Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Back to Beijing - A Food Market Tour

One of the (many) great things my mum and I did together in Beijing, was take a tour of a Chinese fresh food market (commonly known as a 'wet market') with someone who knew it all. I had been living in China for over half a year, and was long confident with the whole market experience, but there were so many questions I didn't even realise I had. Like; what was the difference between those eight different kinds of mushrooms? And which tofu do I use for stirfrys and which do I use for a soup or stew? Why are there, like, fifty bajillion different kinds of white rice? And don't even get me started on the sauces and spices section...

Needless to say, that morning was intensely educational and my cooking has since benefited greatly. 

Markets will always be one of my favourite kinds of places in China. Food is at the heart of this country, and there is no place to witness this with more clarity than at the local market. Markets are the true 'window' into daily life that most tourists say they are looking for. There is something so ordinary and yet profound in these places. The market that I frequent here in Jinan is possibly my favourite of all those I have ever been to. (Yeah, I'll blog about it sometime soon.) 

That stuff is actually rock sugar. Yeah. Kook as it sounds, it's healthier for you
than normal sugar and very popular here in China. They use hammers to break it apart for sale.
From my personal perspective, the market also offers a plethora of way-good photo opportunities. Food photography is only the greatest thing in the world ever, and markets are just the the bomb-diggity for getting great images. The sacks of grains and the bright vegetables in all their glorious textures, the intense meat displays... all of these elements combine to make one of the singularly most visually-stimulating experiences China has to offer. The humble market place also presents ample portrait-taking opportunities. In the hustle and bustle, a camera is all too easily hidden (read: treated with complete disregard).

This particular market in Beijing was a little fancier than the usual deal. For starters, it was inside a building and had electricity and fridges. Apart from that, it was surprisingly clean and not freakishly busy. Not to worry, though! This general niceness gave us plenty of time and space to really learn about the produce in front of us.

 Most markets in China also have bakeries. This is excellent because bakeries are full of tast treats. The bakery products do differ significantly from those you would find in Australia (and anywhere else in the world, duh) but once you learn the words for; 'sweet', 'savoury', 'coconut', and 'your favourite' - then you're fine.

One particular thing I really took away from this experience, was the value of eating seasonally. Not only does it work out cheaper, but it benefits the environment and food that is actually in-season always tastes better. 

It's easy to tell what's in season at the markets in China, because there will be a total glut of it, and it will be cheap and easy to get. In watermelon season, for example, there are just trucks and trucks full of watermelons all over the place. Farmers with lorries and crates will be parked on the sidewalk with a set of scales selling directly to the public! It's a little harder in supermarkets and grocery stores in other (read: more developed) countries, but eating seasonally is now something I do. I'm not saying I'll never splurge on a punnet of strawberries in August... but it's an attitude towards produce that I've happily adopted.

 Although sometimes it's not quite the 'riveting' experience I like to paint for you here.


The thought for this post came about because today I am going out before class to take pictures of my favourite wet market here in Jinan. Which also happens to be the location of my current favourite Uyghur noodle restaurant... Hahahahah how predictable - it's great! Anyways, more soon.

I just really like pretty, bright pictures of fresh fruit.

And thanks for reading! Lots of people reading at the moment - not only flattering but also very motivating... so shanks.

And on the way home, a cat in a window. You're welcome.


  1. Oh! I miss the noodles, the colours and the bustle of the places . . . I think you will miss them too, when you get back to Brissy. x

  2. I like this post. And you knew I would.


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