Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Back to Vietnam by way of China... Part II

Here is my bit about my food experience in Beijing.

My first day started off with a rice congee, similar in name to the one here in Vietnam (called chao). It turns out the similarity stops there. The rice soup here, was yellow in colour, and was doused in a sesame sauce. It was a lot thicker and was a bit salty. I scarfed it down with a vegetable spring roll and some fried bread. I didn't eat for about 8 hours after this, so I guess it did the trick. I don't think I'd eat it again though.

One of the most interesting meals was at a Szechuan restaurant. I have had Szechuan in Canada, obviously, but nothing prepared me for this. On the first bite, the flavour was great, if not a little strange. Then, this odd feeling took over my mouth. A numbing sensation paired with an uncontrollable stream of saliva pouring out of my glands had me in a bit of a panic. It wasn't necessarily spicy (though my mom would definitely think so), as the numbing took care of that issue. It turns out there were about a million little Szechuan peppercorns decorating this dish, a peppercorn that contains a natural numbing chemical. I continued eating while proclaiming in disbelief how anyone could actually want to have this feeling. It took over almost my entire face, reminding me of how when you go to the dentist it often takes hours before you can feel your lower jaw.

No trip to anywhere in Asia would be complete without trying the staple street food. Sticks with fruits dipped in a hardened sugar syrup are everywhere in winter. The traditional fruit to have in this style is the Chinese Hawberry. It's a bit sour like a crabapple.  You can also get strawberries, and any other kind of common fruit.

I visited a small street that had a hundred different street food vendors. I skipped quickly past the seahorse-on-a-stick vendors and tried some Beijing yogourt. Not unlike any other type of yogourt, except you drink it in a ceramic pot with a straw. 

Right before catching my plane back to Hanoi I went for Chinese dumplings. Apparently Beijing-style dumplings are boiled rather than streamed or pan-fried. My companions and I got egg and veggie as well as mushroom-filled dumplings. Hao chu (or however you would spell delicious in Mandarin)!


Jeannette said...

How did you know what to order? The first thing looks scary...

Jonathan said...

The first thing WAS scary.

I didn't tell you that I spent months taking Mandarin classes?

It was my couchsurfing friend who helped me.