THE PUNCH-IT BURGER AND HOUSTON, WE’RE READY TO TAKE OFF

I’ve waited six years… wow, six… to say this son-of-a-bitch line.

I’ve imagined saying it while beating its saggy ass with a whip rubbed with the most homicidal Mexican chilis as it wriggles in pain.  I’ve imagined saying it while twisting its balls with electrically charged clamps as it howls in my upmost amusement.  I’ve imagined saying it while watching, ever so pleasurably, as its ugliest face twisted angrily into an even uglier version of itself if that’s even grammatically possible.

I’ve imagined, for six years… wow, six… to say this line with a fuck-you.

And now, when the time has finally come, I can only feel it exhaling through the gaps of the keyboard, in a long heavy breath of bittersweet…

We’re leaving Beijing.

Can… can I say that again?

We are.  Leaving.  Beijing.

Yes, leave, move away, to Hong Kong if that’s important to mention, but more importantly the point is, out of Beijing.  I mentioned last week that I have “eeeewge news” to break it to you, but truth is, this is more than news.  It is a long-awaited, mental or physical, release.  Why is it such a big deal?  Well, I know, I know that the context of my predicament hasn’t been thoroughly explained on this blog.  Most of you are probably only aware that One:  I/we live in Beijing, and Two:  I don’t like it.  But why am I here and why don’t I like it, well, is a subject I thought was too boringly political or unappetising to be discussed on a, after all, food-blog.  I thought if I were to really explain it, I’d need a book to do the job.  But now that we’re leaving, I feel like I owe it to its final ending to, at least in a brief effort, paint the short story.

The first part of the question of why we’re here, is much simpler.  We left New York in 2008, Jason, our dog-children Dumpling, Bado and I, for what was thought to be a very logical career opportunity of his.  Our beloved island New York was, at the time, tilting like a breaking iceberg, and so we jumped into a less vogue but sturdier looking boat – China.  We actually lived in Hong Kong for 1 1/2 year  (so technically we’re moving back to HK) before moving to Beijing in 2010.  Then it was without any foresights to say the least, that what came after, the next following six years, was the unhappiest, destructive even, but also self-realising and perhaps fruitful period of my life.

Why do I hate it here?  Why is this “an angry food blog”?  This to me, is a funny question, as if asking why wouldn’t I like a burger soaked in whiskey then force-fed to me in a rubber tube?  I mean, where do I begin and how much time do you have?  There’s nothing wrong with burgers, nor is there with whiskey, but they just don’t mash well together, like me and this place.  Maybe if I was a politically indifferent outcast who enjoys pale skins more than sunlights, and the scent of burning coals in the atmosphere because it marvellously reminds me of BBQ briskets… Maybe if I was a juvenile man-child who sees uncivility as a safe haven to misbehave like an utter douchebag…  Maybe if I simply like being somebody here because I was a nobody back home, or better yet, just plain too self-secured to be emotionally affected by any shenanigans…  Then I believe, I would have a shot of being happy here.  But I’m, unfortunately, not.  I don’t mean it sarcastically.  I’m not “gifted” in that way, to see the vanilla ice cream behind the annoying chocolate chips and be able to happily eat around the obstacles.  They bother me.  Internet censorship bothers me.  Authoritarian politic bothers me.  Pollution bothers me.  Blind nationalism bothers me.  Douchebags bother me, and worse yet, blindly nationalistic douchebags who are happy being douchebags, reeeaaally bother me.  Hey look, I’m sure this city is more complicated and deeper than that, so I guess, I’m just too simple for this city.  I have no problem being too simple for bullshits.  But aside from political factors, and maybe (just maybe) for no faults of its own, Beijing is also where we lost Bado and Dumpling.  Two of the most spirit-breaking episodes of our lives happened here, skin-deep, back to back.  It used to be just an angry place – the good old times – but now it’s a sad place.  And though it might not be fair, but the feeling that we came here in whole and now left in pieces, is a negative association I don’t need.

IN TWO WEEKS TIME, WE WILL BE GONE.

NO, NOT FROM YOU OR THIS BLOG, BUT FROM THE PLACE THAT BROUGHT US TOGETHER, WHERE IT ALL STARTED

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Having said all that, would I wish that I have never came here?

No… no I cannot say that, because despite all, the truth is, I would have otherwise never started this blog.

Who would I be if I hadn’t came here, if I hadn’t started this blog?  A happier version of myself?  I’m not completely certain.  But what I’m absolutely sure of is that it has taught me more than what I have fed it, and it has brought me to places beyond what I had dared to expect from myself.  It taught me self-assurance as well as humility, and it indulges me in truth or in denial.  When I say “it”, I meant you, my friends.  Every single person who has read a single word in this space, who has offered me either support or criticism, friendship or self-reflections, advices or just plain unpackaged kindness…  I cannot trade in with anything else, not even good riddance.

