I have been making do with a kitchen towel to drain my dishes. I don’t have a dishwasher – in China you generally get a “dish sanitizer” which is a heated drying rack located where a dishwasher should be. I have one of those, it’s not heated and it’s on the other side of the kitchen. So I don’t bother, I wash them and pile them up on the towel.

I’ve looked high and low and I’ve found some things that sort of look like dish drainers but they really are little more than a plastic tray with a catch pan underneath. In other words a suspended version of the kitchen towel method.

But tonight when I went to IKEA to pick up some shower curtain rings, I stopped by the kitchen towel bin to see if they had any that might be more absorbent than the ones I have and looking up, what did I find? A display of countertop dish drainers. And not one, but three! One pretty weak looking cheap wood version and two made of steel. In that moment I knew true happiness for only the third or fourth time in my short life. Despite my raging glee, I took the time to do an on the spot analysis of which one might be the best deciding on the middle one. For only $9US it was in my basket in a flash. I had taken another step forward towards civilization.

I cooked dinner for the first time in a couple of weeks this evening. My dish of choice was 鸡丁四季豆辣教, jīdīng sìjidòu làjiāo, or in other words diced chicken pieces cooked with “four season beans” and hot peppers. The beans are what we call kidney beans only served in the pod. Pretty easy, coat the chicken with cornstarch, fry the dried red peppers and beans in some chile oil, throw in the meat, cook it through and then add a splash of apple vinegar, rice wine, soy sauce and brown sugar. Adding a little bit of local color, I heated up some 鸭舌头, yā shétóu or duck’s tongue that my colleague’s wife had kindly made for me. They’re sort of interesting to look at as you can see below. They are a lot of work for the mushy part that’s inside the membrane of the tongue. But they are very tasty.

I also picked up some slippers at IKEA. Traditionally you remove your shoes when entering a Chinese home; lots of good reasons for this, mostly the condition of the sidewalks. I’ve been dragging my feet on getting some but tonight they had 80 million of them in the gap between the escalators for 9 kuai per pair and I figured it was an omen, so home they came. IKEA shopping engineers are very crafty.