Peking duck (Beijing)
We started our very first night in Beijing with the classic amber-glazed Peking duck, a tasty treat already familiar to most westerners. The main difference between the Peking duck we experienced and that on offer in most Chinese restaurants at home was more in the presentation than flavour, with strips of the deftly carved duck beautifully aligned on separate plates so you could choose from crispy skin, succulent breast or the less tempting (to us anyway) fatty pieces. All to be savoured in pancakes with plum sauce, thinly sliced spring onions, cucumber and some purple vegetable with a radish flavour.
Fish and fat (Beijing)
One night we walked into a Beijing restaurant, threw caution to the wind and selected a range of dishes from the picture menu. The pak choi was a successful choice providing us with the desired steamed greens in soy sauce, the fish was fantastic: cooked whole in a delicious slightly spicy, tangy sauce, fantastic as long as the miscellaneous lumps if fat (not potato as first thought) were avoided. Unfortunately the third dish was less than successful, what had looked like tasty Chinese style ribs on the menu turned out to be inedible strips of fatty meat (believed to be duck). Nevermind – a success rate of two out of three is still a win!
Street snacks on-a-stick (Beijing)
I realise this has already been covered in an earlier post so I’ll just briefly touch on the offerings of Beijing’s street markets. Among the usual suspects were various varieties of marinated meat-on-a-stick, tofu-on-a-stick and glazed fruits-on-a-stick. Then you come across the increasing bizarre and less appealing options of small (shark-like) fish-on-a-stick, scorpions and crickets-on-a-stick (sometimes still wriggling), silk worm puppae-on-a-stick, snake-on-a-stick and yes even sheep penis-on-a-stick. Needless to say we did not sample all of these delights – we had to save something for our next visit to China, of course!
Momos (Tibet and Nepal)
Momos are fantastic as a snack, starter, main course or even a desert. Savoury momos are little parcels of seasoned meat (usually Yak) or vegetables wrapped in a thin pastry and either steamed or fried. We first encountered these little treats in Tibet, where the momos are smaller (one or two bites) with a thinner pastry/dough/batter (not sure what the correct term is) and supplied with soy and chilli dipping sauces. In Nepal momos tend to be larger, with a thicker casing and are most commonly fried. Up in the mountains Nepal also offers the sumptuous apple momo. Apple momos are perfect after a hard day’s trekking and are essentially a deep fried apple pie: nice, warming, hearty food. And for those with a taste for the sickly sweet may I present the snickers momo, Nepal’s answer to the deep-fried mars bar.
Bobbis are essentially like fajitas: mixed vegetables, with or without yak meat, supplied with soured cream cheese to be wrapped in thin pancakes or chapati-like bread. Delicious!
Dal bhat (Nepal)
Whilst I was not a big fan of this dish I think that Simon was enamoured by the fact it came with free refills of each component. Dal bhat is a fairly simple dish consisting of mountains of rice accompanied by some vegetable curry, a bowl of (usually quite watery) dal (a slightly spicy lentil soup) and often a small amount of pickle.
Lemon/lime soda (Nepal and India)
I first encountered this drink a few years ago in Sri Lanka and was ecstatic to rediscover it in Nepal. Lime soda (sometimes called lemon soda despite the fact that it seems to in fact be made with lime) is a simple but incredibly refreshing drink consisting of the juice of one or two limes topped up with soda. Seriously, if you haven’t tried it buy yourself some limes and make it now!