Tuesday, April 28, 2009

New tastes

I am constantly told "you look chinese" and there's an underlying sense of expectation that I speak chinese, not to mention know all there is to know about living in China. I usually shrug my shoulders, try not to confuse the person with explanations about the diverse origins of Chinese Filipinos (overseas chinese is the phrase they understand best, yes, I have returned to the motherland, comrade!), and move the discussion to another track. As for speaking, they usually realize my chinese is still a work in progress, although one of my students said it wasn't bad (hahahaha).

One of the aspects of living in China that I'm going to do more of is tasting different specialties, depending on the region. Wenzhou is more of a seafood town, and I've been told their fish is very good. Strolling through town on days off, I normally spy a diner selling "fish balls" or "fish ball soup", this makes me think of our own fish balls at home, which look like balls! Here, they don't, more like fish nuggets, or rolled up willy nilly and plopped into a bowl of slightly acidic (vinegar probably) broth and a sprinkle of green onions. It is a very fishy taste, no ginger to mask that sense of, yes, you are eating fish. I can imagine that this wouldn't be a favorite among non-chinese eaters, who don't revel in the smell of fish. I would prefer some ginger myself but all you get for a side dish is some pickled cabbage at best.

Among food blogs, Appetite for China has been my go to source for good eats in China. Diana Kuan has been cooking and teaching in China for a couple of years now, at her base in Shanghai. Through her blog, I was alerted to the mulberry season, and managed to find the first fruits in the market near my apartment. They look like elongated blackberries, but the flavors are quite mild, somewhat astringent. Be prepared for stained fingers that won't wash out easily. She recently posted about grass jelly, a black gelatin that is supposed to be good for the health. I've had it in the past with coffee, but didn't think too much about it. I'm now having a couple of tablespoons mixed into my tea steeped drink, slathered with a healthy dollop of condensed milk. A pleasant way to start my morning while I read the morning news online.

The apartment complex has all sorts of vendors, and yesterday afternoon, I came across a mobile cart selling what looked like sushi. The man placed a sheet of dry nori (seaweed), had a large container of rice, and smaller buckets of pork floss, shredded cucumbers, peanuts, pickles and fried dough. It's sort of like the California roll, but no avocado. For 3 renmimbi (P21), you get a large roll, made while you wait, a tasty snack or light lunch.

There are some things that aren't Chinese at all, but make my heart palpitate in happiness. When you live in another country, you try to eat as local as possible, but after awhile you miss things from home or whatever makes your tastebuds nostalgic. I told friends recently that I was thrilled to see a Haagen-Dazs cafe here, they have most of my favorite flavors, and quite a dessert menu. They have this special tea set with cute little ice cream sandwiches on a tea caddy, three stacks high. I've taken refuge there once after a long walk and it was pleasant to sit watching people walk by. Yesterday, I discovered that Beard Papa has opened its first outlet in town. A complete surprise and since it's still in its early days, the pastry puff is still light and crisp, unlike the puffs in Manila that have turned all dense and bready. What I am eyeing in the Beard Papa store is the adorable bento box carrier they have in the display. Bright yellow with the cartoon face of Beard Papa on it, I must have it for my bento collection.

I have a lot more taste exploring to do!

1 comment:

Katrina said...

I was at a get-together at Nancy's house last Sunday, and met this American (I assume) guy who worked in China for some time, in different parts of the country. He speaks Chinese, so I told him about your confusion with the word "register," and at first he was puzzled, then said the word out loud and laughed. :-)

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