I was advised by a friend in China, on the evening before my flight to Uk, to bring with me 20 boxes of instant noodle “ I care about you,” she said, “ I can’t stand the idea of you being starved there”.
There was an old joke in China, an English gentleman to China and was so amazed by the variety of Chinese food. So his fellow Chinese friend ask him, “what are the typical food in your country?” the English man answered, “well, we have four major dishes: fish &chips, fish, chips, chips&fishes”. And in my middle-school English textbook, there was such description on English culture: “English people eat fish and chips for lunch every day”.
It was not until I came here that I realized everything I had learned about English food in china wrapped up to a big big lie.
With a few droplets of dark red chilli oil floating on the top, accompanied by stars of chopped greenish onion and curly parsley, and the shining springy noodles sitting at the bottom of the clear beef soup that gives out a wonderful aroma, the Lanzhou Lamian (Lanzhou beef pulled noodle) is the city’s pride.
Lan Zhou Lamian: one red; two green; three white; four yellow; five clear.
Fu Rong Jie (Water Lily Street) in Jinan
Almost every city has its own collection of “street specialities”, but more than often, the best of street food are hidden in old allies instead of showcased along shining and new major road. A trip to those allies can be not only a great treat but also a fantastic way to learn more about the city and its characteristics. The Fu Rong Street (Water Lily Street) in Jinan is such a place from which one can get a good feel about the city in all façade. The Street used to function as the administrative, financial, commercial and cultural centre of the historical Jinan City. However, after the founding of PRC and rapid expansion of the city, it was abandoned to be etched by time and nature until the last decade, when the Jinan government renovated the street and promoted it as a food street.
My days in Hanoi usually started by a fresh mango or passion fruit juice, accompanied by Vietnamese bread to which I had totally surrendered my taste buds and my soul. They say that the Vietnamese people’s taste for bread is a treasonous relish cultivated during colonial past, but in my opinion, bread is Vietnam.
My lunch time was about taking a stroll down the street full of scooters, walking pass numerous French style buildings and finally stopping at a Banh Mi (Vietnamese style bread roll) stool. With excitement I watched the woman putting a baguette into a tiny charcoal oven and simultaneously grilling two thin pieces of pork. My appetite was stirred up once more. By the time the minced pork turned brown and gave a seductive fragrance, my stomach and my throat were playing a symphony. With hardly enough patience I waited for her to squeeze in some sliced green chilli pepper and carrots , some herbs and a few bean sprout on board, to top everything with a rich stream of chilli sauce, then to wrap the whole thing with half a piece of yesterday’s newspaper and, finally, she handed it over to me. Standing there I would take a first bite—my teeth pierced through the crunchiness of bread and landed on a multi-textured frenzy of freshness—the thing was bliss.
Lvdagunr (glutinous rice rolls with sweet bean flour), is a traditional Manchu snack quite common in Beijing. The dish itself was hundreds of years old but is enjoying its modern popularity on the street of Beijing. Putting together only a few ingredients and the snack offers your taste buds a simple but rich feast of beans—sweet but not too sweet, glutinous but not sticky, soft but slightly chewy—it is a perfect balance between a nian gao rice cake and a bean flavour moose.