what’s for lunch

Outside of the “tourist” zones of many of the more popular Chinese cities, I was able to observe and sample some of the local cuisine.  But no discussion of chinese food would be complete without a discussion of sweet potatoes.  Sweet potatoes are plentiful and cheap, are good tasting and good for you and are a very popular snack choice for Chinese and expat tourists.  It seemed that every time I came up to buy a sweet potato from one of the locals, there was a line forming and the vendor was doing brisk business.  In the photo above, a Chinese man makes his selection from a hot-pot of sweet potatoes being sold by a local vendor.

I saw this cute dog and took his photo; I had thought him to be a pet but later I would learn that he was probably being grown for food.  On that note, before you make any judgements (I’m talking to my Western friends and family), you must take into account the cultural differences between Asia and the West.  I remember my first trip to China in 1999 and seeing (in a Western style hotel even) scorpion soup, caterpillar larva , and bull penis soup.  When you’re in the countryside, you never know what might be served.

Not all Asians look at dogs in the same “pet” way that we do.  In many places (Guilin and surrounding areas in particular), dog meat is a delicacy that is quite popular – I’ll be writing more about this and posting photos later.  You need not worry about being served dog by mistake, it sells at a premium to pork and you will only get it if you ask for it and are willing to spend more.  If the idea of eating a dog is beyond your comfort level, try to put yourself into the shoes of someone from another culture.  Solbeam writes about her experience wherein she imagines what it must be like to be from another culture in her story marbled black lab.

One thing that cannot be overstated is the variety of flavors in Chinese cooking.  The Chinese have such a wide range of spices and vegetables that each meal is a wonderful experience and an overload in flavor.  Of course, many restaurants load the food with MSG and you must tell them no “wenjen” or MSG.  Often, they’ll put it in anyways or argue that you should take it because it makes the food taste so good; and they want it to taste good so that you’ll come back for more.  I find that a strong dose of MSG gets my heart beating and keeps me awake all night, akin to drinking 5 or 6 Cokes.  That certainly can’t be healthy…

In the photos above and below you can see some of the varieties of peppers and spices that are sold in most every market.

Further along in the market I came across a variety of dried meats.  If you don’t recognize the meat on the left, don’t feel bad, I couldn’t recognize it either.  It looked to me like eel or snake or pig parts.  However, I did recognize the meat on the right (with the arms sticking out and tail hanging low).  In case you can’t tell what they are, I took some closer photos (below).

They look about like jerky, I wonder what they taste like?

Every fish that I ate in China had its head attached; I think that it is desireable to have the whole animal as it gives a sense of “freshness.”  However, as these rats are dried out, I wonder if there is some appeal to having the teeth intact – fangs and all?


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