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Tag Archives: Meat

Bright Lights, Big City

After recuperating back in our hotel for a few hours, we worked up the energy to head out for the evening about 9 o’clock. Apparently the “place to go” in the evening in Xi’an is the Moslem quarter, founded by Arab traders over 2000 years ago.

To start with, we just wandered around the small alleys enjoying the sights and soaking up the smells, but very quickly found that the food was just too tempting. First we tried something that were like fried spring rolls, and just ate them walking down the street. This gave us sufficient sustenance to cope with walking around a little more, until we decided that we really needed to eat something more substantial.

We picked one of the many meat-on-stick places, somewhere that looked reasonably clean, and through the usual combination of our poor Chinese, the staff’s broken English, and a bit of pointing, managed to order some meat and a couple of beers. We soon realised that we hadn’t ordered enough meat, so got another round of sticks, and a type of flat bread (paid for separately), which the waitress sliced up for us… and when I say “sliced”, I mean put on a chopping board and hacked apart with a cleaver!

We also got some free entertainment while we were eating: a guy walked into the restaurant with an ehru (sounds like the beginning of a bad Chinese joke), and went round the tables asking if anybody wanted him to play for them. A group of show-off Chinese businessmen types engaged his services, and after going through a few typical Chinese pieces, he launched into Auld Lang Syne, which seems to be very popular over here!

After leaving the “restaurant” and walking around a bit more, we headed to a likely place to find a taxi about 11 o’clock, as more and more traders started setting up their stalls: the night was clearly still young! As well as the usual stalls selling tat, and the people flying huge strings of small kites, we saw something that we’d never seen before: tricycle-mounted telescopes! They were pretty big ones too, something like 15″ reflectors, although I don’t think they’d be able to see much as it was fairly overcast that evening.

 
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Posted by on Saturday 18 August 2012 in China

 

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Food, Glorious Food!

Most of the meals here are interesting in one way or another (once you get past the “Chinese food again?” stage), but here’s a couple we went out for specially.

Hotpot

This starts with a big pot in the middle of the table, on top of a burner. This is filled with some kind of stock, which could contain almost anything. Sometimes the pot is divided in two, so you can have separate spicy and non-spicy stock; this time, ours was just full of chicken-based stock, using all of the chicken, as you can see. The only bit we couldn’t find was the beak.

You order a selection of food, which arrives separately, uncooked. We had wafer-thin slices of beef and pork, a selection of green leaves, a few different kinds of mushrooms, and a load of fresh noodles. (Of course, we forgot to take pictures of any of this.)

This is chucked in to the simmering stock, a bit at a time; fished out as it’s cooked, then eaten straight away. Repeat until you’re stuffed! If you’re still hungry, you can drink the stock too.

Tabletop Barbecue

Another meal where the “cooking” is done in the centre of the table. Each table has a ‘fire pit’ with an extractor above it. You order a suitable piece of meat, something like a leg of lamb or pork shoulder, along with whatever side dishes you fancy. One of the staff comes round with a pile of ready-heated charcoal briquettes and lays them out in your fire pit, then the piece of meat is brought to your table on a big spit. It’s already been oven-cooked, and just has to sit above the coals, being turned occasionally, for long enough to heat it and char it to your taste. Once the outer layer is ready, each person has their own set of long-handled knives and forks, and carves off chunks.

Unfortunately, this restaurant only has Chinese language menus, no pictures, and our vocabulary is a bit limited, so our method of ordering was to wander round the other tables in the restaurant, pointing at things and saying “zhège” and “nàge” (“this” and “that”). If nobody was eating something that we wanted, we had to wait until somebody else ordered it, then ambush the waitresses as they came out of the kitchen carrying it, then use more pointing and Chinese number gestures to order it.

It sounds a bit chaotic, but it seemed to be good entertainment for the rest of the diners. We managed to get our big lump of meat (ribs), plus sweetcorn, fried dumplings (delicious!), salad, and some kind of bread that was like flattened wholemeal rolls with a slight cinnamon flavour.

The other diners were obviously enjoying the spectacle we were causing, particularly the table next to us. One of them kept challenging Clare to “gānbēi” her drink (literally “empty glass”, down in one). Another who’d made sure that we understood what piece of meat we’d ordered by pointing at his own ribs, also seemed very impressed that I was managing to entertain six ladies by myself, and introduced himself to me. By pointing at a picture on his phone he managed to let me know that his name was ‘Sky’; to be honest, he might have meant, ‘Night’, or ‘Clouds’, but I don’t think it mattered. We were also sent a plate of edemame beans, with a piece of paper inviting us to “try these you will like”. We didn’t tell them that we often eat edemame beans at home…

So, a decent meal, drinks and entertainment, all for ¥42 each (about £4.20). Bargain.

 
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Posted by on Wednesday 8 August 2012 in China

 

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