study make John HONGRY

Since this week I haven’t had to go to work, I’ve used it to buckle down and finish learning the material on Modern Chinese that I need to know for the exam this month. I have to display understanding of this material in order to be admitted for graduate school.

I haven’t finished it yet (working mainly on 现代汉语, a 560 page extremely dry Chinese textbook), but I’m getting there.

One thing I’ve discovered is that putting in about five hours of study a day (reading and writing) really works up an appetite!

The other night when Carl, his friend Drew, and I made spaghetti for dinner, they each had a bowl of it. I had three bowls of spaghetti plus a blowl of salad. The next day Drew and I had 饺子 (dumplings) for lunch: carrot and pork, cabbage and beef, leek and pork, and qingcai and chicken. Good stuff. We each had about 4 of dumplings. Drew seemed to think it was a good amount of food.

That night when we went to dinner Drew said he was still fairly full from lunch, but I ended up eating way more than any of the other four people at the table. It was a Xinjiang restaurant, so we ate (Uygur bread), 羊肉串 (spicy lamb skewers), 丁丁炒面 (chopped noodles), 老虎菜 (a sort of spicy salad with tomato, cucumber, and onion), 蒜泥黄瓜 (garlic cucumber pieces), 红烧豆腐 (soy-braised tofu), 酸辣白菜 (hot and sour cabbage), and 大盘鸡 (a chicken and potato dish), washed down with Xinjiang black beer. I guess it was too much food for five people, but everyone else gave up way too fast. I kept eating for about 30 minutes after they had stopped.

If all this studying in the final stretch leading up to my exams is going to make me ravenous every day, I really can’t say I mind at all.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. That’s a lot of eating. I do like Sinjiang food, myself.

  2. Damn, you’re right, just reading this post makes me hungry, especially reading paragraphs 4 and 5.

  3. Hey John, I took Chris and Katherine to the Xinjiang restaurant on Maotai Lu that Carl took us to the other day. Still good stuff.

  4. Micah,

    Yeah, that was the same one we ate at. I like that place! Notice that the dishes I listed were almost the same ones that you, Carl, SS, and I ate? Even when I try not to, I frequently end up ordering the same dishes… And the 红烧豆腐 wasn’t even that good… 🙁

  5. Jacques Aandy Says: May 7, 2005 at 5:19 am

    Isn’t 红烧豆腐 supposed to be a Japanese way for cooking silky tofu? (though I’ve never had it in Japan !! .. or maybe I’m thinking of a different dish !!). Probably a Xinjang restaurant isn’t the best place to get it. Better stick to the lamb and long noodle dishes (the noodles in the Red Rose restaurant (xinjiang) in Beijing are probably 120 cm long or longer (Udon like). Now I’m drooling.6000 miles away. 🙂

  6. schtickyrice Says: May 7, 2005 at 7:18 am

    All this talk about food is enough to get me to book a trip to China just for the authentic regional cuisines. The last time I had 大盘鸡 at a restaurant, there were no potatos, just whole cumin seeds. I guess what I’ve been served with must have been bastardized Uygur cuisine?

    I also read somewhere that the dough for 拉面 (Uygur: laghman) is made with 花椒水. If so, this would be the only non-Han cuisine I know of that uses Sichuan peppercorns. Speaking of which, the last time I ordered ֥ 芝麻鸡丁 at a Cantonese-Szechuanese-Mandarin (in other words, for all intensive purposes, just Cantonese)restaurant in Canada, the chicken actually came with 芝麻 and 辣椒, with no hint of 花椒. If this is their idea of 麻辣, I am afraid to find out their interpretation of 怪味.

  7. Anonymous Says: May 7, 2005 at 9:45 pm

    On average, I study Chinese for about four hours a day, and in that time, I find myself reaching out for food too. I’ve been banging away at Chinese for about seven months now – so I’m still at the beginner stage which means that there’s plenty of eating to go before I can consider myself halfway proficient in Chinese. I can’t help feeling that there’s something else at work here though, that is, a correlation exists between disciplined study and over eating. But then again, I could be wrong: study, especially studying Chinese, takes a lot of juice, and you need to feed the engine. As long it’s not junk food, I’m sure that John’s body is using the food as fuel, not adding layers to his love handles.

  8. CelloCello Says: May 8, 2005 at 10:23 pm

    Good luck to your exam!!

  9. Maybe i’m wrong, but most ‘white’ foreigners i have encountered in china don’t eat very much at meal time. my line of thinking is foreigners like to eat between meals, snacking all day long and come meal time they’re not as hungry, yet they are generally fatter than their Chinese friends.

    I routinely see smallish Chinese people out eat big white guys…any thoughts on this observation? Or am I way off??

  10. Dezza: everyone always comments on that when we’re in China. I did an experiment back in New Zealand: I cooked a load of Chinese dishes (Sichuanese, cantonese and others) and tested my household (= one husband and one Chinese student). My husband eats about a quarter of what he’d normally eat (200g of meat is enough for three, he’d normally eat that on his own with western food), my student eats about twice what she normally eats… odd. Not sure what the implications of my study are yet, except that cooking Chinese saves money.

    Seriously though, I think its to do with the effort of eating in China. You have to think about it you know, put it on your plate. Western style you just keep eating until its all gone.

    Xinjiang food sounds awesome. Like a mixture between Sichuanese and Mongolian is it???

  11. i need some materials about the Uyghur foods , specially the Laghman . if u have , pease write to me ,

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