Dishing it Out!

Wait! I haven’t DISHED it out yet…..

Sure enough, some of the most pleasurable moments of my trip to China arrived when I followed herds of locales into their eateries.

Here is a review of some of my MEALS!

The first came on day 1. …a simple mustard green soup and vegetable

dumplings and sheep meat dumplings

Dumplings and soup on my first night. 2 dozen dumplings, a mixture of

sheep’s meat and mustard green mushroom and a tofu, mustard green miso

soup. All for about $3.50.

Pressed for time to catch my overnight solo train to Beijing, I happened

upon an 8 by 8 food stall where you loaded a plastic bin with various

vegetables and meats…and then waited shoulder to shoulder for your

creation to arrive. Those 10 minutes felt like 30, as the locals stared

at me with perplexing grimaces or would whisper and point. But this

build your own “pho” (who knows what the broth really was!) hit my taste

buds with an “A-HA!” and I happily slurped it up. Again, $3.00.

Maybe it is just my style, but I felt more swayed of selections eaten

off the streets and from small local shops or market stalls versus the

meals shared at restaurants with the larger group. To me, most of those dishes shared together were overly masked by oil and over-flavored.

HOWEVER, there were a few exceptions where I liked group meals.

The place settings are often wrapped for each guest.

Something unexpected and yet welcoming…My 6th morning in China, I

devoured a huge hotel breakfast. Almost all the traditional foods of

china plus western favorites were offered. For breakfast, I favoured the

soy sauce infused boiled egg:

In Shanghai, I convinced a few people to come with me to the steamed bun

place Anthony Bourdain ate at on one of his shows. This is a big steamed

dumpling with soup inside. The “broth” is a concoction of crab roe and

fish. Superb and delicate and layered. Perhaps the food here is now

OVERHyped but the simple dumplings also tasted gloriously fresh.

Also…our last night in Shanghai, we chowed down on some good eats.

Maybe it was because I had some really tasty but cheap Chinese Wine (It

is seriously about $2.50-$3.50 but tasty, made from a Big Company Called

the Great Wall). There are now more than 500 wineries in the country.

This was mighty tasty… (those are shredded potatoes in the front)

Despite many shared meals with the tour group, eating from market stalls

on the go truly satisfied my stomach pangs and fit my spiritual hunger. The meals with the group tended to be less flavourful and tasty, more

Marinated Lotus

salt and oil that in my opinion diluted the taste of the ingredients. My

taste buds didn’t sing at the gatherings.

Did I taste the bitterness of my own sense of overstimulation? A loneliness?

Or did I not jive with the culture itself?

I think it was a combination of commercialism (KFC RULED here!) and loss of tradition in China and my own disappointment… because when I ate what most locals did, well……

….let me introduce you to red bean paste…..next time……

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5 thoughts on “Dishing it Out!

  1. Very interesting review of the Chinese cuisine. I love eating local food wherever I go and I also like joining local cooking courses. Usually expensive but they give you a good understanding of the food you eat. Yes, I am a food geek!

  2. I think it doesn’t have anything to do with you, just with the over-doing of oil and salt (which is my personal hell duo – add MSG and it’s my hell trio). Gah.

    When I was 14, my parents and I went to the U.S. (west coast), and first station of our trip was San Francisco (loved it! Btw). I remember like yesterday how we went to Chinatown directly after arriving, totally overtired from an 13+ hours flight, and then had dinner in a Chinese restaurant, being the only non-Chinese people there. The menu was completely in Chinese, and we ordered blindly. It was awesome. I got straw mushroom in a yummy sauce that were completely unwilling to be eaten with chop sticks. 😀 This was also when we realized how different the “westernized” Chinese food is, compared to “real” Chinese food. (What we got at that restaurant was a lot more real than what we usually eat at a Chinese restaurant in Germany.) I’d never have thought that sweet-and-sour sauce was dark red (not slightly orange)! 😀 It was a great experience! Also, sitting next to Chinese families who shared their dished and slurped

  3. This was such a neat post!
    Ok, and I am super impressed that you and Anthony Bourdain ate at the same restaurant. Nice!
    I like to think of myself as adventurous when it comes to food, but I don’t know about eating sheep’s meat. I really should expand my foodie horizons.

  4. Great post, everything looks good. I love the idea of the local food more than the big meals in more touristy spots. I think for me the food was a little different because I was the only one in the group ordered different food, so mine was less oily and overcooked. We were told they were trying to show off an load us up with things to demonstrate good hospitality and the concept of more meat. But for me, I was served my own vegetarian items and I had some really great items. Too bad it was too much food and always went to waste. I am not sure why they thought I could eat the same amount just me that they made for the entire table. I was often served 10 course meals, full plates, for just me. Luckily the rest of the group was curious and shared with me. Sounds like some of those food items were the best part of your trip. You will have to visit me in Japan, or maybe Korea or Thailand or something like that…not right away, but at some point while I am in Japan.

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