Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Culinary Adventures Across China

Here's where I masquerade as a fancy food blogger and write all about the food I ate in China, accompanied by dazzlingly bright photos of intriguing morsels.

Right. :) At least try to imagine that's what's happening here.

The interesting thing about our trip to China is that we ate at number of levels of society. Isaac's time in China without me was mostly spent in very rural areas, and he was served farm food from someone's kitchen the whole time. He had the best adventures... or worst, depending on your perspective.

Rural Farm Food
The wok in his farmhouse kitchen is actually built in to the counter top...
From china

They ate communally - with a round table and a lazy susan. Everyone had their own little bowl and chopsticks, and you literally ate like bird - diving in and snapping up whatever you want with your chopsticks as it circles around the table. We got really good at chopsticks, by the way. There weren't forks provided anywhere, even in Beijing, so we got used to it real fast. Chopsticks or starve, really.

From china

Isaac says the food wasn't bad, it was just... unrecognizable and unfamiliar. He was always just eating and not knowing what he was eating. Worst of all was the meat. We eat particular cuts of meat... you know... pork loin, chicken breast, etc. Their method was to take the animal, randomly chop it up, and then plop it in whatever it's being cooked with.

Isaac did less well with random meat parts... he doesn't know how to eat a chicken head, has no idea what to do with chicken feet, doesn't particularly find pig fat and skin with the bristles still on very appealing, and has no clue what to do with a pig foot.

From china

Speaking of strange meat... we found black/purple chicken, a phenomenon we first came across during Christmas dinner with my family in South Asia a few years back. My dad picked up a whole chicken for Christmas dinner, and my mom cooked it up, and it came out.... blue. And so tough it was seriously inedible. We were all so confused, because my dad just ordered a chicken the way he always had before. Here's one we found out the market in China:

From china

I can't blame Isaac for his discomfort. I grew up in Asia and a lot of it was unfamiliar to me too! Soybeans, rice, fruit, noodles... that I can do. All the random liquid dishes with things floating around usually tasted alright, I just wish I knew was I was eating! It also sucks to be the honored guest sometimes. They piled his bowl with whatever delicacies happened to be around, which was usually the most unfamiliar item of all... when Isaac really just wanted the rice and vegetables!

City Food
Of course, when you're in a massive city like Beijing, you can find all sorts of food. Isaac, tired of rural farm food, indulged in McDonalds, KFC, Dairy Queen, Starbucks, etc. I went hunting for street food...

From china

I had no idea what to order at little bakery stalls like the one above, so I went for the little rolls with sesame seeds on them that you can see at the front. OHMIGOSH. To die for. I found them three more times before we left Beijing. Fresh, soft, warm, lightly sweet, with a crispy bottom that had some sort of sweet syrup on it, and of course the sesame seeds. Delicious.

There were fresh noodles:
From china

Roasted sesame paste stalls (tahini), green tea everywhere, random seafood grilling outside, watermelon and apples by the basketful, etc, etc.

I love bubble tea, and I ordered it several times. At a few spots no one spoke English, so I would attempt to use some Chinese I'd learned. Sometimes this failed. I think I essentially ordered the "original" or something like that one time, which to me means the original milk tea with tapioca pearls. To them, original means milk tea with everything in the store added in. See all this stuff pictured below? It ALL comes in the original. Beans, peanuts, these little gummy jelly things, bits of fruit.... they think that is delicious, but I prefer simplicity.

From china
And of course, when you're in Beijing as a tourist you're supposed to try the famed Peking Duck. So... we did. Except... I was meeting my team at this famed Beijing roast duck spot and got totally lost. I swear the guidebook says that everyone, locals included, know exactly where this place is because it's so popular. No. It is in a tiny side alley and I wandered in circles around it for an hour or so and NO ONE knew where it was.

But finally.... Liqun Roast Duck restaurant. It's a hole in the wall but there were pictures of stars from all over the world hung on the wall (even Bill Clinton!)

From china

And you know, it was delicious. Tender, juicy roast duck, with all sorts of random sides that we were all trying for the first time.

From china
.... to be continued.....

1 comment:

Bethany said...

Wow, what culinary amazingless! I love bubble tea too, but that looks like a little too much. I prefer simplicity too!