My favorite thing about China is the food. I would normally follow this up with my usual grossly exaggerated statements like, “I could eat Chinese food every day for the rest of my life,” or “Best… food… ever!” But, I know from experience that I can not eat Chinese food every day for the rest of my life. At some point, I’m going to need a taco. It is known.
However, that time has not come yet and I am therefore enjoying every bite with blissful wonder. If there is one thing we are not without on this adventure through China, it is food. We are eating hardy meals three times a day (plus the occasional snack) for about $9 per day.
Breakfast has been consisting of a collection of steam buns and dumplings, a hard boiled egg, and a drink. I think I would vote breakfast as the most fun meal of the day. We visit one of the many food stalls specializing in dim sum type foods. It then turns into a fun game of point and “want.” We don’t even know what most of the things are, but as long as it looks fresh and smells good, we’re taking it.
Our usual order includes two or three steamed buns (baozi). The buns are thick, but still fluffy and are definitely what dreams are made of. The food stalls usually have stacks of steamers filled with several different buns of varying color and size. Sometimes, there is some sort of indication as to what is inside, like a piece of corn on top of one that is filled with corn. But for the most part, it is a guessing game for us. Nothing is labeled and the locals speak quickly and with an accent.
I like to throw in one or two other items like dumplings or pastries. The dumplings are similar to the steam buns in that they are filled with delicious goodness of unknown substance. The pastries are usually some sort of flavored, unfilled steam buns or something that looks and acts like a churro, but doesn’t taste like a churro.
The fresh drink is another exciting part of the meal. The stall clerk takes our order of food, then usually starts asking us about their collection of varying liquids in cups or bowls. They have a suggestion of which is their specialty and which will make us strong. I feel pretty confident about what is inside each of these cups when I leave the stall, but have yet to be right about any of them so far.
One time when I thought for sure I had found some fresh-squeezed orange juice, I was given a straw and cup of hot, orange liquid that was promised to be very delicious. It was delicious, but definitely not orange juice. It was drinkable creamed corn. Another time, I thought I ordered a juice box with apple juice in it. It was actually apple flavored, drinkable yogurt. Again, it was quite good, but not at all what I was expecting. My favorite so far has been the rice milk… at least I think that is what it is.
We’ve tried a lot of different little baozi so far, but there are still some other breakfast treats we have yet to try. Some shops have multiple slow cookers full of porridge out front and there are guys out selling pancake-like omelets that look great as well. Whatever we choose to eat, each day starts out the same, with a mini-food adventure!