Monday, February 23, 2009

A Steady Diet of MSG 10

                             Baozi in the Muslim Quarter, Xi'an
         Baozi is essentially steamed dumplings containing ground meat(usually pork) or vegetables.  You dip them in a vinegar/  la jao sauce that is very spicy.  They're served on the  wicker baskets that they were steamed on.  This was perhaps my favorite Chinese snack.   Cheap, tasty and filling, they were the perfect complement to nights of swilling cheap 3.2 beers outside on a street corner, watching groups of men play dice games and shout things I didn't understand while dogs ran around looking for scraps to eat.

A Steady Diet of MSG 9

                                                                    Pig Ears
              So our group of friends had a day in Jinghong where we drank a beer at one convenience store every block on our way back to our dingy hotels.  China has convenient stores everywhere, usually at least 4-5 on a typical city block.  Needless to say, within a few hours we were fairly trashed on Dali beers and starting to get hungry.  We devised a system for scoring points in a game:  smoking weed in front of a police officer was 100 points, taking a swim in the drainage ditch was 70, stealing a Chinese child was 120, eating pigs ears was 40, and so on...  Being afraid of going to prison for smoking dirty Naxi ganja or getting a staff infection seemed too daunting for myself, and i don't want kids at this point in my life, so I chose pig ears.  We went to the night market and found this stand that sold them roasted and flavored oh so delicately.  They even sliced it up thin and put some cilantro on it.  I got about a third of the way through eating mine when I began to feel sick.  Perhaps the combination of cheap Chinese beers and swine cartilage isn't the best on a near-empty stomach.  Parts of the ear were actually very tasty and not too tough.  I can see why dogs enjoy these so much.  Only in China!

A Steady Diet of MSG 8

Publish Post                                                               Blue Cow Beer
      I bought a can of this at the supermarket in Qingyang, thinking it might taste like PBR given the blue-ribbon and working-man's appeal of the farmer hoisting a cold one after working all day in the fields.  Boy, was I wrong. This is the worst tasting-beer I've ever had.  

a Steady Diet of MSG 7

                                                                    Beef Noodles
      These are one of the specialties of Qingyuang City, where my girlfriend teaches English at Long Dong University(Chinese men aren't well endowed, so this is a bit of a misnomer).  A hearty dish of thick noodles surrounded by a delectable broth covered in heaps of cilantro and basil, with little chunks or thinly-sliced pieces of beef depending on which restaurant you get it at.  Throw in a couple spoonfuls of lajiao(a Chinese spice that's in almost everything), and you have a party in your mouth.  Yum.

a Steady Diet of MSG 6

                        The Perfect Mixed Drink:  Coca-Cola and Spiced Baijiu
     So over the course of this trip I developed a habit of drinking Coke everyday.  I know, they're an awful multi-national corporation that gobbles up precious water reserves around the world, and its supposed to be really bad for you.  Well, when you're in a country where all of the drinks are over-sweetened or flavored like corn or peas, you learn to appreciate a little corporate gut-rot.  Baijiu is usually clear, about 58% alcohol content, and tastes like vodka mixed with floor cleaner.  But its also really cheap, the equivalent of a dollar for a bottle that will get you soused in no time.  I found that spiced baijiu is a lot more palatable, existing in the honorable family tree of brandy, whiskey, and scotch.  It goes perfect with some Coca-Cola to take off the edge.  I will miss you, spiced baijiu...

a Steady Diet of MSG 5

                                                Sushi- Flavored Bugles
     Just as tasty as regular Bugles, which for some reason I never see around in the States anymore.  They don't really have the flavor of raw fish as much as seaweed.  Chinese folks are huge fans of potato chips in general.

A Steady Diet of MSG 4

                                             Ultraman Brand Chocolate-Covered Peanuts
      Being a huge fan of the tag-team of peanuts and chocolate, I'd have to say these are fucking good.  The only drawback is that there are less than a dozen of the little things actually contained within the vacuum-inflated package.  Ultraman is huge in China.  Kids run around with Ultraman plastic masks on pretending to fight giant mutants that their mothers take the place of in their fertile imaginations.  

A Steady Diet of MSG 3

                                                   Sweet Hour:  Seaweed Papers
      Kind of like eating just the nori wrap from sushi that's been dried out by itself.  I had an Asian classmate in 2nd grade who brought this to lunch almost everyday.  I didn't like it back then, but i like it now.  The texture is a mixture of rice paper and plastic wrap.  Somehow, that works for me.  There seems to be no added spice or salt, unlike many packaged Chinese snacks I've encountered during this trip.  This sort of snack complements a bowl of won ton soup very well.  

A Steady Diet of MSG 2

                                                      Yin Qiao Dairy: Walnut and Peanut Milk
     I can't rate this product on the same scale as the Mini-Crabs of the previous posting, as there's nothing weird or gag-inducing about this one.  Absolutely delicious.  I'm not a big fan of milk in a glass, but this reminds me of almond milk more than anything.  It would only be better if China could produce a decent cookie to dunk in a glass of this delightful drink.

A Steady Diet of MSG: Chinese Snacks

                                                           Preserved Miniature Crabs
                  I actually made it through the first serving, or crab if you will, without gagging.  With a scale of 1 being barely palatable and 5 inducing a fit of vomiting, I'd give this a 2.  Subtle hints of MSG, red coloring, and a not-so-subtle crunch hit me right off.  Unfortunately, upon second tasting,  I only made through 2-3 seconds of trying to swallow bits of miniature sea-life which had been dead who knows how long before encountering an involuntary gag reflex and spitting the whole thing out into the trash can.  So in retrospect, I'd have to give this a 4, since there was no disguising by artificial flavors what I was eating and I felt no will-power to try to force a third serving down my throat. 

Sunday, February 22, 2009


next post:  Chinese food reviews and Basement Tapes update