We're Nate Tate and Mary Kate Tate, a brother and sister cookbook author team obsessed with all things China. We create authentic and accessible Chinese recipes for home cooks. See more...


chinese to go

I just discovered this iPhone App called Chinese Flashcards that helps you practice reading Chinese Characters on the go.  I've been using it while on the subway, elevator, waiting room, and being the true nerd I am, while walking down the street.  I recommend it for beginners that want to get familiar with basic Chinese characters as well as advanced speakers who want to brush up on their vocab.  Reading and writing Chinese characters is a hard skill to keep up.  If you don't live in China or Taiwan it's easy to quickly forget the meaning of common characters and how to write them.  Even some of the Chinese-Americans I know, whose families speak only Chinese at home, can't read and write a lot of basic vocabulary words because they are out of practice.  

Chinese Flashcards is pretty straight forward.  The screen displays a Chinese character and after you've decided the meaning and pronunciation (or not), you click Show Answer. The next screen shows the definition/pronunciation and asks you "Did you answer correctly?:  No, Yes, Skip."  The characters start out easy and get progressively more difficult with a total of 2700 characters in the program. I've heard that you need to know about 3,500 characters to read a Chinese newspaper so if you can memorize all these, you're well on your way.  You can display the characters in Simplified form (what Mainland China uses) or Traditional form (what Hong Kong and Taiwan uses).
The iPhone App is $4.99 and you can download it HERE.  If you don't have an iPhone the company also has a web-based flash card system on the their website: www.chineselearnonline.com


Okay, I'm off to practice.



The Book

Mary Kate and I ended up collecting recipes, stories and photos from places that people do not always associate with China. We traveled to the jungles near Burma, the island of Macau (a former Portuguese colony), the mountains of Tibet, Xingjiang (a Muslim province next to Pakistan), the Gobi desert in Inner-Mongolia, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and many places in between.

The Chinese government censored many blogs this summer and ours happened to be one of them. Needless to say, we were unable to continue updating this site while traveling around and compiling our food book. We are right now in the process of cooking and standardizing all the recipes, going through the 3000+ photos we took, and writing the text for the chapters.

If you have any questions about this project or interest in publishing our book, please contact Nate Tate at feedingthedragon@mac.com

Thanks for checking up on us!


The Things We'll Do For A Good Recipe

We've been M.I.A. for the last 10 days but we're back. A good friend of ours, Laura Berry (pictured with me on the right) , came over from the states to visit us so we headed to the jungles of Xixuangbanna in Southern China to show her a good time. A place known for it's great food but not it's internet access.

We began our Jungle adventure in the region's capital, Jinghong. With it's balmy weather, fresh fruit, coconut trees, sugar cane, swimming pools (complete with water bugs), and laid back atmosphere, Jinghong is a little pocket of paradise within an otherwise unforgiving wilderness. We decided to make Jinghong our base camp for a couple of days and soak up the good life and fantastic food before beginning our multiple day trek through the surrounding mountains.

Orchid is the owner of the Mei Mei cafe in downtown Jinghong and she's an excellent resource for information on trekking in the area. She remembered Mary Kate and I from our last trek 4 years ago and suggested a more remote and challenging route through the Sanchahe Nature Reserve. The reserve is a lush 3.7 million acre area covered with tea plantations and home to China's last remaining elephants. This all sounded perfect until she warned us about several recent deaths along our would be route caused by the elephants. Mary Kate and I are always up for an adventure but trekking alone through a foreign jungle with killer elephants borders on the insane. Not only did we have to worry about ourselves, but Laura, who doesn't speak a word of Chinese, was trusting us with her safety. We talked it over and decided to find a guide in one of the villages who would know how to steer clear of any potential run-ins with Dumbo and family. If one of us ended up dead, at least we'd have a story and some authentic recipes to relate to our readers.

Xixuangbanna's largest ethnic group is the Dai minority and their food is the main culinary attraction here. Similar to Thai food, Dai dishes are often punctuated with lemon grass or mint leaves and fresh fruit is frequently added to meat or rice dishes, creating a unique sweet and savory combination. Among others, Dai style noodles, pineapple sticky rice, and grilled lemon grass chicken all made our best-of list and will be included in our book.


In Xishuangbanna they have miniature mangos that are slightly more tart and give the smoothie an added citrus kick. You can get this same taste at home by adding fresh lime juice to a ripe mango from your local supermarket.



Tiny Teacups

My first thought at breakfast in Yongding was that the teacups were too small. Each time we took a sip, they had to be refilled. Our host, Mr. Li, didn’t seem to mind, but we felt like a bother and wondered why a people would ever design their cups to hold only one sip at a time.

Spending a few days with the Hakka people was one of the coolest experiences of my life. Mr. Li (Nate’s previous contact) showed us around town and introduced us to his family. The mysterious giant octagonal, square, circular, and triangular Earth Buildings we saw from a distance on the motorcycles the first day are actually homes where family clans have lived for generations. Inside, bedroom corridors line the walls and center around the main ancestral hall. This hall is actually a central area designed to support all types of family gatherings- weddings, banquets, funerals, and even entertaining guests.

Our meals here were like eating with family. Mr. Li wanted to hear all about what was going on in our lives. I told him about University life in America and showed him Texas on a map. He smiled, “Yao Ming plays there!” His older brother showed us how to kill a fish with the handle of a knife and his sister-in-law gave us a tour of their vegetable garden. I thought seeing their vegetables up close was interesting because Yongding's main industry is agriculture. Its mountainous landscape is a collage of tiered tobacco, carrot, bamboo, and rice fields with personal gardens creeping into almost every backyard. At dinner we drank a sweet long-grain rice beer that Mr. Li makes at home for their restaurant. I told him that in the U.S. I’m still too young too drink alcohol. He said, "Don't worry, it’s not too strong.” Right...

Just like their homes suggest, family is central to the Hakka culture. Serving others and making guests feel welcome is a priority, a meal just another opportunity to show they care. After spending a few days with the Hakka people, I understood their teacups. Sure mine was tiny, but it was always full. Refilling it again and again was just another way Mr. Li let me know that he was attending to every detail and not to worry about a thing.



It All Boils Down

Traveling is stressful, especially when you’re constantly moving from city to city and waking up in different hotels. Our accommodations here in Yongding find us in a 120-year-old farmhouse complete with wooden boards for beds and a rooster outside the window for an alarm clock. His 4:30 A.M. wake up call and no sleep button option has Nate and I up in time to enjoy a breakfast of fried fish and eggs with the family of the house.

Before Nate and I began this summer, we knew only so much planning could be done and that the coming together of our book would rely on the unfolding of our journey, on mornings like these. Our objective- set from the get go- has remained a directional constant, but its realization has been a process. “Showcasing a people and the cuisine” is easier said than done. Is it a matter of concentrating on the people and throwing in some recipes? Do you describe the food and only occasionally mention the people? What exactly is a “culinary travelogue”?

The more we travel and have experiences, the more culture seems to boil down to the culinary: what people eat, when they eat, how they eat, and the way they choose to serve it says a lot about a people. The kitchen has become our library and the meals we’ve shared with the Chinese people our most valuable form of research. Mealtime is when people relax and feel free to be candid about life, politics, religion, and whatever else is on their mind. We’ve had some of our most meaningful conversations flow over a mug of beer and a hot plate of Gongbao Jiding.


Here's a recipe for Gongbao Jiding or "Peanut Chicken", a favorite of westerners and a dish common all over China. It's best enjoyed over cold beer, rice, and an excellent conversation.



2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into small cubes

1 egg white, lightly whisked

1/3 cup peanut oil

4 dried red chillies, crushed

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons dry sherry

2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tsp sugar

1 garlic clove, finely minced

5 scallions, sliced lengthwise

1 tablespoon peeled ginger, sliced thin

1/2 cup unsalted peanuts or cashews


1. In a bowl mix sherry, soy sauce, water, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, rice vinegar, sugar. Set aside.

2. Next toss cubed chicken with egg white and 1 tablespoon cornstarch in a separate bowl. Set aside.

3. Heat up peanut oil in a wok and add the crushed red chillies. Sauté until chillies begin to turn brown. Remove chillies and set aside.

4. Place coated chicken in wok over high heat until browned, about 5 minutes. Remove from wok and set aside.

5. Pour out oil, leaving about a tablespoon in wok, reduce heat, and add ginger, scallions, and garlic and sauté for about 2 minutes.

6. Reduce heat to low and add sherry mixture, stirring for about 2 minutes or until sauce thickens

7. Add chicken, nuts, and chillies. Stir over heat for about 4 minutes