Phase 3: Interpreting Information

Updated 7 months 1 week ago

In Phase 0, I chose my final topic, food products/cuisine, to study in XiZhou. Next, in Phase 1, I started to do some more research on my topic to further my knowledge and then created some big questions for me to answer. In this phase, I will be focusing on researching my topic as thoroughly as I can and then answering the questions in Phase 1 with the gathered information. The information in this phase will be facts that I learn both before and after the trip.

Background Information (from Phase 1):

In Yunnan, most of the food is very spicy due to the influence from its neighboring province, Sichuan, which is greatly known for its spicy cuisine. The Yunnan province also provides a variety of vegetables all year round and the Dali fields grow other needed crops such as corn, wheat, and beans.[1,2,3] The more prominent foods in Yunannan that the locals like to eat daily are erkuai, cabbage, rice noodles, tofu, jidou, and liangfen.[2,3]

One of the most popular dishes in not just XiZhou, but the entire Yunnan province that you can get almost anywhere in the area is called 过桥米线 (Guo Qiao Mi Xian). Translated into English, this dish is called the Bridge-crossing Rice Noodles and there are many legends and beliefs that tell us why it is named that. The noodle in this dish is a distinctive type of noodle because the rice used to make it goes through fermentation first, and then made into powder. Then, through a complex process, the powered rice is specially made so that it has a springy texture and slippery surface. Usually, the soup that accompanies this dish is a boiled bone soup, but other soups such as chicken soup work just as well. After the soup and noodles are prepared, other ingredients like pork, vegetables or spices are put into separate small bowls or plates so that the customer can customize their desired 过桥米线.[1,4]

Another dish that XiZhou is famous for is a pizza-like snack called 喜洲破酥粑粑 (Xi Zhou Po Su Ba Ba). This snack is widely enjoyed by the locals as well as the visitors because of how simplistic yet tasteful this snack is. Furthermore, the recipe for this snack has been passed down through many generations and has been modified through the centuries. Originally, this snack was just a plain piece of fried bread, but after many years of experimenting, the flavors and textures start to develop. Being crisping on the outside and soft on the inside, the 喜洲粑粑 has two main flavors, salty and sweet. Inside the snack, however, there are even more ingredients such as ham, sugar and spring onions added in to enhance the taste in one's mouth. This snack is certainly one of the most desired food in the XiZhou cuisine.[5]

Information From 3-to-5's:

Mr. Tafel[6]

  • Wedding or funeral food called Ba Da Wan 八大碗 (Eight big bowls).
  • 八大碗 is eight traditional dishes.
  • Sha Guo Mi Xian 砂锅米线 (Clay Pot Noodles) is a very popular dish in Xizhou.
  • Clay Pot noodles are very different from Bridge Crossing Noodles (过桥米线).
  • Old Town Snacks (古镇小吃) has moved location 3 times already.

Ms. Mai[7]

  • Cheese Factory near 东安门 produces cheese from the morning until noon, sometimes a bit in the afternoon.
  • Every family has different main chefs (father, mother etc.).

Ms. Song[8]

  • Si Fang Jie is like the food center of Xizhou.

Mr. Chen[9]

  • Xizhou Baba and Wan Dou Fen are one of the popular snacks in Xizhou.

Information From Local Contacts:

Interviewed on 11/22/2017 and 11/27/2017; Ms. Zhao: Owner of Old Town Snacks (古镇小吃)[10]

  • Old Town Snacks mainly sell snacks and treats such as noodles and rice. 
  • Popular foods in her restaurant are noodle products such as Bridge-crossing noodles (过桥米线), Er Si (饵丝), and Wan Dou Fen(豌豆粉).
  • Traditional foods in her restaurants are Sheng Pi (生皮), roasted crispy pork skin, and Suan La Yu (酸辣鱼), Sour Spicy Fish. 
  • The ingredients such as rice or noodles used in these dishes are all locally bought or transported from Dali.
  • Cheese made in Xizhou is very expensive, 1 pound of cheese is usually 3 or 4 times the cost of 1 pound of meat.
  • The grilled cheese fan has a layer of rose jam brushed on it before it is rolled up.
  • Her shop has relocated 3 times since it opened.
  • The first spot is where 春春小吃 is right now, it opened in 2011 for 3 years and closed because the building needed renovating and rebuilding.
  • During the first few months of her business, she did not have a shop and she sold snacks out in the open, so it was difficult when it rained.
  • The second spot is where Si Fang Jie's old Bank was. The rent, reaching nearly 1,000,000 RMB per year, was too much, so they moved again. This store also opened for 3 years.
  • The third and most recent spot has only opened for 2 to 3 months and it is only 2 shops next to Si Fang Jie.
  • At her restaurant, locals prefer to eat sour and spicy flavors, and only a bit of sweet.
  • Sour and spicy can balance each other out. 
  • Spicy and sour flavors because of the dry climate.
  • Also, the province next to Yunnan is Sichuan, which is known for its spicy cuisine. Spices from Sichuan is traded to Yunnan so it definitely influences the Xizhou cuisine a bit.
  • One very famous and traditional dish that is spicy and sour is the Sour Spicy Fish (酸辣鱼)
  • During festivals, people eat what they normally eat, just much more of everything.
  • However, during special occasions such as weddings and funerals, a special 8-course meal called 8 Big Bowls (八大碗) is served
  • 八大碗 includes 酥肉, porked mixed in egg batter and then fried, 凉片, cold pork slices mixed with sauces and ingredients, 大炖肉, braised pork meat with pork skin, 梅菜扣肉, braised pork with preserved vegetables, 蛋包肉, pork mixed with egg batter and then boiled, 白芸豆, White Kidney beans, 木耳, Agaric, and 凉米线, cold noodles.
  • Seafood is very popular in Xizhou. 
  • Seafood is not from the sea but from Lake Erhai.

