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Chinese food got us! In general, we did not know what to expect from this wonderful country. However, with plenty of Chinese restaurants across Europe, we thought we kind of knew what we would eat. Everybody knows chicken kung pao, whatever in sweet and sour sauce or fried rice. What we experienced in China was a whole new story.

First of all: Chinese food is spicy. Not everything, but with exception of dumplings almost everything. If it is not spicy with red hot chillies, at least it contains a full head of garlic per dish. Secondly: each meal can be completely different from the previous one. China is a huge country and, of course, the meals come from places that are as far from eachother as Moscow from Madrid. No wonder. The third observation was also very relieving after Russia and Mongolia – food is cheap! There are, of course, restaurants in all ranges, but in general – it is cheap. And it gets even more pleasant when you see the portions. They are meant for sharing and usually are quite big.

photo_1We spent most of our time in the north and central parts of China and we noticed that the north offers more noodles and noodle dishes while the more south you go, the more rice you see on your plates. Noodles come in a wide variety of types, thicknesses or lenghts. Some are made of rice, some of wheat flour and some made of bean paste. Most of the noodles are hand made – either by the restaurant itself (many times noodles are cut by knife without any machines) or they purchase them on morning markets from grandmas that made them themselves too. We had so many great noodles that it is even difficult to select the best one, but we will always remember our ‘noodle lady’ in Pingyao that had her kitchen set up in front of her house and served us delicious beef noodle soup for 10 yuan (approx. 1 Eur).

photo_5Everywhere we went, there was one common dish that we found in its multiple variations: dumplings or dim-sum. They are quite similar to the dumplings we make in Slovakia, just a bit more sophisticated and come with variety of different fillings. The steamed or fried little thingies (or some even big ones) can be stuffed with pork, pork with leak, chicken, fish, shrimp, crab meat, cabbage, pumpkin, rice but also with poppy seeds, date paste and so on and so on. There are many types with many names, but we reckon, that pictures will say it all.

photo_2There is one other type of food that we came across in every city: food on sticks. There is no particular type of food we are talking about; it is more the way of presenting and preparing food that is so special about it. We assume that food is on sticks for easier pricing as well as easier selection for the customer. Usually a stick would include 3-5 pieces of the same kind of meat, vegetable, tofu, etc and every such stick would cost the same (mostly around 2 yuan). Now some places will dip the sticks you selected in boiling water and once done just serve the sticks on a plate, but others (the ones we enjoyed the most) would remove all food from sticks and place it in a sieve along with some noodles. They dip it in spiced boiling water, once done add some sauce and spices (chilli, coriander, peanuts) and serve in a bowl. Yum!!

photo_4Very similar to the second way of serving food on sticks is the trendy hot pot. Every street has a hot pot restaurant and trust us – they are all always busy! Hot pot is fun! Hot pot restaurants have tables with inbuilt cookers. A table can share one, or each person can have its own pot with hot (boiling) broth (mushroom, chicken, lamb or tom-yam versions are to be chosen from). Usually on a paper menu you tick what raw or pre-cooked foods you would like to get on a small plate and then you just boil it! Once boiled, dipped in a spicy peanut sauce (or other based on taste) is delicious. The food you boil can be pretty much anything: meat (including turtle) or seafood, vegetables of any kind, mushrooms are very popular, noodles, dumplings etc. We had 2 interesting experiences with hot pot. The first one was our first hot pot ever and because of no common language, we had to order by pointing on other people’s food and then just watch everybody trying to find out how it works. Second time – in Shanghai – was again an understanding issue, but this time the staff was witty enough to take us straight to the kitchen to point what we’d like to get.

photo_3We love seafood and China was full of it! Spicy or full of garlic, everything we had tasted amazing. The highlights of our seafood feasts were grilled oysters in Beijing, massive crab in Shanghai, spicy crayfish in Hangzhou, and whole lot of clams, fish, squid and shrimps in Xiamen.

photoChina has so much to offer in terms of food and that’s also thanks to its ever-present agriculture. Outside of the cities (or even inside!), everywhere you look, you see fields and gardens, even in weirdest places, where they grow absolutely everything – from rice to fruits. The amount of fresh (and high quality) products on the markets is overwhelming. The apples we ate in China where one of the best we ever had. The tiny tangerines! Oh those tiny tangerines! We had awesome pomelos, passion fruits, pineapple, pomegranate and mangoes. All super fresh, sweet and cheap!

Last but not least, we have to say something about the weird stuff we won’t try to make at home. Warning: animal lovers and weak stomachs, do not read further. So, are the rumours truth? Do Chinese eat dogs? Well, they do, but not all of them. We heard that in China it is mostly older people and this type of meat is no longer desired by the young generation. However we did find it on a menu of a few places. We were also told that it is Koreans that are the biggest dog lovers in Asia (stir-fried mainly).photo (1)

photoEven more weird ‘food’ can be found at a bit touristy night market in Beijing, where spiders, starfish, snakes or pigeons are on offer. Again, when we asked around, we found out rarely anybody eats some of these frequently and it is mostly southern Chinese that would enjoy occasional bug for dinner. We got tempted however, and as eating insects is one of our bucket list items, we did it. After checking out all the options, Gunnar, who we spent time in Beijing with, decided to go for silkworms – of course – on a stick! Grilled with a bit of chilly, they tasted OK.

Do not forget to see some other weird stuff and almost everything we ate in our G+ album. Bon apetit!

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Cinske jedlo nas dostalo! Vseobecne sme nejak netusili, co mame cakat od tejto krasnej krajiny, ale so skusenostami z cinskych restauracii z Europy sme si tak nejak mysleli, ze vieme co budeme jest. Vsetci poznate kuracie kung-pao, sladko-kysle omacky na mase alebo smazenu ryzu so zeleninou a vajcom. Co sme ale zazili a ochutnali v Cine je uplne ina liga.

Tak poprve: cinske jedlo je stiplave. Nie uplne vsetko, ale s vynimkou dim-sum knedlickov, takmer vsetko. Ak jedlo nie je stiplave vdaka cervenym palivym paprickam, obsahuje aspon celu hlavu cesnaku v jednej porcii. Podruhe: kazde jedno jedlo, co sme jedli bolo uplne ine, nez to pred nim. Cina je tak obrovska krajina, ze je samozrejme, ze jedla pochadzaju z roznych miest, ktore su vzdialene od seba tolko co Moskva od Madridu. Takze niet divu. Potretie ohladne jedla – velmi sa nam odlahlo po Rusku a Mongolsku – je lacne! Toto je este prijemnejsie, ked vam prinesu tie ohromne porcie, ktore sa vacsinou zdielaju medzi stolujucimi.

Vacsinu casu v Cine sme stravili v severnych a strednych castiach a vsimli sme si, ze cim dalej na sever, tym viac su jedla rezancove a cim viac na juh, tym viac ryze najdeme na tanieroch. Rezancov, ktorych sme si uzili najviac, sa v Cine pouzivaju rozne druhy, rozne sirky i rozne dlzky. Niektore su vyrobene z ryze, niektore z muky ale spoznali sme aj take, co su vyrobene z fazule. Vacsina rezancov je rucne vyrabana – bud sa vyrabaju priamo v restauracii (mnohe su rucne rezane) alebo sa kupuju na rannych trhoch od babiciek, ktore ich tiez sami pripravili. Ochutnali sme tolko rezancov, ze je tazke vybrat tie najlepsie, ale vzdy si budeme pamatat nasu ‘rezancovu babku’ v mestecku Pingyao, ktora mala svoju kuchynu rozlozenu pred domom a servirovala nam vynikajucu hovadziu rezancovy polievocku za cca 10 yuanov (1 Eur).

Vsade kam sme prisli, sme nasli jeden druh jedla, v roznych vyhotoveniach: dim-sum knedlicky. Su to knedlicky podobne tastickam, ktore robime na Slovensku, niektore sa podobaju nasim buchtam, no tie cinske su vacsinou paradne poskladane a vyrabaju sa s ohromnym mnozstvom druhov naplni. Varene na pare alebo smazene (velke ci male) sa mozu plnit bravcovym, bravcovym s porikom, kuratom, rybou, krevetovou ci krabiou naplnou, kapustou, dynou, ryzou alebo i makom, datlovou pastou ci inymi zaujimavostami. Druhov a mien maju neurekom, ale myslime, ze fotky stacia.

Este jedno jedlo sme nasli vo vsetkych mestach, ktore sme navstivili: jedlo na palickach. Vlastne nehovorime o specifickom druhu jedla, ale skor o sposobe prezentacie a pripravy, a to je na nom to specialne. Myslime si, ze jedlo sa prezentuje na palickach preto, aby bolo jednoduchsie urcit pre vsetky druhy jednotnu cenu a zaroven, aby bolo jednoduchsie si vybrat. Takze taka palicka ma vacsinou napichnutych 3-5 kuskov jedneho druhu masa, zeleniny ci tofu a kazda palicka stoji vacsinou rovnako (najcastejsie asi 2 yuany). Niektore restiky/stanky ponoria vase vybrate palicky do vriacej vody, jednoducho vsetko uvaria a serviruju vam na tanieriku, ale ini (a to je to, co mame radsej) zosunu suroviny zo vsetkych paliciek do sitka a spolu s rezancami nechaju v sitku vyvarit v pikantnej vriacej vode. Ked je hotovo, pridaju korenie (cili, koriander alebo arasidy), trochu omacku a podavaju v miske. Mnamka!

