Monday, July 30, 2007

Asian Street Foods

Breakfast and Desert in China, Dinner in Korea

When thinking about the available street foods I've found that I favor a Chinese street food menu in the morning and a Korean street food menu in the afternoon or evening.

Genneryally, Korea has the best street foods, at least as far as my palate is concerned. As much as I've tried, I never really took to much to Chinese street food, though each country has something I really like or I really don't like.

One of the best things in China is something I don't really know the name for. They take a rolled out piece of dough that they cook on a hot surface. When both sides cook they split it open from one side to get at the inside. They crack an egg, scramble it and poor it into the inside center of this partially cooked dough. Then they sort of close over the hole.

Then they put some sort of sauce on the dough, painted on with a cooking brush. You can have it hot or not. An important thing to learn in any cultue is how to say "not hot." In Chinese it is bu la. Then they put some Asian lettuce and usually a piece of processes meat in the shape of a sausage. The whole thing is rolled up and is eaten like some sort of a breakfast burrito.

Baozi is very common, especially at breakfast. It is a steamed bun, that has been filled with a vegetable-meat mixture. It can be tasty, but is sometimes a little heave for breakfast, as far as I'm concerned. You can alos gett these little steamed buns that might have a little bit of nut or red bean in the middle, but are largely just steamed dough. They are ultra cheap and a quick easy source of energy when you're in a hurry in the morning.

China also has these sour apples, something very like crab apples, that they put on a stick like a ka-bob, and cover in some sweet topping. They are rather popular with the young people. As an adult it feels strange eating candied apples.

You can frequently get an ear of corn that as been boiled. They put it on a stick. It is great if you are walking around a park or perhaps around West Lake. You get rather tired and the corn is an excellent surce of energy.

On the "not so tantilizing" list would be something called Stinky Toufu 豆腐 chòudòufu. This is strong smelling, preserved bean curd. Some people who eat it swear that its taste is wonderful and some have called it their favorite thing to eat. To be quite honest, I have never tasted it. I am generally not a big fan of tofu to begin with. Stinky Tofu is something that can be smelled about 30 feet away. I'm told the tast is akin to anchovies. Stinky Tofu "tastes good they way other repulsive things taste good, like Sardines, Anchovies, Liver Sausage, etc." Or so I am told by a friend of mine.

So if you can get within 30 feet, then you are alright, I guess. :)

In Korea things are a bit different. The most popular street food, is probably Dukboki, which is these big, thick rice noodles in a very hot pepper based sause, and some mild tasting fish. It is one of my favorites, to be certain. It is popular among young people in Korea.

Another one is Kimbap. Many people looking at it would call it Sushi or something, except that it has not fish. It is made with pickled vegetables and rolled in rice, wrapped in seaweed paper. I really find it quite a refreshing little snack, even a meal sometimes. The best version of this is Tuna Kimbap, where tuna is placed into the middle of the roll with the vegetables. It is really good. For me a not so savory version is one made with kimchi, where the kimchi replaces the tuna.

Kimchi, not really a street food, for me goes in the "not so tantilizing" category. Many people like it, and many will even go so far as to say that eating it will ensure good health and is a cure for many ailments. It is certainly a cure for bad breath. If you have bad breath before you eat it, not one will have any idea what your breath was like, after you've eaten some. There are many kinds of Kimchi, I'm told over 300. The most popular is made from cabbage. It is basically spiced, firmented cabbage.

A real popular one, much liked by all foreigners, is Yakimandu. sometimes meet, wrapped ina small piece of rolled out dough, they are then fried. YOften as street food they are fried. A bit of vegetable andou will often see this in soup as well. Chinese have something similar, though you will seldomely see it fried. It is call 饺子Jiaozi. These are considered dumplings. They take pieces of rolled out dough wrapped around diced vegetables, spices and sometimes with pork. The ends are pinched together into a dumpling. The jiaozi usually sell by the half jin or by the jin. A 'jin' is roughly a half kilogram.

Dumplings are not really a 'street food' in China though they can sometimes be bought there. You will also sometimes see them in soup, as you will see mandu soup in both Korea and Japan.

Usually you dip the jiazi in a mixture of vinegar and some pepper paste. Some people will use soy sauce with a little ground red pepper in it. This is also common with Korean mandu. I am sure this is also the norm in Japan, though I don't know by experience, only conjecture.

Another food that exists in both China and Korea in one form or another are kabobs. China, especially in the north and the west, is famous for its mutton kabobs. They are heavily spiced and quite tasty. They are usually sold by ethnic Muslims, but certainly not always. You can know them by the white hats they wear.

Korea also has kabobs, though you will see a larger variety of meats to include chicken, beef, pork and mutton. There is a place in Shanghai where you can get a number of insects including scorpions and beetles.

On the less exotic side, in Korea you can get a hot dog or sausage on a bun when out on the street, which is quite nice. Be careful, sometimes what looks like ketchup they put on there, is really some kind of hot sauce. You may see some shredded cabbage under the dog. Last new year I was in downtown Seoul and was able to get a chili-cheese hot dog. I was in a little bit of heaven for the one minute that it lasted.

There are more street foods, to be sure. I will amend this in the future. What is your favorite street food in Asia?

No comments:

Korean Flash Cards