Yangzhou. (Map thanks to google maps) Yet another city of a few million dark/straight-haired (or lately, burnt orange/curly-haired) Chinese that you may not have heard of. But, if you’ve lived in China and/or picked up a bit of the written language, it’s probably one of the most commonly referenced places on a Chinese menu. Xinjiang restaurants in Dongguan, Guizhou eateries in Shenzhen, Dongbei 饭馆儿 (fanguar)-they all have at least (rather, at most) one concession to Yangzhou: fried rice (扬州炒饭 – yangzhou chaofan). Jaa, I never eat Chinese food in the US, but a quick check on ye ol’ search engine reveals that this specific dish can also be found on menus in the states (and probably other countries too). Ironically, it took me a bit of searching to find the eponymous meal while in Yangzhou (besides, there was, like everywhere in China, too much other good food on offer elsewhere). I think the chef just chucked in whatever was dispersed around the kitchen, and some bits of styrofoam too; this particular one, as the typical Yangzhou fried rice would have, also contained mushrooms, peas, ham, and shrimp (together with carrots, egg, and mystery). Apologies for the quality of the shot…it was a bit of edible graffiti anyway.
For tourists or sinophiles, Yangzhou offers you views of the Grand Canal (Grand Canal in Chinese), a revolutionary martyrs’ monument and an opportunity to visit a poser version of Hangzhou’s West Lake. (Links thanks to britannica.com and chinapages.com) But after that, what’ve ya got? Let’s visit a weekend food street and see the deal:
Sushi. Hmm, I’m sure many of you cringe at the thought of eating sushi in China, but really, why stop there? Actually, I ordered gimbap (김밥)-the Korean take on Japanese futomaki (太巻)- salted laver (seaweed) with some kinda murky Chinese pork sausage, carrot, spinach, pickled radish, and gochujang (고추장), a soy-red chili sauce, more commonly eaten in bibimbap. Hit the spot.
This nutty fella grilled a nice piece of actual, meat-filled meat. No gristle, no debris, just heavily adulterated meat. And he went beyond that. He plopped the carne into a pita-related bread pocket, added cumin, black pepper, cilantro, grilled onions, and a spritz of lemon juice to form one of the better 肉夹馍 (roujiamo-meat stuffed in bread/sandwich) I’ve eaten in the Middle Kingdom.
Perhaps due to living in southern China most of the time, I hadn’t seen this too often. It’s called the 心里美 (Xinlimei/Roseheart Radish/Watermelon Radish) and is native to the country, more popular in the north. (Link thanks to evergreenseeds.com) Undoubtedly a radish packing that nice crunch, but a bit sweeter. Which is to say, sweet at all. The name Xinlimei translates to “beauty in the heart,” so if you’re trying to find a swooning local, just throw a couple of these at ’em. Hasn’t worked yet.
Dağ, I’m not sure of the name of this sweet, but it had the consistency of “space ice cream” with a bit more crunch and a bit more chalk (oh, hi Johannesburg), and the flavor was honey. I can’t remember the name the vendors barked out, but if someone knows which part of China this is most common and/or the name, I’d appreciate if you let us know.
A short tour through eating in this southern Jiangsu city, but a worthy one. Street food in China is one of the key reasons I’d like to keep going back, and finding new/regional delights previously unknown to me is a perpetual highlight. Though chalk and radishes may not be atop anyone’s list, since I hadn’t tried either of those things before, it was important to give it a GO.
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