How to ace a Skype interview

Preparing for face-to-face job interviews can be nerve wracking. You’re usually deciding what to wear, what to say, and thinking about how you’ll impress the interview panel. When getting ready for Skype interviews it’s likely you’ll have the same sort of thoughts running around in your head, however there are some major preparation differences you also need to think about. Before coming to China, I had numerous Skype interviews while living in Panama. Most of them went really well (and I got offered several jobs!), so I’d like to share my tips for how to ace a Skype interview.

 

Headphones with microphone on white background.

Before the interview

Before you give out your Skype details, think: Do I have a Skype name and profile that is professional? The interviewer doesn’t want to see some party pic in your profile, nor do they want to know what your cute nickname is (no matter how cute you think it is!).

One of the most important things to do is to check your internet connection well before the interview. There’s nothing worse than having connectivity problems during a Skype interview, where your picture freezes, your sound comes in and out, or the call drops altogether.

Check that the camera and microphone are working. This sounds simple and you might not have had any problems with your camera or microphone before, but this is one less thing you’ll have to worry about. Remember, there’s an option in Skype to do a test call.

Turn the camera on and look at what’s in view of the camera. Make sure that your head and shoulders are centred in the view and make sure there’s something neutral behind you (like a plain wall). You don’t want the interviewer seeing your unmade bed, or laundry in the background!

It’s crucial to check the time difference between where you are and where the interviewer is. There’s nothing worse than agreeing on a time to Skype, then either being way too early, or being late and missing the call!

Make sure you wear an outfit appropriate for an interview (at least on your upper body) and you look well groomed. Sometimes the interview might just be a voice call, but often it’s going to be a video call, so you need to make sure you look professional (and not like you’ve rolled out of bed and you’re still in your pjs!).

Test the lighting in the room and how it looks around you on camera. You should make sure there is enough lighting for the interviewer to clearly see your face, but not too much so that all they see is light!

Have a pen and notepad ready beside you. Before the interview it’s a good idea to write down all the questions you have, and you’ll then be able to take notes during the interview on the main things you need to remember.

Make sure you know who you’re talking to! This sounds strange, but you may have several Skype interviews scheduled over the course of the day or week, and it can be easy to confuse who you’re talking to on which day at which time!

White Keyboard with Sell Yourself Button.

During the interview

Look into the camera. There’s nothing worse than Skyping someone who’s gazing off screen somewhere. On the other hand, too much gazing directly into the camera can also be distracting. Just relax and give your interviewer a measured amount of eye contact, as you would in a normal conversation.

Speak clearly and loud enough for the interviewer to hear you. If you’ve done a test call in Skype before the interview, you’ll know just how loud is loud enough.

It’s easy to become too eager and get closer and closer to the computer screen, but don’t sit too close to the camera. You should’ve checked your camera view before the interview, so make sure to try and maintain that distance throughout.

Don’t have any noise in the background. You don’t need your flatmate blasting his favorite music or tv show, your kids wanting your help grabbing a snack, nor your cat or dog craving a cuddle.

Maybe most importantly of all, be yourself. Even though you’re not face-to-face with the interviewer, be sure to let your personality come across in the interview, and don’t be camera shy. Just relax and nail that interview!

student Man sitting and using computer

After the interview

Send a follow up email thanking the interviewer for the opportunity, asking them to contact you if they need any more information, and that you look forward to hearing from them again soon. This doesn’t take much of your time and shows that you’re keen and thoughtful.

Some of these tips might seem like common sense for Skype interviews. But, it’s surprising how many of these things people just don’t think about, or don’t realize how the little details can make the difference between landing a kick-ass job, and being passed up for someone who was better prepared. So follow these tips, and hopefully you’ll be on your way to an awesome new job and be experiencing a fascinating part of the world!

What are your tips for acing a Skype interview? Let us know in the comments.

