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Michaels Noodles Restaurant – 小金華 November 29, 2010

Posted by hslu in Restaurants.
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Bao and I took Mom and Dad out to dinner for Dad’s birthday on Tuesday last week. He wanted to try a restaurant he hasn’t been before. I picked Michaels Noodles Restaurant 小金華 “xiao3 jin1 hua2” in Rockville, Maryland on the west side of I-270.

We ordered 青島啤酒 “qing1 dao3 pi2 jiu3” or Qingdao beer for the occasion. We also had 四小菜﹐ 四主菜﹐ 二主食 and 一甜點.

Our 下酒小菜 “xia4 jiu3 xiao3 cai4” were:

  • 涼拌黃瓜 “liang2 ban4 huang2 gua1:” Slightly spicy and good. But it could be better.

  • 雪菜百頁毛豆 “xue3 cai4 bai3 ye4 mao2 dou4:” Very fresh and light in taste. The way it should be. Even Mom liked it..

  • 素雞: “su4 ji1” or literally vegetable chicken. It is made from soy bean milk the way cheese is made from milk. It was almost as good as what we used to have at now closed Oriental Regency. It needs to be cooked a bit longer. The sauce was very good though.

  • 花生小魚: Crispy, light, not greasy and fluffy. Perfectly done!


  • 干煎牛柳 “gan1 jian1 niu2 liu3”: Beef medallions marinated then deep-fried. It was tender and nicely done. Ba liked it and took the left over home.

  • 蒜苗雙臘 “suan4 miao2 suang1 la4:” Fresh leek tips stir-fried with Chinese sausage 香腸 and dried pork called 臘肉. I thought this dish was over cooked a little bit. I liked the leek green and not over cooked. The portion was good but I thought the dish had too much meat.

  • 南乳扣肉: Bao ordered this because we have never tried it before. The meat wasn’t as tender as it should be and I’ll order 梅菜扣肉 next time instead. 南乳 is also called 豆腐乳 which is made from twice-fermented soft bean curd. If you like blue cheese, you’ll probably like 豆腐乳 which is an acquired taste.

  • 韭菜花豆腐皮 “jiu3 cai4 hua1 dou4 fu3 pi2: Chinese chive stir-fried with pork and bean curd skins. Bean curd skins are the layer of skins on top of soy bean milk. It has very high protein content and can be very tasty if it is properly prepared. Mom likes 豆腐皮 because it is soft and easy to chew. Some 韭菜花 was tough though.

For 二主食 “zhu3 shi2,” we had:

  • 鍋貼: On par with A&J’s or slightly better. A&J’s is called 半畝園 “ban4 mu3 yuan2” or half-acre garden.

  • 素蒸餃: Theirs are better than A&J’s. Not greasy and very tasty. The skin is thin and does not stick to the teeth at all.

Our 一甜點 was:

  • 八寶飯 “ba1 bao3 fang4”: 100 times better than any off-the-menu 八寶飯 we had at other Chinese restaurant in the greater Washington Metropolitan area. Good ingredients with soft and juicy sweet rice.

We managed to finish about half the food and took the rest of them home.

The small restaurant (65 seats) is clean and nicely decorated with Chinese calligraphy and Chinese paintings.

The restaurant has regularly been on the list of Top 100 Bargain Restaurants on Washingtonian in the metro area and Tom’s favorites on the Post.

Hangzhou, Beautiful Hangzhou! February 8, 2010

Posted by hslu in China, Chinese, Life, Death and Yuanfen, Shanghai.
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As we walked in the midst of a myriad of willow trees, another smaller plant also attracted our attention. They were 桂花树 ‘gui4 hua1 shu4” which were more like shrubs. They ranged from 4’ to 8’ tall with dark green leaves. It was also called Osmanthus or Sweet Olive and I have seen them for sale at Merrifield nursery on NV.

Thirty some years ago, our house in 臺中北屯 ‘tai2 zhong1 bei3 tun2” had a few small 桂花树 as well. One was right by the front gate of the house. When it flowered in later summer, it produced a very strong fragrance lasting many days. As summer breeze blew over our small yard on one side of the house, the pleasant fragrance permeated through out the entire yard. We sometimes picked out the tiny beige-colored flowers and keep them in a small jar with water and sugar to make 桂花醬 “gui4 hua1 jiang4” or osmanthus jam. Sometimes, mom would make 八寶飯 “ba1 bao3 fan4,” steamed eight-treasure sticky rice, around Chinese New Year. She’d put a spoonful of the jam in the 八寶飯 before cooking. After it was done, Mom would take it out of the steamer or electric rice cooker and the smell of 桂花made this very popular dish even more enjoyable. If we happened to have 湯圓 “tang1 yuan2” or 元宵 “yuan2 xiao1” for desserts, a few drops of 桂花醬 would add an intense flavor to the soup as if it actually kicked it up another notch. Another way to use 桂花醬 was to add some to the steamed lotus roots with rock sugar and sticky rice. I have also drunk 桂花酒as a dessert wine. The strong 桂花 flavor made this wine unique and savory. Too bad, it wasn’t chilled when I had it many years ago.

The omnipresence of 桂花树 ‘gui4 hua1 shu4” in Xihu inevitably reminded me a lovely Chinese song that I enjoy singing for 15+ years: 塵緣 “chen2 yuan1,” the scene song of 八月桂花香 “ba1 yue4 gui4 hua1 xiang1.”

八月桂花香, a Taiwanese TV drama series, literally means Smell the Fragrance of 桂花 in August. I haven’t seen the show but liked its scene song: 塵緣 “chen2 yuan1.” When we lived in Plano in the early 1990’s, karaoke was just coming on the market and instantly it became very popular. I bought a two-sided Pioneer karaoke machine and spent $1,000+ on karaoke discs at $25 to $90 each. We regularly had 20 to 30 people partying at our house. They’d each bring something to my house and I’d do most of the cooking. We’d always have a good time eating, drinking and swapping stock tips. We occasionally played mahjong for $20 to $50. Another thing everyone liked a lot was taking turns to grab the microphone and pretended to be a popular singer for 3 to 5 minutes. That’s the time when I first heard of 塵缘. The moment I heard its name, I became fascinated with it instantly because I liked its name: 塵缘 “chen2 yuan2.” I also liked its lyric, its melody and the untold stories behind the song even though I didn’t know what the story was about; not until this date. I, however, didn’t care the male singer though.

塵 “chen2,” short for 紅塵, “hong1 chen2” which means the world of us mortals. 紅, the color of red, implies human’s 七情六欲 ”qi1 qing2 liu4 yu4,’ seven emotions and six desires, of this mortal world. 塵 literally means dust. In the old days when the roads were not paved, men, women and people on horse-drawn carts kicked up dusts as they rushed by in search of ways to satisfy their emotions and desires. This simple observation of daily lives of ordinary people was used to describe the world we lived in, a world filled with 生老病死悲欢离合 “sheng1 lao3 bin4 si3 bei1 huan1 li2 he2” – birth, aging, sickness, death, sorrow, happiness, separation and togetherness.

缘 ”yuan2” is a abstract concept with Buddhism connotation commonly accepted among many Chinese people. It suggests that an unseen force draws a man and a woman into a pre-determined, meant-to-be loving relationship. The unseen force may be what Buddhism calls karma or 業 “ye4” which means the sum of everything you did in your previous lives and what you have done and do in this life. That sum of things good and bad in turn affects your present and future lives. It is through the karma of the man and karma of the woman that mysteriously brings the two together. To illustrate the concept of yuan, let’s take a look of this common saying: “有緣千里來相會, 無緣對面不相逢 “you3 yuan2 qian1 li3 lai2 xiang1 hui4, wu2 yuan2 dui4 mian4 bu1 xiang1 feng2.” If their yuan is destined to bring them together, even a thousand miles will not keep them apart. However, when there isn’t yuan between them, they will never be lovers even if they come face to face to each other.

Put it another way, Chinese use 缘 poetically to explain the fate or destiny that brings two people into a meant-for-each-other loving relationship.

When we talk about 缘, we actually delve into the realm of  輪回 “lun2 hui2;” what Buddhism calls reincarnation or eternal cycles of birth and death. But the concept of  輪回 is not commonly accepted among Chinese people though. Let’s take a look of this Chinese proverb; 十年修得同船渡, 百年修得共枕眠 “shi2 nian2 xiu1 de2 tong2 chuan2 du4, bai3 nian2 xiu1 de2 gong4 zhen3 mian2.” The first half of this proverb says that it takes 10 years of karma to share a ferry with someone. The second half uses 共枕眠 ”gong4 zhen3 mian2” or sleep on the same pillow to describe the relationship between a husband and wife. Such a relationship, or destiny if you will, needs 100 years of karma to make it come true. We usually say that one’s “共枕眠” relationship is what he or she 修來’ed “xiu1 lai2” in their previous lives.

But緣 is 可遇而不可求的 ”ke3 yu4 er2 bu1 ke3 qiu2 de1” which means that yuan is something that comes to you in unexplained ways and yuan is not something that you look for.

I also liked this short passage very much:

相逢是緣起 “xiang1 feng2 shi4 yuan2 qi3” – Yuan begins when you first met

相聚是緣續 ”xiang1 ju4 shi4 yuan2 xu4” – Yuan continues when you are together

相知是緣定 ”xiang1 zhi1 shi4 yuan2 ding4” – Yuan is set for your life together when you really know each other and accept him or her the way he or she is.

Of course, when there is a beginning, there will always be an end if not by your own choosing then by death. To the passage above, I dare to add the follow:

相恨是緣盡 “xiang1 hen4 shi4 yuan2 jin4” – Yuan ends when there is hatred between you

In addition to describing the pre-determined loving relationship between a man and a woman, 缘is also customarily used to explain the link, encounters and relations among people. The yuan is responsible for bringing people together into a relationship such as parents, child, siblings, friends, employees, bosses, class-mates, colleagues, neighbors and the girl you see everyday on your bus. In short, you and all the people in your life have that unique yuan which brings the two of you together. But it may not continue. For instance, when you leave a company, your yuan with your co-workers and your boss has reached an end. Unless the yuan continues in some other way, you may never see them again. That’s when we say “緣盡了” “yuan2 jin4 le3.”




“chen2 yuan2 ru2 meng4 ji3 fan1 qi3 fu2 zhong3 bu4 ping2”

Yuanfen of our hustling and bustling world is like a dream. Like waves they come and go.


“dao4 ru2 jin1 dou1 cheng2 yan1 yun2”

In the end, it disappears like smoke and clouds\ without a trace


“qing2 ye3 cheng2 kong1 yang3 ru2 hui1 shou3 xio4 di3 feng1”

Love is no more than the breeze from waving my sleeve


“you1 you1 yi1 lv3 xiang1 piao1 zai4 shen1 shen1 jiu4 meng4 zhong1”

Yet I still sense a hint of fragrance in my dream


“fan2 hua1 luo4 jin4 yi1 shen1 qiao2 cui4 zai4 feng1 li3”

Withering in the wind, I see the last of falling flowers


“hui2 tou2 shi2 wu2 qing2 ye3 wu2 yu3”

Looking back, I lost my love and I am wordless


“ming2 yue4 xiao3 lou2 gu1 du2 wu2 ren1 shu4 qing3 zhong1”

Alone in a tower accompanying by a clear moon I have no one to express my love


“ren2 jian1 you3 wo3 can2 meng4 wei4 xing3”

I could only indulge in the luxury of a broken dream


“man1 man1 chang2 lu4 qi3 fu2 bu1 nan2 you2 wo3”

Waddling through a long and tumultuous life, I have no say of its rises and falls


“ren2 hai3 piao1 bo2 chang2 jin4 ren2 qing2 dan4 bo2”
Wandering aimless in the crowd, I have tasted heartbreaking rejection


“re4 qing2 re4 xin1 huan4 len3 dan4 len3 mo4”

My deep affection received cold rejection in return


“ren4 duo1 shao3 shen1 qing2 du2 xiang4 ji2 mo4”

No matter how deep is my love, I face loneliness and isolation


“ren2 sui2 feng1 guo4 zi4 zai3 hua1 kai1 hua1 you4 luo4”

Flowers bloom and fade away as I drift in the wind


“bu1 guan3 shi4 jie4 cang1 shang3 ru2 he2”

In spite of the changes in the world


“yi1 cheng2 feng1 xu4  man3 fu4 xiang1 si1 dou1 chen2 mo4”

Filaments from willow tree filled the air in the city as my love to you turns silent


“shi2 you3 gui4 hua1 xiang1 an4 piao1 guo4”

Only the scents of Osmanthus silently fly by me.

There are still many places in Hangzhou I like to visit and many famous dishes I like to try.  Well, I’ll just have to wait till next time.

But not 23 years!

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