Phase 3: Interpreting Information

Updated 11 months 2 weeks ago

Throughout the past phases I have chosen my inquiry topic, Local Food Products/Cuisine, in Phase 0,  developed 10 big questions in Phase 1, and found sources to answer those questions in Phase 2. Phase 3 will include the research about my topic that I gathered before and on the Microcampus trip. It will also include the sources I used to find the facts.

Background Information (From Phase 1):

Food is very important for Chinese people. Chinese food can be traced back about 500,000 years to when the first Chinese man learned to cook food over a fire. [3] Traditional Chinese cooking involves many methods. It is very vegetable surrounded. However, many places around China have different styles of cooking. 

I wanted to gather some background information so that I can prepared for continuing to work on the inquiry project in Xizhou. I used many past Microcampus student's final products and reflections and the SAS data-base to find this background knowledge. I found out that it was very beneficial to study one limited topic such as one meal, dish, or dining guide rather than multiple random topics and that not all foods are made with the ingredient that you would think they should be made out of. For instance, a certain type of noodles is made out of peas rather than flour and water. [1,2] This information can be very beneficial to keep in mind while I have conversation with members of the Xizhou community. Anna S. also said that it could be interesting if someone investigated the other types of noodles made in Xizhou and find out if they are or can be made with other vegetables. This sounds very interesting.

In Xizhou there are also many types of snack foods and drinks as well as food that may be interesting to have knowledge about. For instance, a common snack that is eaten by everyone of all ages all the time except after breakfast is Migao which means rice cake in Chinese. [8] There a common drink in Xizhou that is called MiliangXia. This drink is made out of water, rice strands, and syrup. It is common because it is cheap and refreshing. Another drink is papaya juice. The papaya juice, however, is not made out of papayas, but a grainy substance called Bingfen. I believe that researching daily snack foods and drinks might be interesting as well as researching full meal.

I also might be interested in researching foods that are made with unique ingredients. For instance, there is a bread called Xizhou BaBa. Some of its ingredients are pork fat, red bean, and rose jam. These are some very interesting ingredients that could be very fun to study. Another food that has some unique ingredients is the fried ErSi. This food is made out of pig's thigh bones and some other ingredients. Depending on what I want to specifically study, this might be a very interesting choice.

One main cooking technique that the Chinese people use is stir-frying. Stir-fry is the most frequently used method and is usually done in a wok and with a wok spatula. Traditionally it is made over a gas stove at high heat for a limited amount of time, but an electric stove can be used if it has the right temperature. Because the food is on the heat for a short amount of time, the foods keep their nutritional value making the meal delicious and reasonably healthy. All the ingredients put within the wok are thinly sliced or cubed and the meat is usually marinated. In Chinese stir-fry is called chao. [4,5,6]

Steaming is also used in China and is the healthiest cooking technique. It is better than boiling because the nutrition is lost when food is boiled, while foods that are steamed do not lose the nutrition. [5] Some Chinese people steam by using bamboo steamers. The bamboo steamers are stacked above each other allowing multiple dishes to be cooked at one time. The foods that needs to most time to cook are placed closest to the heat source while the others are placed on top of it. [4] Mainly there is not a lot of oil or seasoning added to the foods so that the natural flavors are very noticeable. Steaming is used a lot in northern China due to the fact that the people there enjoy wheaten food. Some common Chinese foods that are made by steaming are buns and dumplings. It is commonly known as cheng in Chinese.  [5,6] 

Another technique used to cook is roasting. Roasting is when meat is hung above a fire or inside a hot oven. Roasting is called kao in Chinese. It is usually served with a sauce made from the meat drippings. [4,6] The meat has to be seared by the flame or the fat dripping from it. It is very difficult to sear the meet in an oven due to the fact that the uncontrollable extremely hot fires could easily cause problems. There are specially designed ovens for roasting that can help prevent the fires from spreading. [6]

Information from Local Contacts:

There are many Xizhou businesses that sell food for a living. For instance, the Golden Flower is a really popular restaurant in Xizhou. Many tourists and Xizhou community members enjoy going there for lunch and/or dinner. I personally really liked eating at the Golden Flower for dinner. Ayi Yang and Ayi Dong both work at the Golden Flower and they were very open to having a conversation with me. While making a connection with them, I learned a few facts about opening a restaurant in Xizhou, the traditional 8 Big Bowls, popular and traditional foods, and how the foods being served have changed over time.

Other common businesses found in Xizhou include a variety of Muslim-Xizhou restaurants and a variety of stalls. The owner of one Muslim-Xizhou restaurant is Wang Jie. Wang Jie wanted her business to have a variety of foods so she chooses to have both of her cultures included in the foods she serves and restaurant as a whole. He shi fu is an owner of a roasted duck stall near the morning market. He was also open to me asking him some questions about his business. 

A very popular food that many people in XIzhou enjoy eating is BaBa. BaBa can be either sweet or savory and is found to be a good snack or desert. Many BaBa shops are centered around Si Fang Jie, including Ms. Zhang and Yang Ayi. Both of these women are very kind and were open to answering some of my questions.

An old tradition, involving eating many dishes, that many Xizhou community members still practice is called Ba Da Wan. Outside Yan Zhouran is a very popular place where many people hold celebrations for recent weddings, births, or deaths. Dong Ayi is professional chef that was hired by two families to cook meals for a wedding and a death. She agreed to talk with me as she cooked these dishes. 

Sun Nai Nai works at the Yard Entrance, another popular restaurant that a variety of people like eating at. Sun Nai Nai came to work at the Yard Entrance after her son married the owner of the restaurant. Due to the fact that the restaurant was not busy at the time, she allowed me to sit and ask her a few questions about her job.

Government Involvement in Xizhou Restaurant/Stall Businesses:

Dong Ayi and Yang Ayi - The Golden Flower

  • There is no government permission needed to open a restaurant in Xizhou.

Mr. He - Roasted Duck

  • He needed a business license to open his store
  • A health certification was also needed
  • He needed to open a tax Bero account

Wang Jie - Muslim Restaurant/Stall

  • It is slightly harder to open a restaurant in Xizhou because restaurants produce more smoke than stalls
  • She does need permission but the department was closed for the protection of Lake Erhai. She plans to continue the process when they re-open 

Foods Served:

Dong Ayi and Yang Ayi - Golden Flower

  • Sour spicy fish - 酸辣鱼,veggie soup, and fried cheese are very popular in the restaurant 
  • The Golden Flower uses chopsticks to fuel the furnace
  • They also reuse the oil that is left over from cooking past dishes
  • To cook sour, spicy fish - you put in the fish alive and use a lot of spice
  • When the fried cheese becomes golden brown it is finished

Mr. He - Roasted Duck 

  • Some people do not need the duck cut up, but most people like the duck cut 
  • Roasted duck is not a traditional food in Xizhou 
  • Everyday Mr. He sells around 20 ducks 
  • On a holiday, such as Chinese new year, he sells 100 ducks per day
  • He goes to Xian Dong, a modern city 1 hour away, to buy his ingredients and ducks 
  • Flavor is really important to Mr. He
  • He went to Xia Men to learn how to cook roasted duck 

Ms. Zhang - BaBa

  • The amount of BaBa she cooks depends on the on if the market is slow or fast. If it is fast, she constantly makes BaBa, while if it is slow, she makes a lot and leaves them until the costumers come. 
  • She buys all of the ingredients for making the BaBa from the morning market
  • Sweet BaBa has rose jam, dark brown sugar, and light brown sugar
  • She puts flour on both sides and pig fat and oil on top
  • Savory BaBa has scallions, pork, and a mix of salt and pepper and cooks for a longer period of times
  • She cooks the BaBa with fire on both sides. The bottom has less heat while the top has the most heat, due to the fact that the oil is on the top and needs to cook longer
  • The savory BaBa is chopped into slices to allow air to be distributed throughout the food evenly
  • She thinks that the sweet one should be eaten with green tea and the savory eaten with rice noodles 
  • In the dough there is flour, water, yeast, and baking soda
  • You make the savory BaBa by putting the pig fat in the middle, folding eat side into the middle and then rolling it out. You then add scallions and take each side into the middle to make the scallions spread out. Fold the savory BaBa back in on its self and cut slices into the dough. Swirl it into a spiral. Then, roll it out and flip it over. Add meat and then flip it over again and roll. Then spread oil and pig fat on the meat side. Cook
  • You make sweet BaBa by adding the pig fat into the middle and roll it out. Cup the dough in one hand and add a spoon full of rose jam and sticky brown sugar. Then, add one handful of regular brown sugar. With the hand that you are holding the BaBa in, spin the BaBa while the other hand closes the top of the BaBa. When the BaBa is in a ball, roll it gently into a circle. Add pig fat to the top and oil. Cook

Dong Ayi - Funeral/Wedding

  • She was serving wood ear/fungus soup, radish soup, braised pork and other soups
  • One of the dishes are kind of like french fries, but spicy and less deep fried

Sun Nai nai - The Yard Entrance

  • She is not bothered/scared when killing a fish 
  • She prepares rice, makes the soup, and kills the fish
  • She makes a lot of seaweed soup 
  • The drinks outside of the restaurant are for advertisement/getting customers

Wang Jie - Muslim Restaurant/Stall:

  • Wang Jie serves a crepe like food at her stall that are not traditional to Dali, but customers like them
  • The crepe has a rice base, a nutty mix with walnuts and peanuts, a spicy sauce with sesame seeds, and local pickled veggies
  • Wang Jie also serves Ma La Tang, which is part of a chain of stores. She says that makes it taste better


Dong Ayi and Yang Ayi - The Golden Flower

  • Costumers that do not live in Xizhou usually do not like sour of spicy foods usually eaten in Xizhou
  • Xizhou members enjoy eating strong spicy and sour foods
  • Usually customers ask for what they want. Either not spicy/sour or yes spicy/sour

Wang Jie - Muslim Restaurant/Stall

  • Her customers also agreed with her opinion of having a greater variety of choices
  • She said that they liked having more options 

Mr. He - Roasted Duck

  • Costumers in Xizhou thought that the original recipe was too salty, meaning Mr. He changed it for the Xizhou members

Yang Ayi - BaBa

  • When there were no tourists, people would leave Xizhou. However, when the tourists started increasing, the Baba business would increase as well

Ms. Zhang - BaBa

  • She changed her BaBa slightly to have medium flavors such as not a lot of salt and sweetness as normal. 
  • Costumers start arriving around 10 in the morning
  • 2:30-4:30 is the busiest time
  • 12-1 is kind of busy
  • mornings are the least busy 

8 Big Bowls:

Dong Ayi and Yang Ayi

  • Some younger people choose to have 4 Big Bowls or/and 4 Big Bowls and 5 Big Plates because they offer more foods
  • People also choose this option to have a prettier display of foods 
  • It has a more variety of foods offered if this option is chosen. More fish and meat options are included

Dong Ayi - Funeral/Wedding

  • 8 Big Bowls are usually special dishes to the family
  • Xizhou community members usually have 8 Big Bowls when there is a wedding, birth, death, or special family event
  • 8 Da Wan is served usually in the morning
  • 6 Da Wan is usually served at night 
  • Celebrations usually last for two days
  • The feast is usually lunch, dinner, lunch and dinner
  • For weddings, they usually kill a whole pig and butcher it in the celebration area
  • People usually eat chicken, fish, and/or fried pork
  • 8 Big Bowls is a Xizhou tradition that has lasted a few hundred years to almost thousand years
  • Funerals are simpler than weddings
  • Weddings have a lot of stir fry and the last meal is usually the most fancy 
  • Sometimes families and chefs collaborate on the dishes, while other times the chefs choose
  • Families sometimes hire professional chefs to cook for them

Chef's Perspective:

Sun Nai nai 

  • She thinks the the customers think her food is good
  • She lets the costumers like to know how spicy it is 
  • 60-70% of the people who come to her restaurant are tourists 
  • 30-40% are local Xizhou members
  • The restaurant is busier at lunch time due to the fact that tour groups come through at that time
  • There are more tourists than local Xizhou members
  • Sun nai nai is proud of her work
  • Sun nai nai does not know if her work makes her happy, but it keeps her busy "what would I do if I didn't work?"
  • Sun nai nai's costumers do not compare her food to their hometown foods, they are coming for a different style of foods
  • People are interested in her story - most people are curious about why she is not from Xizhou and is leaving here
  • Sun nai nai thinks her restaurant is good

Dong Ayi - The Funeral/Wedding

  • Dong Ayi says that there are a lot of flavors in Xizhou
  • Dong Ayi likes the dishes served in Xizhou

Dong Ayi - The Golden Flower

  • Dong Ayi is proud because she gets money
  • Dong Ayi likes Xizhou food because it has been passed over many generations
  • Dong Ayi thinks that her customers like her food because of the feedback given to her through comments
  • Dong Ayi is also not proud because this year has been harder than the rest, due to the fact businesses along Erhai have been closed and many tourists come to see Erhai
  • Xizhou food is better than Lijiang food because many of the food products in Lijiang come from Dali and by the time they get there, they are not fresh
  • When owning a business, you need to work. You wake up in the the morning, sometimes before 7, go shopping and then come back to the restaurant to prepare for the customers
  • Dong Ayi works 14 hours every day

Growing Up in Xizhou:

Dong Ayi and Yang Ayi - The Golden Flower

  • Some people, when young focus on studying instead of thinking about what they would do when they grow up
  • A lot of people had large families when growing up
  • Dong Ayi grew up learning how to cook with her mom every meal. She learned most of the dishes when she was younger
  • Sometimes people will apply for a job and sometimes people inherit businesses or open one. It depends on the situation

