Don’t eat the street food!

Yesterday afternoon, the Kid and I ran errands. Afterwards, as we stepped off the bus at our place, there was a new street food vendor right there at the bus stop frying up gorgeous golden and crispy veggie dumplings and selling them slathered in chilli sauce — 10 dumplings for $1 (or 50p).

We’re so lucky that our hotel is just behind a street food area with tons of veggie options. Amazing giant flatbreads flavoured with various combinations of chives, scallions, sesame seeds, garlic and minced chillis; fresh veggies threaded onto bamboo skewers and flame broiled to order then slathered in oil and spicy seasoning; crepes stuffed with fried egg, fried lettuce and chilli sauce; noodle bowls wok-fried from a tiny cart, with veggies and nice salty, oily, unctuous sauce. Lots of other stuff too… Most of it less than 50p. And two iced tea/milk tea/smoothy/lassi kiosks in the midst of all this for a sweet chaser. Yesterday, I had a lovely apple lychee iced “fibre” tea. (Don’t ask me what the fibre is. I have no idea. It’s all about trust.)

One of the first things that SIE (the company I taught for in Nanjing in 2012 and 2013, and for whom the Guy is teaching this year in Shanghai) tells the new arrivals is DON’T EAT THE STREET FOOD. We’ve eaten it every day (sometimes multiple times) since we got here. Life’s too short not to eat the street food.

 

Two great Uyghur places

A friend has been insisting that I post photos of food. But I keep forgetting to take any. The lovely food arrives and all I can think of is eating it. Tonight, though, halfway through my dinner, I finally remembered to take a pic.

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What you see here are yummy hand-pulled Uyghur noodles topped with a rich, smoky potato stew. Three of us had lovely noodle dishes like this one (one with potatoes, one with eggplant, and one with lamb), along with three bowls of  lovely clear peppery broth, a boil of peanuts, and three adorable little glass bottles of soda pop for a total of just over $8/₤4. For all three of us!!

After dinner, a stern-looking black-hjiabed Uyghur woman, who seemed to be associated with the owners, but who wasn’t doing too much in the way of work, specifically moved to a different seat so that she could get really close to the Kid and closely scrutinize her blue hair and her up-gauged ears and her various facial piercings. Then, a young girl (of perhaps 12?) in a beautiful silky pink hijab covered with glitter and golden jewelry joined the woman so that she too could give the Kid a good once-over. They both stared at her so unabashedly and with such open, genuine interest that the Kid and I halted our conversation so that she could turn to them and give them a closer look. Thus began a sweet, animated, giggly conversation between the Kid and the young girl, the young girl gently touching the Kid’s piercings and the woman looking on rather sternly all the while, until at last one of the men in the kitchen yelled at the girl to (one supposes) get off her butt and clear the tables that had just been vacated. As the Kid and I left the restaurant, we heard peals of laughter (but not unkind laughter) erupt behind us.

This was, in fact, our third Uyghur meal in two days. We’ve just found a new row of restaurants really near our hotel. Last night, five of us shared Kazakhstan style potatoes, wonderful chunky little egg noodles, glorious fatty spicy braised eggplant with sweet peppers, dry-fried green beans in Szechuan peppercorns and chillis, a Uyghur version of katchumber salad, sesame nan (called “nang” by the Uyghurs), amazing veggie fried rice hash-fragrant with smoked cumin, and gai choy with black mushrooms, with bottles of kvass and black beer and, for the meat-eaters, half a dozen massive skewers of lamb — all consumed amidst chandeliers and rich brocades and brooding, cigarette smoking men, and confident, happy toddlers. About $50/₤25, all in. (We went back to the same place for lunch today and shared kvass, ma po tofu, fat dry-fried noodles with celery and fresh and dried chillis, and more sesame nan: $10/₤5.)

On the way home from last night’s rather grand Uyghur restaurant, we passed tonight’s much more down-market one — a bright, cheerful little place staffed by wiry young men in white taqiyahs and tunics, and (as we discovered tonight) by the young girl in the glittering hijab. Last night, as we passed, she was reclining on a motorcycle in front of the restaurant, looking for all the world as if she was waiting for someone to pop a date in her mouth. I so wanted to look at her — her beautiful head-scarf and her imperious but playful air, but I didn’t want to be rude. So it was great when she was even more interested in the Kid than I was in her. We all got a good look. The Kid’s appearance really makes her stand out this year. Last time I posted, I said that it will make it harder to observe people unobtrusively. As I learned tonight, though, there is no need to be unobtrusive in one’s observation when one is herself the object (of the mother of the object) of scrutiny.

 

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