23 February 2009

海邊 / hai3 bian1 / the ocean / l'océan

fish market

Aside from ingredients, taste, freshness, cooking techniques... a huge part of eating is the environment. And nothing makes me happier than being at the source of my food.

While I was in taiwan, my mother's cousins took me to the north coast of Taiwan for seafood. Something I learned: if there is swimming allowed, then there aren't any good seafood restaurants around. If there are good seafood restaurans around, then there is no swimming allowed. Makes sense once you think about it... do you really want to eat fish that's been hanging out with kids who poop in the ocean and people who have sunscreen slathered on them?

the coast

It is rocky shores and large waves here. It was rainy so I didn't ask them to pull over to take pictures, but, as I always tell myself - there's always next time!

fish market

Being able to talk to the person who actually catches your fish is something you will never be able to do at Red Lobster. Everything here is alive. Nothing is killed until you cook it.

象牙蚌 / xiang4 ya2 bang4 / no idea what this is called in English.

My favorite part is being able to touch everything. I know you aren't supposed to play with food... but it's so much fun! This thing started squirting out water which caught me off guard.

麵包蟹 / mian4 bao1 xie4 / bread crab

so named because his shell makes him look like a loaf of bread.

which crab do you want?

I like how clean his white boots are.

龍蝦 / long2 xia1 / lobster

you're welcome to touch anything and everything, at your own risk of course! you're the customer, and you have the right to touch and be absolutely sure of what you are about to buy and consume. (all the germs get killed while cooking, i suppose) this is something that the US would throw a fit over, can you imagine grabbing the raw fish or meat you want to buy at the grocery store??

寄居蟹 / ji4 ji1 xie4 / hermit crab

He was shy at first but he eventually came out! Haggling here is a must, and it's definitely an art I don't think I can ever master. I'm too american and timid to slash prices, but it is always fun to watch my relatives do it.

showing the cook what we've purchased

And then, you walk over to a street of restaurants 30 seconds away and let them cook the things you've just purchased. Of course you can order food the normal way but part of the fun is buying the ingredients first, and then having them cook it. It costs about NT50 (US1.50) per plate for the cooking fee.

peanut lady

Something you should get used to in this rural restaurants: people who don't work in the restaurant but try to sell you things directly in the restaurant. This lady was selling peanuts. At another restaurant, a lady came in selling ginger. They are locals who just visit all the restaurants to sell the things they grow. There is no obligation to buy from them, so don't feel bad if you don't buy anything.

花生 / hua1 sheng 1 /peanuts

I wonder, what's the difference between food styling and playing with food? In my opinion, none, because they are both so fun!

蝦 / xia1 / shrimp

the obligatory shrimp dish.

生魚片 / sheng1 yu2 pian4 / sashimi
you eat this raw, therefore it is heavily iced. you also usually save it for near the end, so it is as cold as possible when you eat it. it is milky white, slightly clear, and very chewy.

but all that beautiful white disappears because you dip it in soy sauce and wasabi (i passed on the wasabi). then you chew chew chew!

魚鰾 / yu2 biao4 / literally, swim bladder?

it is tough finding the english name for these dishes.

魚翅頭 / yu2 chi4 tou3 / shark fin... head? i am not sure.

i've got to admit, i really only like fish, shrimp, lobster, and crab when it comes to seafood. Basically, anything that has a meaty texture. i have a tough time enjoying things that are slimy and chewy - so that knocks out squid, sea cucumber, and many other things that I have no idea what they are called. but all it really means is more food for everybody else!

螃蟹 / pang2 xie4 / crab

the sweetest crab i've ever eaten. although it's convenient, I feel like the "ready to eat" culture of american food is sometimes detrimental because it takes away from the experience. so many of the things we have are boneless or have the shells removed for us. for example, shrimp. I don't know if I've ever ate american shrimp by tearing off the head and peeling off the skin. it's done for me before I get to do it. or, fish. I eat american fish quite fast because all the bones are already gone. but, when I eat chinese fish, I slow down because if I don't carefully avoid the small bones I know it will hurt once I choke on them. So my long conclusion is, having to work at eating your food = eating slower = savoring the taste more = understanding the food = enjoying the food more.


Big Boys Oven said...

this is an awesome experience, thanks for sharing this with us!

New Kid on the Blog said...

wah, lots of seafood!!! variety of them. i like the sea shore picture.... :)

cathy said...

thank you! :)