Best Belgian food in Beijing (3)

Afternoon tea

Best Belgian food in Beijing (3) focuses on afternoon tea, a typical Dutch sandwich and flowers. Of course in Morel’s Restaurant.

The restaurant is open in the afternoon and is popular for its sumptuous afternoon tea.

What is a “smos sandwich”?

Friends who are regulars are sometimes treated to unusual specials, like the Martino and also the broodje smos, or smos or smoske.

A smos sandwich, sometimes called smos or smoske, is the Flemish name for a sandwich or piece of baguette often topped with cheese, ham, vegetables and egg slices. The name comes from the Flemish word ‘smossen’ which means to spill. So much topping is put in between the sandwich that it often spills while eating. In Wallonia the name “dagobert” is used, and in Brussels “sandwich club”.

The bun is first spread with mayonnaise or another sauce and then topped with vegetables and slices of hard-boiled egg. Vegetables that are used include lettuce, tomato and cucumber. Usually cheese and/or ham or, for example, crab salad is also added. There are also variants where deep-frying products such as a frikandel or meat croquette are placed between the sandwich.

In the province of Antwerp and in Sint-Niklaas, they use the word smos for a sandwich without cheese and ham with only vegetables on it. In that case, you order a smos and say the topping that goes on after it (for example a smos cheese or smos ham). If you order a smos in West Flanders, Sint-Niklaas or in Antwerp, you can receive different sandwiches.
The sandwich has similarities with the Dutch sandwich “gezond”.

A flower paradise

Susan Morel and her team also takes care of the wonderful flower arrangements, and some flower gifts for the ladies. As mentioned earlier Susan has become a real master florist.

I admit many of the flowers I have no idea about. She sources them from all over China.

Beijing birds visiting

A visitor

I already wrote about Beijing birds. Now it’s about Beijing birds visiting.

We heard noise in the ventilation shafts, in my bathroom and in the kitchen, the exhaust for the gas cooker. I said to my wife, yes, that’s the noise they make sitting on the chimney on the roof, the first chimney installed in our compound (my idea) so all exhausts from the bathrooms and kitchen really go OUTSIDE (and not to the attic, no joke).

After coming back from a quick bike tour my wife had a story to tell. Well, the birds were making a LOT of noise. So she took about the exhaust pipe from above the kitchen fan. And a big magpie came out, obviously a bit lost and in panic.

She tried to grab it but the bird was full of oil (from the kitchen exhaust). She opened the window and managed to guide the magpie back outside. I wonder if the bird could have made it back outside through the chimney…

Ruckus on my balcony

Sparrows can make a real ruckus. They fight, mate, play. The doves fight little but love to mate and groom themselves. They are acrobats doing it all on the railing.

Not sure what was their game here. The fight looks ugly at the beginning but they end up flying away in good condition…

How to catch a rat

Rats are too clever

As I am a Rat myself, I thought, I know how to catch a rat. Big disappointment.

Here’s the story.
One day in the kitchen the kaki fruit (persimmon) I had prepared for breakfast was partly eaten when I came into the kitchen. As the fruit was on the kitchen working table, my first thought was – cockroaches.
But then by chance I was going through a deep drawer looking for some kitchen equipment when I noticed droppings. That was clearly the hiding place of a mysterious visitor. But how could it enter? Obviously must be during the night.
All indicated it should be the draining pipe of the washing machine.
I set up a night camera and caught the beast.

A war I lost

How to catch a rat seemed easy, I had actually big rat traps, like this one. In my young time in the Beijing Hotel I caught like a dozen mice in my room…

I tried the trap, putting on some kaki fruit. I tried putting the kaki in the middle of a nasty glue surface (used to catch mice or cockroaches). I covered the mechanism of the trap. I made sure the trap was “clean”.


All to no avail. The rat came, sniffed at it, even managed to eat a little without touching the glue.
So, I finally gave it up. We secured the water hose of the washing machine in the drain pipe so nothing could move it.
We heard the rat complain for a few days and then it also gave up.
By the way, we are on the 3rd floor. You can imagine how that big rat comes up from the sewer system into our kitchen…

Red eared sliders

Sad ending

I tried twice to have red eared sliders as a pet. They are cute and some time ago you could buy them easily in Beijing. Now that many small shops were forced to close. more difficult. Friends had left me with a fish tank and accessories. So I tried.
I did some research, I tried to follow the instructions.

At the beginning the tiny one liked my shrimp and some salad. But gradually it stopped eating. I tried to have the right water, some light to warm up, but the poor little thing died (slowly).
A second one, same story. then I gave up. Later on, out of sympathy, the glass of the fish tank cracked by itself and the whole stuff for fishes went out of the house.

Why it did not work, no idea. Frustrating. Maybe the small turtles sold here are not healthy – it also happens with young puppies, bred under poor conditions. Many are frail and get sick easily.

Red eared sliders

There is a lot about it on the Internet. This site explains well:

See here what it says, in part.
Red eared sliders are given this name because of the red streaks on the sides of their face that cover the ears. They’re common turtles and come from North America. They are semi-aquatic and require a basking area. They should have a 20 gallon tank when they are young. The golden rule is “Every inch of shell length, provide 10 gallons of water”. OK, that’s a lot of water! One gallon is about 3.78 liter…

Wild sliders can live up to 30 years. In my case less than 2 months…
An adult red eared slider can grow up to 15 to 30 cm.
Like all pets they have a number of health problems to look out for. It is important to research the health problems they might have. You tell me!
They are messy eaters (yes!) and should be placed in a separate area to eat (they need a dining room?) but it you want to feed your slider in its tank then go ahead, just make sure to fish out the uneaten food or it’ll be a long clean up when finally cleaning their tank.
They like to eat mealworms, crickets, shrimp, pellets, floating stick, cranberries and greens. You can also give them live fish or crickets for them to eat or chase and add aquatic plants to their habitat. Just make sure to get fish and plants that appeal to their diet. I showed them a menu but they ignored it.


Beijing birds

My little friends

Referring to Beijing birds I am not thinking of all the pretty mini-skirts invading my Gongti Strip, now facing a slow destruction.

I have two balconies I love, where I grow plants and even some vegetables. But the birds visiting me daily are my fluffy friends. They come to drink, eat, play, fight, make love. I am not an expert but I tried to identify some of my guests. Especially in winter they love it and wait for me to feed them. At times there are some 25 of them fighting for the food.

Eurasian tree sparrows and spotted doves are the regulars. Eurasian magpie (pica pica) are afraid to visit but there are many flying around in my compound. I think crows also come here.
To spot the swallows and the small bats, one need to go out in the late evening when they zoom around to catch insects.

Contrary to the birds in Belgium and Phuket, here they are pretty scared of humans and fly away at any sign of us. In Phuket I have to be careful they don’t jump on my breakfast plate.

Of course sometimes we are suspicious of all those “birds”. Are they simply spying on us?

Taking care of the Beijing birds

Over the years I changed the way they can eat. I installed some wire in one pot so the doves and sparrows don’t fight to much – the doves can’t land because of the wire.
I mostly give them corn grain, we can buy it very cheap in the local market. They love it.

Sometimes I get some unexpected visitors, such as the Pallas’s Leaf Warbler (Phylloscopus proregulus), see the pic. Sometimes a bird hits the window; some I help recover, some don’t make it. Once I had to free a sparrow who got entangled in the balcony fence.

I am sure I have seen other “exotic” ones, as I can see what is flying around here:
There is indeed an active group of bird watchers in Beijing.

Extra birds

After posting the above, found some more pics.
See how they wait and flood my balcony…

Our compound has many cats, being fed daily by some ladies. See this one, climbed way high and was watching the crows. Or the crows watching the cat…