Monday, July 30, 2007

Hunan Garden in St Paul

I had my dinner at Hunan Garden on Cedar St. It was a nice and 'exotic' experience. Let's say I've been to more than 100 Chinese restaurants in more than 20 US cities, this one is one of a kind, or simply put it: 'different'.

I wouldn't have entered the premise if I was not really hungry and exhausted, after walking around the downtown St. Paul area non-stop for six hours. For one thing, I saw one lonely black woman eating in a really big empty room, it looked Chinese; however, I couldn't find the door to get in. I walked back around the corner, there was no door. I walked around the corner again, there was this unmarked solid single door with no Windows. I couldn't tell the make of the door as it was wrapped with gray rubber. I tried the knob. It was heavy but smooth. Then within a yard, another single solid door. For a second or so, I was trapped between two unmarked single solid doors. With faint light from above, I read a white square sign on the inner door 'Guns not Allowed'. I would have turned my back, but my stomach convinced my legs to keep going. Crossed the second door, I got in the Hunan Garden.

On my left, it looks like a bar; on my right, it looks like a dinner area. The two parts are of approximate the same size. All in a sudden while I am still dizzied by my own decision to step in such as puzzling place, a big waiter emerged from nowhere. He greeted my cheerful, and led me to a window seat in a very professional way. I ordered a hot tea for drink. The black woman I once saw from outside seemed to be having a dispute on her order. The waiter got the owner involved. The owner talked to the African American lady, in a tone that was calm, constraint, while very confident. The owner is a Chinese gentleman in 50s or 60s in traditional Chinese outfit. His gray long hair rest on both side of his shoulders. His English is almost perfect. So it felt I was sitting inside a movie. The kind of mysterious Chinese Kung Fu movie produced by Hollywood in the 60s and 70s. No where else has I seen a place so 'Chinese', as in a Chinatown depicted in a 1970 Hollywood movie. Elaborate patterns are found from the high back chair to the wooden carving above windows seatings. Hugh red cloth featuring tattoo Chinese calligraphy were hung on the walls. Aside from the owner's clam arguing with the African American lady, it was all but quiet.

The waiter apologized for bringing my tea late. He was extremely polite, and I was so scared. Throughout the course of the meal, the waiter apologized four more times. He shouldn't have apologized, as he had been promptly in almost every moment. Maybe he holds himself for a higher standard that I was not sure about.

The tea pot was yellow from outside, and shinny silver inside. It was unreasonably heavy, and very well made. The rice came in a bowl that I can't properly describe. Together, they looked something elegant, however strangely mismatched, and misplaced. I am sure they are not Chinese. Maybe Chinatown, or Chinatown in 1960s Kung Fu movies.

I ordered 'Black mushroom and bamboo shoot with snow beans'. the black mushroom were soft, smooth and juicy. The snow beans were very fresh. It is not Chinese, but an American Chinese dish, because of the excessive starch and soy sauce. However, I must say it's one of the best American Chinese dishes I have tried in the U.S.

Business picked up on the bar area on the other side. I think I hear people singing. The owner walked outside to have some pipe smoke. The blue smoke coming out of the pipe fluctuated in the wind, and so did his Kung Fu dress. He looked so cool. I was about to ask him whether I could take a picture of him. Then the scene came to my mind that he ordered his apprentices to finish that nosy troublemaker and dump the body in a black trash bag. Well, maybe next time.

The take-home message? Hunan Garden in St Paul is a nice place to go because of its nice foot, courteous waiters, exotic settings and a mysterious owner in Kung Fu suit. It's a place you shouldn't miss in St Paul, whether you are looking for good Chinese food or not, whether you are Chinese or not.

Highly recommended.

Hunan Garden: 380 Cedar St, St Paul, MN 55101, (651) 224-7588

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Unsafe Food Import from China

So I was talking with a middle-age, well-fed northern woman who had been water-walking in the pool for most of the afternoon, when it was brought up that Made-in-China Thomas Trains was recalled because of led-containing paint. 'Do you know they have corrected the problem'? Huh? 'I had a niece who's teacher told them that China shot the guy!' Huh? 'There's more than one guy who's responsible for it, but China picked up one of them and had him shot'!

Than I realized the lady was referring to Mr. Zheng Xiaoyu, the FDA Director of China, who was sentenced to death and was executed last week. FDA does not regulate toy paint, so the two cases were totally unrelated. By linking them together, American media not only impressed American people on a poorly built toy, but also on the brutality of Chinese system. On the other hand, by mentioning Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 together, American media has successfully induced the perception that the two had some sort of connection and that the killing of Iraqis is well justified. For a while, even the occupation army believed this theory but now they regret. The new policy strategy in Iraq is to re-arm the Sunnis so that they can fight with Al-Qaeda.

Mr. Zheng Xiaoyu's death is tragedy for his family, but a good news for China's chaotic food and drug administrations. During Mr. Zheng's tenure as the director of China's FDA, he blindly approved numerous fake/flawed drugs, based only on the bribe he took in. There's no count of the total number died from his crazy management, but the number would be in thousands, if not hundred of thousands of direct death from bad medicine put on market by Mr. Zheng. In 10 years, the only barrier between a fabricated 'drug' and the Chinese medicine market is $1-2,000 bribe to Mr. Zheng. Dirt cheap for the pharmaceutically companies, but high for those who lost their loved ones to fake drugs. Suffice to say that having Mr. Zheng shot 1000 times won't be enough to serve the justice.

With the 2008 presidential campaign closing in, it's ever popular to bash China. What is more convenient than bashing food safety? However, according to a Wall-Street Journal article, numbers released by the US Custom does not support the passionate bashing fascinated by radio talk show hosts, and drive-by media. According to the record released by the US Custom for Year 2007 (July 2006 to June 2007), 1763 cases of import food from India was denied entry due to sub-standard quality, and 1480 cases of India of import food from Mexico was denied entry, followed by 1368 from China. The US Custom check 1% of the all import food, and keep in mind that import from China vastly exceeds import from any other country (or combined) in volume. Over-all, imported food from China is safer than most of those from other countries, including western countries such as Denmark (543), Japan (508) and Italy (482).

Only China was named for, and accused of food quality control problem. Countries that had worse problem such as Denmark, Japan and Italy, as well as India and Mexico are able to tip-toe through. The media is not serving the public interest.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Beijing Cops received probation sentence for murdering ill people

Beijing Tongzhou court sentenced two policemen 1 year probations for death of an ill person as result of being abandoned by the two cops.

The two policemen, one of which is the Party boss of the Yongledian Police Station, responded to a police call while an ill woman was found on the side of a road near the Yongledian government building. Party boss Tian and another police Liu, accompanied by three security forces carried the woman on a vehicle, and then dumped her out side of their jurisdiction area. The woman was found died the next day.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Number of Public Universities in China by Province

Jiangsu: 118(44)
Shandong: 110(41)
Guangdong: 109(37)
Hunan: 99(27)
Anhui: 89(30)
Hebei: 88(33)
Hubei: 86(35)
Hanan: 82(31)
Beijing: 80(58)
Liaoning: 79(40)
Shannxi: 76(37)
Sichuan: 76(30)
Zhejiang: 73(28)
Fujian: 72(19)
Heilongjiang: 68(25)
Jiangxi: 66(20)
Shanghai: 60(31)
Shanxi: 59(17)
Guangxi: 56(18)
Yunnan: 51(17)
Tianjin: 46(18)
Jilin: 44(25)
Chongqing: 38(15)
Guizhou: 37(13)
Inner Mongolia: 37(10)
Gansu: 34(13)
Xinjiang: 31(11)
Hainan: 15(5)
Ningxia: 13(5)
Qinghai: 11(3)
Tibeten: 6(3)

Total: 1909(739)

Number of Colleges (within which number of colleges that confer bachelor degrees)
Data accurate as on May 18, 2007

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Money Kills Poor People

Xiaolian (little lotus), a 10 years old girl, lived with her grandma and grandpa. Her Mom died when she was four years old. Her father is a lazy bone, who does nothing but hanging around on the streets. Every day in the morning, the 76 years old grandpa would harvest a bunch of bamboo, then the grandpa and the granddaughter would carry the bamboo to the local market. The 50 Kg bamboo would earn them not more than 20 RMB Yuan ($2.50).

Thanks to a TV program who shred lights on the poverty problem in China, Xiaolian's situation was made known to the outsiders. In a short time, a fund with more than 33K RMB Yuan donations was set up for Xiaolian's education as well as emergency medical expenditures of the grandparents. The fund was held and managed by a volunteer committee comprised of a local official, some local residents and Xiaolian's school.

Unfortunately, the money from responsible citizens with good faith did not bring good luck to the family. In order to take control of the money, Xiaolian's father starved the grandparents for four whole days, until the grandpa, his own mother committed suicide by jumping in a river.

The grandpa won't be able to take care of Xiaolian without grandma's help. How will Xiaolin live?

This happened in Xingfu Village, Huojing Town, Qionglai City of Sichuan Province. Xiaolian's full name is Luo Yulian. Her father's name is Luo Yunlin. Her grandpa's name is Luo Jingui. Her grandma throw herself to the river on June 17, 2007.