Thursday, January 31, 2013

China’s Super-Secret Lottery

Last weekend, I learned about the super secret Chinese lottery.  When we got our KTV fapiao, I noticed that my friend Dan was scratching the ticket with a coin.  (A fapiao is an official tax receipt issued by the Chinese government.)  Apparently China has a free scratch off lottery that you can play on official restaurant, hotel, and entertainment fapiaos. 

Here is how it works:

1) When you are you are paying your restaurant bill say,
“Wo yao fapiao.”  (Woah yow fa pee ow!)

2) The restaurant will bring you an official receipt that looks like this.
Scratch off the silver box that says, "AwardArea".

3) Scratch off the silver box for a chance to win 5-50,000 Yuan.  (That is about $1- $8000)

4) If a number is under the silver box, take it the fapiao to the bank to collect your winnings!

Why does the Chinese government support this fabulous program?  Because this is one way the government holds businesses accountable for paying taxes.  The amount of taxes paid by businesses has dramatically increased by millions of dollars since implementing the program. 

I have always been a sucker for scratch offs. I just don’t know why I did not know about this program before!  Wish me luck!!!

No winnings this time...but there is always next time!!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Brewing Up Some Fun!

Shortly before we left for Shanghai, Chris caught the homebrew flu.  As a stress reliever, he would use his Mr. Beer brewing kit to cook up some liquid fun.  Unfortunately, Mr. Beer did not make it over to China, so Chris rebuilt his brewing workshop over here. 

As part of the home brewery rebuilding process, Chris has consulted with our new friend Mike Sheritz.  I like to think of Mike as the Godfather of Shanghai home brewing.  If you need any kind of brewing ingredients, supplies, or recipes Mike can get it…or at least help you figure out how to get it. If you can’t make it out to Pudong to pick up your supplies, he delivers!  If you don’t know what gear you need to get started, he will hook you up without ripping you off.  Even better, each month he holds a brew day where people from all over Shanghai come over to share, sample, and brew beer, wines, and liqueurs.   

Meet Mike, our home brew guy.  You would never guess he is a Chemical Engineer.

Last Sunday we headed to Mike’s place to brew a Dogfish Head IPA clone, and some Italian Red wine! 

After a quick tour of Casa Sheritz, we got down to business.

Mike's wife, Helen, is a saint.  She gave up her dance studio to make room for his home brew supplies.  Mike imports his goods from the US and Canada.
Mike hand carried his stove top from the US to China.  It includes an extra large wok burner that is very handy for brewing.
Mike cooks up some mash.  To make mash, simmer grains for about one hour in water. 

While we were waiting for the mash to cook, I decided I wanted to take a stab at brewing my own wine. 

Presenting the wine kit.  

And I thought toy assembly instructions were complex...

Wine Step #1:  I make a bentonite solution so the solids in the wine will sink to the bottom of the bucket.

Wine Step #2:  I pour the box of grape juice into the fermenter.  (Aka the big white bucket)  It's not like stomping on the grapes, but it is fun!

Wine Step #3: We add a gallon of water to the juice box to ensure we have emptied out all of the product.

Step #4: I top up the fermenter to 6 gallons with water.  This batch yields about 30 bottles of wine.
Step #5:  Mike teaches me how to use a hydrometer to determine the specific gravity of the wine.

Step #6: I add oak sawdust to give my wine an oaky flavor.  The sawdust will settle to the bottom of the fermenter so the wine won't be dusty during consumption. 

Step #7:  I give the wine a good stir.

Step #8:  I check the wine temperature.  As soon as the mixture falls between 22-24 (72-75 degrees F) I can add yeast to the mixture.    Since the temp was a little high, we moved the wine outside. 

Now all I had to do was sit and wait.  In the meantime, the boys were ready to continue their brewing project.

After the mash is cooked, the grains are rinsed with hot water to remove the remainder of the sugar.
Our new friend Mark adds some hops to the beer. 
Mike adds more hops to the beer while thawing his liquid malt extract.
Chris carries the batch to the sink to cool off.  
Once the batch is at the proper temperature, the boys carry it downstairs where the mixture will sit in a fermenter.

Chris pours the wort into the fermenter.  Then add yeast and let the magic happen.

Speaking of yeast, it was time to see if my wine was at the proper temperature for the yeast.  The thermometer read 24, so it was time to add the yeast!

Step #9: Add your yeast, put the lid on the fermenter and wait...
The first phase of my little wine experiment is complete!  Now I need to be patient and accumulate 30 wine bottles over the next eight weeks.   I will keep you posted with wine updates!

If you are interested in home brewing in Shanghai, need brewing supplies or want to attend one of Mike's brew days, feel free to contact him at  Happy brewing!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Heavy Metal Karaoke

I am not a huge fan of heavy metal or karaoke.  However, when I saw that a local pub, Inferno, was having a heavy metal karaoke competition last Saturday night, I had to check out the insanity.  Especially since the bar owners were going to give out prizes for the best-dressed heavy metal and rocker chick costumes.

After mass, a lovely dinner, and cardio workout thanks to our broken elevator we headed down the street and around the corner to Inferno. 

I was not happy to have to climb to the 20th floor twice due to a broken elevator.  At least our building doesn't have a 4th, 13th or 14th floor so it was only 17 flights of stairs.    Chinese folks see the number 4 as unlucky and westerners view the number 13 as unlucky.
We made the trip down the street, around the corner, and behind the police station to Inferno.
Too bad no one was excited for the competition.
I was quite disappointed to see that not many people dressed up for the costume contest, but nonetheless we were entertained by not quite Iggy Pop, not quite AC/DC, not quite Poison, and many other rocker impostors.

Our friend Uwe rocks out to "Wonder Boy" by Tenacious D

The judges were being stingy with points.
Chris rocks my world with a rendition of "Every Rose Has It's Thorn".  
He was robbed!!!!  In response to his scores, Chris sang a very unflattering Metallica song to the judges.  I value my visa, so I will not post the video.
Here are some highlights of the show.  (You may want to turn down your volume.)

When shirtless not quite Iggy Pop finished up the show, it was time to head home. 

  The next day was brew day!!!