Chinese Food – It’s Not What You Think

So many of you are wondering what have I been eating? Probably something like dog or cat, or something just weird and morally wrong. While I have been a little adventurous in what I am eating, I am not being too adventurous yet. My brother, Danny, really wants me to try bull’s testicles. I’m not sure what his fascination is with them but I’ll leave that for him.

So the first night I got here we go to a BBQ restaurant owned by this guy named Wu Gong. He runs the restaurant with his wife. He is the only shop owner in “The Cheew” who speaks any English, so we always go there. Plus he is a really nice guy so that makes it fun too. So that first night he brought out raw chicken feet. Now, being it was my first day in China I wasn’t that eager to try it but a few of the other teachers did. It looked a little too far-out for me.

The other teachers pointed out that on the menu there is a whole section dedicated to animal penises. I asked if anyone had ever tried one and a few said they had. I asked how it tasted and they just said it was really chewy and hard to eat. I bet.

I have been a little adventurous; I’ve tried chicken hearts and chicken stomachs. They kind of tasted like liver, but much chewier. Last week I did try bugs. The way they cook it is by frying them alive in oil. That is how they stay fresh, but being alive up until the minute you cook them. They were really weird to eat. With a hard exoskeleton shell and really gooey insides. I can’t really describe the taste but it was a little bit smoky and a little bit earthy.

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So let me give you a break down of what I usually eat here on a daily basis. In the morning I usually go without breakfast but if I am hungry I will go to this pushcart lady who makes this thing that is a combination of a crepe and egg burrito. It is really good. The way she makes it by laying the crepe mixture down and then cracks an egg on top of it. She then flips it over to cook on the other side and she puts this sweet sauce on it. Then she will lay down a piece of dried or fried dough along with some parsley and chives. She then folds it up like a burrito and gives it to you in a plastic bag. It is super delicious.

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For lunch, a lot of the time the teachers order in food from a restaurant. It is like this half-and-half portion thing in which half is rice and the other half is the main dish. I have been sticking with two types; one is called Dei San Tzein. It is green peppers, potatoes and eggplant. So far it is my favorite. The second type is called She Hung Sher Gee Dan, which are eggs and tomatoes. They are kind of watery, but when it is mixed with the rice it is really good. When I am tired of eating those two dishes I will go to the super market next door and get a bag of noodles. It is exactly what it sounds like; a plastic bag filled with noodles, cucumber shreds and a sauce. I like going there to get it because there is a cute girl working behind the counter. It’s good but I’ve been eating it a lot recently and I am getting sick of eating it everyday.

        

For dinner I have a couple of routines. Sometimes I will go to this sushi place where I will only get tuna rolls because everything else either has pork or shellfish in it. If I am not in the mood for sushi I will go get dumplings. There are two types of dumplings, bow-tza and jiao-tza. Jiao-tza are the ones Americans are most familiar with, the ones you get when you order dumpling from Royal Dragon or David Chews. The other, bow-tza, is a bigger dumpling that is wrapped up in a round dough ball. They are usually filled with meat, but you can get them with eggs and leeks or I went to one place where they put eggs and tomatoes in. That was amazing. (Mom and dad, I will take you there when you come.)

(On the top are jiao-tza – or regular dumplings. Next is a plate of chiow mein – “fried” noodles, similar to low mein in the states. And on the bottom are the bow-tza – the big dumplings)

Sometimes I go to a square filled with food pushcarts that sell different dishes. There is this one dish I really like called Laow Me’en (meaning cold noodles). He puts down this square piece of dried noodle and then adds water, an egg, a bunch of sauces, and parsley and onions. It is really good. Here is the guy making it below.

I also have tried something that my friends call stinky tofu. It is cooked in this big wok. The tofu starts off white but then somehow becomes clear. They then add this peanut sauce to it. The first few bites are good but then you get sick of eating them.

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But most of the time I am finding myself going to Wu Gong’s. He has taught me to play mahjong and has taught me a lot of Chinese words. Like I said in a previous blog, the BBQs here are cooked over what looks to be a gutter with hot coals. While we would heat up a grill’s coals by fanning them with a plate, here they use hair dryers to heat the coals. It’s pretty smart.

Wu Gong doesn’t get a lot of business so we like to go there and support his restaurant. It is a funny thing about China. If people are eating at a restaurant, more people will go there because they think it is popular. So we like to sit there eat a little bit, drink a little bit and hopefully Wu Gong will get more business. But the fact of the matter is that for me, it is cheaper to be eating out for every meal than it is to go to a store and buy all the ingredients I need to cook that same food. So these are just a few of the places I like to go.

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About JoelS

Spending a year teaching English and saving the world in China
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