Velmi podobne jedlu na palickach je velmi popularny hot pot. Na kazdej ulici najdete aspon jednu hot pot restauraciu a vsetky, ale vsetky su vzdy plne! Hot pot je zabava! Hot pot restauracie maju kazdy stol a aj bar vybaveny varicmi ci jednoplatnickami. Pri jednom stole potom zdielate jeden, alebo kazdy ma svoj hrniec plny vriaceho vyvaru (na vyber byva hubovy, kuraci, jahnaci alebo thajsky tom-yam). Povacsine na papierovom menu sa potom priamo zasrktava vyber ingrediencii, ktore sa potom vo vyvare vyvaraju. Hotove sa potom namacaju do pikantnej omacky z burskych orieskov a odtial idu priamo do pusy. Ingrediencie byvaju takmer vseho druhu: maso (vratane korytnacieho), morske plody, zelenina, hriby, rezance ci knedlicky. Na hot pot nezabudneme i vdaka dvom zazitkom. Prvy bol nasa prva navsteva v hot pot restauracii, kde sme napriek jazykovej bariere museli pochopit koncept, ci vybrat si ingrediencie a tak sme zabavali podnik ukazovanim na taniere ostatnych a cumenim na to, ako sa to robi. Druhykrat sme sa pobavili v Sanghaji, kde nas sikovna servirka vzala priamo do kuchyne, aby sme si na ingrediencie priamo ukazali.

Obaja milujeme morske plody a v Cine sme si ich uzili! Pikantne ci plne cesnaku, vsetko, co sme ochutnali, bolo vynikajuce. Nasimi najoblubenejsimi boli grilovane ustrice v Pekingu, ohromny krab v Sanghaji, pikantne raciky v Hangzhou a vela-vela musli, ryb, kalamarov a kreviet v Xiamene.

Cinska kuchyna je bohata a rozmanita i vdaka vsadepritomnemu polnohospodarstvu. Mimo miest (ale aj v nich), vsade kam sa pozriete, je vidiet lany poli a zahrad, i v najneocakavanejsich miestach, kde sa pestuje takmer vsetko od ryze az po ovocie. Mnozstvo cerstvych (a kvalitnych) plodin, ktore dostanete na trhoch, je az neuveritelne. Jablka, ktore sme v Cine jedli, boli jedni z najlepsich, co sme kedy mali. Malinke mandarinky – ach, tie malinke mandarinky! Mali sme i stavnate pomela, marakuje, ananasy, granatove jablka a manga. Vsetko cerstve, sladke a lacne!

Na zaver musime pridat nieco i o tych zvlastnych veciach, ktore nebudeme skusat varit doma. Upozornenie: velki milovnici zvierat a slabe zaludky, prestante citat. Takze je to, co sa hovori o cinanoch pravda? Jedia psov? Tak, odpoved je ano, ale nie vsetci. Poculi sme, ze v Cine su to uz len postarsi ludia, ktori si psie masicko uzivaju a mladi sa mu viacmenej vyhybaju. Napriek tomu sme psa nasli na menu nejednej restauracie. Bolo nam tiez povedane, ze su to Korejci, ktori su v Azii najvacsimi milovnikmi psov (smazenych na panvicke).

Este viac zvlastnych pochutok mozete najst na nocnom trhu v Pekingu, kde sa ponukaju pavuky, morske hviezdice, hady ci holuby. Podobne, ako so psami, zistili sme, ze malokto si tieto pochutky uziva a ked uz, tak vacsinou na juhu krajiny. Nas to zlakalo a kedze hmyz mame na zozname veci, ktore chceme na tomto vylete skusit, sli sme do toho. Potom, co sme okukali vsetky moznosti niekolkokrat, Gunnar, s ktorym sme travili cas v Pekingu, sa rozhodol pre ‘silkworm’ (co slovensky online slovnik preklada ako ‘hodvabnik’) – samozrejme – na palicke! Grilovany so stipkou cili chutil celkom fajn.

Nezabudnite si prezriet dalsie zvlastnosti a takmer vsetko, co sme v Cine jedli, v nasom G+ albume tu. Dobru chut!

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3 thoughts on “Chinese kitchen

  1. Pingback: Xiamen’s seaside | Take it and go

  2. Pingback: East meets west in Hong Kong | Take it and go

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