The idea of leaving has been, without saying, churning for more than a year if not longer, which then set into concrete about a few months ago after Dumpling left.  I’ve been waiting for the right moment to talk about it with you, and the moment is now as we just finalised our schedule.  In two weeks time, we would be gone.  No, not from you guys or the blog of course, but from the place that brought us all together, where it all started – Beijing.  In a way, even as it stings me to say, I guess I should be thankful.

Then finally, a celebratory burger.  Technically, a cheese burger, or to be accurate, a cream cheese burger.  Cream cheese is, to me, a promiscuous and versatile party girl whom, strangely, everyone thought was married strictly to bagels only.  No, no she’s not.  She’s single and available, and is more than happy to take your burger to another level.  But an occasion like this calls for a punch.  A flaming “harissa ketchup” made from pureed sun-dried tomatoes, dried chilis, chipotle and tomato paste, to go with a part-beef part-lamb patty mingling with spices and chopped capers, cuddling a secretive nub of butter at its heart that melts from the inside-out when you bring the heat.  Soft and buttery potato rolls are without saying, not to be overlooked, as important as the serpentinely fragrant crispy fried onions to bring everything to an intensely flavourful bite as grease runs down your fingers.

Then at last, can I.. can I just say it again?

We’re leaving Beijing.  WE’RE LEAVING BEIJING!  Fuck it feels good to say…

  

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THE PUNCH-IT BURGER WITH HARISSA TOMATO SAUCE AND CREAM CHEESE:

serves: 4

NOTE:  I’m using Asian dried chilis which are fragrant and very spicy.  You can choose your own variety (anchos, pasillas, and other types of Mexican dried chillis) to suit your liking.

INGREDIENTS:

  • Harissa tomato sauce: adapted generously from Smitten Kitchen’s harissa chili paste
    • 1.6 oz (45 grams) assorted dried chilis
    • 1 red bell pepper, charred/roasted
    • 1 tsp Mexican chili powder
    • 3/4 tsp ground coriander
    • 1/2 tsp ground caraway seeds
    • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
    • 1/2 tsp cocoa powder
    • 6 (100 grams) sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, drained
    • 3 (26 grams) chipotle in adobo sauce
    • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
    • 1 tbsp (16 grams) tomato paste
    • 1 tbsp (14 grams) extra virgin olive oil
    • 2 tsp dark brown sugar
    • 1 1/2 tsp sea salt
    • 1 tsp white wine vinegar
    • 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
  • Spiced buttered patties:
    • 10.6 oz (300 grams) boneless beef short-ribs
    • 5.3 oz (150 grams) boneless lamb
    • 3 small Asian shallots, coarsely cut
    • 3 tsp capers
    • 1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
    • 1 1/2 tsp grond cumin
    • 1/3 tsp ground allspice
    • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
    • 3/4 tsp salt
    • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
    • 2 tsp unsalted butter, divided into 1/2 tsp
    • little bit of flour to dust
  • To assemble:
    • Crispy onions (instruction as followed)
    • Cream cheese, softened and whipped
    • 4 medium-sized potato rolls

MAKE HARISSA TOMATO SAUCE:  Cover the assorted dried chilis with boiling water and let sit for 30 min.  Meanwhile, if you are roasting your own pepper, place the red bell pepper over direct flames, turning as needed, until it’s evenly charred on all surfaces.  Then scrape away the charred skins and remove the stem and seeds.  Once the dried chilis have softened, drain well, then remove the stems and seeds as well.  Toast Mexican chili powder, coriander, caraway seed, cumin and cocoa powder in a skillet over medium heat until fragrant.  Transfer the roasted pepper, dried chilis, spice-mixtures, sun-dried tomatoes, chipotle, garlics, tomato paste, extra virgin olive oil, dark brown sugar, sea salt, white wine vinegar, and black pepper into a food-processor.  Pulse and run until the mixture is smoothly pureed.  Transfer into an air-tight container and let sit in the fridge for at least 1 day before using.

MAKE SPICED BUTTERED PATTIES:  Cut beef short-ribs and lamb into small chunk, then flash-freeze for 1 hour until hardened.  Transfer into a food-processor along with shallots, capers, ground coriander, cumin, allspice, cinnamon, salt and black pepper.  Pulse for as many times as needed, until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs (You can also use ground beef and lamb, then mix evenly with the rest of the ingredients that are finely minced).  Divide into 4 equal portions, then place 1/2 tsp of unsalted butter into the centre of each, then shape into round patties (the butter will melt through the patty during cooking and make’em succulent).  Set aside in the fridge until needed.

MAKE CRISPY ONIONS:  Add enough canola oil into a small frying-pot until it reaches 1 inch deep, then heat over medium-high heat.  Very thinly slice 1 medium red onions, then separate the slices into individual rings.  Dust with just enough flour to evenly coat the surfaces of every rings, then drop a small ring into the oil to test the heat.  If it bubbles up immediately, the oil’s ready.  Fry the onions in small batches, turning them once or twice, until golden browned on all edges (the onions will crisp up further once cooled slightly).  Let drain on a paper-towel and season with salt and ground black pepper.  Set aside.  Reserve the frying-oil.

TO COOK:  Lightly season both sides of the patties with salt and black pepper again, then dust the flat sides lightly with a bit of flour (this helps form a crust).  Add enough of the onion frying-oil into a large flat skillet to generously coat, then heat over medium-high heat.  Place the patties in the skillet then put a lid on.  Once the first sides are deeply caramelised, flip them and caramelize the other side as well (For medium-rare, remove the lid while browning the second sides.  For medium-well done, keep the lid on).

Transfer the patties to a plate and smear a generous dollop of cream cheese on top, then let rest for 3 min.  Slice and toast the potato rolls, then place a good amount of harissa tomato paste on the bottom roll, then the patty, then the crispy onions, then cap it.  Serve immediately with large supply of napkins.

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89 Comments

  • Mandy,

    Thank you for bringing us along on your journey! Despite the pain and heartache, I, too, am grateful that it led you to start this blog: your amazing recipes have helped me through some crappy times of my own and I thank you for sharing your knowledge and amazing talents with us!

    Wishing you guys all the best with your move to HK!

    xo

    • Bravo – Excellente “Appétissant!” – I love your blog – your pictures and for me that’s already superb – all the best everywhere et vive the dim sum!!

  • Wishing you luck and happy that things have finally changed for you with the move. Glad you started the blog being where you are love the pictures, writing and recipes.

    Wishing you both all the best and looking forward to your adventures in HK.

  • Wow, your description of Beijing and the reasons for leaving it are so, SO spot on! I’ve lived in Beijing for 2 years and it was exactly that. And those types of people that thrive in Beijing are EXACTLY those described by you as well. I’ve been lurking at your site since the start and I’m so happy you started this blog. Love the creativity, love your photography, love your writing. Good luck with moving and read you on the other side!

  • I never commented before because each and any post left me satisfied like a good meal, where you just smile and wait for the nap to take over, and there’s nothing to say except for thanks to the cook. I have appreciated your style ‘n’ aesthetics a lot but this post was so honest I felt compelled to say at least good luck! and I really look forward to more sarcasm, more aggrrrrrressivity, more clean-cut pictures and recipes form HK. irene

  • Oh man. First of all, I’m personally so excited you get to leave Beijing. I found your blog shortly after I moved to a different country, and every time you talked about how much you dislike/hated Beijing, I felt like I understood a little bit of where you were coming from. It’s a little silly, but reading what you were writing helped me get through not being depressed about living in a country I hated. And I so appreciate your honesty, because it meant so much to me.
    I’m so pumped you are moving away from a place that was so sad and heartbreaking to you, and I hope your move to Hong Kong is a literal breath of fresh air for you. And seriously, thank you.

  • This post kind of made me sad. I hope you have a better start back in HK and it feels more like home. Also I’m really grateful you started this blog!

  • Ahhhh, Hong Kong! One of my favourite cities. A very good move! Congratulations on your escape and good luck in your new home! And your first word in Cantonese is momentai which means no problem.?

  • My girlfriend and I love reading your blog for ideas on what to cook over the weekend. We’re also both from Hong Kong, hope the move is smooth sailing and happy to hear you’re getting away from a place that’s been a breeding ground of negativity for you. The future is looking bright!

  • Thank you for sharing – your story and your recipes- always the right amount of vigor.

    Good luck with your move and your new beginning – looking forward to reading all about it!

  • Thanks for all of your wonderful writing (Tom Robbins would be proud), and stunning photography. I can’t wait to see what inspiration Hong Kong brings to you. Best of luck!

  • Hi Mandy:

    I am very happy for you. I grew up in Beijing but have lived in the US for almost 30 years. Going to Beijing has become a chore rather than pleasure for me over the past decade or so. All the reasons you have quoted here resonate with me. Both the pollution and the politics are suffocating, quite literally.

    Maybe your next leg of blog journey will be titled: A happy food blog?!

    Cannot wait to see what you come up with in Hong Kong.

  • Maybe I started reading the blog late/was obfuscated by the pictures of food but I never realized you did not like Beijing! I visited Beijing and Shanghai right after a national holiday so granted we had blue skies but I really loved both cities and could see myself living in either. I think a big part of me just misses the feel of living in a big city which I don’t really get here in San Diego. My dad also willingly moved from Toronto to Shanghai 5 years ago (for fun) and has no plans of moving back to Canada or Brazil (where we are from).

    But then again I think it’s a grass-is-always-greener scenario because after a couple days in Sao Paulo the crowds, the pollution, the stories about government corruption, the petty theft and casual “flash” kidnapping, and oh god the TRAFFIC – I am so ready to go running back to the sleepy embrace of sunny, palm-tree lined, clean and eternally 75F San Diego. Because I can always drive two hours over to LA if I miss sitting in traffic.

    Hope HK treats you well.

  • I wanted to thank you for sharing your story (I had always wondered why it was an angry food blog). I can’t imagine how cathartic it must be to finally get to leave such a situation and I am grateful that you were able to form this blog out of that environment. I wish you the best during this new beginning! Can’t wait to see what happens next.

  • Congrats on the move!!!

    I totally understand your feeling. I moved from Taiwan to Guangzhou cause of my dad’s job when I was young. Lived there for almost 10 years. I had exactly same moment when I knew that I’m finally out of there! However, from times to times, I still miss the place where I’ve lived for most of my teenage-hood. Though… That nostalgia never last long haha
    Hong Kong has always been our weekend getaway! Hope you’ll enjoy HK more than Beijing!

  • Mandy, I was crying happy tears for you while reading this. I know exactly what it’s like to have been caged in a city that you hate more than anything, and the freedom you get by moving is so unbelievably relieving. I am so happy for you, and I wish you guys nothing but happiness and good luck as you move to Hong Kong.

  • YASSSSSS! Very happy for you! It’s so life sucking to be stuck in a place that isn’t for you. You have done beautifully well, at least from a readers standpoint, at channeling the anger and frustration into an awesome blog. My husband and I are in a very similar space here in the US and have been trying to get out for about 6 years as well so I can imagine how good the feeling of freedom and release is. YAY YOU!!!!!!!

  • This burger looks and sounds amazing, it might be something that I decide to tackle on one of my extra days off this week :)

    With that being said, I’ve never left a comment before on your site and I rarely do at any of the food blogs that I regularly stalk – but your food blog is a work of art and you’ve done an amazing job here. As someone who loves food and photography, and has a special place in her heart for Asian flavors and foods, your site is one of my most favorite (even though I’ve only bookmarked a million recipes, I’ve not had the will to try one out yet! I’m lazy!). I’m happy to see that you’re getting to remove yourself from a toxic (in many ways) environment and move to a place where you can feel free and new once again. I look forward to more recipes and more posts!

    Enjoy your move!

  • Thank you for sharing your journey, and I am happy you are moving back to HK. I am sorry about your heartache losing your pups. Wish you all the best and looking forward to your amazingly yummy stuff.

  • I don’t think I read carefully enough before but I appreciate your sharing today! And I’m so very happy for you!!!!!! Sending a celebration wave from NY :)

  • You’re blog has been inspiring me for a few years now and I can’t wait what living in Hong Kong will bring to it. The things we go through and the way we face them, make us into the people we are. You are now a talented blogger with many, many appreciative readers. I for one and happy for that. Thank you and I wish you the very best (and yes, when I read your prior blog post I shouted out to no one but myself “she’s leaving Beijing!!” with tears in my eyes).

  • Yay!! So happy for you, Mandy!

    I hope Hong Kong feels like home to you and your family, like a place where you want to settle in and that doesn’t feel like a bad fit. Can’t wait to see whether a new city will affect your work – well, I’m sure it does but I’m eager to see how. What the maybe-less-angry Mandy comes up with.

    P.S. That burger looks like the perfect way to celebrate this move!

  • I am so happy for you! I’m so sorry that I must have missed the post about your losing Dumpling, such a heartache!

  • Congratulations!! I’ve been following you for years; I really enjoy your writing, and of course the recipes and photos are outstanding. I hope your next life chapter is vastly better. Best of luck!

