China was interesting. As you might know, the air is unbelievably dirty, and everyday when I woke up I appreciated and longed for clean air more and more. It's hard to explain but my friend in China said, it's basically smoking 10 packs of cigarettes without smoking it. It was so true. No cigarette smell, but whatever bad shit was in the air, I was sucking them in. I still have a bad cough (I should really stop smoking...).
Also I couldn't make myself understood whatsoever. No one spoke English, and I basically relied solely on my friend who lives in Beijing.
She took us to this local restaurant near she used to live. It was only 10 minutes taxi ride from my hotel, but the scene was completely local. We were the only foreginers. Public bathrooms, where people actually shit on holes with shitting faces!! I am serious!
The restaurant, whatever its name was, was not for tourists. It was the real deal Chinese restaurant for Chinese people, no one else.
Luckily, she speaks fluent Chinese, so we got seated. Of course the menu was written only in Chinese, and certain things I can make sense of, such as beef, lamb, etc. Even so, I had no idea how it would taste, especially with my prior impression of Chinese local food being "cardboard infused dumplings" etc.
I don't know how she does it, but she is a vegetarian in China, so she ordered all vegetarian dishes. I was a bit disappointed, so I insisted on ordering one beef dish. I just pointed out beef something something. It turned out to be beef intestine stew or something looks like it, and I couldn't eat that shit.
Anyhow, the first dish that arrived at our table was very spicy mapo tofu (tofu and pork sauteed in a bean sauce) without any meat. This was very tasty. Spicy, but definitely mapo tofu flavored and even though they say meatless, I am sure they are using some meat juice somewhere..
We ordered two salads, one was garlic pickled cucumber (at least it tasted like like it) and this almost raw potato salad. It was very crunchy, sour, sweet, and a bit of spice. Red thing you can see is of course chili. Very refreshing taste.
Doesn't this look like sweet and sour pork? This is peppers, onion and eggplant with some brown sauce. This was AMAZING. Nothing compared to what I have eaten here. Eggplant was melting in my mouth, while peppers were very crunchy. The flavor was also very good, just can't tell what it was, and maybe it's better not knowing what it was. Probably tablespoon of MSG was in it. Who knows...
Dessert was fried mushed beans of some sort, and on top was just simply sugar. This was extremely hot but tasted almost like sesame ball without the mochi-like texture. I love fried desserts.
This whole spread with 40 oz beers came to 67 yuan (just under $10). We just couldn't believe how cheap it was. I still try not to think where the food ingredients came from.
Next post will be on Peking Duck. I didn't wait an hour for the Beijing tourist "must do" for nothing.
Below is the view of new CCTV tower construction from my hotel window. It definitely looked cool/weird/huge/wtf. Apparently they connected two parts into one on 12/9/07--there was an one hour window just before the sun rose that they could connect it while both steel parts were at the same temperature (otherwise the different steel temperatures would cause the joints to collapse in the future). I can't wait to see how it's made on Discovery Channel.