Tuesday, September 12, 2006

A visit to the market

One thing I love about the food here is that everything is incredibly fresh. The meat at the market was just slaughtered that morning. (You should buy it in the morning so you can refrigerate it asap). Then you have to use it within two days, or freeze it! Nothing at the market has preservatives or additives in it. The farmers bring their produce in everyday. Everything is seasonal, so you can only get certain fruits and vegetables certain times of the year. They don't really ship things in here. Chances are, that the meat you buy in the market was alive that morning, and the produce was just picked yesterday. All the restaurants buy their food at the market that morning too.

Up until last year, there was not even a grocery store in town. That meant that anything you bought to eat had to be purchased at the market. Even still, the grocery store here is about the same size as neighborhood grocery store in a very small town in America. The grocery store really doesn't even have any packaged or pre-made meals like in the states, so even when you don't shop at the market, all your food is pretty fresh. I think America could learn a lot from how China eats.

So later today I went to the market with one of the other teachers. I was much less grossed out this time than in Hong Kong. Maybe I was just better prepared for it this time, and also because I knew I would have to buy all my food here. We walked into the meat part first. We walked by the bloody tables with stacks of meat dripping on them. The workers were chopping away at the hunks with their butcher's knives. Big chops, like they were swinging an axe. And when they hit the meat, it would make a thud. I thought that maybe there might be some meat debris flying out every time they chopped, much like wood chips at the swing of an axe. Out of about 30 tables, 28 were pork she said. There's only two beef tables, and a few cages full of chickens and rabbits, so this might give you a picture of what kind of meat they eat most here.

In the back corner of the market I could see 'doggy corner', where they burn the hair off of the dogs with a blowtorch. Seriously, a blowtorch with about a foot-long flame. On the other side of the market I could see the dogs that were ready to buy, hanging upside-down and inside-out, in halves on hooks.

She helped me learn how to look for the right chops of meat. Some with some fat, but not too much. You had to bring the meat home and wash it good, because it's just sitting on the bloody table all day. I wasn't ready for this yet. Maybe when I'm a bit more comfortable. I bought some vegetables, noodles, and rice though.

The food at the market was remarkably cheap. Usually most things were around 25 cents per pound. Later that day when we got a big bowl of noodles, it was 30 cents. My breakfast this morning was so many dumplings I could barely finish. They were 25 cents. So even though the market is so cheap, eating out at restaurants is extraordinarily cheap too and tastes a lot better than my cooking, so I tend to eat most of my meals out. I've still yet to spend more than $4 for a meal here. It was a pretty extravagant meal. Most restaurants here are just hole-in-the wall places. They're pretty much just three tables and a 'kitchen' in a dirty room on the side of the road. These places are usually under 60 cents for a pretty decent meals. The other kind of restaurants resemble more of the idea we think of as restaurants. They have a menu, waiters, and a kitchen in a separate room. Sometimes they even wash the bowls and plates! These places are pretty pricey though. Most meals cost around $2.

No comments: