Tag Archives: Wujin

Five Good Pizza Places in Changzhou

One of the things I feared most, when leaving New Jersey for China, was going through pizza withdrawal. Yes, I was actually dumb enough to ponder, “I wonder if I can actually find pizza in China.” Stupid, I know, and my fears were completely unfounded. There is very good pizza to be had in Changzhou. Some places are not new to the old timers who have spent a few years here. But, those new to Changzhou may not yet be in the know. Especially with English teachers coming and going on one year contracts, there will always be somebody relatively new to this city. So, here is a rundown of five places to get good pizza in Changzhou. This is not a “best of” list nor should the order be construed as a ranking. Consider this as just five recommendations of places from a pizza snob.

Monkey King

mkpicrop

This is a place that is partly owned by an Italian. And trust me, he is a very, very damned good chef. He creates the menu, concocts the dishes, and runs the kitchen. The pizza here would satisfy a guy from New Jersey. The crust is thin and crispy. If I had to complain about something, it would be that sometimes the crust can be a little over cooked. However, everything else is near perfection. Monkey King has two locations. One in Wujin near Yancheng, and the other in Xinbei, near Candle’s Steakhouse.

Istanbul Restaurant

Istanbul's delicious, but slightly oblong pizza.
Istanbul’s delicious, but slightly oblong pizza.

I know. It’s a Turkish place. However, Turkish cuisine has pide, which is basically Turkey’s version of pizza. It features a thin crust that is formed into a different shape, and it’s sliced into strips, but it’s the same concept as a pizza. Istanbul’s pie with doner kebab meat is highly recommended. But they have the other more standard toppings that a person might find in other shops. Istanbul Restaurant can be found in Xinbei on Taihu Road, near the media tower.

OK Koala

IMG_20170504_133144

I know. It’s an Australian themed bar. But the love of pizza is truly international. Koala recently hired a new chef, and the menu is currently being expanded and rewritten. Their pizza tends to go heavy on the tomato sauce, which is something many Chinese-owned pizza parlors just do not do at all. The other thing is that they sell pizza by slice. They are one of the only places I know that does that. So, you are not obligated to eat a whole pie. Sure, foreign owned hotels do by the slice, but it’s part of a buffet you are paying a lot of RMB for. You can’t just pop in for a slice and a craft beer. At Koala, you can. So, it’s highly convenient — especially if you are there one night, drinking, and want to munch on something yummy and cheaply priced. Ok Koala is in Xinbei is located near the BRT stop one shopping center north of Wanda Plaza.

The Tree Pizza

IMG_20170504_133204

This is a cozy little place downtown, right off of Beidajie. Tree serves a very thin crust. It is such a small nook of a place that it is easy to miss if you are not looking for it. Besides the excellent pizza, the place has a very pleasant and unique ambiance. For me, it’s almost like eating at a tiny neighborhood parlor back in Asbury Park, Neptune, or Long Branch. When compared to other places, the prices here are very, very affordable. It’s high quality at a low price.

CF Cafe

IMG_20170504_133016

CF Cafe is actually a high end bakery serving lots of delicious deserts. They do, however, offer varied range of lunch and dinner items including salads and sandwiches. Thin crust pizza is also on their menu. When compared to Tree or OK Koala, their pizza tends to be a bit pricey. Also, they do not serve regular toppings like pepperoni, but they do have a good five veggie pie that is perhaps one of the more vegetarian friendly options in town that’s more than just a plain cheese pizza. Like Istanbul Restaurant, CF Cafe is on Taihu Road in Xinbei. It’s across the street from Zoo Coffee and the media tower complex.

Qingyunshan and Qingming

If the myriad of things lacked life they would vanish.

–Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

Understanding Taoism sometimes can be quite a challenge. Allow me to reference Winston Churchill: it’s like a riddle wrapped inside a mystery inside an enigma. True, Churchill was originally talking about understanding Russian politics, but that doesn’t stop people from using that quote to talk about things that seem utterly opaque.  Yet, I tried to understand Lao Tzu’s (Laozi in Pinyin. The book I referenced used the Cantonese spellings for author and title) words over the Qingming holiday.

The cold weather had gone away, and I finally got back to wandering around Changzhou on my ebike. Since it was a holiday to honor the dead, I thought I would go out hunting for cemeteries. Only, I didn’t go into any of them. That might be culturally offensive, and I just wanted to look at them from afar. In the process, I saw people lots of people burning Joss Paper, hell money, and so much more. Burnt offerings is a way to honor the dead in China. So, setting “hell money” aflame is like an inter-dimensional wire transfer for somebody who has yet to be reincarnated. At one cemetery, I saw one family build a fake house and then torch it.  But, that wasn’t the thing it that made me think of the Tao Te Ching quote. It was this place.

 

IMG_20170405_204017

This is Qingyunshan Temple 青云山道观. It’s in Wujin, but not really in the Hutang area most foriegners know. Actually, its in Niutang, which is west of Hutang, and it’s at the end of a bumpy and cracked concrete road. I didn’t find this place by accident. Besides cemeteries, I spent my Qingming holiday looking for a Taoist place of worship. Changzhou doesn’t have many of them. I found this as a result of entering vague Chinese keywords into Baidu Maps and navigating towards a red dot on my mobile phone. Qingyunshan basically looks like this …

IMG_20170405_203959 IMG_20170405_203932 IMG_20170405_203827

Forlorn. Seemingly abandoned. There was almost a haunted vibe here. I pressed my phone up to one window to get a shot inside.

IMG_20170405_204052

According to Baidu, this Qingyunshan Temple is 500 years old. It made me think a little about Lao Tzu’s words. “If the myriad of things lacked life they would vanish.” This place looks like it lacks life. Yet, it hasn’t vanished. The Cultural Revolution and the contemporary boom in real estate and infrastructure construction has made plenty of places vanish. So, maybe it’s not truly dead?

Yet, even on Qingming, when some people actively seek out such places to religiously honor their ancestors, it was relatively silent, solemn. It would be a mistake to think that this place was totally abandoned, though. The few candles somebody lit appeared sort of fresh. So, somebody other than me had been here recently.

IMG_20170405_203915

 

Where Aussies Might Find Tim Tams

IMG_20170402_200042
Closed near Wujin Wanda.

What is one way to potentially piss off an Australian? Claim to be a Aussie specialty shop and do not sell Tim Tams. That actually happened in Wujin. Axmall was this little nook store next to the Wanda Realm hotel. Only, they didn’t have Tim Tams the last time I went there. Sure, they had some bottles of Australian wine and some health products, but the shelves seemed remarkably empty. Not long after that, the store shut down for good. Word is, Axmall will be moving to Xinbei.

IMG_20170331_193505
YUM!

So, what is a Tim Tam? It’s two biscuits sandwiched together with a creamy center. Those biscuits are then dipped in chocolate. There are a variety of different flavors from doubled coated (double dipped), dark chocolate, white chocolate, and more. Amazingly enough, you don’t have to go to an Australian shop to find them.

However, they were not at Metro last time I looked, and they are not on the import shelves of the major foreign grocery stores like Walmart or Tesco. I have only seen them in two different imported good shops and both are chains.

IMG_20170402_195948
All three Zhoumo stores look like this, pretty much.

Zhoumo 周茉 has consistently had them. The smallest one of these is downtown and right off of Beidajie and near the now mostly empty Parksons. The Xinbei store is on Taihu Road and can be easily walked to from Wanda Plaza. The Wujin shop is on Wuyi Road and is across the street from the Coco City shopping mall. Only, that one only had white chocolate Tim Tams the last time I was there. And ugh, to quote an Australian friend and all around Tim Tam enthusiast, “White chocolate is not real chocolate and does not deserve to be in the same category as chocolate.” For the sake of a general readership, expletives were edited out of that quote. Anyhow, that’s just our two humble opinions on the matter. The variety of flavors available seems to fluctuate, but Zhoumo usually tends to restock and reorder Tim Tims regularly, so it could just be the luck of when you go and what they have.

IMG_20170402_202346
The smaller Way To Delicious stores that don’t carry Tim Tams tend to look like this.

The other store to carry these yummy biscuits is Way To Delicious 味和氏. I have seen some of those stores either keep that English name, but the trend seems to be a switch to “Waycious.” While I have seen Tim Tams at all of Changzhou’s Zhoumo supermarkets, the same cannot be said for Way To Delicious. It seems that if the store is large, you will likely find Tim Tams. If the store is very small, they will likely not be stocked. Personally, I have seen them at three specific locations. The stores on Hanjiang Road and Taihu Road in Xinbei both had them. The Wujin location in the South Town area near Jagerwirt also had them.

img_20161208_134349
Way To Delicious in Wujin, near Jagerwirt, RT Mart, and The Grand Metropolis Mall. The development is called South Town in English.

Of course, you don’t have to be Australian to enjoy Tim Tams. Last I checked, my home state of New Jersey was nowhere near the Down Under. All you need to love these things is a sweet tooth. As part of “research” for this post, I also shared some with a Chinese friend, and she said, “Wow, these are quite good” after her first bite.

As is always the case when writing about shopping, I can only attest that the products were on the shelf when I looked. I can’t guarantee that they will always be there. 

Way To Delicious rebranded as "Waycious" on Taihu Road in Xinbei.
Way To Delicious rebranded as “Waycious” on Taihu Road in Xinbei.

Wujin’s Secret Recipe is Partially MIA

IMG_20170318_202149

Some people loved the place, and some people didn’t care for the more fusion-oriented western dishes. However, Secret Recipe in Wujin served a special purpose. While the district is rapidly growing now and is heading on a good trajectory, expat dining options in the greater Hutang area were limited. In 2014, for example, you had Monkey King, Chocolate’s, Grandma’s Nook, and Jagerwirt. And, you had Secret Recipe in the Injoy Mall. That was it. I particularly liked the Malaysian dishes like Nasi Lamak. I also really enjoyed their curries, too.

IMG_20170318_202830
NASI LAMAK!!!

Recently, I was in Wujin and at the Injoy Mall. Imagine my surprise when I saw that Secret Recipe had gone missing. It looks like it’s being replaced with a BOY fashion store in progress. I lived in Wujin for two years, and their Injoy location was always a reliable option when I grew tired of Chinese or Chinese college cafeteria food. In a strange way, it feels like I am losing an old friend. However, to be honest, each time I ate there, I was one of very few butts in seats, and rent on the bottom floor of Injoy must be costly. It makes sense if this location closed because of a lack of traffic.

IMG_20170318_202108
A construction barrier where Secret Recipe’s shop front used to be.

But, that’s the weird thing. It’s not completely closed. They still have a display case selling their cakes. Right now, it’s like half of Wujin’s Secret Recipe disappeared. And honestly, I never ate their cakes. I went there for the Malaysian food and curry, and, at times, the “Irish” lamb shank with mashed potatoes and gravy. Irish people might go there and laugh at  its lack of Irishness, but I still enjoyed eating that dish. Though, I also know some people liked the desserts. A friend and former colleague who still lives in Wujin certainly did.

IMG_20170318_202306

Secret Recipe had three locations in Changzhou: Wujin, Tianning, and Xinbei. Only the Xinbei one in the Lafu supermarket remains fully intact, now. And, honestly, that one doesn’t have many “bums in chairs” either. I am existentially afraid for this restaurant on its own behalf. So, yeah, in a very silly way, I feel like I have lost a friend. But, if there has anything the last year of my life has taught me, it’s this: when you lose a close friend for whatever bullshit reason, try to make new ones. Your life will be better for it. Wujin Injoy’s Malaysian place has gone missing, but Injoy has a Thai restaurant, now. So, you can still go to that mall and still get curry. So, imagine me saying this with all the swagger I can muster: Hello, you!  You look nice! Beautiful, actually! Do you have a papaya salad?

IMG_20170318_203440

Elegant Nanjing Embroidery

IMG_20170308_150811

Silk has long since been intertwined into Chinese culture. There is the functional use of it in high end couture and fashion, and then there is the use of it to produce cultural objects and art. Such is the case with embroidery — which like many other things in China, has a rich history going back more than a thousand years.

IMG_20170308_150856

Like any art or craft, Chinese embroidery can be separated into different categories. One of which is native to Nanjing. It is often refered to as Nanjing Yunjin, with the Chinese characters and pinyin being 南京云锦 Nánjīng yúnjǐn. The characters 云锦 refers to clouds. As they are a common motif on this style of brocade, but the style can be used to dragons, religious imagery, and much more. These designs are stitched by hand and can take many years to complete. The attention to detail is that exquisite. Also, since gold and silver lining is involved, the resulting brocades become extremely expensive and highly valuable.

IMG_20170308_150924

The Wujin Museum in the Yancheng complex has a temporary exhibit of such brocades that runs to the end of March. There, a visitor can see first hand such fine attention to detail.

IMG_20170308_150911

 

Xian Noodles in College Town

IMG_20170228_132253

Across the street from the Changzhou College of Information Technology, there is a small noodle shop. Now, noodle joints are definitely not uncommon in this city or China in general — and that may be the understatement of the century. This one has a menu that contains some Xian dishes, and that is what sets it apart from the others. Xian food is not a common thing here, but that’s if you exclude the widely available 肉夹馍 Ròu jiā mó, aka “Chinese Hamburger.” Don’t get me wrong. You can get that too at this noodle shop, but it’s not one of the more exclusive items. I used to always go here to get 臊子面 Sàozi miàn.

saozi

This is a hearty noodle soup consisting of carrots, potatoes, tofu, shredded pork, bean sprouts, and more. The above picture is the hot and sour version. There is also a version that is less spicy.

IMG_20170228_132326

Either version is 10 RMB, which is, of course, extremely cheap for a filling lunch. Among the other things on the menu, they do have good versions of more common dishes not from Xian.

dandan

This is 担担面 Dàndàn miàn. It originates from Sichuan, and it is in basically a “hot and numbing” spicy pork based sauce. This is more of a dry noodle dish and not a soup. As stated, this is very easy to find. It doesn’t change the fact that is still a good dish at the Xian noodle shop. It also goes for 10 RMB a bowl.

Monkey King Bargains

IMG_20170226_180308

Half of my ethnic heritage comes from Italy, so it’s very easy for me to  say, “Monkey King is one of my favorite restaurants in Changzhou.” Of course, it’s not as good as my late mother’s home cooking, but it’s still pretty darned awesome. It consistently has the best pizza in town — which I would very readily compare to the sort that you can find in Philadelphia, New Jersey, and New York City. By that, I mean thin crust.  They’re not exactly alike, but it’s the closest you will find in Changzhou.

IMG_20170226_180409

If there is one thing I would complain about, it would be the prices. But then again, a person should be willing to pay for a high end dining experience. And Monkey King is high end dining in Changzhou. That leads to another point. From time to time, the restaurant does an all-you-can- eat buffet. Recently, the location in Xinbei hosted one of these on the 25th of February from 6pm to 10pm. Incidentally, the 25th was also the one year anniversary of this blog (a very happy, but totally unrelated coincidence!). For 198 RMB, diners were treated to veal, eggplant, salads, seafood dishes, and more. There was also all-you-can-drink bottled beer and Italian red wine. If you take all of that together, it’s quite a good deal. I ate like a pig; I will not lie about that. Next time Monkey King offers one of these — in either Wujin or Xinbei locations — seriously consider going. It’s more than worth the money.

IMG_20170226_180347

Where to find in Changzhou, even on regular menu days.

Screenshot_2017-02-26-18-39-05-65
Wujin Location near Yancheng.

 

Screenshot_2017-02-26-18-38-27-52
Xinbei location near Candle’s Steakhouse.

