Food. Glorious, wonderful, expensive, elusive food.

I’ve posted a few things about ‘oddities’ we’ve experienced while living in China.  Now that four months have officially passed, we’ve come up with a new list of things.  The ones below are all food-related, but we have others, which may make the cut into another post in the near future.

These fall squarely into the “Not Weird, Just Different” category.  Some are good, some are maybe not as good. Other things are little differences, some of which I will likely miss when we find our way to somewhere other than China in the future.

1) I found Zucchini!!!!!!!!!  At the store, I thought, “Ok, these are near some other obvious squashes, and though they are round and squatty, these look suspiciously like zucchini.  All evidence points to these being zucchini.”  They cost me about a buck and we’re eating them tonight, no matter what they are.  I deeply hope they are not cucumbers, because we’re doing Tex Mex and I can’t take that kind of let-down for a third time.

The softball sized zucchini. However, shape doesn’t matter-they taste exactly the same.

2) Most things that come in big packages in the U.S. come in teeny sub-packages in China.  But they are then combined into a larger package that looks just like what we’d get in the U.S..  But this is awesomer because stuff doesn’t go stale.  Genius! (I fully recognize that this creates a lot of extra wasteful packaging, but without it I was throwing away a lot of food, so it’s your choice of one evil or the other.)

Yummy dried strawberries!

3) I still can’t find limes.  But I can find pre-packaged lime juice for about $8 at an imported goods store, and it’s worth it.  It makes an OK margarita if you use the good tequila and don’t skimp on any other ingredients.

4) These cookies are to DIE for.  I have purchased two boxes and I’m sending them back to the States for my family to enjoy.  They are like girl scout cookies on crack.  I thought I loved thin mints, but no.  If given the choice, I choose these every time. I know, you are in shock, probably yelling  “Heretic!!!!” at your screen, but I mean it.  They have (I think) sesame seeds baked in, plus some other cinnamon-ginger goodness and they are the undeniably perfect combination of sweet and salty crispiness and guess what, yep, they come in little perfect individual portioned packages (4 to a box), so you don’t ever taste a stale one.  Genius. Seriously.

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I think the Chinese characters say “Cookies that will make you lose your mind”.

5) Ice cream is available, but expensive.  These teeeeeeeeeny tiiiiiiiiiiiiiny liiiiiiiiiiiittle baby Haagen-Dazs morsels that are about 4 spoons worth of Cookies and Cream are at the big Carrefour next door.  But they are $5.50 each.  That’s $11 for two.  To put this in perspective, I bought two onions, four bell peppers, about 50 thai chilies, an enormous bunch of spring onions, cilantro,  four bananas, four lemons, a 3 lb bag of rice and two goofy zucchini, all for LESS than the two itty bitty ice creams.  Produce= crazy cheap, ice cream = crazy expensive.

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Yum. Maybe not worth the $11. I think we may switch to the Dairy Queen for our ice cream cravings.

5) We are infinitely grateful for the Western restaurants that provide us with our American food, bbq, and burger fixes.  Thank you, Danny and Dana at the Lazy Pug, who make the most head-spinningly good cocktails and have the best buffalo sauce this side of the Nile.  They do Sunday brunch with fresh English muffins, BBQ night on the weekends and have mouth watering fajitas (yes, I said it, Texan friends, don’t judge) whenever you want. Plus they are just great people- we even had their turkey dinner on Christmas Eve and it was a little slice of America. Other than that,  The Spot is a rising favorite for us, thanks to the juicy little gourmet sliders that are just a couple bucks each.  They remind me of Little Bigs in Houston, but more fancy-ish and really one of the better burgers around.

6) Hot Pot is pretty badass.  It’s like fondue, but better because it has buckets of Sichuan peppercorns in the oil.  So you basically deep fry all kinds of veggies and meats in this outrageously spicy broth/oil, and dip them into sesame oil to cool the burn and eat a massive amount of food over the course of an hour or two while sweating profusely from the heat.  But it’s not just spicy hot…. The Sichuan peppercorns have a unique property that makes them famous and it’s called a ‘Mala spice’, which means ‘numbing heat’.  And your whole mouth and lips turn numb in a most pleasantly addictive way that only Sichuan peppers can provide.  There’s many ways to serve up the hotpot style of food and here’s one that we had recently.  I’ll admit, it has taken me four months to adjust to the food flavors, styles, and textures but now my mouth and belly are like, “Game on.” I’ve had some version of hot pot four times in the last 2 weeks, and we’ve got plans for more next week.  Yum!!

Out to a dry-style Fish Hotpot with our friends. Left to right, it’s Kitti, Kenny, Emily, and Hesham. For the food we have a rabbit hotpot in the center and two fish pots on either side. These have already been cooked and the dish is not quite as oily as regular hotpot, you know, so it’s healthier. Also, this whole massive dinner which had about 6 side dishes you don’t see, as well as about 10 beers all split across 8 people was $80 USD.  For everyone.  Total. And we were stuffed! What a deal!

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Bruce finding some fish snacks and showing excellent chopstick form.

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I honestly don’t know what I’m eating here, but I assure you, it was delicious.

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