Chinese New Year is coming up, and all the shops will be closed. I needed to make sure we had food in the house. Song Ying and I decided to go for a quick lunch out and then to the market. Here are some pictures. First lunch. Notice Song Ying has put our chopsticks in the hot tea. This is done to make sure they are clean. The condiments in front of her are salt and pepper, vinegar, soy, and red pepper sauce. Each bowl of noodles in soup (tang mien) was 6 RMB. The sauteed lettuce with garlic and oyster sauce was 10 RMB. (Total for lunch 22 RMB, or a bit less than $3 U.S.) Song Ying thought 10 RMB was too much for the lettuce, but I said don’t worry about it. The tea was free. Song Ying taught me a delicious way to eat my noodles. (Did you know soup is eaten with chopsticks?) I didn’t get a picture, but I will describe it. You put vinegar in your spoon and hold it level over your bowl with your left hand. With your right hand, you pick up some noodles and dip them into the vinegar as you hold the spoon steady. The noodles siphon the vinegar, and it runs down them to flavor them. Then, you slurp them right up. It’s not as tricky as it sounds, and of course it involves leaning over your bowl. Leaning over bowls, slurping, elbows on table, and spitting out bones are not offensive to Chinese sensibilities. After you finish all the goodies in your bowl, you can use a spoon or pick the bowl up to drink the liquid, if you wish.
After lunch, I tried some fresh cane juice from a shop. Next, we walked past a street that is closed off to make a flower market in celebration of New Years. There are about 8 such streets cordoned off during Spring Festival. Then, we ended up at my local "Meat Vegetable Market" (rou cai secheng). If any of these pictures make you squeamish, the either quit eating meat or get over it. Notice the markets are comprised of many individual vendors. The picture of all the different kinds of balls is all fish balls. Next are the dried fish, also sold by the fish lady. There are two tofu vendors, see the many kinds of tofu? One picture is of various kinds of preserved (pickled) vegetables, and just beyond that is the person selling about 20 kinds of mushrooms. You pick your fish out of a tank. You pick your very own cut of meat. You handle it with your hands and smell it to make sure it is fresh. (That’s why you carry wet wipes to the market.) See the butchered chickens? Just beyond them in the picture is somebody’s lunch. The guy in the brown shirt tells me he dresses about 420 birds per day, many of them going to restaurants.
You look around to see who has the best produce that day. It is routine to sample the fruit to make sure it is sweet. There’s also a picture of Song Ying picking out Mandarin oranges. Note the variety of eggs — generally one can find many kinds of chicken eggs as well as quail and duck eggs, and also various kinds of preserved eggs such as "hundred year old" eggs. Then there is the prepared meat. I’ve never bought prepared meat here because I generally only purchase food that either I clean and cook myself or that I know is very freshly cleaned and cooked. I’m not sure how long that meat has been hanging on those racks! It’s probably fresh, though, or the people would be out of business shortly. To be honest (knock on wood) the only food poisoning I’ve ever had here was from a tomato sandwich I made in my own kitchen, neglected to peel it because I washed it well and it looked so clean.
The last two pictures were taken later in the day, at another location. We needed dog food and some stuff from the foreign market. Here is a picture of the "foreign" grocery store. There is no fresh produce, only imported items. There is one shot of a rack of imported chips. They don’t like people taking photos. The other picture is of a street on the way there. As is typical of small streets that predate the huge growth boom, this is lined with trees so that there is always shade. The trees are ginkos and they are blooming right now, awash in purple blossoms.