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Best Expat Bars in Tianjin

La Bamba Restaurant and Bar in Tianjin
La Bamba Restaurant and Bar in Tianjin

As far as big cities and nightlife goes, Tianjin isn’t known for its party scene – especially when compared with neighboring Beijing. In fact, most bars in Tianjin wind down around 2:00am, as locals generally like to turn in early. However, there are a number of bars that stay open until the wee hours of the morning, and these are usually good places to meet fellow expats, have a slice of English conversation, and enjoy some late-night western food. After considerable research (it’s a hard job, but someone’s gotta do it), I’ve made a list of some of the best expat bars in Tianjin.

 

Texas BBQ

Central Avenue, Building C7, Magnetic Plaza, Nankai District

This two-story sports bar is in Ao Cheng and has a great happy hour, good food, and loads of expats. Happy hour is from 3.00pm-7.30pm everyday, which includes a selection of beers, wines and spirits at a 2-for-1 price. The food is tasty Americana bar fare, including burgers, pizzas, ribs and fries. A wide range of sports from around the world are shown on the numerous big screens around the bar and the tables (both indoors and outside on the pavement) are long, wooden, and perfect for meeting new people.

 

Indie Bar

Yichang NanLi 1, Yichang Dao, Heping District

Indie is a great little, laid back, artsy bar near Tianjin Medical University. There’s lots of little tables to play games (cards, mahjong, or board games), draw, listen to live music, and of course eat and drink. Here you can feel comfortable to be yourself and do pretty much whatever you like to chill out. The food and drinks are well priced and tasty – they even serve poutine for the Canadians amongst us.

 

Jack’s Bar

6F Blk C Shangu Commercial St (Off Tianta Dao), Nankai District

This small, unassuming bar located on the 6th floor in a building in Shangu (near Tainta) is a great place to go for a few games of pool and interesting conversations with expats from a range of countries. The owner, Jack, is an extremely friendly and welcoming local who mingles with the expats (and will most likely beat you at pool!). In Summer, Jack opens the rooftop deck (just above the bar) which has loads of tables, delicious BBQ food, and great sunset views of Tianjin.

 

Truman’s

103 Building C, Zilai Huayuan, Shuangfeng Dao, Nankai District

A little hard to find in a small side street of Nankai District, Truman’s is popular with expats and locals alike. Here you can play darts, mingle with and chat to the bar staff and other patrons. There’s two levels to chill out in, and the top level has comfy couches to melt into.

 

La Bamba

Weijin Road opposite Tianjin University’s East Gate, Nankai District

This restaurant-bar usually attracts a younger university crowd so there’s a bit of an upbeat, party sort of vibe here. The food (with, as the name suggests, a Mexican theme) and drinks are cheap and the booths and tables are arranged so that it’s easy to weave in and out to meet new people. Take note of their happy hour times and food specials as the discounts are great value for money.

 

Helen’s

Helen’s gets a special mention here. In my experience, it’s not necessarily one of the best places to meet expats, as it’s usually fairly loud and smokey, and people generally stick to their own tables. But the drinks are cheap and the food can be  good, so once you’ve got your own crowd, head here for a night of fun and games. There are a few Helen’s in Tianjin (and Beijing!), so check their website for your closest one.

 

Sitong

126 Chengdu Rd. (at B1 of Somerset Olympic Tower), Heping District

No list of bars in Tianjin would be complete without mentioning Sitong. Although more of a club than a bar, this place is infamous amongst expats. Come here for a night of dancing, drinking, loud music and the chance to meet “that special someone”.

 

All of these bars have English speaking staff as well as menus in English, but if you want a practice ground for your Chinese basics, these are great places to start. Most bars also have free wifi (you’ll just have to ask for the password). The easiest way to get to most of these places is by taxi. Just show (or tell) the driver the address in Chinese and you shouldn’t be more than a 10-20CNY away from a night of fun.

Where are your favorite expat bars in Tianjin? Let us know in the comments section.

*Please note that things can change, and all information was correct at time of publishing.

DSCN6110Penny de Vine is a thirty-something Australian freelance writer with a love for travel and trying anything new! You can follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

Four “Must See” Parks in Tianjin

Parks are a huge part of Chinese culture and they’re used for a massive range of activities. Year-round you’ll see people playing badminton, practicing tai chi, playing musical instruments, boating, flying kites, painting, line-dancing, as well as the ‘usual’ activities of walking, running and playing games. With a population of around 14 million, Tianjin is China’s fourth largest city – it can be fairly hectic, so it’s no wonder the locals appreciate the great network of parks. When you need to escape the hustle and bustle, there’s a bunch of great parks to choose from. Here’s a list of what I consider to be four “must see” parks in Tianjin.

 

Water Park in Tianjin (水上公园 )
Water Park in Tianjin (水上公园 )

Tianjin Water Park ( 天津水上公园 Tiānjīn Shuǐshàng Gōngyuán)

33 Shuishang Gongyuan Bei Lu, Nankai District (天津市南开区水上公园北路33号)

This is the biggest park in Tianjin. It’s situated near the popular expat area of Ao Cheng, so it’s not as central as other parks, but it’s well worth the trip away from downtown. There are loads of winding paths and islands to explore in this truly massive park. You’ll see some ducks, plenty of boats in the summer, and even a Ferris wheel (which is part of a small amusement park). The small zoo has cheap entry and is popular with young and old, and there’s a great view of Tianjin’s TV tower, which makes for photogenic backdrop. 

 

Trash MountainTrash Mountain, or Nancuiping Park (南翠屏公园 )
Trash MountainTrash Mountain, or Nancuiping Park (南翠屏公园 )

Trash Mountain (or Hill Park) (南翠屏公园 Nancuiping Park)

Binshui Xidao, Nankai District (天津市南开区宾水西道)

This is a gorgeous little park tucked away behind Ao Cheng, and as its name suggests, was once a mountain of trash (although it’s really more of a small hill). However, don’t let this interesting fact deter you from visiting this hidden gem. There’s so much on offer here including a running/walking track, several small restaurants, boating in summer, and a man-made snow hill in Winter that you can tube down. What more could you ask for in a park?

 

Tianjin People’s Park (人民公园 Rénmín Gōngyuán)

The intersection of Yong’an Dao and Guangdong Lu, Hexi District (永安道,广东路的交叉点)

Like most big cities in China, Tianjin has its own people’s park. Here you’ll find a variety of fun areas for the young ones (slides and sandboxes), as well as a ton of nice areas for adults to relax and enjoy a sunny day. The west gate is worth a look to take a picture or two and there’s even a couple of birdcages for you Ornithologists out there. This park has a couple of interesting facts: once owned by a salt merchant, it was donated to the state in the mid 1900’s, and it is the only park that Chairman Mao did calligraphy for!

 

Changhong Eco-Park (长虹生态园)

145 Hongqi Lu, Nankai District (天津市南开区红旗路145号)

Here, as with many of the other parks in the city, you’ll find loads of paths winding around water features and plenty of beautiful trees and plants. There’s even a section featuring tropical plants and flowers. Interestingly, this was apparently the first park in Tianjin to stop charging visitors for entry (now almost all parks in Tianjin are free to enter). The West gate is the place to head for drinks, snacks and toys you convince yourself you totally need (but you know you really don’t).  It’s also one of the premier spots in Tianjin to enjoy roast leg of lamb in the summer. Cooked over an open spit, and served with an ice-cold Tsingtao beer, there’s no better way to enjoy an evening in China!

 

Parks in Tianjin are great all year, but spring is by far the prettiest time to visit – there are gorgeous water lilies and colorful flowers blooming everywhere. All parks listed here are free to enter and open 24-hours a day. They can be crowded on weekends, so be prepared to jostle for space at times, or try to work out which times are a little less busy, like early morning . Most of these parks are easy to get to by bus or subway (and then a bit of walking), or if you’d prefer, show (or tell!) a taxi driver the Chinese name and you’ll be there in no time!

 

Where are your favorite parks in Tianjin? Tell us below!

DSCN6110Penny de Vine is a thirty-something Australian freelance writer with a love for travel and trying anything new! You can follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

Street Food in China

For me, street food and traveling go hand in hand. I love eating what the locals eat, where the locals eat, and being among the locals when they eat it. If you too are a lover of street food, you’re sure to find yourself in street food heaven when you arrive in China. If you’re not so into it, I can almost guarantee you’ll leave craving some delicious snack you picked up from a roadside somewhere. To help you in your street food sampling journey, I’ve put together a small list of some of my favorite street food in China.

Beijing bugs – many people fly into China’s capital city Beijing. There’s so much to see and do in Beijing, I suggest spending at least a few days taking in the sights. While you’re there, you simply cannot miss seeing (and sampling if you’re brave enough) the food at Donghuamen Night Market (北京东华门夜市). On offer are skewers of barbecued scorpions, seahorses, centipedes, starfish and much more! Don’t worry, if you’re not into street food of the creepy crawly variety, there’s plenty of other delicious (more Chinese/Western looking) food to sample here too.

Sugar coated fruits – Chinese people love, love, love fruit. Where we westerners might take packaged snacks on outings, more often than not Chinese people take fresh fruit. But fear not, if you haven’t packed fruit with you, you can try some tanghulu (tung-hoo-loo 糖葫芦), which is the Chinese version of a toffee apple. Instead of one apple, you’ll get a skewer of several Chinese hawthorn that have been dipped in liquid sugar and dried. If you’re not a fan of hawthorn, many other skewers of delicious sugary fruit can be found around the place too (such as kiwi, strawberry and grape).

BBQ meat – this is my favorite street food. Perhaps it’s because I’m Australian and barbecuing meat regularly is a big part of our culture, or maybe it’s just because it tastes so darn good! Whatever the reason, come summertime in China you can barely drive a few blocks without seeing chuan  er (chwar 串儿) stalls on the sidewalks. Here you can choose skewers of a range of vegetables, tofu, meats, seafood and animal parts (like heads, feet, and livers) to be freshly barbecued right in front of you. Be sure to ask for bu la 不辣 (not spicy) if you can’t handle heat, as most barbecue stalls add a pretty spicy rub to all their fare.

Savory pancakes – who doesn’t love a pancake? Here in China you can pick up a savory pancake,  or jianbing (煎饼), at almost any time of day – and they’re not to be missed! The most common type available is more like a crêpe fried on a hot, flat metal plate and topped with a thick sauce, egg, scallions or onions, and cilantro, then rolled up like a burrito and served in a plastic bag. You’ll usually find these in street stalls in the morning as it’s a favorite breakfast dish among locals. I highly recommend trying the big round crispy cracker (baocui 薄脆) or savory thick breadstick/long doughnut looking thing (youtiao 油条) wrapped in the pancake too.

Fried noodles – most Chinese people will list noodles in their top three favorite foods, and with so many and delicious types on offer, it’s easy to see why. Fried noodles from a street vendor are just fabulous (especially as a late night bite after a few píjiŭ/beers). Usually there’s a range of noodles (egg or rice, round or flat) to choose from, and a range of vegetables (cabbage, onion, carrot), with an egg thrown in the pan for good measure. Some oil, spices and sauces complete your meal (or midnight snack!).

Roasted sweet potatoes – Winter in China can be brutally cold (depending on where you are of course), so if you’re looking for the perfect snack to warm-up, look no further than a roasted sweet potato (kǎo hóng shǔ 烤红薯). You can usually smell these vendors before you see them (commonly by subway stations) roasting this delicious, creamy vegetable over hot coals. When you buy one, the vendor will weigh it and put it in a plastic bag for you. All you have to do is peel back the skin and dig in!

Street food in China is not only delicious, but it’s also incredibly cheap. Most of the things listed here, you can pick up for 5-10 CNY (a little more or less than $1 USD). If you need a hand with ordering, check out our article on Chinese for Beginners. Then go forth and try some of these tasty treats (but remember to go easy at first, or you might wind up spending a little more time in the bathroom than you’d like!).
Have you tried any of this street food in China? What are your favorites? Tell us below!

DSCN6110Penny de Vine is a thirty-something Australian freelance writer with a love for travel and trying anything new! You can follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

How to Survive Your First Three Months in China

Moving abroad can be an exciting time – it can also be really scary! There’s a lot to think about and take in, with a new culture, new food, a new language, and new people. Whether it’s your first time or your 50th time (lucky you!) moving abroad, it doesn’t hurt to have a helping hand. So, I’ve put together a short guide on how to survive your first three months in China.

Street food – One of the first things I wanted to do when I landed in China was sample the delicious street food. I love trying new foods from around the world, and street food is some of the best food out there. BUT, when you’re trying street food in China (and most other places for that matter), the key is to go easy at first. Your body (most importantly your stomach) is still adjusting to a new environment, and going hard on the street food early on will likely mean a few extra trips to the bathroom than you bargained for.

Spitting – If you’ve done a bit of research ahead of time, you’ll have found that spitting in China is very common. Most foreigners find this difficult to adjust to when they first arrive. To be honest, I didn’t find it that hard to get used to. For me it’s just another sound you hear when walking the streets. If you  find it bothers you, try to tune it out and focus your other senses on something much more pleasant (like the amazing smells of street food!).

Air Pollution – It’s no secret that China has some of the worst air pollution in the world. Some days can be quite shocking – you can’t see the sun and people back home comment on the ‘fog’ in your photos. There are also days that are just gorgeous, with blue skies and fluffy white clouds (particularly after rains), so as they say, you take the good with the bad. You’ll definitely learn to really appreciate the crisp, clear days when living in China. Also don’t be afraid to wear a mask on days of high pollution, as most people do, and there are even apps you can download which show the pollution levels in your area each day.

Health – Most expats you talk to in China will tell you that at around three months in, you’ll get sick. At about my two month mark, I thought this was just something people said to sound ‘seasoned’. But sure enough, three months after I’d arrived in China, I came down with a pretty bad cold where I lost my voice and had to stay in bed for several days (not a great situation for a teacher to be in). To try to avoid this, or at least lessen the symptoms, I recommend a multi-pronged attack! Try eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables (the local markets are great for these), getting regular exercise, taking multivitamins, and wearing a mask on days with high pollution levels (and during peak cold and flu seasons).

Driving – For me, roads in China really are the definition of ‘organized chaos’. There are so many crazy turns, varied speeds and traffic jams that wouldn’t work back home, but here seem like a natural part of the flow. You’ll see people stop randomly in the middle of the road, drive the wrong way down the street (sometimes in reverse), drive on the sidewalk – and this includes cars, trucks, bicycles, electric bikes, and motorbikes. The best way to deal with this is to stay alert if you’re driving or walking – make sure you look both ways even when you don’t think you need to – and simply marvel in the wonder that is driving in China.

Staring – No matter what you look like, how you dress and what you say, as an expat in China, you’re going to attract attention. This attention will vary from passers-by yelling ‘hello’, to people trying to strike up a conversation with you (in Chinese, even if it’s clear you don’t understand), to prolonged staring. Whilst you’ve most likely been taught that staring isn’t polite, here it’s just part of the culture. You’ll see Chinese people staring at each other all the time, it’s just that you’ll get more of the stares, and for longer. It’s best just to embrace this part of the culture in a light-hearted way and smile, wave or say ‘hello’ or ‘ni hao’ (or all three!).

Hopefully, this short guide on how to survive your first three months in China will help you prepare for your move, or maybe even help you cope with some of your feelings of culture shock.

What are your tips for surviving your first 3 months in China? Tell us below.

