Thursday, April 28, 2011

China Post #8 Food

Well for some reason the wifi here is running extremely slow. I'm hoping to load a bunch of photos of food, so we'll see how it goes.

We've been eating out more than usual here. Partly because it is quite a bit cheaper here than back home, most of the time and because it can be more difficult here to get groceries. There are stores where you can get everything in one place but for the most those stores are a 15 minute walk or more and I have to take Dylan which might mean carrying him and groceries on the way back. Closer to the Shama there are loads of small markets, stalls and street vendors, so you can get everything but one needs to make 3 or 4 stops to be able to cook a meal.

The staple food here actually seems to be noodles instead of rice. I wonder if it will be rice when we head south or possibly it is just the proximity to Korea that makes noodles so common here. Anyway here are some images of food and thoughts on it.

So the first restaurant we went to here is a "Hot Pot" place. Just think fondue, they bring out a bowl of soup and start it boiling on a cook top in the center of the table. Next up are the raw ingredients. This one is just down the main street from us and seems to place a lot of importance on the mushrooms. We've been twice and after getting this huge plate of fungi the first time,
and feeling as though we never wanted to see another mushroom again, we tried to pass up the shrooms the second time and the server insisted that we get some and would not let us order anything else until we had picked a plate of mushrooms. The second time though we ended up getting a much smaller plate and they were quite interesting, almost like dense noodles.

Most of the meat that they have is shaved quite thin which means that it cooks very quickly and is pretty tender. Not sure if the tenderness is from it being sliced so thin or it actually being a much better cut of meat than what you can usually find in the stores and stalls.
This was the soup pot the first time we went. It had a nice divider and the person dropping in the food actually kept the meat on one side and veggies on the other.
Mushrooms went on both sides as did the noodles which were fresh and very good. The second time the pot did not have a divider, not sure really what gets you the different pots since we ordered the same soup base both times.

We had wanted some fish, so we ordered salmon. Now everything in the menu is raw in the picture since that is how they bring it to the table, but apparently the fish is not meant to be cooked. Now I love sushi and sashimi but it is rare that it comes out on ice??? Regardless, t tasted fine and none of us got sick, though it felt a bit weird eating ice cold sashimi.
Another popular restaurant among the expat population out here is the Bashu Legend. I wonder if this doesn't have more to do with the english name on the sign out front than the quality of the food. I think we all agreed that at least 2 of the dishes on the table were a bit odd tasting, not in that they would make you sick but just ODD.
The better dishes I thought were just OK, while Linda liked the chicken dish.

When you are out roaming about town you tend to grab what ever is convenient and usually there are plenty of options to pick from. Lots of stands, street vendors and small shops. This is a noodle house we stopped at near the train station in downtown. No english to be found, so I ordered by pointing at what someone else had to get a bowl of noodles and some meat. Linda asked what they recommended and was a bit surprised when they brought out the octopus and vegi dish.
Usually you are pretty safe getting noodles and there is a noodle place in the shopping center below us where for 6 yuan you can get a bowl (conversion is about 6.5 yuan to a dollar). Most of the time you can eat for 5-10 yuan for lunch and get a hot cooked meal.

At the other end of the spectrum, we got a recommendation for a restaurant in downtown called the Asia Grande. It was quite good but when the bill came, OUCH. It really would not have been that bad except for one dish. The food was better than most any Chinese food you would get in the US (go figure) and the presentation was very nice. We got...
Goose, which seemed to everyone to be a bit more tender than duck. You could flip the head over and look at the skull and beak cavity as well. Next we got sweet and sour, I don't remember if it was chicken or pork but it was tasty.
Nobody else wanted to order red meat so I got a lamb chop wrapped in....
bacon. Last, since it was a cantonese restaurant, Linda wanted to get a steamed fish which seemed fine since we always get steamed fish when we go out with her family. A nice flounder with a good amount of meat and nice seasoning.
When we got the bill it was a little over 1,000 yuan but they ended up discounting it down to about 900. Everything looked fine on the bill, though the fish was priced by weight which is what killed us. It was 26 Yuan for every 50g and it was nearly a 1 kilo fish. Yep, that was a 468 yuan (or about $70) fish. Nearly half the meal.

We have been here long enough now that we have had to get Dylan's and my hair cut, partly because we did not make a point of doing it before we left. Here is Dylan getting his $2 hair cut, I think mine was closer to $3 but they washed my hair twice and I did not have them wash Dylan's since I did not think he would let them, though now that he has seen them wash mine maybe he would.
Another interesting food thing. This is what you get when you want to take soup home. It just gets scooped into a plastic bag and you carry home. some places even line the bowls they give you to eat from in plastic bags so they don't have to wash them after you are done, they just toss the bag and put in a new one.
Now, in the US this would never work since as we all know plastic bags are super flimsy and if you look at them wrong they get holes. Out here the bags are ballistic, you could easily use the same bag 10 or more times at the grocery store. On the topic of food containers and differences, soda cans are much thicker than their american counter parts and bottles are thinner. I wonder how much material would be saved if the lighter duty of both was used everywhere?

OK so that was a bunch and everything loaded.

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