I have tried “things that you people wouldn’t believe” just to quote good old Roy Batty in Blade Runner. Hu Tong is a city whose avenues, side streets, country lanes still preserve the town planning designed during Mao’s Revolution. The tourist’s eye is easily pleased by these places which can be translated into quick and colourful snap shots to be posted on Instagram. But try to forget for a moment China as it is portrayed in travel catalogues, you will soon realise that food for the Chinese people is purely a street convivial moment: they call it Xiao Chi.
Take a not very high folding table and two Dezngz, stools, which in the local idiom means more or less close to the ground. Try and open them and place them in a busy street in Peking at any time of the day and watch what happens. The small low dwellings, which look onto the wide pavements where our scene is set, have small white, red, blue, pastel colour time worn wooden doors that give an unusual effect to the eye. Next to some of these doors there is a shop window with a small opening at chest height big enough to allow you to take an order. These are small shops, delis which prepare any kind of fried, steamed grilled food or a soup.
Not having the presumption of giving the whole list of the endless varieties of Xiao Chi I’ll try
to make a list of what street food I enjoyed most:
a) Chuan, chicken, pork, beef, goat skewers which can be roasted or prepared as in the south cooked in a soup Ma La Tang.
b) Baoz, proper sandwiches filled with various ingredients (mainly meat and vegetables) in differing combinations but all steamed. Smaller versions are called Xiao Long Bao.
c) Nai Cha, green tea at room temperature served with milk in tall plastic glasses to be drunk with a straw.
d) Chou Doufu, comes from fermented soya bean and then cooked in broth or fried, a must if you want to appreciate Pekinese food, a hurdle to overcome. Soya products are very common in the Xiao Chi, so you will often find the ‘ending’ Doufu, eg:Doufu gan, dried bean; Doufu pi, slim bean steamed in broth, fried roasted and cooked in many other differing ways.
e) Zongi, amazing rice pyramids wrapped in bamboo leaves and steamed, usually eaten during the Dragon Boat celebrations in June.
f) Suan Nai, a drink that comes is white pot covered with a cloth tied with an elastic around the neck, you poke the lid with a straw and drink it. Literally fermented milk, or yoghurt, typical of Pekinese cuisine.
g) Ji Jiao chicken feet cooked in a lightly spicy soya gel-like sauce, a typical peasant dish.
h) Cantonese rice with stir-fried vegetables in a wok with eggs
i) Wu Gu Ji a type of chicken with black skin and feathers called Silki considered a delicacy.