Jun 252015
 

Something that is not common around South Africa, is street food. Food trucks, stalls and kiosks, that are positioned on a busy sidewalk, tempting passers by with a fresh, quick, tasty meal. This style of cuisine seems to be more prolific at our local festivals or events, but not in our cities, as such.

I am not sure why this is – perhaps we don’t have the sheer volume of people, crime may be a deterrent, maybe it is just not in our blood?

The street food culture in China, however, is massive. From small single vendors to kiosks operating with 4 or 5 staff members, they are everywhere. The variety of food on offer, is just as vast… everything from dumplings to scorpions and seahorses. We found one such area in Beijing that was crawling with patrons and I spent some time visiting the various stalls.

The quality of the food and the price astounded me, in that you can live quite comfortably in China, and not have to cook a single meal, ever! Even where we stayed in Tianjin – you simply go downstairs, choose a direction and you have yourself a walk-in menu. Everything is fresh, great quality and exceptional value for money. You have endless choices, from staples, to the most outrageous – whatever suits your mood.

Brilliant!

Jun 022015
 

When I visited China during Christmas 2013, it was my first trip off of the African continent. Besides being in awe of the sheer size and population in cities like Beijing and Tianjin, or marveling at the technology of the bullet trains and excellent subway systems – what struck me most was the diversity of food in China.

Every corner is brimming with an array of street vendors with carts and kiosks, authentic Chinese cafes and restaurants, as well as the more familiar Western chains like Subway, KFC and Starbucks. You are also sure to find eateries that are neither local nor chain stores, that offer cuisines you may have not yet encountered.

I came across such an eatery, a Korean BBQ style restaurant.

After we were seated, the first thing I noticed was a circular hole, offset from the centre of our table and overhanging the the gap was a small extraction vent which removes any smoke or smells coming from the grill. The menu we were offered, was so vast, choosing something to eat became quite a a challenge. Every vegetable you can imagine, beef, lamb, pork, chicken, fish and other seafood… the list was seemingly endless. And those were just the items for the BBQ! Soups, stews, stir-fry, cold dishes, salads – I don’t think I have ever seen a menu so comprehensive.

We selected some beef, pork and chicken as well as a selection of vegetables and having never tried kimchi before, I opted for a bowl of kimchi soup, served with steamed rice. Shortly after we ordered, two employees arrived carrying a pot of coals that was placed in the hole and a small grid was positioned over the embers.

Then we were shown to a large 4 tier table that had every sauce imaginable and there you could take an empty bowl and mix and blend to your hearts content. Peanut, soy, chili, oyster, garlic, ginger, sesame, fish sauce… it was all there. Even some that I never seen before.

With your metal chopsticks (Korean style) you simply “braai” thin slivers of meat, or vegetable and experiment with the vast amount of flavour combinations that are possible, given the plethora of menu items and sauces.

I enjoyed the whole experience thoroughly, what an amazing concept! And the kimchi soup was excellent.