I just arrived in Singapore after spending a week in Beijing. The Chinese authorities block LiveJournal, FaceBook and Twitter, so I have not had access before now. But I have plenty of photos! Beijing seems to be a lot cleaner than it was when I last visited in 2005. The air and streets are cleaner, and there is more green thanks to the 2008 Olympics. When I took the taxi from the airport into Beijing I was amazed that I could smell - the delightful smell of tasty Chinese cooking, not pollution. So here is some of what I have been eating in Asia. WARNING: None of these dishes are vegetarian, although a couple claim to be.
The first is Mongolian Hot Pot, the most wonderful thing on earth. A spicy broth is prepared in a large brass cooker and brought to a roiling boil. You then dip raw vegetables, meats, tofu, you name it - into the broth and cook it for a couple of minutes. You then pluck your cooked food out of the vat (carefully, with chopsticks) and dip it into a sauce - usually a soy-peanut concoction. Then you eat it. Delicious!
The best way to eat hot pot is on a very hot day, with very spicy broth, washed down with a cold beer. There is something heavenly about sweating inside and out along with the boiling vat. Maybe I will buy an electric hot pot for July 4, but as you can see it's not as exciting as a firey brass cauldron.
Wangfujing Night Market
OK, OK, so I didn't actually *eat* the scorpions. Especially since they were squirming while impaled on the kebab stick - all the little legs wriggling in protest, a movement I could not capture with a still camera.
Little Steamed Buns
Pork-filled steamed buns are a breakfast staple throughout much of China. They are always freshly made. Dip them in a little vinegar and chili sauce - delicious!
Wangfujing Gourmet Street
This is more typical of what I have been eating - noodles with vegetables and beer. Noodles in Asia are very different from the noodles we get at Chinese restaurants in the U.S., where they tend to over-sauce and over-oil the noodles. Here they are quickly and lightly stir-fried in the wok. Unfortunately, the concept of "vegetarian" often means that the dish contains vegetables. Fish sauce, beef broth and even strips of meat are often included.
Singapore is much more vegetarian friendly. My hotel is in the middle of the Little India district, and last night after I arrived I went out for a quick bite that I could take back to my room before sleeping like the dead, and I found - *two* vegetarian take out places right next door.