Couchsurfing in China: I Travel for the Food

If you have read my blog, like, ever, then you are likely aware that I like food. Like really like food. And taking a trip to China was the perfect opportunity to try some new and, ummm, interesting foods. There were also many delicious foods. Many, many delicious foods.

Let’s start by talking about the street food. Across from campus was a myriad collection of food vendors and small restaurants where I most often ate during my stay. At any time of the day, various forms of inexpensive food, both identifiable and otherwise, were available for purchase. One of Jobie and Junie’s favorites is these sweet corn (or corn-like? I’m not really sure what was in them) cakes. Baked fresh and placed into a bag while still giving off steam, these were small bites of puffy goodness.

DSC00245

DSC00246

DSC00249
Sweet corn(?)cake comas

Also available were things like dumplings (jiaozi), fried rice, cold drinks, and mystery meat parts.

Thankfully, Candi was able to order for me.
Thankfully, Candi was able to order for me.
This is a strangely delicious drink called coffee milk tea. Which is exactly what it sounds like.
This is a strangely delicious drink called coffee milk tea. Which is exactly what it sounds like.
Lemon something? It was quite refreshing after returning from a hike up a mountain.
Lemon something? It was quite refreshing after returning from a hike up a mountain.

DSC00336

DSC00335

DSC00348

DSC00337

DSC00338

DSC00343

DSC00342

DSC00340
I do not believe I want to know what any of this is…
DSC00347
However, this I want to eat. Now.

In the same area as the street food vendors were several small restaurants. During my stay, we ate at two of Candi and Justin’s favorites – one specializing in Sichuan cuisine and another in cuisine from northern China. I honestly cannot remember all of the dishes, but I do remember that the vegetables – cauliflower, small eggplants, potatoes, squash – were all especially delicious. Although I thoroughly enjoyed each of these meals, I will be honest. One must put aside any and all food hygiene issues in order to consume food in China.

First, because food is prepared in places that look like this:

DSC00251

I’m guessing there is not much regulation of food safety standards.

Second, meals are served family style. Various dishes are ordered (by someone who actually speaks Chinese) and brought to the table along with a big bowl of rice. Each person dips their own small bowl of rice, but from that point, chopsticks are used to grab individuals bites. Those same chopsticks are then used to place those bites (after adding an appropriate amount of rice) into each person’s mouth. And then back into the plates of yummy food shared by all.

I really found it best to not think about it. That way, I could thoroughly enjoy eating all of these amazing dishes.

DSC00254

DSC00256

DSC00259

DSC00258

DSC00257

DSC00733

DSC00743

DSC00742

DSC00740

DSC00738

DSC00737

DSC00555
In case it’s not obvious, this is the entrance to a dumpling restaurant
DSC00550
Where the magic happens

DSC00549

DSC00548

DSC00544
This was as spicy as it looks and perfect to add to a bowl of dumplings along with some dark vinegar.

DSC00543

DSC00540

DSC00539

DSC00536
I have been craving this for a solid 2 weeks. And I cannot have it. Never go to China because you will eat things like this and your life will never be the same and you will be sad that you cannot eat it every day. Just some friendly advice.

We went out for a nice dinner one night to a place called 70’s Restaurant, although it’s anyone’s guess as to why. Despite the inexplicable name, the food was incredible.

DSC00494

DSC00521

DSC00520
These were little tiny eggplants. As a side note, instead of saying “cheese” when taking a picture, people will say “qiezi,” the Chinese word for eggplant, which sounds more like ches-duh. Obviously.
DSC00518
Mushrooms

DSC00517

DSC00516

DSC00515

DSC00514
This was translated as bread with ice cream. It was a sweet bread with a sugary outside topped with a sweet butter-like substance that got all melty and good tasting.

DSC00513

DSC00511
This cabbage was incredible, especially as it continued to cook and got a little crispy on the edges.
DSC00502
Enjoying some barley tea.

DSC00501

 

Another delicious meal was in Hangzhou. We enjoyed some of the regional specialities, such as chicken in tea leaves and a fatty pork dish.

DSC00882

DSC00884

DSC00891

DSC00895

DSC00894

DSC00893

DSC00892

One of my favorite things to eat was the readily available fresh and delightful fruit, even when I was not entirely sure what it was that I was eating.

DSC00362

DSC00364

DSC00363

DSC00351

 

DSC00353

Dragonfruit smoothies. In a Razorback cup, of course. WPS!!
Dragonfruit smoothies. In a Razorback cup, of course. WPS!!