Yang Ayi - BaBa 

  • When Yang Ayi was young, she did not want to work in the BaBa busses like her parents when she grew up, but now that she is older and has a child, she likes working this job

Xizhou Traditional Foods:

  • Sour Spicy Fish - 酸辣鱼 is 100 years old. Many people know it since they are born
  • People also choose this option to have a prettier display of foods
  • Children have inherited the business over generations

Ms. Zhang - BaBa

  • The practice of selling BaBa in Ms. Zhang's family 100 years or 5 generations old. They have the most traditional flavors. Only 2-3 families kept the tradition up
  • Ms. Zhang's dad's wi gong started/opened the BaBa shop
  • Ms. Zhang defiantly thought about leaving Xizhou when she was younger, but she restaurant that it would be hard to make money and send it home if she did that

Tourist's Perspective:

Mr. Zhen

  • Mr. Zhen really likes the Xizhou BaBa
  • He likes Xizhou food in general because he likes to try new and fresh flavors

Mr. Liu

  • Mr. Liu likes Xizhou food in general
  • Mr. Liu really enjoys eating BaBa because its yummy

Ms. He

  • Ms. He likes the liang mi xia
  • Ms. He thinks that Xizhou food is okay

Mr. Xong

  • Mr. Xong thinks the flavor is stronger in salty BaBa
  • People from the North generally like stronger flavors

Ms. Ke and Ms. Zhen 

  • They both like the sweet BaBa better because many places sell savory, meaning sweet is unique

Ms. Liu:

  • Ms. Liu likes the spicy shrimp
  • In general, she likes Xizhou food

Mr. Li

  • Mr. Li likes the savory BaBa because the sweet one makes you fat
  • Mr. Li also likes the hei tang (brown sugar)

Ms. Yun

  • Ms. Yun likes a lot of Xizhou snacks, such as wan dou fen, Xizhou BaBa
  • In general, she likes the food in Xizhou

Extra Facts:

  • Some restaurants hire fishermen to fish for shrimp in Lake Erhai at night. This is illegal, due to the fact that Erhai is now protected and being restored.

Answers to Previous Questions (From Phase 1:

1. What is the process behind opening up a restaurant or a stall in Xizhou?
According to the information I gathered from a few connections that I made, opening up a restaurant in Xizhou takes a business license, a health certification, and many other forms. A tax Bero account also needs to be opened before opening a restaurant. It is slightly harder to open a restaurant in Xizhou, due to the fact that restaurants produce more smoke than small stalls.

2. How do the Xizhou people keep their foods fresh over periods of time?
Xizhou community members use refrigerators to keep their foods fresh. However, they also use other methods, such as keeping vegetables in buckets of water. To keep fish fresh, some restaurants keep them alive until it is time for them to be included in a dish. All in all, Xizhou restaurants have their own ways of keeping their foods fresh.

3. What are the most common obstacles that stand in the way of cooking healthy meals in Xizhou?
A lot of the foods/dishes here in Xizhou are fresh. Many fruits and vegetables are grown locally, while animals are also raised and killed here in Xizhou. This allows many dishes to have locally grown or raised ingredients without a lot of chemicals or processed foods. Therefore, there are not many obstacles that stand in the way of cooking heathy foods in Xizhou.

4.  Are you proud of your work/restaurant/stall? Why?
All of the people that I talked too were proud of their work and/or their restaurant/stall. However, it was not in the way that I would expect it. For instance, my culture believes that doing your work should make you happy. However, here, many people do their work to keep themselves busy and create an income. This is very different from what I expected. 

5.  What is your perspective on Xizhou foods, both traditional and new, as a whole?
Many people think that Xizhou foods/dishes are very good or okay. For instance, a few people said that there are a lot of flavors in Xizhou foods and that makes the dishes very yummy. Others said that both the traditional foods and the new foods were different from their hometown foods and in Xizhou different and delicious.

6. Why would someone choose to have 8 Big Bowls rather than 4 Big Bowls or 5 Big Plates and 4 Big Bowls?
8 Big Bowls are more traditional than 4 Big Bowls or 5 Big Plates. This sometimes affects the family decision on what type of way their foods will be served at the celebrations. Sometimes families choose to have 8 Big Bowls and 5 Big Plates at their celebrations. This allows for a larger amount of food and a bigger variety of dishes. Other times, younger people will choose to have 4 Big Bowls or 5 Big Plates, due to the fact that they want a unique celebration.

I deleted some of my previous 10 Big Questions, due to the fact that I did not need to answer some of them once I started learning about the Xizhou's local food products and cuisine. For instance, the question "how do the people of the Xizhou community overcome these obstacles" is a question that I do not need anymore because the previous question's answer is that there are no obstacles in the way of cooking a healthy meal in Xizhou. Therefore, this question is not valuable.

I know that I am ready to move onto the next phase because I feel "full" from all the information I have received from my conversations. In this phase I gathered background about my topic when I was in Shanghai and when I reached Xizhou, I made many connections and learned a lot from the people I talked to. Phase 4 is about planning how I will share the information I gathered through my final product. I will also be looking at past Microcampus student's final product to see what could work for me and what I should not do when planning my final product. 


1.  F_. Ivy. Local Food Products and Cuisine: Dining Guide to Xizhou,, accessed January 21, 2018
2. S_. Anna. Local Food Products and Cuisine: Bean Products in Bai Minority Cuisine,, accessed January 21, 2018
3. ChinaTour360, Chinese Food,, accessed January 22, 2018
4. China Highlights. Chinese Methods for Cooking, , accessed January 22, 2018
5. China Travel Guide. Chinese Cooking Methods,, accessed January 22, 2018 
6. Flavor and Fortune. Chinese Cooking Techniques,, accessed January 22, 2018
7. Travel Guide., accessed January 22, 2018
8. X_. William. Local Food Products and Cuisine: Local Snacks, accessed January, 24 2018
9. W_.Cameron. Local Food Products and Cuisine: Tastes of Xizhou, accessed January, 25 2018
10. Yang Ayi from the Golden Flower. Personal Interview conducted by Taylor Sadek, 14 March 2018
11. Dong Ayi from the Golden Flower. Personal Interview conducted by Taylor Sadek, 14 March 2018
12. He Shi Fu from the Roast Duck Shop. Personal Interview conducted by Taylor Sadek, 15 March 2018
13. Wang Jie from the Muslim Ma La Tang Shop. Personal Interview conducted by Taylor, 15 March 2018
14. Yang Ayi from the Baba Shop near Sifangjie. Personal Interview conducted by Taylor, 16 March 2018
15. Ms. Zhang from the Baba Shop in Sifangjie. Personal Interview conducted by Taylor, 16 March 2018, 19 March 2018
16. Sun Nai Nai from the Yard Entrance. Personal Interview conducted by Taylor, 22 March 2018
17. Dong Ayi from the Wedding/Funeral. Personal Interview conducted by Taylor, 21 March 2018
18. Mr. Zhen. Personal Interview conducted by Taylor, March 26th 2018
19. Mr. Liu. Personal Interview conducted by Taylor, March 26th 2018
20. Ms. He. Personal Interview conducted by Taylor, March 26th 2018
21. Ms. Liu. Personal Interview conducted by Taylor, March 26th 2018
22. Mr. Xong. Personal Interview conducted by Taylor, March 26th 2018
23. Ms. Ke. Personal Interview conducted by Taylor, March 26th 2018
24. Ms. Zhen. Personal Interview conducted by Taylor, March 26th 2018
25. Ms. Wang. Personal Interview conducted by Taylor, March 26th 2018
26. Ms. Liu - Eating Shrimp. Personal Interview conducted by Taylor, March 27th 2018
27. Mr. Li. Personal Interview conducted by Taylor, March 27th 2018
28. Ms. Yun. Personal Interview conducted by Taylor, March 27th 2018




I love food, and so learning about the food in Xizhou is very interesting. I wanted to know about the snacks you found (though it seems like your focus is more on traditional foods, which is probably best). What are rice strands? What is bingfen? Is there HFCS in the processed foods?

And how do you make 酸辣鱼?

Hope you're enjoying Xizhou!

Mr. McSwiney

Mr. McSwiney

I love food too! I am hoping to learn more about the process of making food as I make deeper connections with Xizhou communtiy members. I heard that you and Mr. and Ms. Evans wanted to know how to make a specific noodle dish? Do you know what the dish is called or what it is made of?


Thank you for commenting!! 


My name is Taylor and I am 14 years old. I enjoy learning new things, pushing myself past my limits, reading, spending time with the people I love, playing sports, being active, and having fun. I am a spunky, athletic, creative person. I like to bake and be in nature. I feel my best when I have had enough sleep, healthy food, and had a good laugh. I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to spend time in Xizhou. Throughout my time in the village, I was able to push myself past my limits, make new friends, learn, and have a great experience. I made many connections that I will forever have a place in my heart. The village of Xizhou and it's people have truly changed my life.