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abcdefg

The backstory in photos -- Market, early summer

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Alex_Hart
15 hours ago, abcdefg said:

Today I bought a chunk of lufu 油卤腐, a specialty of nearby Yuxi 玉溪。It's a rather strange salty and spicy fermented product, made from hairy tofu 毛豆腐 pickled in chilies and oil for several months. It's pungent and sort of stinky; reminiscent of Limburger cheese, great spread onto a fresh steamed bun baozi  包子。 Even better when spread on one of these steamed braided buns hua juan 花卷。Doubt it will ever be a hit with Joe Sixpack back in Texas. 

 

That sounds awesome! I've never seen this before. Do they sell the fresh hairy tofu as well? I've had hairy tofu in 安徽, a local specialty in the area around 宏村, but they just fry it and serve it on a plate like that. I was going to spend July in China's western regions, but maybe I should come back to Kunming and spend a month eating tofus. Yum.

15 hours ago, abcdefg said:

silky tofu "flowers" on rice noodles with a pungent pickled vegetable sauce 豆花米线。

This was one of my two favorite meals when I was in Yunnan. I believe I've spoken to you about it before, but I'm still thinking about it a year and a half later. It was one of those delicious, cheap, roadside meals that China does so well. I could go for one right now!

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15 hours ago, abcdefg said:

Made my way back to the street, passing some free lancers selling small items they had carried in by hand. Outside the market proper there are always several small mobile vendors selling just a few items. Doubt they are really making a living; more likely just supplementing their slim pensions. The old man had brought in some small dried fishes, carried in two baskets on either end of a bamboo shoulder pole  扛。

 

We have a lot of these people, too. The local 保安 or grocers will often chase them away, but they often have better quality food. I used to chase an egg lady all over because she had the best eggs I've ever tasted, and they cost almost nothing. Her family owned a small piece of land outside Hangzhou so she would farm garlic, ginger, and eggs on the land and rode a scooter ~40 minutes into Hangzhou to sell them. The neighborhoods think this kind of entrepreneurship isn't "orderly" so it's quickly disappearing. 

 

15 hours ago, abcdefg said:

I stopped to say hello to Mr. Gao, purveyor of edible flowers.

Is this a zucchini flower?

Also wondering about that mushroom on the bottom right. Haven't seen that before.

 

If that's the philosopher's look, I think my neighborhood is overflowing with future 王阳明s! I always took it as the "What's for lunch" look.

 

Great post, abcd. Every time you show us your markets, I feel rather depressed. Would you consider adopting me?

Edited by Alex_Hart
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Luxi
20 hours ago, abcdefg said:

When people back home ask me about the "Real China," I never know quite what to say

 

"A picture says more than 1000 words" is well proven here (I can almost hear the noises and smell the smells)   

Thank you for these glimpses of the "Real China", they're precious --- and very well put together into stories too!

 

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abcdefg

Appreciate your kind words, @Luxi. I was hoping this small account would be of particular interest to people overseas, outside China.

 

@Alex_Hart -- July is not a very good time to visit Yunnan. It's peak rainy season. Better to go west. 

 

I think the yellow flowers were squash blossoms, from 南瓜。He has several varieties.

 

Some, but not all, of the tofu sellers here have hairy tofu 毛豆腐。I asked about it once, and the shopkeeper said it's a little harder to transport. There are so many kinds, all shapes and descriptions. I only know how to use about half of them, maybe not even that much. 

 

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mungouk

@abcdefg off-topic but how do you like the Mi 6 as a phone in China, given the lack of Google services?  Seems to have a nice camera though?  And can you turn off that watermark that says "Shot on Mi 6" or is it permanent?

Echoing those above: these atmospheric pics of daily life are great! 

 

 

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abcdefg

Thank you @mungouk -- I'm real pleased with the Xiaomi Mi6 for use in China. I even found a way to install Google services via my VPN. The Google services only work part of the time and not always very well.  (Please don't ask how I did it. I could not remember or do it again to save my life. It was a method suggested in a post by a member here, @艾墨本.)

 

There might be a way to turn off the watermark. Would like to do that. Will hunt around on the internet and see what I can find. The camera in the Mi6 is better than the last phone I had, a Xiaomi 5.

 

I prefer to use an actual camera, and I have a pretty decent Canon that I use on holidays and at home for cooking photos. But when out and about at the market, I'm virtually invisible just snapping phone pix. Nobody notices; nobody minds. Whereas if I go there with a real camera, people get all shy and try to pose, or else they say no and wave me away. 

 

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Alex_Hart
On 6/6/2018 at 8:46 PM, abcdefg said:

By now it was time for a bowl of one of my favorite local specialties, silky tofu "flowers" on rice noodles with a pungent pickled vegetable sauce 豆花米线。Mine had a sprinkling of ground meat, although they make a meatless version as well. 7 Yuan for a medium serving. The boss was bouncing a baby on his knee. I asked if it was his grandson. 

 

 

Can I make a recipe request for the 豆花米线?

 

19 hours ago, abcdefg said:

Some, but not all, of the tofu sellers here have hairy tofu 毛豆腐。I asked about it once, and the shopkeeper said it's a little harder to transport. There are so many kinds, all shapes and descriptions. I only know how to use about half of them, maybe not even that much. 

