Friday, 1 July 2011

CHINA: Beijing

Beijing means "Northern Capital" but the city is also known as Peking (an older pronunciation predating a subsequent sound change in Mandarin 400 years ago). It's a metropolis with a population of almost 20 million.

The traditional bicycle rickshaws almost disappeared after the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949 but have had a comeback and can now be found around the hutongs (narrow streets or alleys) and popular tourist destinations of Beijing.

This is proper Beijing street food. Jianbing starts of like a crepe with a thin egg-based batter. When this has set cracks an egg and spreads it over in a thin layer. Now sprinkle scallions and black sesame seeds on top. The crepe is flipped over and it's time for the sauces: hoisin sauce, hot sauce and a fermented tofu. Brushed on. Literally. With a big brush. Now place the bing on top, a deep fried cracker. All is then folded and tossed in a plastic bag, ready to go.

Beijing yoghurt is sweet and slightly sour and comes in these unpretentious ceramic pots with a paper lid and rubber band. Just stick a straw in and ready. They can be found at almost every corner.

More dairy coming your way. This is labeled 'cheese' but is actually more like a creamy buttery yoghurt and in this instance with added fruit in the form of mango but there are several flavours to choose from. The tiny shop only sells this one product and it is so popular that you will find a cue outside the store at almost anytime. They close when they have sold all the fresh product of the day so you better be quick.

Super-size skewers of lamb and chicken.

Cold rice noodles in a sesame sauce with some chili paste for heat, topped with sesame seeds and julienne cucumbers.

In my search for the most original waffle this version here definately takes the prize. Owl shaped and it comes in four different flavours: red bean, green bean, sesame and chocolate.

This passionfruit & mango lava drink is all about the show. A small bag with dry ice is submerged in the juice to create smoke.

Deep fried fermented tofu, chou doufu or stinky tofu is a popular snack in China and once you get over the smell of rotten feet is actually quite tasty.

A good Chinese dinner is all about the combination of dishes: some are cold, some hot; some spicy, some mild. There has to be veg and meat and maybe some fish, too. On this table you will find pickled quails eggs, sweet and sour pork, spicy tofu, potato straw, fried eggplant, lotus root filled with sticky rice, wood-ear mushrooms, fresh herbs with walnuts and then of course the legendary Peking duck. The crispy roasted bird is sliced in front of the diners by the chef himself and the meat and crunchy skin is wrapped in thin pancakes with spring onions, cucumbers and pickles to be dipped in smoky sweet hoisin sauce.

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