerial device.
It can blast riders roughly 30ft above the waves, and allow them to perform somersaults and other tricks.
It has been in commercial production for several years now and is popular among thrill-seeking holidaymakers across the world.
Mr Zapata then spent four years developing a device that does not need to be connected to a jet-ski, so can fly over both land and sea.
The missing link of the “New Silk Highway” is set to finally be completed. Construction has begun on a new highway that will stretch from Russia’s border with Kazakhstan to Belarus, serving as a critical part of the China-Western Europe transport corridor—an infrastructure mega-project that has been described as the “construction of the century.”
Once completed, the China-Western Europe transport corridor is meant to be the primary nervous system of the Silk Road Economic Belt, the overland portion of China's Belt and Road initiative. The corridor begins at the Chinese port of Lianyungang on the Yellow Sea and stretches along the Lianhuo Expressway, China’s longest road, to the Khorgos dry port on the border of Kazakhstan before moving through Russia en route to Western Europe. The corridor is meant to eventually combine road, rail and air transport hubs into a multi-modal ecosystem which could revolutionize the economic role of the central stretches of Eurasia and alter our paradigms of how goods are shipped between China and Europe. Ideally, this highway would allow trucks to travel between China and Europe in just eleven days, as opposed to 30-50 days by sea and 15 days by rail, making it the fastest overland option of the New Silk Road.
While the China-Western Europe transport corridor got its start in 2009, it was hamstrung by Russia’s reluctance to give its portion of the project proper attention and funding. For years, the corridor served as a high-speed transit route into the heart of Eurasia, rather than a bonafide “Silk Road” which properly connects the east with the west. Trucks would speed across China and Kazakhstan on one of the world’s most modern highways only to run aground at the Russian border, where they would meet head on with infrastructure of a more modest persuasion. However, the fortunes of this mega-project may soon change.
Dubbed the Meridian highway, Russia’s long-awaited portion of the China-Western Europe transport corridor is now under active development. It is to become a 2,000km toll road from the Sagarchin crossing point with Kazakhstan to the border of Belarus.
This new highway is slated to cost in the ballpark of $9.3 billion, with most of the financing coming from private firms rather than public coffers—although investors have sought $500 million of government backing to hedge against potential unforeseen political upheavals, such as the closing of borders. The main player behind the project is a Russian investment holding called LLC Meridian, a company that’s fronted by Alexander Ryazanov, the former deputy chairman of Russian gas giant Gazprom and current board member of RZD, Russia’s railway monopoly, who claims to already be in possession of 80% of the land the road is slated to pass through.
The Meridian highway is primarily being developed for cargo transport, and the main stream of revenue is expected to come from tolls, which Ryazanov estimates will take at least 12-14 years to recoup his company’s initial investment. However, the highway is also posited to generate a large amount of knee-jerk development along its route and create new jobs, in addition to reducing transport times from China to the west of Russia three-fold, according to the Russian Ministry of Transport.
One concerning aspect of the project is its geopolitical overtones. Jonathan Hillman of the Washington D.C.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank, points out that the route of the new highway subverts Ukraine, which “would add to a series of Russia-led transport projects that limit Ukraine’s connectivity with the east." Political objectives adulterating transport routes and countries battling their rivals with large-scale infrastructure projects are nothing unusual on the New Silk Road. The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway, for example, takes a conspicuous long-cut around the contour of Armenia, further cutting the small country off from its neighbors and putting it on the outside of the trans-Eurasian cargo flows that are starting to trickle through.
Hillman also pointed out that Russia could improve the future of this project by removing glaring trade barriers in the Eurasian Economic Union. One of the biggest bottlenecks of the Belt and Road isn’t just the fact that there are gaps in key trans-Eurasian transport routes but Russian sanctions against the import and transit of many products that could otherwise be shipped overland between Europe and China, which has actually given rise to a competing new corridor that bypasses Russia to the south.
While Russia has always officially been a participant in China's Belt and Road initiative and the broader New Silk Road, the country's level of actual commitment has always remained in question. Spanning across much of the Eurasian landmass, Russian participation is necessary if China's Belt and Road is to flourish. Two of the major overland routes between China and Europe pass through Russia, and Russian and Belarusian transport companies are often the workhorses behind the scenes that actually make these corridors function. However, Russia has carried out policies, including the above mentioned sanctions, which run directly against the "win-win" nature of the Belt and Road, and have been prone to delay or otherwise hamper the development of key infrastructure projects that must pass through their realm. The start of the Meridian highway is a good indication of where Russia is leaning as the Belt and Road picks up momentum.
Last week, we posted an article titled “Do You Know How Much Urine is in the Swimming Pools?” The survey at the end of the article showed that more than 60% of respondents have peed in the pool.
Recently, the supervisors of the Municipal Health and Wellness Committee conducted random monitoring of 289 swimming pools in Hangzhou. The first list of pools that failed the inspection was announced. Let's take a look at them, you might have been to quite a few.
Remark: According to the "GB9667-1996 Swimming Pool Hygiene Standards", the standard value of free residual chlorine (pool) is 0.3-0.5mg/L; the standard value of urea hygiene is ≤3.5mg/L; the total number of bacteria is ≤1000CFU/mL.
The results are not all bad and there are some safe and clean swimming pools in Hangzhou. Check out the list of A-class swimming pools, and go ahead to have a nice swim.
A Little More to Know
Free Residual Chlorine: The requirement for free residual chlorine is to ensure that the water in the pool has a continuous ability to disinfect and can inhibit the re-propagation of residual bacteria in the water.
Urea: Urea in the pool is mainly derived from our sweat, secretions and excretions. Excessive urea content indicates a higher degree of contamination of the pool water.
Total bacteria: The total number of bacteria can be controlled when there is enough disinfectant in the pool, the pH value is kept within the specified limits, the circulation of pool water is appropriate, the swimming pool filtration equipment is often cleaned, and the swimming pool hygiene management is strengthened.