Weekend Musings: Addictions

I have been busy. Real busy like you do not believe it. Life had been pretty much consumed by “China” ever since I was landed right smack in the middle of the new project. As much as I want to be positive and say that work will tone down to normal levels soon, the truth is it will stay at this heightened level for some time. I had kept insane working hours, at times starting at 4AM in the morning. With teams working on Beijing, London, Hong Kong, Atlanta and with me alone directing the project right at the edge of timezone, I do feel like I am working around the clock on some days.

And the travelling is not helping too. I am down to working two weeks a month in London and Beijing until the end of this year. Just yesterday, I got an email asking me to consider being based in Beijing until the end of the year! But work had been exciting. All these came about when I managed to pull off a particularly difficult delivery two weeks ago and my just reward was emails floating around that I could bring some other distressed areas of the program back on track … “he needs to be there, get him there” was what people are saying.

So I really do need to juggle my priorities. Chowtimes is one of them that gets relegated to the lower rungs. Although writing by itself does not take much time and Suanne helps greatly doing up the pictures, I need the creative juices flowing to wring. You know how I write my posts? I compose posts in my mind throughout the day, like while driving or walking. By the time I sits down at the computer, I already know what I want to say and can hack away at a post in a short time. But these days, my mind is dominated by work matters alone.

So what does it mean? As much as I hate to say it but with work and travelling, it is nearly impossible for me to keep up the level of writing I want.  I don’t want to stop writing. No sir. So, the best I could do is to change how I write and what I write about. Chowtimes is about food and travel. Chowtimes is about sharing the life of Ben and Suanne. That will not change. What will change will perhaps be that the posts will be lighter.

Let’s see how things will evolve. I am on forced vacation next week (boss says to take the week off because I still have 20 days of vacations banked) and so will attempt to write next week.

Today, I want to speak of my latest addictions.


For the past couple of months, we had not been exploring new restaurants. Since we had so many posts yet not written and that I can’t even find time to write, there is no point going to new places.

Instead, we went to our favourite places and much nearby home. That pleases Nanzaro and Arkensen a lot. One of the restaurants we had gone back to several times is the Szechuan Delicious restaurant. We like that place because it is inexpensive and there are much more to discover on their menu.

One of the dishes we are utterly addicted to is the dish above. Remember the popular Sichuan appetizer dish called “saliva chicken”? Well, we like this version of the same dish using “beef tripe”. We love the crunchiness of the tripe and the same spiciness of the chili sauce. This is awesome.

I have not come across this version in other restaurants and just wonder if it is commonly found in other Sichuan restaurants. If you like “saliva chicken”, you will probably like this too. BTW, the name “saliva chicken” is my preferred translation over “mouth-watering chicken”. 🙂


My other addition is this one above. I have to blame grayelf for introducing this to me.

She introduced this in a recent dinner I had with Sherman, Karl and Angie. If you like … Sichuan food, you will love this.

We had stocked up on these snacks at home. We got them from T&T and they came in two sizes, small at about $2.50 and bigger one at about $4.00. It might not be easy to spot in the T&T supermarket shelves. Just remember to look for the package that has the “chowtimes chili” logo. LOL!

This is called Huang Fei Hong, named after Wong Fei-Hong. When I was young I remember he was the rage on movies.


This is spicy and hot and numbing. What makes this stands apart from all the other similar snacks is the cracked Sichuan peppercorn. You get a numbing sensation from these peppercorns. The peanuts were extremely crunchy even if left out of the packaging for a few days.

There are a lot of peppercorns left even after the peanuts are gone. So we kept those fragrant peppercorns to sprinkle on dishes we cook at home. Real nice.


While we were buying the Huang Fei-Hong snacks in T&T, we came across another snack from the same company with packaging with the same “chowtimes chili” logo.

This packaging is yellow and has the English word “Magic Chili” on it.


This one is actually more “terror” than the peanuts only version, although it does not have Sichuan Peppercorns in it. It does have peanuts, the same crunchy peanuts. This one is our favourite. Once we take one bite, we can’t stop.

Go buy them and see if you like it.

Tell me now … what are YOU addicted to lately?


Anyway, here is one video above which look so amazing. I think it is fake but it sure is well made!

Have a good rest of the weekend, everyone!

This Post Has 34 Comments

  1. Kevin

    Hey Ben,

    Glad you’re busy 🙂 Funny how your boss forces you to take days off.

    As for your question, I’ve been addicted to #3 at Hoi An recently. Mmmmm….

    1. Ben

      I saw your post about Hoi An. Very funny. We like the #1 Mi Quang at Hoi An a lot. Sometimes I drop by the place for lunch before I go home. Ben

  2. BeefChowFun

    Can Suanne take over chowtimes. Her restaurant posts are just as good if not better.

  3. BeefChowFun

    Just kidding about the last comment. BTW.

    1. Ben

      Hi BeefChowFun: Hehehe … very funny. One way to have Suanne take over chowtimes is for me to stop posting. She will automatically step in. She just can’t stand seeing all the effort put in go to waste. Nah … I know you guys love me more. 🙂 Ben

  4. mo

    noooo i don’t need more junk food addictions 🙂 recently, i’ve been munching on boy bawang nuts and sour cream and onion corn rings. gained at least 10 pounds from it.

    1. Ben

      Hi Mo: “Bawang Nuts”? What is that and where did you get that. Bawang is Malay for onions … and that the same bawang you had? Sounds delish! Ben

      1. mo

        it’s like cornuts but crunchier and very garlicky. they are about 60 cents a bag from superstore. I first had it at kulinarya and have been hooked since. you can’t go wrong with these suckers! I think you will like it

  5. Jean

    So are you going to be working out of Beijing more frequently this year?

    Welcome back. Hope you find a way to de-stress ….away from food. Oh yea, I forget…it’s food blogging, isn’t it? 🙂

    Maybe to attend some local summer festivals that have good food. More carefree for everyone.. Or try the local farms in your area on weekends..

    1. Ben

      Hi Jean:

      Yeah. At the rate things are going, I could be full time in Beijing in August till end of this year. If that happens, I will definitely not post about dine outs in Vancouver. I might use chowtimes to post about my days in Beijing (and occasionally in London) as a way for me to tell Suanne and Nanzaro and Arkensen how I am getting along there.

      We have never been to the Stampede before and would love to do that some day. Are the flapjack breakfasts free?


      1. Jean

        Yes, they are. Usually 3-5 different locations, different organizations across the city. Of course at the Grandstand show has an admission fee, etc. It is an excellent, cheap way to get children into the spirit of it.

        Then one can take off to Banff, Lake Louise, etc. 🙂

        There’s nothing comparable at all in Metro Canada..or in Toronto where I’ve lived.

        Oh yea, Calgary, bison meat is all over the place. Not totally cheap, but any foodie could see the quality here. It really is low-fat (for good cut), takes only 15 min. for a piece to cook.

        1. Jean

          Sorry I meant 2-5 different locations daily….for 10 days.

  6. Jean

    Speaking of obsessions, I ate my way through 6 different free flapjack (pancake) breakfasts over a 10 day period during the Calgary Stampede. These community based breakfasts are part of the Stampede tradition.

    Totally different culture from Vancouver’s! Yes, I did blog about it.

  7. LotusRapper

    My addictions:

    – Ritz crackers with peanut butter (salted smooth from Famous Foods);
    – Que Pasa blue corn chips;
    – salted pistachios

    Best eaten while watching Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives.

  8. grayelf

    Sorry ;-). I know I am not addicted to these peanuts. I only picked up five large bags today at TnT C’town (on sale for $3.99). No Magic Chile there, only at Rmd I think….

    1. grayelf

      BTW it was local Chowhound foodfirst who introduced me to the peanuts with ma la. Credit where it is due!

      1. LotusRapper

        So are they numbingly good ?

        1. grayelf

          They really are. If you eat a bunch and then drink regular water, it tastes like seltzer!

      2. Ben

        Shifting blame to foodfirst, huh? 🙂

    2. Ben

      Hi Grayelf: You said you are NOT addicted to these peanuts and yet you picked up FIVE large bags today? LOL Ben

      1. LotusRapper

        Maybe addiction begins at Bag #6 ……

      2. grayelf

        Pretty sure denial is one of the prime symptoms :-). I am going to eat some peanuts now…

  9. C.Herb

    From most recent:

    Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Covered Toffee Espresso Bits

    White Cheddar Chip’in’s! They are almost like flattened popcorn chips but the level of seasoning varies from bag to bag ><

    Super Slim Picky (an all time favorite)

    oh.. and fruit ^^ (currently: cherries! *yum*)

    But those Magic Chili's look very tempting! I think I'll have to hunt some down for my dad ^^

    1. Ben

      Hi C.Herb: Too bad the nearest Trader Joe’s is so far away. Those stuff you had sounds absolutely delicious. Did you blog about that? Ben

  10. Chris

    Darn! I just got back from TnT with bags of healthy fruits and veggies. Suppose I need to go back for those peanuts! I got addicted to some locally made Filipino peanuts that has crispy slices of garlic. I even pop a few after breakfast. Quite disgusting.
    Note to Suanne…My husb got sent to China for 1.5 years…for some reason I enjoyed the break! I have to add too that my kids are much older and had paid trips there though they enjoyed HK more.

  11. Belinda

    Hi Ben! A must must must visit is Haidilao (literal translation: scoop from the bottom of the sea) Hotpot. It has received lots of attention lately because of its unbelievable excellent service. While waiting to be seated, you’ll be served complimentary beer and fruits, massage, manicure, shoe shining service, you can play Chinese chess or poker, etc. I’ve read that someone once requested to tapao the watermelon cuts after the meal but the waiter told him that’s not feasible. But guess what? The waiter then gave the customer A watermelon to take away. LOL. I’ve not had the chance to try the restaurant but will do so this month when I’m in Shenzhen. Ask your local colleagues bout it. 🙂

    1. Ben

      Hi Belinda: Is Haidilao available also in Beijing? What you described reminds me of one of the hot pot places I went to in a recent trip to Beijing. That restaurant has manicure stations at the entrance too which I thought was kind of odd in a hot pot restaurant. While manicure is not what I desire but a massage right before a feast would have been great! Ben

  12. Shmoo

    Wow, Ben, this new challenge sounds exhausting (but the good kind of exhausting). Good luck with your new and complex project(s). Hope you find the optimal balance for all your “stakeholders” (in this case, yourself, your family, and your project(s) 🙂 ).

  13. Min Harng

    The peanut look yummy, very much than the blueberry you send home.

  14. Ben

    I agree about Huang Fei Hong Magic Chili – that stuff is beyond addictive if you like Sichuan food. I was able to buy it here in Tokyo but I wonder if it is widely available outside Asia – do you really have to hunt it down or do all the Chinese groceries stock it?

    1. Suanne

      Hi Ben, you can find it in most Asian groceries like T&T, Wah Shang, Grand Value Asian, Great One, Richmond Public Market and even H-Mart.

  15. liz

    Last year in southern China I finally had the opportunity to try a dish with this Magic Chili and it was absolutely fabulous. And the shrimp that was cooked with it was really good, too!

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