Hummus, and other gems in second-tier cities


My favorite hummus, ever, was ordered at a Turkish restaurant called Bosphorous, located on a popular street in the mega-city (and our old home) of Guangzhou, China–population 12-15 million, depending who you ask. Quite an unexpected location for a platter of really amazing hummus, right?!

By the time I left Guangzhou, there were two branches of Bosphorous open, but the original, located near the Xiao Bei (小北 ) metro stop in a neighborhood casually known as Little Africa, was the one I preferred due to it’s…ahem, more “rustic” quality, which I personally think made the food just that much tastier. Plus the original was located next to a nightclub called 50 Cent. The club was always an option for a night out for our group of friends, since it involved going no earlier than midnight, Chinese girls dressed in turkish belly dancer outfits dancing around and on tables, and amazing people-watching. It’s also the only place I’ve seen more men on the dance floor than women, I think.

Every order of hummus eaten since 2010 has warranted comparisons to that one creamy, nutty, fluffy, olive-oily hummus, served at Bosphorous–at the long and crowded communal tables, in a smoke-filled room that was milling with so many dark-haired, olive-skinned Middle Easterners that you’d think you were in Ankara or Istanbul proper. It was a hummus that was perfectly drizzled with rich olive oil and garnished with a single olive, one olive that the Diploman and I were always wont to fight over during subsequent trips back–and there were many, many trips back during our two years there.


And such is part of the beauty of these International second-tier cities, like Guangzhou. Like Dar. For every Michelin-starred gem in Hong Kong or Cape Town, there are also equally spectacular gems to be uncovered in lesser known, smaller-named cities. Great hummus isn’t a reason to visit Guangzhou, but it’s certainly a perk of one’s time there.

Here in Dar, I’ve found excellent BBQ prawns at BBQ Village, spiced and smooth curried chickpeas at Patel Brotherhood, satisfying grilled fish on the beaches of Bongoyo Island, open-air rooftop dining scooping up Ethiopian lentils at Addis in Dar, and the richest, most luxurious seafood platter at Alexander’s Guesthouse, tucked away in the backroads near my house.

And while none of these are the sole reason that I’m here, nor are the the sole reason you should come and visit (aside from grilled fish on the beach…that’s pretty compelling, isn’t it?), they certainly make spending some time in this city all the more exciting.

Homemade Bosphorous-ian Hummus 

I’ve created what I think is a hummus, on par with the best hummus I’ve ever had from that unlikely Chinese Turkish restaurant. This is one that I proudly bring to any potluck, picnic, fundraiser, or party, anywhere I am in the world.


  • 1 15 oz. can of chickpeas, shelled (see instructions below), about 1 1/4 cups chickpeas
  • 1/3 cup tahini paste
  • Juice from 1 ripe, juicy lemon, about 4 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 small garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 4 Tbsp. Chickpea water (liquid reserved from draining chickpeas from the can)
  • 2 Tbsp. Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. filtered water

shelling chickpeas



  1. Shell chickpeas- meaning, remove the bean from the translucent film covering each chickpea. This step isn’t mandatory, but it will create a much smoother hummus, separating just-average hummus from truly-great hummus! It’s a slow and methodical process, but it’s not too tiresome. The best way I’ve found is to pinch a single chickpea between your thumb and pointer finger until the bean slips out, leaving its shell between your fingers.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Blend for 30 seconds, or until super creamy. Of course everyone’s texture preferences are difference, so if you prefer even smoother add another tablespoon or two of water. Keep in mind, the hummus will firm up just a little bit after some time in the fridge.
  3. Serve drizzled with a generous pour of olive oil over the top.
And just FYI, here’s the address to Bosphorous. You’ll find 50 Cent just down the street…
Bosphorus Turkish Restaurant near XiaoBei metro stop
304 Huanshi Middle Road, Yuexiu, Guangzhou, Guangdong, China, 510350
+86 20 8356 3578


China Red, China City: A Chinese Market in Dar

I’ve written about China several times since I’ve left the country, first out of awe that I got out alive, second because I keep going back to photos, like the ones below, of everyday life on the streets, and now, third, because I’ve just realized- I miss the place.


I left China last summer pretty darn happy to be done with the place, to spend a year in the states, to move onto Africa and content never to look back again. And I was fine (eating lots of tacos while back home helped) until I got to Africa, when suddenly everything seemed so foreign. And then, I started to miss the foreign things in China that, in retrospect, were so much more familiar than unknown: How to properly flag down a cab like a local. Ordering chicken feet during dim sum. Navigating crowds at 5pm at the Tiyu Xilu metro station (the horrors). Screaming “waiter” at the top of your lungs in a restaurant. Finding the best wet markets in all corners of town. Buying face brightening cleansers, because that’s the only thing there was. Observing the local fashion trends, oh! The fashion! It’s amazing how quickly the unfamiliar becomes familiar, no? I think of these things, and I can’t help by smile. Two years might seem short, but it is certainly enough to forever call a place home in one’s heart.


At the wet market in China

I recently took a visit to a local Chinese Market here in Dar es Salaam, and it brought back a wave of nostalgia. I had been on the lookout for some goods- tofu and hot sauce, to be precise, and was excited when a Korean friend told me about this little market not too far from home.

I’ve come to realize that no matter where you are in this world, there will be a Chinese population that will create a demand for a Chinese market. And with their savvy import and export dealings, they’ll find a way to get things like doban jiang (savory bean paste) or xia mi (little dried shrimp) or wei jing (MSG powder) to almost anywhere in the world. These are the important life lessons I’m learning by living abroad. I don’t know, maybe if you’re living in the middle of the Congo and find this to be absurd, let me know, I’d love to hear it.

sign for the market, here in dar

Big Red sign for the market here in Dar

Surprisingly, it only took me driving up one wrong driveway before I found the market. Tucked away behind a blue gate erected with sheet metal, the market looked more like a construction zone than anything else. The building was a little single-story, u-shaped complex that housed a mini wet market to the left: One meat counter, one vegetable counter (right next to each other, in typical Chinese fashion, of course). And right across the way on the right: a small but well-stocked dry goods market. With a HUGE red banner across the roof that read (in Chinese): “China Red, China City”

The outside (minus the sign) blatantly screamed Africa, but there was no mistaking its identity from the inside. Shelves piled from floor to ceiling of cooking wine, pickled mustard greens, dried plums, instant noodles, plastic bath accessories, spiral bound stationery, and more.


But most striking was that smell. As soon as I stepped foot in the store, I caught that signature Chinese market smell, of soy and sesame and dried fish and plastic wrap and damp packaging, and who-knows-what-else-makes-up the smells of China, which instantly transported me back to Guangzhou.



You know, a lot of people complain about China quite a bit, and I find myself pretty defensive about it these days. You can’t talk smack about a home of mine, after all, and expect to get away with it. They complain about everything- The smells, the pollution, the hygiene, the food, the people, the crowds, the pushing, the yelling, the fighting, the language.

But there’s funky smells, bad pollution, oily food, smelly people, massive crowds, pushy elders, couples who argue, waiters who will fight you, and communication barriers all around the world. Maybe no other place has the perfect convergence of all these things in the way that China does (I’m betting India is close!), but in one form or another, they exist everywhere.


All I’m saying here is that at the end of the day, appreciate where you are, because it’s home to someone, and before you know it, it’ll be home to you, too. The things I miss in China don’t necessarily make me want to go back and spend the rest of my days, but they are certainly enough to make me consider living again in that crazy country one day in the future.

Do you think I’m crazy that the smell of dried fish and dirty packaging makes me nostalgic? I’m curious: What smells make you pine for a previous home?

China Red, China City

Chinese goods market in Dar es Salaam
Ursino Street, just North of Bagamoyo Road (down the street from Addis in Dar)
Complex is fenced off by a blue gate with some Chinese lettering on the front. Guards man the front entrance. Drive through and park anywhere in the back lot.

Marriage, it’s like riding a bike

Today marks my one-year wedding anniversary. Well, technically, it’s my one-year marriage anniversary, because for me, a wedding and a marriage were two very separate events that happened about 10 months apart.

Married in China-1

The Diploman and I got married in Guangzhou’s Civil Affairs Bureau No. 3 last June. As is part of the story we both tell today, we had to rush to dragon boat practice afterwards, and because the translator had taken so long with our documents, neither of us remembers very clearly exactly what vows were read.


I’ve learned a lot about myself this past year, and a lot more about this relationship that I thought I knew so well already. Marrying someone is like riding a bike. I know, I know, they say everything is like riding a bike these days, and in the end only riding a bike is like riding a bike. But hear me out.

Married in China-2

You’re on training wheels for what seems like forever, and finally one day, after you’ve thought about it for awhile, you take them off. You ride. omgeveryonelookatmeimriding!

It’s new and exhilarating when you’re on two wheels. You fall off, a lot, at first. There’s some skinned knees and some scratched elbows. There’s a lot of bruised egos, a lot of figuring out what exactly is the best approach to stay on course. There’s a lot of wobblying around, but then you find the payoffs are huge. You get to go fast, you get to be free. Most of the time it’s great, but then you’re reminded that it really sucks when you fall. And there’s never an easy fall, mind you – there’s always pavement and gravel stuck in your skin and ooof, it’s so hard.

But you and your bike, your trusty bike, it takes you places. It takes you on adventures. Sometimes down a wrong turn or two, but somehow you always end up at home. You get to know how it moves, you push its limits, you find new friends because of your bike. Your horizons are expanded, you can see more of the world, and you start to understand new things. Because you know how to ride a bike, you know you can do other things, as well.

The diploman has had his bike since he was sixteen – it’s his trusty (and rusty) yellow Diamondback mountain bike. One of the pedal straps is missing, there’s a lot of paint scratched, he wore through the brake cables this past year, and in the end, he’s really the only one that can ride it because he knows exactly how it works.

Married in China-3

I can only hope that, if bike years are converted to human years, he’ll keep me around just as long.


If you remember, I tried to go river rafting a couple of months ago, to no avail.

For one last grand hurrah in Guangzhou, the DiploMan and I gathered a group of friends for a second attempt at a rafting adventure, just on the outskirts of town, about an hour from our home. I read about the location and anticipated a pretty manmade experience but boy-oh-boy, was I in for a surprise.

Imagine a very long waterpark ride, only instead of plastic tubing, the ride is made of concrete. But there are rapids, simulated to look and feel like nature intended. Oh wait- just imagine splash mountain. Except, instead of being strapped in a log-like roller coaster, you’re just sitting in a two-person raft. With a helmet, duh.

It took about an hour total to rush down the rapids. 10 minutes of that was spent being jostled back and forth in the rapids, and the other 50 minutes were spent in the three large pools that were interspersed between the dashing straits, where as many as 70 rafts at a time would gather and engage in water fights.

Conventional? Hardly. Safe? I think not. Fun? Absolutely.

Check us out, in action.

I mean, if this picture doesn’t just sum it all up….