Chinese food in China is very different to that which is cooked for Western tastes. The first restaurant in the town I grew up in was a Chinese restaurant – as was probably the case in most Australian country towns. The biggest decision would be whether to have Sweet & Sour Pork or Lemon Chicken. We did not see them at any meal we had in China:
In the 16 days that we were there we ate many different and wonderful things. Sometimes we had no idea what we were eating as we were on our own and pointing at pictures. Sometimes when we asked our host we were told that they didn't really know the English for what we were having – that was a bit worrying – the Chinese eat every part of an animal! We got through our trip without any major stomach upsets (though I had packed Imodium & Pepto Bismal tablets just in case).
I tried everything that I was offered and if I did not like it I just did not take anymore. There was only one dish which I just could not swallow – Stinky Tofu. As the name suggests it has a really obnoxious smell – some combination of jockstraps and joggers & other nasty sweat odours. I did get a small amount into my mouth but I was truly overcome by the smell and started gagging – I had to spit it out! I'm sure our hosts were somewhat shocked as I had been very polite up till then!!
The dish on the left is Nanjing Duck – this was my favourite dish and I ordered it whenever we got the chance to order our own food. It is cold & white and incredibly salty. The flesh tends to spring back like rubber if pressed. Does it sound delicious? Actually, once you get past the saltiness it has an almost vanilla taste.
Also pictured is a 1000 year egg (also known as a Century egg) …..
Presenting a challenge to eat were these incredibly small prawns – they are basically impossible to peel. The "correct" way to eat them is to put them whole into the mouth and somehow manage to get the head on the chopsticks to put back on the plate. I saw a few people just eating them whole.
This is lotus root: it tasted much better than it looks
This is tofu – but not the stinky kind! On the right is another dish of Nanjing Duck –
Another dish that I found myself liking was pigeon. I first had pigeon in London in the late 1970's – served as pigeon pie – so I was not grossed out by the prospect of eating it. The head is a delicacy. We had this dish a few times:
I did not eat from the street vendors but the astro-dweeb did a number of times – he just pointed at what everyone else was having. These looked a little too much like rat tails:
We think this was an oyster – though it seemed too big!!
We were honoured to be included in an 80th birthday celebration for Professor Ye Shuhua, a Former Director of the Shanghai Observatory – a fascinating woman, with better English than most of the young scientists, and who had seen a lot of changes both in China and in Astronomy in her 80 years. After a Chinese rendition of Happy Birthday was sung followed by a version in faltering English, the candles were blown out and the cake was cut into chunks and put on the lazy Susans at each table along with all the other food. People would dig their chopsticks into some pork and then into the cake to grab a piece – then into a fish dish – then back into the cake! The cake did not indicate the sweet ending of the meal!! Actually, huge plates of watermelon arriving at a table indicated that a banquet was over. Underneath all this super bright icing was a plain butter cake: