China is simply gastronomical! :)...ha
I'll start off this series with
北方 | North (Beijing, Xi'an, Inner Mongolia):
For 主食 (zhushi = staple food), they really like their noodles and flour-based products, more so than rice. This could be various types of pancakes, 饼 (bing), of which 葱油 (congyou, scallion) and 南瓜 (pumpkin) are my favorite, or 馒头 (mantou), this white bread that is just... bread. It's not like a loaf of bread, but just a roll. a really dense roll. there is no "golden brown" on top because it's steamed, not baked.
北京 | Beijing is known mostly for two things: Peking Duck and Zajiangmian (a type of noodles mixed in zajiang sauce) I don't have pictures of the noodles but I have plenty of the duck. One of the best and oldest places to go for Peking Duck is Quanjude. This is now a franchise that can be found in several cities throughout China. I like the one at 王府井 (Wangfujing).One duck is good for 2-4 people, two ducks for 8-10...or in our 10 person case, three. The duck slicer comes to your table and does it in front of you. Each slice is very thin, and he separates out the best portions (a small piece near the neck, a small piece on the stomach) on another plate, a delicacy which you can dip in sugar and enjoy.
The correct way to eat it is to take a 饼, essentially a tortilla, and put some duck and some celery sticks in the middle. Dab some of the sweet brown duck sauce on top, and then roll together and eat. One duck costs approximately 168RMB here, which is seen as pricey in China but only about $25USD.
[me, charlotte, mel, winnie, dante, cyrus, corey, corey's mom, andrew, andrew's gf]
西安 | Xi'an has a significant Muslim population, so there's a lot of lamb and beef. 泡馍 (paomo) is quite popular here, as our friend Tyler showed us. You get one or two mantou-like pieces of bread, that look like dense english muffins and break it up into small pieces with your hands. The lamb or beef stew is then poured into the bread mixture, they get "cooked" while soaking in the soup, and you eat it. The result of this for me was very similar to eating noodles. And it makes you very full, very easily... those bread things you break up and put in your soup the resulting stew after being "cooked" and soaked greatest orange soda (ice peak) and fresh plum juice...excellent :)
内蒙古 | Inner Mongolia can get really freakin' cold...so the main thing about this place is their 白酒 (baiju), rice wine that is really, really strong. This alcohol going down your throat is equivalent to straight up drinking fire, if that were possible. I've never felt such a feeling. It doesn't necessarily make you drunk, it just makes you extremely warm. Where we drank it, on the grasslands, there is a large temperature difference between the day and night, so this was a welcome beverage.
Another popular beverage here is milk tea, but not the wonderful 珍珠奶茶 of which Taiwan makes the best of, but Mongoria-style...meaning you might as well just drink milk out of a cow udder. Fresh, yes, but way too milky, and something I can't stand as well as cannot get used to. They also use this milk to make various cheesy-milky snacks, all of which have that same flavor.
They also eat a lot of lamb meat here, roasted, sometimes a big one roasted whole on a stick, yes. haha. Lots of vegetables. the mantou bread things i was talking about, except this one's in the shape of a loaf our new mongorian men friends at dinner. they bought us alcohol. the nasty milk tea/milky cheesy snacks at some farmer's house..
Next time I'll write about the South...