Thursday, June 10, 2010

Soup Dumplings and other Chinese Street Food

Going to China for business is fun. Ok, not the business part - think of sitting in multi-hour meetings in Mandarin, with the occasional English question - but the evenings and weekends often are great food adventures.

Saturday morning I set out to find the perfect soup dumpling in Shanghai. Ok, the locals probably have their well kept secrets, but I trusted Google and went to Jia Jia Tang Bao, a very popular hole in the wall, judging from the line outside. No English menu and no other round-eye in the line told me that it was probably a pretty good choice. After a 30 minute wait in the sun I finally made my way inside. Ordering was pretty straight forward - they had about 10 different variants, from 9 RMB to 20 RMB, so I pointed to the cheapest which I hoped was the pork only dumpling. I did miss the special dipping sauce, which was probably the 1 RMB item. I'll try that the next time. I made do with the condiments on the table: soy sauce, vinegar and some hot chili sauce.

The dumplings were divine, a very thin shell, a light filling, and perfect broth. I was seated next to the kitchen where 5 girls were making the dumplings at an eye-popping pace. See that huge pile of filling - that was gone when I left about 20 minutes later. Will have to go back next time I'm in Shanghai and try their other varieties, with shrimps or crabmeat mixed in the pork.

Saturday night at Beijing's foodstreet was an colorful, bustling feast. This stand was probably the most surprising - the Chinese version of Gyros!

Getting back to my hotel later in the evening I found the Beijing version of a Biergarten across the street. Three restaurants had tables outside, and the place was humming with activity, but I was too tired to partake.

In Chongqing, I had some time to kill before going to the airport, so our rep took me to an old town with another foodstreet. Chongqing is in Sichuan, so of course the main theme was peppers. The fried, dried peppers were delicious, not very hot, filled with a mixture consisting mainly of sesame and sugar, or mixed with peanuts. I had way too many of them, but luckily we sat down for a tea (for the Chinese) and beer (for me). (It was hot and humid, and just watching them drink tea made me sweat!).


Watching the guys make their food was fun, they made a big show of it! The guy on the left started out with a big pot of glutinous rice, which went at with that big pestle until it was beat into a paste. We bought some of it, and it was nice, though not outstanding. The guy on the right was making noodles. It was very interesting: The dough was not very sticky, but quite hard when he hit on it with his hand, yet it ran through the holes into the water pretty quickly. The noodles looked wheat based, but the dough clearly didn't. He turned them into little packages almost like Ramen... Will have to come back and try...

Sunday afternoon I took a cooking class where I learned to make dumplings - stay tuned for this afternoon's blog about dumpling-making.

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