Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Real Local Specialty

Thanks to ChinesePod's new video series, The Menu Stealer, we were able to have a go at the true local specialty of the Guilin region. What awaited us was much cheaper and way more delicious than the aforementioned pijiu yu.

Guilin mifen is essentially a bowl of rice noodles. These noodles, which can be found at literally hundreds if not thousands of xiao fandian in the region (just look for the characters 桂林米粉), cost no more than a couple of kuai per serving.

Once you receive your noodles, it's up to you what happens next. These little noodle joints will invariably have a huge pot of steaming soup, which you are free to ladle into your bowl. You will also encounter an array of cold condiments that can be added to the mix, everything from small peanuts and cucumbers to pickled vegetables and chili peppers.

Z, of course, went for the plain noodles, much to the chagrin of the laoban of the various storefronts we walked into. Bu hao chi! "It doesn't taste good that way!" Yes, we replied, he is rather tiaoshi (picky).

As we have discovered throughout the course of this year, roadside noodle stands are the real meeting places of laobaixing in today's China, the kinds of hangouts where people linger and talk about the matters of the day in their small communities. From Beijing to Xi'an to Taiyuan, we have noticed far more life going on where people bend their heads over steaming bowls of noodles than in the tea houses we (wrongly) expected to be so ubiquitous around the country. This has been a discovery, I can assure you, that all of us (even Z!) have found to be one of the true delights of everyday life in China.

~Steve

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