  • I am so happy for you. Having spent 13 years as a military spouse I feel your pain. I too had to suffer through some years in places I hated and felt very separate from. It sucks. I still get the willies when someone mentions Abilene Texas…

  • I cannot read your story and not write back to you sending you compassion and empathy. Your willingness of sharing your vulnerability inspires me. Thank you for your honesty and sharing with us your struggles. I am happy that you are finally moving out of a toxic environment, and I am sorry for your dogs. Your text was so well-written, and the way you explained why you chose to make this burger made me realize why you are the only food blog I receive news in my inbox every other week: this is more than a food blog. It’s a place where I feel not only understood in my “food creativity” and silliness; it ‘s a place where I can also feel that I connect with another being. I wish you guys the best in HK, and I cannot wait to read how you feel to go back there.

    Thanks for this, have a good one!

  • yayayayayyayayyayaayyyy!!! congrats on getting the fuck out!! wishing you all the best and happiness in HK, and can’t wait to see what you have in store for us in your new home! also, as a seattleite, i know aaallll about the cream cheese + meat love story… we live for seattle style hot dogs (with cream cheese, caramelized onions, sriracha, jalapenos).

  • All I can say is that I know the feeling, wish you well, and thank you for this blog. I’m selfishly looking forward to what you bring us from a city you will be much happier living in!

  • Congratulations on leaving Beijing! I also lived there for an extended period (4 years) as well as in many other parts of China during a 22-year span, and when I finally left for the greener pastures (literally) of New Zealand I could not contain my glee. Enjoy Hong Kong (and keep up the great work on the blog)!

  • Dear Mandy,

    As we say in Spain, ‘there’s always something good that comes out of something bad’. I’m glad that Beijing was the culprit of you creating this blog and becoming so successful with it. But I’m happy for you that you’ll be leaving a place you can’t stand. I hope HK brings you and your husband all the happiness you wish for and dream of.

    xx Debra

  • CONGRATS for the big MOVE to HK, it WILLl be BETTER, you MIGHT be less ANGRY & great burger idea, a bit like the Shed Burger in Montreal (but that wasn’t spicy, just cream-cheesy) ….and OH YEAH DEF, i totally get the “start your own blog for to retain your sanity” approach … BEST OF LUCK in everything u do and don’t stop blogging or i might toooooooo ! :)

  • Best luck with your new life and all the best.
    These burgers are coming with me as they look absolutely delicious.
    cheers,
    Lia

  • Sexiest burgers ever, and the flavors sound phenomenal. I’m so happy for your move – it sounds like the greatest of great things. Best of luck settling into a new city. Thanks for sharing this post. Cream cheese is definitely a floozy and I love that about her.

  • so excited for you and your move mandy!! can’t wait to see what you cook up in hk and you better believe i’m gonna be crashing on your tiny couch ;)

  • happy for you and the pending move to HK. absolutely love that city and will return. we are so glad that the blog will continue and look forward to more posts and recipes…
    whichever direction it takes, I can’t wait to see the first post from you in a different, vibrant and culturally gorgeous place.
    be safe!
    :)

  • I am so happy for you! I truly hope HK is everything you need and want it to be once you arrive. I love your blog and can’t wait to see what changes HK inspires. :)

  • Yayyyy! First, a hearty congratulations :) Second, dayum that’s a proper celebration burger.

    And third, in case you needed a little additional validation of your location-based misery over the past 6 years:

    A few weeks ago I was reading one of your posts while puttering around the house and LOL’d. When my partner asked why I was laughing, I told him about your site, and when we got around to the topic of where you were located I said offhand “she’s in China, sh*t I forget which city but she f*cking hates it”. He immediately responded, despite only half-listening while watching sports, “definitely Beijing”. Just super matter-of-fact, and from a guy who would happily live in a dumpster if it had a lamp and wifi.

    So, so happy for you to finally be moving somewhere you actually like!!

  • You are raw, real, sad and brave. All in a good way. Thanks for your time, taste buds and sharing the lot. Good luck and lots of happiness.
    P.S. there are heaps of cute puppies all frolicking in the green pastures of NZ, you should try here after HK.

    • *hand shakes as I try to envision green pastures* Green pastures alone got me, and then, New Zealand!!!! It looks like it’s pure magic!

  • So very happy for you! And so very sorry to hear of your loss- Wishing you wonderful new adventures in HK and please do not stop cooking and sharing your wickedly delish food!

  • Congrats! I know exactly how you feel about living somewhere you don’t like. I’ve been stuck in my own hell for longer than I care to think about.

    Anyway I’m happy you were there so we got this blog. So excited for HK!

  • Way to go, girl!!
    Be happy!
    Kiss the sky in Hong Kong!!
    …..By the way, I need this burger.
    ……..I have to have this, this burger!

  • I too offer my congrats on such excellent news after sympathizing with you in blog posts past! Stephanie puts it best: the blog, the photos, the writing and esp. your recipes – all equal a work of art and an astounding contribution to the blog world! Thank you!

