Let’s take a moment to discuss shopping and eating in China. Street Markets are everywhere. In every alleyway, along every main street, even in front of giant and glorious malls (the Chinese are fearless). The food in street markets is fairly self-explanatory; everyone sells grapes, apples, etc. These words, the noun-words, are things I cannot say in Mandarin. However, my stomach tells my eye-ball, “yes, thank you.” So I know I can trust them. Check plus life!
On the flip side, there are shapes and sizes that I do not know; I can’t recognize them and am unsure what to do with them. This prickly object, that could be a fruit (question mark), and is larger than my face (huge question mark), looks dangerous. Plus it’s green; doesn't that mean it’s not ripe yet? Raw!? Shit. To cook foreign looking objects, or not to cook foreign looking objects? That is the question! Warning: eating raw or uncooked may cause death by strange illness. Double shit. Is this going to kill me?!
OK. I can shop street markets for all kinds of things, fruits, vegetables, rice, bla bla bla. But when it comes to branching out, I am nervous. Without google (why do I still not have internet), I can’t translate the words, “can I consume the flesh of this fruit while it is uncooked?” from English to Chinese. RAWR, says Katy’s stomach!
Alright, I'll move on for now. How about protein? White devil want beef! The meat counter in a street market? Slabs of unmarked animal lying in the open air on a table (for God knows how long), being jabbed by fingers that are prodding for resilience (Lord knows how many fingers), waiting for one word: “purchase!” No Criticism to the locals; they have stomachs lined with steal, and I am in awe of them. I however, am bred in captivity, which means my meat must be very "clean" and "safe," or I’ll die. To break in stomach lining week one, or not to break in stomach lining week one? Now that is the question!
So then, what I can’t get at street market I will have to shop for in a store. Something in Chinese-- can’t read. Something else in Chinese, still can’t read… AHA! Walmart?! Since when does Walmart sell eels and stingrays? Oh, by the way, they are alive. Damn China. You are too good to be true. I can grab cocoa puffs and pet the wildlife? Sea World has nothing on this. OK, OK. But seriously, I want protein. Maybe some dried meat (please carry beef jerky)?
Biggest dilemma ever: the packages with English writing are few and far between, and they are meant for the white devil, so naturally, I think it's a trap. Plus I really want the full Chinese experience. So I want the package with all Chinese writing. But what is inside?
In the end, I bought a packet of hotpot mix that features a man’s steaming face on the front. It must be spicy-- hotter than the white devil for certain. If I mix it with the rice, while I’m cooking the rice, won’t it make rice-a-roni? The San Francisco treat? No… no it won't. It actually makes this: