Beijing Eating Adventures: Guest Blogger-Sister #3

August29

I try to keep an open mind when I go to a foreign country, especially when it comes to their food.  I remember traveling through Turkey many years ago with a woman who would complain “you just can’t get a good hamburger here” and I remember thinking, there are lots of delicious things to eat in Turkey that you can’t get in Winnipeg.  I never wanted to be a picky Canadian when it came to travel.  I believe in doing my best to love the food I’m with, as it were. 

So imagine my dismay when I discovered that Mandarin food and I just didn’t hit it off.  Turns out I am a big fan of Cantonese and Schezuan food, found all across China, but not so much a fan of Mandarin food, the specialty of the Beijing area.  Don’t worry, I will be sure to share the Cantonese delights I discovered in a later blog entry, but for now, let’s talk Mandarin.  

 

My hosts were obsessed with me trying what they consider comfort food.  They know that I am passionate about food so they spent a lot of time deciding what restaurants to take me to so that I would have the freshest, most authentic taste of the food they love.   

So let me tell you about some of the classic fare I experienced.  Rice was the one thing I thought would save me on this trip.  I love rice and could eat it everyday but I only got it twice on this trip and both times I made a special request for it.  At almost every meal we had congee – a goopy, tasteless rice porridge.

 

Meat is something I usually enjoy however the cuts consisted mostly of organ meats and there was a lot of intestine being eaten.  Not so much what I had in mind. 

OK, chicken and fish, safe bet…right?  All the fish and shrimp of course were head on and I managed OK with that. However, I remember tucking into this big bowl of yummy bone in chicken, I saw the feet were in the bowl and managed to psychologically overcome that and then I saw the head and that was it.  Game over. I’ve sometimes heard vegetarians say that the  “don’t eat anything with a face”.  While I am far from being a vegetarian I must admit I prefer not to have the animals face looking back at me as I eat it.  

 

Many of the Chinese vegetables are really bitter. Most are served in a sauce that is tapioca starch based making them all pretty slimy.  Thankfully I love broccoli, carrots and asparagus so much that even that could not deter me.

Dessert, surely one can get enough calories from eating sweets at every meal.  Unfortunately dessert was also a challenge.  When we would stop at a road side stand for a cold ice cream I would be told I could “get that at home” and instead be handed a bowl of lukewarm runny custard topped with red beans or filled with slippery bits.  Even the candy in Beijing is made out of bean curd. 

Thankfully I started each day with toast and a hard boiled egg at the apartment. Beijing had the most delicious eggs I have ever tasted.  I was grateful to have packed a half dozen granola bars.  And Priscilla’s cravings for American food occasionally won her mom over to allowing us to go to Pizza Hut or Subway.  Not my favourite food but boy did it ever taste good compared to congee.

Kath’s quote: “If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion, and avoid the people, you might better stay home.”-James Michener


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