china-size me, please

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”.

congee with thousand year old eggs
Congee is watery rice, that you then doctor to your liking. In this photo, you can see some of my favourite flavours: spicy hot sauce, scallions, and thousand year old eggs.

mashers and sweet red bean gravy
Mashed potatoes with sweet red bean gravy. Very interesting combination of sweet and savory, but not really my style.

get your peking ducks in a row
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.

bill cosby burger
All non-Asian food is generically called “Western” food. This delight came from a place called Grandma’s Kitchen, and was surprisingly good. My cardiologist hates me.

street meat
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.

bbq baked oysters
Delicious bbq baked oysters with garlic sauce. Got these at the skewer place on “Ghost” street. These were so good that we got two orders. Yum.

coffee bean chicken!

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.

garlic clam!
A delicious clam that came as part of our “21 dish meal” with Uncle Mike in Nanjing.

spicy szechuan
Coly recommended we eat this dish, which was a pickled spicy vegetable dish, to balance out the delicious savory meat pastries we’d eaten just beforehand.

baked fish
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.

kfc.cn == mediocre
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.

victor, the glutton
Victor goes to town on a monster breakfast at the 5-star Shanghai Crowne Plaza. This hotel deserved every star. The breakfast spread was hands down one of the best spreads I’ve ever seen.

pineapples... on sticks!
Making these pineapple treats is a pain in the butt. It takes quite a while to carve out all the little holes.

mochi!
Mochi balls are Japanese, but who’s counting? In this image, from left to right, the flavours are green tea, coffee, and sweet red bean paste.

mochi madness!
Sorry for the duplicate, but I loved that mochi ball display.

sweet sesame ball
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.

gelatinous
Street jello. I didn’t have any, but they sure were pretty.

sweet tofu
Some sweet tofu, again with sweet red bean paste. Sweet flavours in Chinese cuisine are much more subtle than the 2×4 across the face approach that tends to dominate American desserts.

beer bowl
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.

man and woman drinks
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.

chi-merica, better together
We are America. We will give you our culture.

the power of a brand
Due to the power of branding and marketing, no explanation is necessary for this image.

this bud's for you
In old Lijiang, they use the river that runs through it as a refrigerator.

yak-gurt
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”.

crickets for consumption
Street crickets. The locals don’t eat these, they’re just for tourists who’ve something to prove.

fermented awfulness

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.”

who wants to eat a seahorse?
Seahorses. Also not eaten by tourists. I think they just set this collection out every day and put it away at night without anyone ever buying any.

octopi
People do eat octopus, and actually, this image isn’t all that weird. I didn’t get a chance to eat any of the seafood sold in markets like this though, since we never really had an opportunity.

mudbugs
Another not-so-weird food, crayfish. Again, I didn’t get a chance to try them.

fish heads, fish heads... oh wait, no.
Bloody, but not weird. I didn’t write down what kind of fish this is other than “dead”.

take that, eel!
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.

bullfrogs
I’d eat frog, but bullfrog? Ew. Also, the literal translation for bullfrog is… “cow frog” which I find infinitely delightful.

And there you have it. A survey of the Chinese culinary landscape, ta daaaa!