Archive for April 15th, 2008

One of my favourite people in Toronto has been following my blog, and remarked that I certainly have been eating allot! Well, actually yes. Food is a major preoccupation in China (as in all civilized countries in my view – France, Italy, and Spain come to mind) and food options are apparently endless. Today, we take a brief edible tour the province of Yunnan, which is bracketed by Vietnam and Tibet, and home to 8 different ethnic cultures and their cuisines. Again, I am astounded at how different each dish is from each other and from all of the other Chinese cuisines I have sampled thus far. Yunnan cuisine is characterized by the use of fresh ingredients, vegetables, fruit bamboo and flowers (!) prepared with a harmonious balance of sour, sweet, chili and pepper (from the Sichuan peppercorn). Our meal was not an exhaustive survey of all this beautiful province offers, but a wonderful light sampling. Glutinous rice served in a hollowed out pineapple, shredded chicken in a light lemon sauce with coriander, a positively addictive smokey eggplant salad, ground beef with peppers and tomatoes, and fat cigars of ground chicken, rolled in bean curd, cleverly tied with chives like a Roman sandal, grilled and served with a pineapple sauce. All of this, in an exotic, bright and colourful dining room, with beverage, for less than $25 dollars. And he wonders that I eat all the time! Street food is another one of Beijing’s culinary adventures. I enclose a few pics, and it is unlikely they will induce hunger pangs. No macho impulse is going to induce me to try deep fried scorpions or even the more homely fried cricket. Yes, they may taste like fries, but if I am going to have fries, I am going to have them as julienne potatoes, twice fried, once at a low temperature to soften and cook, and then quickly at a higher heat to crisp and make golden brown. A liberal dusting of salt, and then turn out on a warmed plate along aside a generous portion of marbled New York steak, charred on the exterior, bright red and bloody inside. A bit of Bearnaise on the top may be gilding the lily, but hey, I won’t be indulging in anything remotely resembling the meal I just described for 2 months! Back to street food. A common and tasty breakfast on the go are jiabing, flour based crepes that are smeared with egg, plum and hot sauce, and lively green onion and coriander. Also ubiquitous are stalls with offerings of unrecognizable kebabs of pressed meat or shaped tofu, (I think) and more reassuring vegetables, squid, and fruit. The meat and fish are grilled or immersed in a deeply red, almost black, oily broth, it’s murky depths swirling with red pepper flakes and other undefined content. Sounds fearsome, but the heat fades quickly on the tongue, leaving a pleasant spicy aftertaste. Honest.

Well it’s almost lunchtime in Beijing – I have attempted to make online bookings for 2 flights to the far flung regions to travel the Silk Roads of China – neither have been successful transactions but have resulted in endless text messages and phone calls from Chinese speaking agents, who promptly put me on hold and then hang up on me. My host reminded me when I emailed confidently only 30minutes ago that I had received my email confirmations and that all bookings were a go that this is China. Nothing is that easy. However, I know that lunch can be had and concluded for the mutal satisfaction of all concerned. And so to eat.

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