The Last (Chinese) Suppers

It’s hard to believe, but my days in China are now officially numbered. It sort of came up all of a sudden – at first I didn’t know exactly how or when I’d get to Vietnam, and then somehow now I’m only 200km from the border, waiting for my visa to come through so I can move on to country number six (Korea, China, Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, China, Macau, Vietnam) in as many months.

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In the north, the default vegetarian dish was “ground three fresh,” stir-fried eggplants, potatoes, and green peppers. Here in the south it’s hongshao qiezi, or “redfried eggplants.” So slimy and spicy and totally awesome. I ordered this one from a family running a sort of open kictchen in a market, so I was able to see the immense quantites of oil they used. I no longer expect eating vegan to protect me from an eventual heart attack.

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Another day, another round.


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Mapo (spicy something) tofu.

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Traditional dimsum: chicken feet. The first time I ate these (Ohio, 2006?), I nearly cried as I choked them down. This time, despite being much more opposed to meat than I was then, the weirdness of it all didn’t phase me.

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“Intestine Powder,” thin sheets of rice dough wrapped up into a kind of mock-intestine. Stuffed sometimes with meat, sometimes with veggies.

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I arrived at my CS Hosts’ place the night before they were planning a Mexican feast. What timing! I whipped up the salsa and helped out on the guac. So nice, so fresh.
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Irina’s improvised (recipeless) double-decker vegan banana bread. Sauce made from bananas, water, sugar, and a bit of flour.

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Happy New Year Apple. Jaded Vegan/Hippie/Foodie joke courtesy of Jason: “the scary thing is that this isn’t a stamp – they GMO’d it into the apple’s DNA.”

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Stir-fried tofu, more eggplant, and some bamboo.

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3 dudes, five plates of vegetables (stacked high), beer, peanuts. What a night. Some sort of sauteed sauerkraut down there at the bottom.


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Next night’s dinner: pick your skewered veggies at 25 cents a piece, cooked in a boiling pot right at your table.


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Fried noodles from the Muslim noodle shop. For breakfast.


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Oustanding egg McMuffins. I mentioned these a few posts ago – for sure one of the most delicious, hearty, filling street foods I’ve run into. There are so many vegan treats around that not many things tempt me. If I had been slightly hungrier, though, I may well have succumbed.


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Another version of Intestine Powder, this time with hot pepper and oyster sauce. Maybe I still had Mexican food on my mind, but I swear it tasted like a Cocoa/Mole sauce.

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Greasy chive dumplings.

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Finally, some Chinese food I would hav recognized ten years ago! Pork and broccoli.

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Homemade Lunar New Year feast.

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Shredded sweet potato porridge.


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Sauteed pork and jackfruit! It’s such a weird fruit – I can never quite tell if it grosses me out or if it’s the best thing I’ve ever eaten. The experience of eating it is somehow reminiscent of having a word stuck on the tip of your tongue.


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Homemade sweet and sour pork. Step 1: deep-fry the meat. Step 2: remove from oil, immerse in batter. Step 3: deep-fry again. Step 4: add sauce.

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Six months in and still getting the occasional suprise new food: flash-fried peppers.


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Fresh squid from Guishan Island.


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Prawns too.

So, there you have it. Six months’ worth of vegetables in China. Most of them spicy, all of them oily, few of them disappointing. Before I came, a million people told me that it would be impossible to be vegetarian here, particularly on my own and not speaking Chinese. In actuality, vegetables and vegetable dishes abound, and the only time I had any diffficulty was when overgenerous hosts wanted to treat me to local specialties (or, in the case of the goat brain, oddities). If the same holds true for Vietnam, and for the rest of my trip, I’ll be a happy camper.

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3 Responses to The Last (Chinese) Suppers

  1. Chris says:

    Wait till we get to Tibet! You might have to subsist on tsampa and butterless yak butter tea for a couple months. And then what are you going to drink in Kyrgyzstan if not kyms, fermented horse milk?

  2. mingyulee says:

    Welcome to Vietnam!!!!!!! Good luck!
    I am still near Kuala Lumpur and I will go north on 1st Mar.!

    • Michael Roy says:

      Got to Vietnam yesterday, no problem. Well, except that I can’t say anything except “Hello” and “Happy New Year.” Traveling is so goddamn hard!