November 23rd to 28th
It was a pretty quiet week. We were both working far too much due to a rather optimistic schedule (Rod, also author of said schedule) and an upcoming CGA exam in Beijing (Pavan). We had the dubious honor of learning the procedures for being last out of the office. The key point is putting a big bike-lock device on the front door as the fingerprint scanner and the automatic lock it hooks up to is apparently not terribly secure. Certainly not secure like a bike lock.
As one of the purposes of this blog is for us to enjoy when we look back on the trip and one of our favorite things during work weeks is the food, the focus of our coverage will be food.
Lunch on the 23rd was a seasoned (as in spiced for flavor not heat) potato dish known as Yáng Yù Cā Cā. This is served by a Nán Yáo Tóu restaurant that evidently feels strongly about old men who smoke.
A specialty of northern Shǎnxī, Yáng Yù Cā Cā is made by reducing potatoes to paste which is shredded and steamed (perhaps in the other order). Yáng Yù means potato, Cā Cā refers to the key tool used to pastify. It appears based on the attempts of co-workers to explain through English and mime that this is probably some sort of device involving two (or more?) layers where one slides a layer back and forth producing a shredding or tearing effect on the innocent potatoes fed into the machine. At some point along the way the mixture is seasoned and steamed.
On the 24th Rod was nearly fooled by mushrooms trying to impersonate something like calamari. According to Pavan these are delicious.
We also had some green beans, or Lù Dò. Due to concerns over blandness these are served in a dish consisting of about half green beans and half spices and peppers (not eaten).
Mù Xū Rò Pork had some issues with translation. Apparently it is "pork, egg, asparagus lettuce, and edible tree fungus". We aren't quite sure what an 'asparagus lettuce' is; it certainly doesn't appear to be asparagus.
The major feature of the meal was fish. The fish was almost certainly formerly one of the fish swimming in a bucket near the entrance.
As always, the fish was tasty but rather challenging to consume due to issues with de-boning using chopsticks. As a result the miàn added to the dish later was more enjoyable than the fish itself.
That evening we had to go to the supermarket and coincidentally had the camera. The fish section was entertaining.
The highlight of the fish tank was the delicious turtles. Well ... maybe we should just say the turtles. It's hard to say how delicious they really are; they may have been farmed turtles, which just don't taste the same as free range.
Things that died in peoples fish tanks had been donated and put on ice, including what looked suspiciously like a collection of angel fish (on the left).
Mini-shrimp, dried, were available in bulk.
For the individual without refrigeration, or perhaps as a snack on the go, a convenient variety of dried fish and squid were presented.
Last but not least, a wide selection of instant noodles. These are uniform in one characteristic: they are all much better than what is generally available at home.
If there is one thing you can count on in Nán Yáo Tóu it is that you will see a new device mounted on a barrel-o-fire. On the 25th the featured attraction was the multi-steamer.
For lunch we had soup. Pavan had meat and Rod tried vegetarian. The meat soup was heavy on veggies, the veggie soup was heavy on noodles.
Due to dissatisfaction with the vegetable soup we got to try another new thing: a Shǎnxī breakfast sandwich (our name, not theirs). Eggs are fried in between a thin dough, the resulting wafer is brushed with spicy sauce and tasty sauce, and then the whole thing is folded around a leaf of lettuce. It is delicious.