DSC00266

DSC00268

DSC00267

 

Even the places that should have been familiar had their own unique Chinese twist. Take for instance, Dairy Queen. Forget a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Blizzard. I ordered mango ice cream complete with a macaroon.

DSC00896

DSC00899

DSC00898And then there were the chips. Trying to find a familiar flavor was next to impossible. Because they were mostly flavored like meat. Even the Cheetos were meat flavored. As in, regular Cheetos were not to be found.

DSC00404

DSC00409

DSC00408

DSC00407

DSC00406

 

 

DSC00405
Not meat flavored, but also not particularly good. Trust me.

Even the bakeries were different. Although the pictures may appear to be any bakery in any city, the available pastries tended to be less sweet than what one would typically find. Oh, and the egg custard? Amazing.

DSC01016

DSC01020

DSC01017
And yes, I ate both this and the egg custard. Don’t judge me. I needed lots of energy for a day in Shanghai and a long plane ride home.

Although I ate many wonderful, potentially life changing foods while in China, I also took the opportunity to try a couple of new, potentially not palatable foods. And because I like you, I am sharing the carefully documented series of pictures of me trying gross things. You’re welcome.

First up, stinky tofu. As the name suggests, it is tofu that is intentionally soaked in something that smells like sewage before being fried. The name could not be more appropriate.

DSC00307
This is one of the moments when blogging is an inadequate medium. There are no words to capture the burning trash smell permeating the air as the tofu was fried.

IMG_5505

DSC00312

DSC00314

 

The most memorable food experience was certainly trying chicken feet. I literally ate the foot of a chicken. I think the pictures say it all.

DSC00885

 

DSC00886

DSC00888

DSC00889

One of my favorite ways to get to know any place, both near home and in a far away place like China, is to try new dishes. Whether what I ate was especially tasty or something I would never voluntarily eat again, China did not disappoint.

 

 

 

 

Couchsurfing in China: Images of Shaoxing

In some ways, I hesitate to say that I’ve been to China. The country is incredibly immense and diverse and I only spent an inadequate number of days seeing one small piece of it. I spent most of my time in Shaoxing, the city where Justin and Candi live and work. They teach at Zhejiang Yuexiu University of Foreign Languages and live in an apartment on campus. My trip to China was in no way typical because I had the opportunity to experience the day-to-day life they live in Shaoxing and around Yeuxiu. Today’s post will mostly be pictures of that life. I could say something trite like “a picture is worth a thousand words” or “words could never do it justice.” But the reality is that today I’m feeling a bit lazy.

So, here are some pictures of Shaoxing and the university campus – the tiny piece of China I visited – accompanied by minimal words. Because I’m lazy.

The Apartment: 

This is the apartment building where the foreign language teachers live.
This is the apartment building where the foreign language teachers live.
The view from the apartment
The view from the apartment
The "garage," complete with outlets with which to charge the e-bikes
The “garage,” complete with outlets with which to charge the e-bikes

DSC00653

The Campus: 

Setting out to walk across campus

DSC00239

DSC00238

DSC00237

DSC00236

This is across the street from campus. So. Much. Good. Food. More on that in a later post!
This is across the street from campus. So. Much. Good. Food. More on that in a later post!

DSC00242

DSC00646

DSC00700

DSC00697

DSC00692

DSC00691

DSC00658

DSC00525

Speaking of the campus, I got to help Candi teach some of her classes! Because I am both a psychologist and a lefty, things that are practically nonexistent in China, I was a bit of an anomaly to her students. Also, you haven’t lived until you have played Balderdash using English language idioms with a group of Chinese students. It was both funny and incredibly impressive. I couldn’t help but imagine how terrible I would be if the situation were reversed.

DSC00401

DSC00399

DSC00532

DSC00527

The City: 

DSC00391

DSC00389

DSC00388
Shaoxing is known historically for calligraphy, which is commemorated by this statue. Obviously.

DSC00381

DSC00378
Starbucks!!
What was amazing to me was that Shaoxing is not considered a particularly large city - millions of people live here.
What was amazing to me was that Shaoxing is not considered a particularly large city and yet millions of people live here.

DSC00454

DSC00443

DSC00556

DSC00599
It was a sunny day – that’s smog

DSC01018

DSC01015

DSC01014

DSC01013

DSC01012

DSC01011

Today’s post is all about the pictures, fleeting glimpses of Shaoxing and Yuexiu University. Every moment was so packed with colors, noises, smells, and people. It is impossible to describe the overwhelming wonder of it, each chaotic second leaving me exhausted and wanting more. Now that I’m home, sitting in my comfortably air-conditioned, quiet, organized home, I can’t help but ask myself: when can I go back?