Get ready for a gigantic post about food! One of my favourite subjects!
The rough menu here is, savory items, sweet desserts, drinks, and “oddities”.
Naked Peking ducks. Peking duck (or Beijing baked duck, translated literally) is fatty and delicious. The skin is crispy like rice paper, and you eat it with sweet plum sauce on a little bun. If you can find a good rendition of it, pay whatever they’re asking, it’s that good.
Although I love street food, I didn’t get a chance to try too much of it. The first part of the trip, we were constantly stuffing our faces at restaurants so I was never hungry when we found street meat, and by the time I was on my own, the vendors were scarce, and I was still getting stuffed at every meal. Oh well.
Coffee bean chicken. This dish was delicious. The coffee was just the right amount to add some interest, but not so much as to be overpowering. Lovely.
Spicy baked fish that I ate with Jack. When we were in the restaurant, they brought the flipping flopping fish out in a net for our approval before taking it back and turning it into food for us. Instead of sterno heaters, they use actual charcoal in that deep pan to keep the fish blistering hot for the entire meal.
When I travel, I normally seek out a McDonald’s to see what America is exporting, and see what the local interpretation is. I didn’t have time in China for a McD’s, but I did manage to get to a KFC, which are everywhere. The Chinese regard KFC the same way that Americans regard Wendy’s. Not really that good, but passable in a pinch. I was hoping for an exotic local variation, but the Colonel’s secret recipe has been dutifully replicated in the Middle Kingdom.
Our “21 dish meal” was weird, in that we had 7 courses of 3 dishes each. And in each course, you might get any combination of savory and sweet which was an odd feeling, to be switching into dessert mode, and then back to main meal mode. Sesame forms the basis of many sweets in the Chinese culinary landscape.
This restaurant used soup bowls instead of beer glasses. However, it wasn’t like you would totally lose track of all consumption, since they also gave you bottled beer. It was an interesting novelty, but all in all, not earth shattering.
These were awful tasting herbal medicine liquors. The red string was for women only, and the white string was for men only. I think they were supposed to be some sort of aphrodisiac, but the adults at our table didn’t really give us the full explanation.
Yak yogurt! Sadly, I didn’t try any. I will say that yak tastes just like beef. Also, the Chinese word for yak is “hair cow”. I got in a conversation with a waitress that went something like, “what kind of meat is this? cow? or hair cow?” “hair cow”.
Awful fermented tofu that is apparently a very traditional Chinese breakfast food. As Coly said, “I don’t think this is delicious, but it is interesting.”
Man killing eels. The board has a nail sticking out that he spikes the eel’s head onto, but not to kill it, only to hold it still while skinning it alive. I’ve had eel before, but we didn’t get any at this market.
And there you have it. A survey of the Chinese culinary landscape, ta daaaa!