Getting Fat in Beijing

I could probably start any post with the line “getting fat in…” After a steady diet of pies, fast food, and the world’s best black licorice in New Zealand and Oz, I was looking forward to healthier fare in China. I was sure it was the high fat content which had caused me to lose a button on one of my pants. My expanding midsection would benefit greatly from healthier and lower fat food. Wow! I couldn’t have been more wrong. If we lived in Beijing, I would be 500 pounds. The food here is amazing. Everything is exquisite in taste, wonderful in price, and ludicrous in proportions. As a family we do either one or two meals out each day. We wander around and look at the huge selections of restaurants, argue a bit about who would like which one, and dive in. After seating us and gathering that we have the Mandarin skills of a one year old, they hover over us as we peruse the menu. Most of the places we dine have an English menu or at least a picture menu. I am not sure which one helps more. English menus usually give us a few minutes of levity as we laugh about the frog ovaries or deer penis dishes. Anne usually gets grossed out by some of the organ or seafood dishes and we return to our staples. The visual menus leave much more to the imagination. A dish may look good and even taste good, but there is still that little nagging voice in the back of your head saying, “I hope this is beef.”

Happy with all the food Another meal well handled

To our surprise, Dax has been the biggest culinary explorer and has found a number of Chinese dishes he likes. McKane sticks mostly to his favorite dishes of sweet and sour pork and fried rice. Asher and Kieran get by on pieces of meat, fried rice and some white rice. Anne has found one of her favorite dishes is a deep fried sesame ball. And for me…well… I eat just about anything. (At this point I need to digress for a moment. I wrote the first half of this post while we were in Beijing but did not have time to finish. A couple of days have passed, we have been running, eating on trains and are now in Xi’an. Something happened along the way and I suffered from my first bout of intestinal infortitude. After a day of no food and some time doubled up, it appears to mostly have passed. During the time I was convulsing, I couldn’t bring myself to write about food, but now I am over it.) Now back to food in Beijing…Even though I would eat all the things we ordered, I did find a number of favorites. Topping the list was smoked duck. After a couple of Peking ducks we decided to try a smoked duck. It was amazing. It tasted a lot like spare ribs only there was more meat and it had a nice layer of crispy skin. This was also one of Dax’s favorites. Another dish he and I both enjoyed was a sizzling dish of beef (the meat) and aubergines (eggplant). It was a little spicy and served still sizzling on a hot plate. We found other chicken, pork and beef dishes we liked, and even the worst dishes were better than most Chinese dishes at home.

We also found one street food we thought Disneyland should pick up. It is fall in China and on many street corners there are vendors selling crabapples and pomegranates. While I will not let Dax eat the raw crabapples, we found that some vendors put the crabapples on a stick and cook them in toffee. At first each bite is crunchy with the sweetness of the cooked sugar grabbing your attention. This quickly passes and you are left with the pleasant tartness of the crabapples. Shortly after the tartness starts to fade, you want to take another bite and start the whole process over again. Dax and I both lamented the fact that we didn’t find this treat until our last day in Beijing. However, on further reflection maybe the toffeeing process doesn’t kill all the yickeys that can rest on un-peeled, uncooked fruit. After 10 days in China, it appears the size of my midsection upon our return will depend upon the ratio of days unlimited food is placed in front of me to the number of days I suffer as a result.

7 thoughts on “Getting Fat in Beijing

  1. “even the worst dishes were better than most Chinese dishes at home” … I total agree Tom… for Atlanta!!! I should take you out to some good Chinese restaurants in L.A. next time. :-)

    Oh, also beware of con foods. If they look too “exotic”, or however rare as they explain to you, they are probably not real. Merchants in China are infamous of making food look good by illegal means in recent years. Stay with recommended restaurants where you can.

  2. i remember when we had crab apples in our backyard, and dax always ate them, he always got sick after about 3 of them.

  3. Hey Tom —

    Kai and I are *huge* fans of chinese food too. See if you can try some of our favorites (I think if you copy these down and take them with you, most folks will know what these are even w/o the characters!):

    — yu xiang qiezi (literally, fish flavored eggplant, but it tastes nothing like fish. It’s eggplant in a somewhat spicy sauce – delicious!)

    — mapo dofu (tofu with a spicy red sauce – yummm!)

    — gan bien siji dou (4-seasons green beans — dry fried green beans usually w/a bit of pork. Yummy. probably my all-time favorite)

    — gong bao ji ding (kung pao chicken — a bit spicy, but the chicken is usually really tender)

    — qin qiao bo cai (spinach sauteed in garlic)

    — gan bien niu rou si (dry fried pork – spicy)

    — hu pi qin qiao or maybe it’s hu pi jin jiao (not sure exactly how you spell it anymore — these are hot spicy tiger skin chilies – Kai’s favorite.)

    Hope your stomach stays well from now on!

    Best, Stephanie Fossan

  4. I just fell over your blog – and it made me want to go to China. :-) Thanks for sharing your pictures and story. Regards René

  5. “even the worst dishes were better than most Chinese dishes at home” … I have to disagree I’m afraid. Although I have had a few excellent meals in China (especially Hong Kong) the quality of Chinese food here in London often exceeds them. Your post did make me want to go back soon though.

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