Interviewed on 11/22/2017; Ms. Dong: Owner of Hong Yuan Xuan Snacks (宏圆轩小吃)[11]

  • Although they might seem similar, the Clay pot noodles and Bridge-crossing noodles are very different.
  • Clay Pot noodles are made with everything together and inside the clay pot. 
  • Bridge-crossing noodles are made separately. The noodles and ingredients are dropped into the bowl of soup after it is made.

Interviewed on 11/29/2017 and 11/30/2017; Mr. Yang: Owner of Xizhou Baba shop, Old Xizhou (老喜洲)[12]

  • The originator of Xizhou Baba is someone called 大苟, Da Gou, from 山东, Shandon.
  • His shop has been opened for hundreds of years, passed through many generations.
  • The Sweet-flavoured Baba is more traditional and liked by the citizens of Xizhou.
  • The opening hours of their shop is usually from 7:40 in the morning to 17:00 or 18:00 in the evening, depending on the customers.
  • They close during the evening because they are not many customers then.
  • Xizhou Babas are 10 RMB each, used to be 5 RMB when the ingredients were cheaper.
  • If it is a popular day, during holidays or festivals, they can sell 200-300 Babas per day, that is 2000-3000 RMB not counting other fees.
  • On less popular days, they only sell 20-30 Babas, meaning 200-300 RMB.
  • One batch of Babas, 5 or 6, usually takes 10 minutes to make, and then 5 minutes in the heating pan before it can be served.
  • Making Babas can get very tiring.
  • You get sore arms or back sometimes.
  • Pork costs 12 RMB every 500 grams,  2-16 500 grams used every day, depending on customer flow, meaning 24-192 RMB a day
  • Spring Onions costs 4 RMB every 500 grams, 2-16 500 grams used every day, depending on customer flow, meaning 8-64 RMB a day
  • Rose Jam costs 16 RMB every 500 grams, 1-6 500 grams used a day.
  • Red Bean Paste costs 12 RMB every 500 grams, 1-6 500 grams used a day.
  • Brown Sugar costs 3.7 RMB every 500 grams, 1-6 500 grams used a day.
  • Pig Oil costs 6 RMB every 500 grams.
  • Flour comes in 50 Kg bags, 2RMB every 500 grams.
  • Coal costs 2.5 RMB every 500 grams, 100-200 500 grams used a day.
  • Electricity bill costs 48 RMB a month because not much electricity is needed.
  • The rent for their store is 54,000 every year.
  • I also learned how to make Xizhou Baba from him and the steps are listed below in the section 'Answers to Previous Questions (from Phase 1)'.

Interviewed on 12/4/2017; Mr. Du: Owner of Xizhou Baba shop, He Shang Po Su Xizhou Baba (和尚破酥喜洲粑粑)

