When my friend Beth returns to western Massachusetts from LA she always insists we meet over Chinese food. In LA the offerings are inspired by the fresh flavors of Thailand. In New England we tend to enjoy something that resembles the cuisine of the province once known as Canton. Lots of rice, pork and sauces are the staples. It is true comfort food.
I have heard many things about the cuisine of China, in China. One was a friend, who has literally traveled the world, lost something like 25 lbs in 14 days. Another, and this was from many people, is that there is no good Chinese food in China. The theory is that what we enjoy is a hybrid that evolved to meet our tastes.
So I embarked on my first adventure in this exotic land with a suitcase full of skinny jeans and resolve to make the most of my Chinese kitchen. After a little more than a month the jeans do fit better, but that is probably more to do with the opportunity to walk and explore to my hearts content. I can truthfully say I have never eaten better than here in China.
Part of the reason for that is where I am calling my temporary home. When I stopped in Hong Kong on my way here, Vanessa told me the Fujan province was a bread basket and the markets would be brimming with the most beautiful fruits, vegetables and seafood. Indeed, I could spend all my time revisiting my favorite recipes from home with all the stunning offerings available. Every trip to the market is an adventure in itself, and I often leave with far more than I can easily carry.
The other reason for my full belly is I am little by little exploring the offerings available of every street corner. It is amazing that Chinese people are so thin. There are so many options to eat, you could make a profession out of enjoying them.
Yesterday afternoon, one of my students, Tony, took me for my second tour of Jimei. The first involved getting my bearings while on a moped, travel that resembled a high speed chase in an action film, white knuckles and all. This tour was a little more civilized and included a grocery store, the seafood floor of the wet market and dinner under a tent in the pouring rain with the engaging company of Alex and Gabriel.
I was told that in large restaurants the focus is not on the quality of the cuisine but rather the experience. My first meal was at a hole in the wall instead. It included chicken, dumplings, a sausage made of vegetables and tofu, a vegetable hot dog all in succulent sauces. Then there was the lotus root, Cher told me about this, until you have had the distinction of trying it, you will never know what you are missing.
There were also salads with ingredients like sea kelp and pickled cucumber. This may be considered Chinese fast food but only in the way that food at Italian highway rest stops is. If you have had the pleasure you will understand, McDonald's and KFC do not belong in the same category.
As you can see my list of favorite Chinese foods is getting too long to count...
If you like Chinese Food:
Photo Credit: Julie Cecchini