Our first run-in with fresh sugar cane! It looks like bamboo with a big tuft of leaves at the top. The vendors use a machete to hack off the bark and then to chop it into foot-long sections. When you bite into it, all the cell walls collapse and you get a mouthful of sugar water. Then you get to spit out all the fiber. A stalk as tall as me costs a dollar. A wonderful, natural, plastic-free desert.
For several days, we couldn't find anywhere serving rice and had to "make do" with stir-fried noodles. Life is rough.
Another favorite, which I eat almost every chance I get: sweet potatoes! Awesome to eat right away, or while riding, or to pack up and save for dinner at the campsite. Filling and creamy and healthy and, ,of course, cheap: between $0.50-0.75 a pound.
OK, I didn't eat this, but I am including it because of its plant status. Meet Loofa, my new dishwashing helper.
Booya, I was able to read enough of this menu to know that I had to stop and order the following:
Xiang la something cai cai bao (aromatic spicy something veg veg dumpling).
Qingcai Qingqie bao (green vegetable green something dumpling)
Zhima hwasheng bao (sesame seed and peanut dumplings). All of them, 12 for a dollar.
Down south, they have another style of dumpling called "Caibao" (vegetable dumpling.) It's super greasy, so the locals recommend stuffing it between hamburger rolls. The taste puzzled me for a minute until I realized that it was full of seaweed. Wouldn't have been my first choice but...actually, it was quite nice.
Another thing I'm always happy to find: broad beans. Usually they're quite oily and salty, but these must have been baked rather than fried. Great as a salad topping or as an anytime snack. Also plastic-free if you buy them from the right place.
Oh, the joys of pomelo. First, peel off the giant rind. (So thick, I hear, that there are no bugs that bother gnawing through, so farmers don't need to spray any pesticide on them). Second, peel off the thin layer of wax-paper like skin to reveal this weird clump of juicy little cells. Third, in the words of my very dear father, "EAT THE GODDAMN THING." Go back to step two and repeat again on the next little compartment, zoning out in the monotony and savoring the taste.
Even the cauliflower is good here!
I have a stove, but this is the only "cooking" I do nowadays. Carrots, cukes, tomatoes, raisins, and whatever nuts or beans I have on hand.
I've been carrying around three pounds of couscous since the beginning of the trip, but food is so cheap and abundant and novel that there's never any need to cook. When presented with the chance, I made a big batch, just to get rid of it. Fried peanuts, sauteed onions, garlic, and carrots, a bit of vegan bouillion...magnificent.
Breakfast: Scallion bread, scallion pancakes, two pastries with peanut filling, one peanut with green lentil filling. Cost: $1. IHOP eat your heart out!
Find a park, hang a hammock, eat a guava, fall asleep for an hour. Yesssss....
More breakfast goodies: one star fruit, one papaya, two passion fruits. $1.
More dumplings and a deep-fried scallion pancake.
Took me a few tries to figure out how to eat this guy, but now I've got it: rather than cutting it in half (which lets all the guts drip out), cut the top off and dig the rest out with a spoon.
Fancy lunch at a vegetarian restaurant in Xiamen. I paid nearly 6 bucks for this thing! Mushroom, pepper, and imitation chicken meat stirfry. Decent, but I think I'll stick to po' man's food.
My go-to dish whenever anyone asks if I can make Korean food: eggplant, chive, and mushroom pancakes.
Fried tofu cakes work too.
And, last but not least, my final meal in China: a $3 vegetarian buffet just next to Nanputuo temple and Xiamen University. I can't even name most of this stuff, but it was all awesome.
And, of course, a second plate. Thus ended my three-month vegan odyssey in China. Taiwan, here I come!