 

I didn't realize there were so many kinds of hairy tofu. Seems one really needs a lifetime of moving around China to even begin to understand its culinary treasures. 

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mungouk
2 hours ago, Alex_Hart said:

I didn't realize there were so many kinds of hairy tofu.

 

Whoah.  I only just found out about the Stinky kind... the mind boggles.

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abcdefg
3 hours ago, Alex_Hart said:

I didn't realize there were so many kinds of hairy tofu. Seems one really needs a lifetime of moving around China to even begin to understand its culinary treasures. 

 

My mistake; I apologize for my confusing sentence structure and sloppy syntax. 

 

Quote

There are so many kinds, all shapes and descriptions. I only know how to use about half of them, maybe not even that much. 

 

What I meant was that there are so many kinds of tofu, not so many kinds of hairy tofu. 

 

3 hours ago, Alex_Hart said:

Can I make a recipe request for the 豆花米线?

 

I've never tried to make it at home because it requires several kinds of sauces and toppings that I would have to buy individually and then store until they were used up. Since I can buy a small bowl for 6 Yuan or a medium bowl for 7 Yuan made by an expert, I've never felt the urge to try and reproduce it in my kitchen. Afraid my version could never measure up. Sorry! 

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Alex_Hart
15 hours ago, abcdefg said:

What I meant was that there are so many kinds of tofu, not so many kinds of hairy tofu. 

 

Ahhh! Sorry - got you now. Agreed. Based on a mental map, my tofu guy sells 16 different kinds of tofu during the summer months. Many are similar flavors: 五香豆腐 comes in a block (like you might buy 老豆腐); some strips of 香干 perfect for stir frying; this giant cylindrical thing which is made up of 五香 stewed, then pushed together into a 冬瓜 sized cylinder, which is then sliced; 豆腐丝 and sometimes 豆腐皮. 

 

He used to have smoked tofu in winter, but he didn't this year. Shame, it was really delicious. But we don't get any hairy tofus this far east; western Zhejiang does have a lot of hairy and stinky tofu though. 

 

15 hours ago, abcdefg said:

I've never tried to make it at home because it requires several kinds of sauces and toppings that I would have to buy individually and then store until they were used up. Since I can buy a small bowl for 6 Yuan or a medium bowl for 7 Yuan made by an expert, I've never felt the urge to try and reproduce it in my kitchen. Afraid my version could never measure up. Sorry! 

I think this recipe is necessary for your book! 😜

 

16 hours ago, mungouk said:

Whoah.  I only just found out about the Stinky kind... the mind boggles.

There are many kinds of stinky tofu, though. Just to illustrate the variety, Hangzhou has a golden-fried stinky tofu; there is also 家常臭豆腐, which is a popular snack when drinking and has the texture of mashed potatoes (it is literally mashed stinky tofu, but maintains a golden color that is very appealing to the eye). I happen to live a two-minute walk from a restaurant that does this stinky tofu quite well, so I enjoy it often with a beer and some 花生米.

 

Nearby Shaoxing (about an hour away by car) has a tofu skin that's a type of stinky tofu, and a fried one. Both are quite good. Shaoxing is rumored to have the best stinky tofu in the country, though Changsha'rs will vigorously reject this claim. I plan on making a trip to Shaoxing to partake in a choudoufu and huangjiu tasting soon - hopefully before going home for the summer.

 

Nanjing, about an hour away by bullet train, has three varieties of stinky tofu that I know of: black fried stinky tofu (has quite a reek, similar to Changsha stinky tofu, but isn't as spicy), black stewed stinky tofu (the same, but it's then soaked in a stew and sucks up all the juices) and a golden fried one. I don't find the second very appealing, it's the only time I didn't like stinky tofu!

 

Changsha stinky tofu (the most famous) is black and fried. It's supposed to be the stinkiest. I tried it in Guilin and thought it was good, but more about the sauce than Shaoxing and Hangzhou styles, which have a more well-rounded kind of stinkiness. Much like Chongqing stinky tofu, which is dipped in Sichuanese spices.

 

Taiwan has its own styles as well - there's even a stinky tofu lady who apparently figures prominently on tours!

 

My personal favorite is my girlfriend's hometown's stinky tofu. It can be smelled from half a kilometer away and is either served fried or stuffed into little dough balls 油煎果. Inside is creamy soft, and the seemingly overwhelming stench melts into a comforting embrace of umami after a few seconds.

Edited by Alex_Hart
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mungouk

@Alex_Hart 谢谢 and hallelulah...  I'm lost for words. 😉  

 

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abcdefg
On 6/7/2018 at 10:37 PM, mungouk said:

Seems to have a nice camera though?  And can you turn off that watermark that says "Shot on Mi 6" or is it permanent?

 

I figured out how to turn the watermark off. If any other Xiaomi users are wondering about it, I can tell you how. 

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Alex_Hart

There are some tofus missing in this picture; couldn't get the angle as the tofu is surrounded by walls and glass on all sides. I counted a total of 21 different varieties (flavor, shape, firmness). Bottom and right side are mostly 五香豆腐, the farthest tofus are mostly deep fried. Center has some tofu skin, etc. All handmade. Not pictured: some fried 五香, silk tofu, firm tofu and two tofus which were in the process of being pressed for selling.

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