DSCN6110  Penny de Vine is a thirty-something Australian freelance writer with a love for travel and trying anything new! You can follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

Chinese for beginners – 10 words and phrases to help get you by

The thought of learning Chinese can be overwhelming at first … There’s so many different tones, how can I possibly put them together correctly? What if I say the wrong thing and offend someone? How are people ever going to understand me? … The key is to practice a lot with your new-found Chinese friends (of which you will make many!) and to start with some basics. Chinese people are quite fascinated with foreigners and most love to try to converse with you (even when it’s clear you don’t understand!). It of course helps if you have a few key words and phrases under your belt to start with, so here’s my version of Chinese for beginners – 10 words and phrases to help get you by.

Hello – 你好 Nǐ hǎo (nee haow)

You’ll hear most people say hello to you this way (many actually also use English and yell ‘hello’ at you from afar, I think mostly to get a reaction and sometimes to practice their English).  Nǐ hǎo ma? (nee-haow-mah?) is also a common greeting to ask how are you?

Where are you from? – 你从哪里来? nǐ cǒng nǎ lǐ lái (knee tzaun nar lee lei)

I’ve found Chinese people to be very curious about foreigners, so often the first question they will ask you is where are you from? Even if you can’t understand much of anything else they say to you, you’ll understand this and be able to proudly answer with your country of origin!

Thank you – 谢谢 Xièxie (shsyeah-shsyeah)

I try to be polite no matter what country I’m travelling in, especially when I don’t know a lot of the language. So learning how to say thank you when someone helps you out is a must for me. Thank you isn’t as commonly used here as it is back home, so I find people are generally extra appreciative when I say it.

Waiter – 服务员 fúwùyuán (foo-yu-an)

The most common way to alert the wait staff in a restaurant is to yell foo-yu-an! Now don’t be shy, if you need something from the wait staff, do as the locals do: yell foo-yu-an and wave your arm in the air. Nǐ hǎo (nee haow) will also work, but you’ll have more success with fúwùyuán.

This one – 这个 zhège (je-ga)

Going to restaurants where the menus have pictures is a great tactic to make sure you eat well when you first arrive. You can clearly see what you’ll get, there’ll be (theoretically) no surprises when the dish arrives, and you can simply point to the picture and say je-ga.

Where’s the bathroom? – 厕所在哪里? Cèsuǒ zài nǎlǐ? (tser-swor dzeye naa-lee?)

After a few píjiu (pee-gee-oh, or beers), or just while you’re out and about sight-seeing and you’ve drunk a little too much shuĭ (sh-way or water), you’ll probably need to use the bathroom. Here in Tianjin many restaurants don’t have their own bathroom, so you’ll need to hunt down the nearest one.

Can I have the check/bill please? – 买单 măidān  (my dahn)

After you’ve eaten your delicious meal, you’ll need to call the fúwùyuán over again and ask for the bill, or măidān, as they generally won’t just bring it to you. Having said that, keep in mind that some restaurants will bring you the bill to pay right after you’ve ordered and before you’ve even seen any food!

How much is it? – 多少钱? Duōshao qián? (Dwor-shaow chyen?)

You’re most likely going to want to check out the many markets on offer in China. So that you can at least look like you know what you’re doing (and hopefully grab a bargain), you’ll need to know how to ask how much is it? You’ll probably also want to learn how to count in Chinese, so you understand the reply!

I’m sorry – 对不起 Duìbuqǐ (dway-boo-chee)

If you are late, make a mistake, bump into someone, or just don’t understand something you can use dway-boo-chee. You can also use wǒ tīng bù dǒng (wore ting boo dong) if you don’t understand someone.

Goodbye – 拜拜 bai bai (bye bye)

A colleague of mine told me when she first came to China she thought people were making fun of her when they said bai bai! But fear not, bai bai really is the way to say goodbye in Chinese and this is one of the easier words you’ll learn.

 

Now of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg in your Chinese language learning journey. Chinese lessons are a great idea, as is lots of practice! Try to be fearless and just give it a go. Hopefully these ten words and phrases (plus the few extras I threw in) will be enough to help get you by in the beginning.

What other beginner level phrases do you need to get you by in China? Tell us below.