  • He prepares the ingredients after dinner every day and before the shop opens every day.
  • In the morning, he prepares the meat and spring onions for the Salty Baba because these ingredients need to be fresh. He does not want people getting sick from his Babas.
  • At night, after dinner, he prepares the flour, brown sugar, rose jam, red-bean paste, and pig oil.
  • His shop opens at 8:00 in the morning and after some preparations, he begins to sell Baba at 8:30.
  • He closes at around 18:00-19:00 in the evening, depending on the customer flow.
  • It is very rare for him to not sell all of his Babas. If he does not, he can eat them with his family during breakfast the next morning. 
  • Salty Xizhou Babas can be kept for as long as 2 or 3 days before it goes bad.
  • Sweet Xizhou Babas can be kept for as long as 1 or 2 days before it goes bad.
  • On normal days, he can sell 100-200 Babas.
  • On major festival days and holidays like the New Years, he can sell up to 400-500 Babas before the end of the day.
  • However, he has to wake up extra early and close extra late on those festival days and those days are very rare.
  • His shop is the only one that sells special Babas that cost 15 and 20 RMB.
  • These Babas are made with better dough and different ingredients.
  • Life as a Xizhou Baba maker is very worrisome because he always has something to worry about. Whether it is about making more Babas, or not selling enough, or someone getting sick due to his Babas.
  • Life as a Xizhou Baba maker is also very tough since he has to be out every day making and selling Babas. Also, occasionally the ashes from the burning coal can get in his eyes or burn him a little.
  • Life as a Xizhou Baba maker is also very tiring since he is constantly making more Babas and selling them to customers. 
  • Even on days when he is not in a good mood, he still has to be very enthusiastic about what he is selling in order to actually sell them.
  • Making Xizhou Baba is not hard but not easy either. It requires practice over and over again to become fluent with making it in quick succession.

Answers to Previous Questions (from Phase 1):

Below are the 10 Big questions that I have created to guide me through my research in Xizhou. I will attempt to answer these questions as thoroughly as I can with the information that I recieved from my local contacts. The sentences in italics below each question are the answers to that question.

1) What flavors do the locals enjoy the most?
The flavor that locals enjoy the most on a daily basis is spicy and sour, occasionally a bit of sweet. Spicy and sour are two very strong and very unique flavors, but together, they balance each other out. The citizens of Xizhou also enjoy these flavors because it makes them very refreshed. An example of a traditional spicy and sour dish would be the sour spicy fish (酸辣鱼).[10]

2) What types of food do people eat during festivals and what types of food are "everyday" food?
On festivals and holidays, people eat what they normally eat, just more of everything. However, on special occasions such as weddings or funerals, a special 8-course meal called 8 big bowls (八大碗) is served to the guests. The 8-course meal includes 酥肉, porked mixed in egg batter and then fried, 凉片, cold pork slices mixed with sauces and ingredients, 大炖肉, braised pork meat with pork skin, 梅菜扣肉, braised pork with preserved vegetables, 蛋包肉, pork mixed with egg batter and then boiled, 白芸豆, White Kidney beans, 木耳, Agaric, and 凉米线, cold noodles.[10]

3) What are some legends and beliefs behind the famous dishes in Xizhou
I decided to change this question because I did not have enough information to answer it and it was not relevant to my topic anymore. I changed it to the question below with the same number.

3) What are the main types of food served in Xizhou?
The main types of food served in Xizhou are rice and noodle products. Many famous restaurants in Xizhou have menus that only have rice and noodle dishes. Every rice and noodle dish might seem the same or appear similar, but they are actually made very differently. There are four main types of noodle in dishes in Xizhou: 面条, normal noodles, 米线, thicker and more slippery transparent noodles made with different flour, and 饵丝, sticky noodles.[10,11]

4) Do the festival foods have some kind of backstory, what are they and why?
I decided to change this question because I did not have enough information to answer it and it was not relevant to my topic anymore. I changed it to the question below with the same number.

4) Who is the original creator of Xizhou Baba?
The originator of Xizhou Baba is someone called Da Gou, 大苟, from Shandong, 山东. This piece of information might not be entirely accurate.[12]

5) How do the neighboring provinces influence the Xizhou cuisine?
One of the most significant provinces that influence the Xizhou cuisine is the Sichuan Province, which is known for its spicy cuisine. Some of the spices in Xizhou are traded from Sichuan, therefore it influences the Xizhou cuisine a little.[10]

6) Is seafood common in Xizhou?
Seafood is indeed quite common in Xizhou. However, the seafood is not from the sea, they are from the famous Lake Erhai. They are sold in large quantities and fried seafood are a very popular choice of snack in Xizhou.[10]

7) How does the area that Xizhou is in affect the local food?
The area that Xizhou is located in is very dry. The citizens of Xizhou likes to eat spicy and sour flavors to relieve themselves from the dryness of the area.[10]

8) What are some of the most successful restaurants in Xizhou and why?
Some of the most successful restaurants in Xizhou include Old Town Snacks, Golden Flower, 宏圆轩小吃, and 春春小吃 because they sell many foods that both the locals and tourists enjoy. Of course, they already had a good reputation. Furthermore, from my own observations, I have found that the location of the restaurants and shops matter a lot. For example, in Si Fang Jie there are many Xizhou baba shops, but there are some shops that are more successful than others. After a few more days of observations, I soon realized that the location of the popular Xizhou Baba shops are located where most of the tourists and customers are. Another example is Old Town Snacks. Before, when they used to be at the heart of Si Fang Jie, their business was really good, but after they moved to the alleyway leading up to Si Fang Jie, their customer flow decreased

9) What is/are the most popular local food and why?
The most popular food in Xizhou are Xizhou Baba, Cheese Fan, Wan Dou Fen, and Cold Chicken Noodles. They are all snacks and not main dishes and they are popular because of their unique flavors and how it can only be found locally in Xizhou.[10,12,13]

10) What food is difficult to make and what food is relatively easy to make?
I decided to change this question because I did not have enough information to answer it and it was not relevant to my topic anymore. I changed it to the question below with the same number.

