Food in the rest of China continued to impress us. Writing about what we ate will make me hungry, but I'll give it a try.
As most New Yorkers know from Joe's Shanghai in Chinatown, Shanghai has "soup dumplings"--dumplings that are filled with meat and broth. What Joe's Shanghai didn't teach us is that they also come in a fried variety. We ordered 20 of them for dinner one night and the cashier thought that she was missing something in the language barrier. We assured her that I would eat that many, though.
What's that fried bread have in it? Don't know, but we'll try one. Oh, something green! That's good.
In China, Lay's come in blueberry. Much better than they sound. We bought them several times. Furthermore, I liked that in the ingredients, they list "Breezy Blueberry Flavoring," as though that tells me everything I could ever want to know about the content of the chips.
Happy Lemon is a drink chain in China that sells bubble teas and the like. Some of their combinations (like the ones with "rock cheese") were terrible. Some were almost potable. Tara and Brooke liked most of them.
Soup abounds in China. This one seems to have some pork, some tofu, and some green stuff. Oh, and some tasty glass noodles. Looks good.
Ever wonder what Chinese people eat for breakfast? If they were staying in our hotel, they ate this. Lacking in sugar, but not bad. Some steamed bread, some fried bread, some wonton soup, some rice porridge (with do flavor), and some pickled beets. Oh, and a hard-boiled egg.
Tara and Brooke taste the bean filled cakes that we bought on the street. We saw a long line at a little food stall, so, in true Communist fashion, we got in it. Luckily, the man in front of us spoke some English and told us that some had red beans and some had soy beans. Red bean was better.
At the Uigher restaurant, we got this sesame beef that tasted a fair bit like roast beef. Fortunately, Brooke spent half the dinner dancing on stage, so Tara and I were able to eat much of it.
Do I look like a pirate in this picture of lamb kababs? No. Was I trying to? Yes. Instead, let's pretend that I poked myself in the eye while eating meat straight off the skewer in a very manly fashion.
More wonderful noodles. Almost all the noodles that we ordered in China were different, and all were excellent. These were the longest noodles that I have ever seen. I slurped one for five minutes straight. Just like a cartoon. Come to think of it, I normally look like a cartoon when eating.
In Chengdu, we asked our hotel for an authentic Sichuan hotpot experience. They delivered. The place was with locals, many of the men without shirts and some of the tables with an extra seat for their dogs. Tara looks scared in this picture because she is. We ordered vegetables, duck tongue, pork belly, some kind of beef, and shrimp. But it is the hot pot itself that is a killer. Sichuan spice combines a hot pepper with a numbing pepper. This creates a really strange sensation in your mouth that is similar to eating Oragel. None of our intestines thanked us for it. Oh, and duck tongue has very little meat or taste, sadly.
Here is the actual hotpot. The boiling stuff in the middle is duck broth. No spice. The outside ring is filled with oil and crazy Sichuan spice. The whole thing is heated to about six thousand degrees Celsius to cook your food (and your eyelashes, if you aren't careful).
Where Chinese people are hiking, there are cucumber sellers. Not my idea of a wonderful treat, but Brooke enjoyed this one in an entirely non-suggestive manner. Right, like you can even hold a giant cucumber in a non-suggestive manner.
At the Panda Reserve, they let you try the special bread that they feed to the pandas for extra nutrition (since their normal bamboo diet provides them with just about nothing). This bread tastes like burnt grass with bran added, but Tara really liked it. She ate several.
This is what Americans would call kungpao chicken. It tastes a lot different in China, but I can see the resemblence. It does have the crazy spice that numbs, though, which made Tara believe that she was having a stroke or some other equally bad problem.
Fresh chrysanthemum tea has some flowers and berries floating in the top with some sugar in the bottom. Add hot water and you have something that people pay a lot of money for. So, run outside now, grab a flower, and add sugar and hot water. You will save yourself the money.
This dish was made of mushrooms and was amazing. That's all we can tell you. The menu was entirely in Chinese and we pointed to this one randomly.
My jasmine green tea would have been excellent had I been able to steal the sugar from Tara's chrysantemum tea. Chinese people don't drink sugar in green tea, though, so they had no understanding of my problem. I suggest carrying a lot of sugar with you in China.
On the streets of Xian, Tara found a woman selling fresh noodles with some cucumber and sauce on top. She thought they were the best noodles that she had ever had. After a couple of helpings, we almost had to pay a taxi to take us back the next day, but her fear of missing our flight was just slightly greater than her desire to eat more of these.
Next to the noodle vendor was a man selling these. What are those? I ate one, but am not qualified to say. I think pork, but I think parts of the pig that I don't want to know about are somehow involved.
Anything that looks like a popsicle is hard for me to pass up. This one turned out to be a somewhat sweet rice concoction molded around a chopstick. And maybe with some beans. I couldn't really tell.
Tara liked her flower and hot water mix so much that she tried to buy some bottled chrysanthemum tea at the store. We failed this time and ended up with jasmine, but we eventually figured out which flower picture was the right one.
In the Xian Muslim district, they sell this soup that is noodles, mutton, broth, and bits of a very dense bread that is almost like dumplings. I thought it would be gross, but it was actually very good. Especially since it was cold and a bit rainy. We also tried "Ice Peak", which turned out to be an orange Fanta knock-off.
The streets of the Muslim quarter reminded us of the Middle East at night. Date and dried fruit sellers everywhere.
Tara found this sesame bread that tasted very much like the simit of Turkey (or like a sesame bagel if you are American, which is probably more likely than you being Turkish and knowing what simit tastes like).
We saw some expensive tea for sale, but we opted for the really cheap juice that everyone had for sale. This was probably a mistake. We'll call it water with mixed-fruit syrup.
This reminded us of the sweet, bean-filled pastries of Shanghai, so we bought one. It was a bit sweet, but not very good.
Xian is famous for its peanut butter candy. And rightfully so. It is pounded into many thin layers and breaks in your mouth like a wonderful peanut butter phylo dough.
We broke down the next day (with some peer pressure from Brooke to just spend the 75 cents for a drink that might not taste like urine) and bought the fruity tea for sale everywhere in Xian. It was a bit fruity and a bit tea-y, but probably not worth the money.
This is donkey. That's right--donkey. The texture was like beef tongue. The taste was like...well...ass. Hahahahaha! Sure, you probably saw that coming, but it's still funny. It was actually not bad. Tara loved it enough to look for it on other menus, though we never found it.
These sweets looked almost Indian, and tasted like soft pretzels soaked in sugar water. They were better than that description makes them sound.
These noodles were the size of sheets. I could have used one noodle to cover my bed for sleeping.
Almond juice tastes like marzipan, which I loathe. Tara, however, loves marzipan and likes this drink. I think Chinese people drink it only in hopes that they can replace the girl on the front as the lightest-skinned Chinese person on earth.
When frantically searching for dinner one night, we ducked into a tiny restaurant in an alley and ended up with an amazing feast. Pictured are dumplings, sausage, really interesting glass noodles, shredded and fried potatoes, and a bitter melon omelet. Tara and I hate omelets, but Brooke loved it.
Fresh yogurt. Yum. Just kidding. Fresh yogurt is just as bad as packaged yogurt, but at least you can return the clay packaging, which they probably then just throw out instead of reusing.
Our fanciest dinner of China was to a Peking duck restaurant.
This was as hard as a rock, but at least it was sweet. I only broke a couple of my teeth eating it. No one else seemed interested in having some.
Back to the duck meal! After we paid a crazy amount for the duck, the restaurant was kind enough to throw in this snazzy fruit plate for free. My favorite part was the steaming dry ice. It didn't taste as good as the fruit, though.
And what was the best part of the duck? The brain! I was the only one willing to try it. It tasted like mush. Mushed mush. No other discernible taste.
China has Dairy Queen! A lot of Dairy Queens, as it turns out. They are expensive, but we still went to a lot of them. Hooray for Blizzards!
China has even more strange packaged meat products than Dairy Queens. This one was a pork product. I ate most of it, but can't tell you any more information than that. Oh, and it was slightly spicy.
What goes well with two Snickers? A battery, of course! This two pack with an extra battery was cheaper than just buying two Snickers. Who was I to resist this marketing gimmick? I bought two.
From the restaurant that brought us the donkey comes this pork belly. It was pretty good, but looks less appetizing than any pork belly that I had ever eaten.
And last of all is the food that we bought right at the Mongolian border in northern China. The food there is not quite Mongolian, but not quite normal Chinese. We had some rice noodles with unknown meat, unknown yellow vegetable, and cucumbers. It was very good. Then, off to Mongolia.
The food of China was amazing diverse. Almost all of it was good enough that we would happily eat it again (except for maybe the hotpot). Tara has already started a mental list of foods to eat the next time that she visits China. Had we known what food would be like in the countries to come, we would have tried to cart freeze dried dumplings out of China with us.