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The Food Party!

By Laura Stec

E-mail Laura Stec

About this blog: I've been attracted to food for good and bad reasons for many years. From eating disorder to east coast culinary school, food has been my passion, profession & nemesis. I've been a sugar addict, a 17-year vegetarian, a food and en...  (More)

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You Ate What?

Uploaded: Apr 24, 2015

Ni hao. Just got back from China (Shanghai and Beijing) last night. What a fascinating trip.

I didn't drink the tap water. Surprising to me, most Chinese people don't either. So hats off to the Chinese government for announcing this week on Earth Day, plans to cleanup the "black and lousy" water found in the urban areas, albeit by 2030. I don't get who the Chinese government IS by the way. Who decided they could be in charge? And are they all over the streets to protect the people or themselves? It's a different world over there.

I did eat the street food and it was some of the best I had. Street vendors are the ultimate popup restaurants. If you are traveling soon, here's two suggestions from Friday Night Market guides at Untour Shanghai:

1) Eat only the hot food, cooked while you are watching.

2) Watch out for old cooking oil (or stay away from fried foods in general).

The night tour was terrific. Do it if you go to Shanghai, and consider going. China is enchanting. There are still few Westerners which makes it fun. And wild. And new. Many people ask for a picture with you. I started taking selfies with people wanting my picture.

Back to food, using Google Translates "vegetarian please," I ate dishes I would have never known about. The street chefs always laughed when I showed them my phone, but proceeded to cook up some great food.

Like this:

Grilled lotus root and potatoes

Roasted chestnuts

Shanghai tofu

Grilled vegetables wrapped in fish skin.

Fried Scorpions

Locusts and ? What did they taste like? I only had the guts to munch a scorpion leg - it tasted "deep fried."

The best thing I ate was a "veggie crunch wrap." It starts with a crepe of wheat batter:

Crack a few eggs...

Cover with the secret sauce and add what I thought was deep fried tofu, but a local told me it was fried wheat batter...

Add in some green onions and other fresh herbs, then wrap it up. YUM! I went back the next night and ordered another like a local. Cost 5 RMB or approximately 83 cents.

So after 10 days of Chinese food in China, I admit, I like the Chinese food better here than there. Maybe because Chinese there depends on meats and fish as the primary seasoning, with repetitive visits from soy, ginger, toasted sesame, green onion, star anise / 5-spice and maybe peppers and garlic. Oh, and MSG. Added freely. I need more variation. Maybe I should stick with traveling the spice route?

Eat or be eaten - do these look like what you ate?

What is it worth to you?


Posted by Elena Kadvany, education reporter of the Palo Alto Weekly,
on Apr 24, 2015 at 11:15 am

Elena Kadvany is a registered user.

I'm incredibly jealous (and now hungry)! Thanks for sharing, Laura.

Posted by Alan, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven,
on Apr 24, 2015 at 11:29 am

Alan is a registered user.

The image after the roasted chestnuts is some sort of tofu dish. Did you have "stinky tofu"? I associate that more with Taiwan(where my wife is from), rather than northern China - but maybe only because I didn't run across it. It smells like rotting food ... I had one version that I didn't care for, another that was surprisingly tasty - you just have to hold your nose. If you consider that yogurt and cheese are, in a sense, "rotting milk", the concept of stinky tofu isn't quite so bad.

Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge,
on Apr 24, 2015 at 11:42 am

Alan, yes - that was a spicy tofu dish. I didn't try / see / smell stinky tofu, but surprisingly they did offer natto (a stinky Japanese bean dish) at the hotel breakfast. I was introduced to natto at Vega Macrobiotic Study Center, one of the culinary schools I attended in my earlier years. We don't do smelly foods here in the US very well do we? Pickles, blue cheese, sea veggies...what else?

Posted by AJ Crawdaddy, a resident of Woodside: Woodside Glens,
on Apr 24, 2015 at 11:43 am

Oh no you did not eat grasshopper! Say it ain't so! Welcome home!

Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge,
on Apr 24, 2015 at 11:45 am

AJ Crawdaddy? THAT sounds like a tasty bug! I've now heard those grasshoppers are locusts. Even worse!

Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge,
on Apr 24, 2015 at 11:45 am

AJ Crawdaddy? THAT sounds like a tasty bug! I've now heard those grasshoppers are locusts. Even worse!

Posted by Eat or be eaten, a resident of Bailey Park,
on Apr 27, 2015 at 11:58 am

I LOVED the fried scorpions I snacked on in Beijing. They were small black ones that basically tasted like a yummy fried morsel of fried stuff. That's the most bizarre thing in China that I will admit to eating. Yes, there was more bizarre than that to be sure, but I won't start.

Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of another community,
on Apr 28, 2015 at 7:31 am

Eat or be eaten, I added a new picture above. I wonder if those are scorpions too like you describe?

Posted by Eat or be eaten, a resident of Bailey Park,
on Apr 28, 2015 at 8:22 am

Could be Laura. I may have had the baby version though(scorpion veal??) They were smaller, about 1.5 inches in length and came 6 to a plate in a restaurant. I think the bigger versions above would have been more of a challenge, those things look like they would squirt when you bit them. Mine were one or two bite size. As I recall their flavor was just sort of a generic "fried" flavor.

Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of another community,
on Apr 28, 2015 at 8:34 am

Funny Eat and be eaten! That's why I couldn't munch any farther up the bug. I don't even like biting into whole cherry tomatoes. Something about that squirt....

Posted by Casa de Cerveza, a resident of Evergreen Park,
on Apr 28, 2015 at 11:47 am

Casa de Cerveza is a registered user.

Great article Laura! Thanks for sharing your photos too! Any thoughts about fresh fruit in China?

Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of Portola Valley,
on Apr 29, 2015 at 7:58 am

Casa de Cerveza, we've missed you at The Party! Fruit - well there is a lot and many I did not know. I didn't eat off the street, nor did I even eat the salads in the hotel breakfast. I did eat some cut fruit in the hotel. It's interesting that I and others have gotten sick traveling from the "fancy" restaurant of hotel food, more than the street food. Have you been to China? Did you eat the fruit? Fun to see Durian again in the China markets. I fondly remember those signs in the Singapore subway of a durian with a red cross circle over it. No Durian allowed on the subway!

Posted by Eat or be eaten, a resident of Bailey Park,
on May 6, 2015 at 6:00 pm

When I went into the countryside outside Beijing I saw people selling persimmons at little stands. They were quite popular. People were just eating them like apples. I tried one, and it was pretty good, but I'll take my Valley of Heart's Delight plums, cherries and apricots over them any day ;)

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