Food on Sticks: Xiamen, China
Dear G, B and E
At the end of my last visit to China, I visited Xiamen, a seaside city in the south east Fujian province, looking out towards Taiwan. It’s a smaller Chinese city with (only!) about five million people and is famed for its seafood and tea.
And boy, do they love to eat seafood. The Chinese will be the first to admit that they have a preoccupation with food, but Xiamen was a whole new level. I guess many of the people I saw were on holiday so wanted to find and eat the foods they were visiting Xiamen to eat, but the queues for stalls were huge. As was the scale of consumption.
I walked down Zhongshan Road which is a pedestrianised central street lined with food stalls and shops aimed at tourists. Amazing to see people harvesting pearls from farmed oysters and making jewellery on the spot. Chinese liquor (bai jeo, literally white alcohol) in various elaborate bottles, some shaped as missiles and artillery shells. Dried food stuffs (such as 1 metre-long fish) stacked high in shops. But most impressive was the freshly cooked food. And most of it can be bought on a stick for ease of consumption on the hoof.
Fancy a whole BBQ squid? No problem, cooked in front of you in minutes on a stick. Deep fried prawns? Have several, on a skewer. A foot long sausage? You can have one, but it has to be on a stick.
I’m not going to lie, I was whipped up into a frenzy and stuffed my face. In rough order I had:
An oyster pancake (deep fried and so good)
A squid on a stick
A plate of mantis prawns
A bowl of razor clams
Potatoes slices on a stick
A mango smoothie with mango ice cream and mango slices on top
The following evening I went over to Gulangyu island which sits in the bay looking back at Xiamen. It’s where all the old embassies used to be and so has lots of pretty architecture and walks.
On an island further towards Taiwan the Chinese government have positioned a huge sign which reads “One country, two systems”. Which is a bit galling for the Taiwanese.
Anyway, Xiamen is quite nice and is in the running for my second favourite place on the Chinese mainland. It’s relaxed and the people are friendlier. I have work here if I want to come back anyway!