Dear everyone ever,
I don’t talk about food on this blog as much as I think about food in general. That’s going to have to change. Sure, this isn’t a food blog and it’s supposed to be about folktales and China but you know, food is relevant to living in China and hey, I discovered this weekend in Shanghai (while explaining the Heilongjiang folktale about the white dragon versus the black dragon to a Northeastern China guy) that in the Northeast, there’s more of a history of rice (big rice, little rice, how do you translate that?) than the Northern stereotype of bread and noodles. So actually, in terms of food geography history (this should be a thing. I should study this), he said that one should separate it into 3 areas: Northeast, North, and South. But what about West? Obviously I failed to ask.
Well, anyway, I was really excited about eating in Shanghai. The food scene in Shanghai is just so much more diverse than Hangzhou’s! Plus they’ve got their specialty of those delicious soup dumplings, 小笼包. I managed to get mine (pork and crab) from a really popular place called Jia Jia Tang Bao 佳家汤包with some really cool people I’d met in line. But the most delicious bites of food I had in Shanghai were at Yang’s Dumplings and they’re called 生煎. Basically, as I described in a recent email, they’re “the lovechild of a regular pork bun and a soup dumpling that is then PAN-FRIED. So only the bottom layer is a bit thick but you nibble on the top and then slurp up the delicious soup and of course, it is all crusted over with sesame seeds.” It’s pretty wonderful. Oh, plus I had Mexican-ish brunch with a bunch of Brown alums! Yum, eggs benedict with chorizo, spinach, and cornbread. And guacamole+chips! And pie! No photos of the pies but there were pumpkin+sweet potato and key lime pie, courtesy of Nancy who got them from Country Style Pies.
Anyway, Shanghai is pretty awesome and delicious and I did tons of wandering even though my ankle still hasn’t fully healed (I sprained it a couple of weeks ago) and the weather was a bit rainy. I managed to go to People’s Square which had tons of old grannies/other folks matchmaking their sons/daughters/friends/grandchildren/strangers? through sheets of paper with crucial info such as age and height posted on umbrellas and bulletin boards, walked to Tianzifang which is a maze of alleyways with restaurants+souvenir shops+art stores all selling the same photography (it’s really good but why are they all selling the same thing??) and wandered the Bund at night. Then I went to the huge train station with its waiting room that reminds me of the airport and went home to Hangzhou where today, I bought a bunch of junk food at a supermarket called Auchen that’s very far from where I live (probs about 45 min by bike? I bike really long distances here for some reason. I only realized recently that this is a very strange phenomenon for me [although my housemates think it’s weird too]) because I was hungry and I should never shop when I’m hungry.
Here’s my list of junk food+notes (also, don’t judge, I don’t buy this stuff all the time! Especially not the real junk food, I swear.):
1.Organic salted shelled peanuts with NO EXTRA FLAVORS!!! This is typically pretty hard to find.
2. Skippy crunchy peanut butter. I already have a mostly full jar but this was 2rmb cheaper and who knows when I’ll come back to this supermarket? Although I eat way too much pb. And I am sad that skippy adds sugar to their pb. why, skippy, why?
3. RITTER SPORT mini squares in a 7 pack. I was just looking at them and noticed that some had doubles of specific flavors. So I spent a while looking at the packages to see if they had doubles of my fave, the butter biscuit one and finally, after much searching, discovered one that did. So, dear reader, after all that effort, I had to buy it. Never mind that it was 25rmb.
4. Snickers. It’s hiking food. I need it for my hikes.
5. Lay’s potato chips. I have to compare it with the american ones! Have I told you that the Pringles here are different and not as good? The texture is all off!
6. FISH SAUCE! There was only one kind (and it smells way fishier than my beloved 3 crabs brand) but whatever. Nowhere else has fish sauce.
7. Raw honey. It was 39rmb for 400 grams but it looks all artisanal so I decided to go for it. You know China has all these food safety issues and this brand says it’s up to European standards! It must be safe!
8. Dried seaweed snacks. I was on a shopping binge so why not?
9. Noodles of some type. Not sure what type but figured I should start somewhere.
10. Five spice powder. of the mccormick’s variety.
11. Supermarket pork bun which was not worth my 1.8rmb because it was cold by the time I ate it and not as good as the random little places even if it’s possibly safer (who can tell?)
I’ll admit I actually have this weird fear of cooking in front of my housemates. I think they’ll judge me since I’m not used to A) the heat of their gas stove which is WAY hotter than my gas stove in the U.S.; B) the lack of fish sauce (until now!); C) all the different veggies here (none of my typical fall veggies like butternut squash and brussels sprouts); and D) my lackadaisical attitude towards cooking. Oh, plus there aren’t those helpful ingredients like El Pato (I love that stuff) and cheese and HERBS other than cilantro. Where’s the darn basil? Do I really have to taobao it? Can taobao be used as a verb?
Okay, I think I’m done writing about the foods here.