About the Author:

DSCN6110  Penny de Vine is a thirty-something Australian freelance writer with a love for travel and trying anything new! You can follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

Rice Cookers – more than meets the eye!

Living in China means there’s a ton of really good, really cheap food on offer and you definitely have to sample as much as you can while you’re here. But if like me, you love to cook, there’s plenty of new things you can try out in your kitchen too. Kitchens in China are generally a lot smaller than in the West, so you’ll need to do some mental adjustments and just generally be a bit more efficient when cooking. For example, not having a full sized oven like back home means finding useful appliances can be the key here. One of the most versatile appliances I’ve found is, believe it or not, the humble rice cooker. It’s safe to say actually, it’s one of my best friends in the kitchen and that when it comes to rice cookers, there’s more than meets the eye!

Rice cookers are of course known for doing what they do best – cooking rice – but I bet you didn’t know that rice cookers can do so much more than just provide you with an Asian staple. I’ve used my rice cooker to make a whole range of sweet and savory delights – read on to find out more.

Cakes

The first thing I tried cooking in my rice cooker (other than rice) was a cake. Let’s just say it was less than amazing, but every one since then has been pure deliciousness. Cakes in China are a little different to what you’re used, so it’s nice to be able to prepare a home comfort that you might be missing.

So just how do you produce such scrumptious delights in a mere rice cooker? Easy! Mix your favorite cake recipe as normal, then pour the batter directly into the rice cooker bowl (there’s no need to grease it). If your rice cooker has a ‘cake’ setting, simply press ‘cake’ and wait patiently for about 45 minutes. The ‘rice’ setting will work just as well, but you may need to check on it at about the 35/40 minute mark just in case it dries out. Once the rice cooker has done its thing, turn it off and take the bowl out to cool a little. When the bowl has cooled enough to handle, turn the cake out on a rack (or plate) to cool. If like me, you love a piece of warm cake, tuck in now! Otherwise, wait until it’s completely cool and add the frosting of your choice (then tuck in!).

 

image (82)Bread

When searching for things to cook in my rice cooker, I came across an article online claiming you could make bread in there – how crazy is that? Well, as crazy as it sounds, I can assure you it is 100% true (and incredibly tasty!). Again, bread is another thing in China that is a little different from home (way too sweet for me), so being able to bake your own bread will satisfy your craving AND impress your friends!

Now, fair warning, this process is a bit time-consuming, but totally worth the delicious, crunchy reward at the end. You’ll first need to find your favourite bread recipe and prepare as normal (using the rice cooker bowl to proof the dough, with the lid on the cooker, but the cooker not turned on). Once the dough has proofed, set the rice cooker to ‘cake’ and wait the 45 minutes until it’s done. Then you’ll have to flip the dough out and turn it over to cook on the other side (what was the top). Another 45 minutes and you have fresh, delectable bread to chow down on!

Fried rice (without the fry)

If you’re after a healthy version of fried rice that’s still packed with flavor, then the rice cooker version is for you! I regularly whip this up when I’m a little low on time and have plenty of vegetables in the fridge.

Wash your rice in the rice cooker bowl as usual, and place the necessary amount of water on top. Chop your favourite vegetables and add salt, pepper and garlic (option extras include chilli, ginger and stock for even more flavour). Set the rice cooker to the ‘rice’ setting and about 45 minutes later you’ll have a luscious mixed vegetable rice dish ready to eat.

I usually add soy sauce once the rice is cooked and I often place a chicken breast (marinated in some kind of sauce overnight) on top of the rice before setting it to cook.

There you have it! Three super easy dishes that the simple, unassuming rice cooker can produce in no time. For around CNY 200 (a little over USD$30), it’s well worth investing in one of these gems when you come to China.

Have you got a rice cooker? What are your favorite rice cooker recipes? Tell us below.

About the Author:

DSCN6110  Penny de Vine is a thirty-something Australian freelance writer with a love for travel and trying anything new! You can follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

Photo credit: Riza Nugraha (Flickr) | License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode