Being Adopted into a Chinese Family

Being Adopted into a Chinese Family

While on the road miles from home and your own family you’re always happy to be adopted.  Sometimes it’s a group of backpackers that act as your long lost siblings, but the best adoption scenario is when your caring guesthouse owners take you in as one of their own.  In Asia this is a common phenomenon as many of the staff that run such establishments are happy to have mouths to feed, travelers to talk to and people warming their beds, not to mention the income.

In Lijiang we were adopted by a Naxi “family” at Panba Guesthouse.  From the moment we checked in with what could have been the older brother I never had, to when we left for our Tiger Leaping Gorge hike we were taken care of.  In fact I got so comfortable hanging around the “house” I felt as though I could don just my underwear downstairs to get tea, but in respect to the other guests I always wore clothes.

I felt completely at home to lounge around in the common area as if it were my own living room, watching movies and chatting with my new “brothers” and “sisters.”  We would laugh and poke fun at each other and everyone took turns taking care of the dog or telling it to get off the furniture.  We even ate dinner together every night, sharing stories from our day.

Each night the Panba staff prepared a feast fit for many more than the five mouths it is intended to feed and any of the guests are welcome to partake.  As soon as everyone sits down at the communal table for dinner regardless of our varied activities during the day or our backgrounds, we were family.  Passing dishes despite the language barrier and smacking our lips and exchanging contented smiles, giving our nods of approval to whoever cooked that night.

One of my favorite family recipes from the many meals we shared at Panba Guesthouse was Chilli Chicken with Peantus


1 egg white
1 tablespoon light soy sauce

1 tablespoon dry sherry
1 tablespoon cornflour
350 g (12 oz) boneless chicken, diced
3 tablespoons groundnut oil
4 spring onions, sliced diagonally
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 red or green pepper, cored, seeded and diced
3-5 small dried red chillies, sliced
50 g (2 oz) unsalted peanuts
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon cornflour
4-6 tablespoons light stock or water
Salt and pepper to taste


1. Whisk the egg white with the soy sauce, sherry and cornflour. Add the chicken and mix well.
2. Mix the sauce ingredients together; set aside.
3. Heat the oil in a wok, add the chicken and stir-fry for about 3 minutes.
4. Add the spring onions, garlic, pepper and chillies and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add the peanuts.
5. Pour in the sauce and cook, stirring, until thickened. Check the seasoning, transfer to a warmed serving dish and serve immediately.

I hope that wherever you are you can share this delicious recipe with your family, whether you are related to them or not.

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» Sandie Tai :
Jan 31, 2012

A few days after my dad met the man who drove us around China, he declared that the driver was his long lost brother. Mind you, he has 3 brothers. :) Much to his dismay, my dad found out that his “brother” did not have an email address or regular access to the internet.

Maybe because being tactful is not part of Chinese manners that people can overstep these American boundaries the instant you meet and make you feel like you’re with family who doesn’t hesitate to criticize you or tell exactly what they think about you. At the same time, sometimes it’s nice to know exactly where you stand with people.

I think Asians have a proclivity towards feeding people they’ve just met. Hence, the prerequisite fighting over the bill at the end of a meal. I’ve inherited that particular trait as well. It can be a good thing for the recipient if I happen to have something delicious on hand but I’m sure quite a few people have suffered through my good intentions, i.e., my cooking. Apparently, the masochist in me loves cooking and watching people eat said food. :P

Rather than add another comment on your blog, I just wanted to add that as much as I love air conditioning in 90-100% humidity in 100ish degree weather, I still find outdoor markets so much more fun. I love how nitty and gritty it all is. Both my grandmothers are in their 90’s now and up until a few years ago, they were still independent and went to the market for fresh food every morning. It often took a few hours with all the chatting they did and it was tiring as anything they bought had to be lugged back home and up 4 -5 flights of stairs. In fact, I’m willing to bet that’s the secret to their longevity: long walks, routine, friendships, and a purpose. Sometimes they’d still try to bargain with the vendors they’d known for decades. The cheap Asian in me still loves nothing more than trying to get things at a discount. With markets, you can walk around comparing items, prices, and bargain with the owners for the best deal. Unfortunately, I always feel bad for the vendors having to be outside all day that I always cave in too soon for any real savings.

I’m glad to see you guys got to experience good hospitality and the perks of being in an outdoor market.

Travel safe in Australia!

» Sandie Tai :
Jan 31, 2012

Opps, I meant Sadist not masochist. :P

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About the Author

LOCAVORista: A curious adventurer exploring the culinary delights and local traditions around the world. Currently on a 3 year round-the-world trip discovering amazing cultures, must-eats and off-the-beaten-track destinations.

About the Author
LOCAVORista: A curious adventurer exploring the culinary delights and local traditions around the world. Currently on a 3 year round-the-world trip discovering amazing cultures, must-eats and off-the-beaten-track destinations.


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