Guanyin at Baolin Temple in Wujin

IMG_20170215_203126

According to local legend, Guanyin was key in the formation of Gehu Lake — which is also known as “West Taihu Lake.” The body of fresh water is located near the flower expo grounds in Wujin. This act of Guanyin’s was a way to show mercy to locals besieged by floods. And that is what she does. In Buddhism, she is a goddess of mercy. Some pray to her in times trouble and turmoil. This is just one of morsels of information that can be learned at Baolin Temple.

This is a Buddhist religious attraction near the Wujin’s Martyr’s Memorial. Baolin is perhaps one of the biggest cultural treasures in a district that is currently seeing a lot of construction. This is true for the temple itself. In the few thousand years it has existed, Baolin has been destroyed and rebuilt a couple of times. So, it’s largely renovated now and not in its original state. One of the more recent additions in the past two years is a pagoda a friend of mine compared to a pineapple.

IMG_20170215_190233

This pagoda is dedicated to Guanyin. She is all over the exterior with golden statues and exterior paintings depicting her showing mercy to people.

IMG_20170215_190105

Baolin has a lot of the stuff you could expect to see at Buddhist temples. But the real attraction here is the four-floor-high Guanyin statue inside the pagoda itself. It is simply a wonder to behold.

IMG_20170215_210357 IMG_20170215_210415

The pagoda has an elevator. I usually like to take it to the fourth floor, walk circles around the statue, and then take the stairs down one floor at a time.

The 68 to Qianhuang

IMG_20170115_110602

Not all public buses in Changzhou have 1 RMB fares. The 68 costs 3 RMB. This bus originates at the Changzhou Railway Station and ends in a small town near Taihu Lake. Qianhuang is another small town on this bus route.

Once a person gets off, there doesn’t seem to be much to see here. There is a vast shopping center made up of intersecting walking streets, but there didn’t really seem to be much else there. So, I consulted Baidu Maps to see if there was something cultural or historical I could walk to.

IMG_20170113_200559

The area did seem a bit bleak, but to be honest I went there on a rainy day. I also went there without an umbrella. At the time, I thought a heavy coat and a hooded sweatshirt would be enough. I got soaked. What can I say, sometimes I can be stupid. I think I caught a cold because of this trip.

IMG_20170113_200728

Of course, even on sunny days, industrialized areas can still seem a bit bleak. Yet, in Qianhuang it seems to be on a smaller scale than other parts of Wujin where sprawling industrial parks and factories are seemingly endless at times. Yet, amidst all of this, I did find something in this town. It was in a small pocket between factories.

IMG_20170113_200611

It was a martyr’s memorial. Many towns have these to commemorate locals who died in the service to their country. This one, however, is dedicated to those who had fallen not only in Communist Revolution, but also in the War of Liberation against Japan. Their names are at the base of this pillar, along with which nearby village they came from. This memorial also functions as a tiny graveyard as well.

IMG_20170113_200647 IMG_20170113_200713

After paying some respects, I started to walk back to where I got off the bus. The map app suggested something else, but it appeared to be several kilometers away and outside of Qianhuang. It was raining, and I was soaked. So, another day for whatever that was. I paid my 3 RMB rode back to Wujin and got off at the college town area.

Grand Metropolis Mall Vastly Expanded

img_20170107_171511

This is certainly not breaking news to people who live in Wujin, but sweeping changes have come to the Grand Metropolis Mall. This is the shopping center that contains RT Mart and is near an on ramp to the elevated road. Grand Metropolis used to share the building with Golden Eagle, but that high-end store shut down in Wujin around this time last year. In the period between then and now, Grand Metropolis renovated the unused parts Golden Eagle left behind. This means more shopping and dining options. One which appears to be a new-but-forthcoming location of Summer — one of downtown’s oldest surviving western restaurants. This would be the third Summer location in Changzhou that I know of. This new restaurant is set to open after Spring Festival.  It also appears that the Grand Metropolis’ Starbucks has been shut down, but the “coming soon” poster plastered over the windows makes it unclear if its permanently gone or just undergoing renovation.

img_20170107_171532 img_20170107_171546 img_20170107_171646