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.
Also available were things like dumplings (jiaozi), fried rice, cold drinks, and mystery meat parts.
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:
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.
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.
Another delicious meal was in Hangzhou. We enjoyed some of the regional specialities, such as chicken in tea leaves and a fatty pork dish.
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.
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.
And 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.