10) What is the process of making a Xizhou Baba
There are different ways to make a Sweet Xizhou Baba and a Salty Xizhou Baba but they have some of the same instructions.
Sweet Xizhou Baba:
1. Cut a piece of dough depending on how big you want your Baba to be.
2. Roll the dough out flat and add unmelted pig oil to smooth out the dough and add flavor. 
3. Close it up like how you would with a bun (包子), and flatten it out again.
4. Add in the rose jam, red-bean paste, and brown sugar.
5. Close it up and roll it out again into a circle shape and brush melted pig oil on the surface.
6. Put it into the heating pan and rotate the cap of the heating pan at the same time.
7. After 4 to 5 minutes in the heating pan, your Baba is ready.
Salty XiZhou Baba:

1. Cut a piece of dough depending on how big you want your Baba to be.
2. Roll the dough out flat and add unmelted pig oil to smooth out the dough and add flavor.
3. Fold it up into a rectangle and roll it out.
4. Add spring onions and fold it up into a rectangle again.
5. Cut long and shallow cuts along the short side of the rectangle.
6. Roll it up and push the two ends to the middle so it seems like a think pancake.
7. Flatten it and add the meat and salt and flatten out again.
8. Brush a layer of pig oil on the surface and put it into the heating pan and rotate the cap of the heating pan at the same time.
9. After 4 to 5 minutes in the heating pan, your Baba is ready.[12]
 

Sources:

1. Online: http://www.sasmicrocampus.org/content/phase-3-interpreting-information-200 accessed October 11th.
2. Online: http://www.sasmicrocampus.org/content/phase-3-interpreting-information-161 accessed October 11th.
3. Online: http://www.sasmicrocampus.org/content/phase-3-interpreting-information-216 accessed October 11th.
4. Online: https://baike.baidu.com/item/%E8%BF%87%E6%A1%A5%E7%B1%B3%E7%BA%BF/120893?fr=aladdin&fromid=10420430&fromtitle=%E4%BA%91%E5%8D%97%E8%BF%87%E6%A1%A5%E7%B1%B3%E7%BA%BF accessed October 12th.
5. Online: https://baike.baidu.com/item/%E5%96%9C%E6%B4%B2%E7%A0%B4%E9%85%A5%E7%B2%91%E7%B2%91/10758195?fr=aladdin&fromid=6911387&fromtitle=%E5%96%9C%E6%B4%B2%E7%B2%91%E7%B2%91 accessed October 15th.
6. Mr. Tafel. Personal Interview conducted by Chris L., 20 November 2017
7. Ms. Mai. Personal Interview conducted by Chris L., 20 November 2017
8. Ms. Song. Personal Interview conducted by Chris L., 20 November 2017
9. Mr. Chen. Personal Interview conducted by Chris L., 20 November 2017
10. Ms. Zhao. Personal Interview conducted by Chris L., 22 November 2017 and 27 November 2017
11. Ms. Zhong. Personal Interview conducted by Chris L., 22 November 2017
12. Mr. Yang. Personal Interview conducted by Chris L., 29 November 2017 and 30 November 2017
13. Mr. Du. Personal Interview conducted by Chris L., 4 December 2017

I know that I have completed my Phase 3 work when I have more than enough information for me to create an amazing final product. Also, I have had a sit and talk session with Mr. Tafel about what my final product will look like and how I am going to structure it. Now, I will be moving onto Phase 4 where I will be making a plan for my final product.

Hi everyone, my name is Chris L., 13 years old, and I was part of the 21st Microcampus group: Ultimate. I am back in Shanghai now, and I am getting used to my old schedule. Microcampus has truly been a phenomenal trip. I will always remember all the experiences that I had at Microcampus, the good times and the bad. Through overcoming these tough times, I have learned many life lessons that will definitely help me in the future. Furthermore, I would like to take the time here to thank the Microcampus coordinators, Mr. Tafel and MS. Mai, for making this trip possible. I could not have survived in Xizhou without their help. Over the course of that month, I have grown so much in so many different ways, and I have adopted good habits that will stay with me forever.