    Really look forward to your HK stories and recipes!

  • Congrats !
    I have been following your blog since the beginning, getting fatter and fatter thanks to your crazy food, overdosed on pimientos.
    While you move back to HK, I will be sadly moving back to France after 10 great years in…HK even though on the political front it is becoming more and more 北京。
    All the best and long life the blog!

  • Congratulations…….I’m so very happy for you. You are a quite amazing woman and wife. May your life in HK be as fulfilling and fantastic as you deserve it to be.
    RF

  • I was born and raised in HK until I was 18 before I moved to Houston. I’ve actually never been to Beijing in my 18 years of life in Asia. Now, I’m glad I haven’t! I’m a long time lurker, but I’ve always appreciated your brutal honesty and drool-worthy recipes!

    Congrats on leaving again!

  • Your amazing recipes and pictures are unique in the food blog world, and you are an incredible writer. (I want a BOOK!) As much as I love what you’ve made during your time in Beijing, I am SO glad you’re moving somewhere that there is hope and brightness for you. (And maybe more pups because I have hurt for you about that.) Wishing you all the best in your move and looking forward to what comes next. (And a BOOK!)

  • Mandy,
    Here’s to new beginnings! May your journey bring you happiness and beautiful memories! I can totally relate to your story: I moved from the states to overseas and ended up in a place where I was very unhappy and emotionally dead for 12 years. I really wish you the best of luck and hope that moving back to Hong Kong inspires you in the best way possible. You’re such a gifted writer and an equally creative and incredible chef. I haven’t commented on your blog till now but so happy I took the opportunity to wish you well and tell you how much I always look forward to your hilarious and creative posts (and the most incredible recipes!). Safe travels…I can’t wait to hear about Hong Kong through your eyes. ?

  • It’s so crazy that you’re moving away since you’ve been wishing for it for forever, Mandy! :) I too am glad you had to let your anger out through this blog, or else I wouldn’t have such a beautiful and delicious page to relax to every now and then. You’re incredibly talented and I’m glad to have been following your work as you’ve taught me plenty about baking and whatnot. And also, at least you’ve been able to see SOME positive through that journey so that’s pretty awesome. How exciting, please keep us in the know about the wonders of HK, eeep! And holy cow. this burger looks so erroneously delish…so wrong but so right.

  • I could not understand more. I refer to my three years in Beijing as my tour of duty and the city itself as my dysfunctional boyfriend. As awful as so many things about it are, there are some things that I love. Time and distance make those bits glow a little more. Which is completely fucked up. Because that place chewed me up and spit me out. Hong Kong, on the other hand, is glorious. I wish you well with your move Mandy! xo

  • Ahhh, Mandy – Such good news! I’m so happy you’re getting the hell out of Beijing. Altho, I must admit when I saw ‘Houston’ in the headline, I thought you were coming back to the States. :(
    Regardless, I’m quite happy for you and just a tad jealous that you’ll be in HK – a place I’ve always wanted to visit. I was also a military spouse for a number of years and it truly is horrible to be stuck in a place you don’t like. There are several locations in this world I’ll never set foot in again. I hope the censorship isn’t as bad; the sunshine will be more plentiful; that you will have access to the sea and that you will continue to regale us with your incredible talent. I’ll be eagerly awaiting to read about the moving adventure and for more of your delish food. Sécurité voyages, mes amis!

  • Best of luck in your new home. I wish you all the happiness you’ve been missing. These burgers are a sure fine way to sign off!

  • I love the recipes and the photos as much as the next person, but it’s your writing that inspires me. Your writing makes me say, “Maybe I should start my own blog?” Cheers Mandy!

  • Both my sister and I send our love and best wishes all the way from Sweden. We’ve tried many of your recipies and been inspired by many more. Looking forward to the next chapter!

  • Yay!!! I guessed it! It was the the “eeeewgest” news I could think of! I’m so happy for all of you. I know you’ve been wanting to leave for a long time.

    Would you maybe consider adding another pup to your family once you get settled in? I hope so. You would give him/her a wonderful life and I’m sure you would receive a lot of love in return. I know it is terrible to lose them, but I keep getting another because I can’t stand living without them!

    Good luck with your move. Keep us posted when you get there.

  • Mandy,
    Reading this post, I could actually feel your anger, your passion, your relief, your verbal revenge, and lastly, your joy, inside my own heart. It actually brought tears to my eyes, girl!
    So happy for you. Looking forward to reading about the next chapter of your life in HK.
    -Alex

  • Dear Mandy, thank you so much! I follow your blog for some years now and I am always astonished about the pics you take (eg the red pepper above with the black smut around made me shake my head in awe). And I love your writing. Being a journalist I am a sucker for the right words in the write place and intelligent, smart choice of expressions. I always wondered what made u so angry. I quiet understood that u dont like it where u are right now, what I never got the reason for it. So thank you for telling us today – I now understand u so much better.

    I lived twice in China and those times belong to the dearest memories of my life. I made a stage in Beijing around Spring Festival 1998 for two months and I lived a year in Hefei 2000/2001. But there is a big difference: I was there by choice and because I studied Chinese. And it was not for six years. And I was young and naive. I indulged in this so alien culture, tried to be open, tried to enhance my crosscultural competencies but failed regularly. So being trapped there for six years – I feel you. But as you said yourself – isnt it amazing what live does to us? And what good comes out of things we thought being bad only?

    For me the most important is always love – and you and Jason managed to stay together through all those years, although I image it must have been hard for both of you. You because you hate your surroundings, but love your husband and for him, because he sees you suffering and being angry :) – and loves you. I guess there are a lot more ended relationships out of such tearing stressing situations than surviving relationships (sorry for my English, I just dont find the correct english expressions for my feelings – I hope you get the idea). So this is another very big positive outcome of those six years: you are still in love with the man who brought you there. If you two survived this I cannot imagine anything you wont. I remember very clearly those reciepe where you made this (what was is again? sort of…) japanese burger and you described so tenderly how he sort of wished it and that you made it for him. this sounded so loving and caring and sweet – aaah! romance! :) you know, a burger can be a very romantic expression in my eyes. :) ok, obviously i dont remember the receipe clearly but I remember the feelings I had when I read this article.

    so – coming to an end: Thank you for being personal today, thank you for sharing your joy and your anger with us – and of course your pics and words and culinary extravagancies. is extravagance in english a negative word? my dictionnary gives me that impression. In german it can be negative, but it can also be ment admiring. I used it in this ambivalance because there is also another feeling I sometimes had when reading your blog: envy. I like cooking but on good days I am proud if I manage to buy the stuff and make one of Jamies 15-min-meals. Reading your blog I sometimes thought: I wish I had that much time for experimenting such cool stuff in my kitchen. I wish I didnt have to go for work and could concentrate fully on a delicious hobby. But hey, dont get mad at me please – we both know the grass is always greener on the other side. Ok, I must work to get the family along and pay the house, but then again I am very happy at my job and probably would still do it even if I didnt have to. But I would do it with more freedom, more leisure time, more self-determined. But then again I could not give you my word that I would use my so gained leisure time for doing such wonderfull things that you do and even make other people happy with it. It could well be that I netflixed the whole day and get lazier and lazier. Probably more probable than becoming a star photographer and master chef like you. :) So please forgive me for sharing my lower emotions as well with you, I hope you see that I am fighting them.

    Dear Mandy – I am happy for you! In Hongkong I had been only for some days so I dont have any idea how it must be to live there. But people say it is great. So I am wishing you a great new beginning, a wonderful new apartment with a great kitchen, some new enounters to become friend with, alot new inspiration in terms of photography and receipes and a wonderful start in your new life episode as a couple.

    all the best from Frankfurt, Germany, Daniela

  • good luck to you!
    i have a funny question –
    now that you’re leaving, will you share the area in which you lived, and your favorite spots around it? like that grocery store in your building and that fried chicken place! if i ever drop by beijing again i would love to see those places you mentioned so many times. when i was there last time i couldn’t help notice the similarities in ‘douchey’ culture between the israelis and the chinese – and i guess i kind of get why it could make you all annoyed to have to deal with that behavior nonstop. just like the israelis, the chinese can be really loud and rude!

  • Mandy, a huuuuuuuge congrats to you!!! I’m so happy u are moving out of Beijing. Best of luck with the move and have a wonderful time in HK. Hope HK continues to inspire the culinary genius in you!

  • Hey Mandy! *has been a constant lurker for a few years now* Congrats on the move! I just moved out of my 20++ childhood home last year (on uncertain terms too, it was a sudden whirlwind affair. I was always hot and cold about living there, dreaming constantly about the place I would get myself to call home in a vague future– then we had to leave, evicted not really knowing where to go. I’m very happy with my new place though, like a home I always needed but its so hard to let go of the familiar even though its poisoning you.) and so far I’m doing better than ever!

    I hope the home you’re going to make (again) in Hong Kong will be happy and warm and full of good food and loving pups.

  • Congratulations! I’m happy for you that you are moving to a new place and leaving behind the old, but also that you feel Beijing has taught you much. And for this food blog! Your blog is wonderful and I’m happy you had the inspiration to create it out of something you hated.

  • Wow ,what a journey!! Your food is amazing and your photography is beyond words.
    Best of luck in HK. And I really admired your strength and courage.

  • Congrats and good luck on the move! I recently moved to a country I cannot find a connection with and I hope it doesn’t take me 6 years to get the f*** out!! I love the way you write (and the awesome photography) so I hope you’ll keep the same style even if you’re a happier person in HK :P

  • Hey Mandy! While I’m drooling over this burger and anxiously waiting for some free time to make your spicy salmon bibimbap from the previous post, I want to welcome you back to Hong Kong (yay!) and (yay?!) for leaving beijing! If you ever feel the need to wanna bitch to someone about something, I can be free to meet up and be angry together. (in light of possibly sounding like a crazy stalker, i’m a fairly normal almost mid-30s mom of a toddler who is in the gluten free food business in HK) weather is shite right now, but hope it’ll clear up soon! Happy Easter!

  • It’s rare for me to find myself engrossed in a food blog yet I was very much drawn to the sarcastic, this-is-my-place, fuck you tone of this angry food blog. The amazing pictures and the food porn were just icing on the cake. Congratulations on the move! May the Hong Kong setting keep you just as inspired (a little less angry) but motherfucking amazing as always!

  • Hi Mandy, your food photos are awesome. The burgers look so yummy. I hope you will have a good start in Hongkong :). They have many good food there also, it will inspire you a lot!

  • I can’t even imagine how hard it must have been to live in a city you hated for so long. BUT I’m grateful that it drove you into creating this space, which I love so much! Thanks as always for being so real and authentic. Your voice is so refreshing in this crazy blog world.

    Best of luck with the move!!!!

  • Congratulations on your moving. I won’t say I totally get you, but I’m very familiar with the feeling. I didn’t like the place and had lived there for 30 years before moving. And the feeling of escaping was so good. I’m happy that you finally get the chance to move to a city you enjoy. And I agree, I still feel thankful, even for the bad experience, which led to better things eventually. I love your blog and has been a silent follower for a long time. Good luck. And looking forward to seeing your creative work in Hong Kong.

  • man when you make a burger you do NOT screw around. This looks incredible. I hope everything goes smooth with your move and wish you all the joy in HK you blog gives me (and it’s a lot!)

    Love you, Mandy!

  • I have only been to Beijing for a short visit and I didn’t really get a good impression of it. I just remembered that the food was absolutely terrible.

    I don’t know how you have survived living in Beijing for that long especially since you didn’t like the place. I hope you will be more happier in Hong Kong. The food in HK is so tasty! I miss the fish balls in chilli sauce.

    Please continue blogging as your blog is so different to the other food blogs that I have read. Will it be a happy food blog now instead of an angry one? I shall wait and see.

  • YAY! YAY! YOU ARE BACK! Read this and thought after reading the last 3 or 4 posts that ” She’s Back!” Good Luck with the move, stay angry and always, always know that your photos are amazing, your recipes are mind blowing, but your story touches us all. It’s been a privilege knowing you in Beijing. So looking forward to getting to know you better in Hong Kong! Wishing you safe travels!

  • This will by far be the creepiest comment ever… but… I am another food-loving (former blogger) living in HK, hailing from the East Coast of ‘Merica. If you want some built-in food/booze friends with a dog in HK, feel free to look me up!

    I feel dirty and creepy just typing that but there is an awesome expat community here and reaching out is just what we do!

    ~TNT

  • Hi Mandy, I found your blog yesterday and honestly, I can’t remember how. I have come to several blogs before but yours is just so different. It lets me linger and want to read more, indulge myself more with your beautiful photos, tasty recipes and, above all, your life stories. Like a 3D movie, each sentence vividly appears in front of my eyes and I feel so engaged.

    Simply, I just want to say ‘thank you’, feeling like I have just had another friend :)

  • Love this. Love you :> and this burger. And the way you described Beijing. Heck I was born in Beijing. I hated it, but also loved it in a detached way. But not enough to stay.

    Ugh that burger, very want.

  • I’m happy for you! There’s nothing quite like being stuck in a place you hate. Selfishly, I’m also happy that I finally have an explanation of why this is an angry food blog :) These burgers look great! And congrats on finally being able to say that you’re moving!

  • As a massage therapist, I have many clients come to me with discomfort. I have suggested several of these topics as a great self-help tool. Some of the boxes they have purchased are Pain-Relief, Love, My Healthy Body, Peace, and Self-Love. They are all wonderful and have brought them ease and comfort. Thank you for sharing your gifts with the world. Lori Hunt.

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