Apr 29, 2007

Beijing fish beatdown

Did some hiking out in the Beijing Haidian suburbs over the weekend, and got some 农家 country-style food afterwards. Like many such restaurants in Beijing, this one had a shallow pool of water with a dozen or so rainbow trout swimming around. The entertainment as we sat outside and ate our lunch was to watch as groups of Chinese came by and ordered fresh trout, after which the chef would beat each fish with a wooden stick.

Here's a video:

Apr 28, 2007

Step-by-step guide: how to eat pineapple in China

My last entry talked about the skewers of meat and vegetables stewing in the road side ma la tang stands in Beijing. Continuing on the theme of food-on-sticks, I bring you this new entry.

Springtime in Beijing is when the majority of street vendors stop selling roasted sweet potatoes and switch to fresh pineapple on-a-stick. You should be aware that this is not at all like eating pineapple in America. Here's an overview of the complex process that pineapple on-a-stick vendors must follow in China:

Step 1
The vendor selects a pineapple from his or her cart.

Step 2
The vendor uses a dirty knife to cut off the skin, which is littered on the street or thrown wherever there is space in his or her cart.

Step 3
The vendor fondles the pineapple flesh while using another dirty knife to remove the divots. The vendor can optionally wear a pair of dirty gloves while he does this. Customers tend to gravitate towards the vendors that wear brown-stained gardening gloves.

Step 4
The vendor inserts a wooded skewer into the base of the cut pineapple, covers it with a yellow bag, and then inserts the end of the skewer into a bock of Styrofoam or wood

Step 5
After the pineapple has had time to sit for a few hours in the midday sun inside the yellow bag, a customer comes along and buys a pineapple-on-a-stick.

Step 6 (optional)
The customer can swish the pineapple in a container of dirty water, seemingly to disinfect the fruit. This step is still mind-boggling to me.

Step 7
Now comes the best part, of course, which is that you, the customer, finally gets to eat the pineapple.

Step 8
You're done eating that delicious treat. Now you can throw the yellow bag, wooden stick, and pineapple remnants anywhere on the ground that you like. Don't worry, this is China, where the mentality is that anywhere is your own personal garbage can. Someone will be along eventually to clean up after you.

Apr 13, 2007

Communal ma la tang

I regularly pass by quite a few communal ma la tang (hot and spicy soup) stands, which can be found along many of the smaller streets. Here are some photos of the shadiest looking one. I pass by this stand almost twice a day, and once in a blue moon I see a customer or two eating there. For the most part, the soup mixture and skewers of tofu and meat just stagnate there day after day, week after week.

If you're feeling bound up while you're in Beijing, let me know and I'll give you the location of this place. I can almost guarantee that chugging a cup of this stagnant soup will be twice as good a laxative as prune juice.

I generally will experiment and try any food at least once, because sometimes you discover something great in the process, but I'm still working my way up to this particular street food.

Stagnant soup to the left, skewers of stuff to the right:

Close up of the yummy ma la goodness: