Postcards from China: Introduction + Xiamen
I decided to travel to China this summer to learn a little bit more about the culinary culture here. In New York City, Chinese food has become synonymous with take-out and Sichuan (or Szechuan) food. Heck, I know a couple of people who truly believed crab rangoons exist in China.
Within recent years we've seen an increase in the popularity of Asian foods (or should I say, Asian fusion). If you don't believe me, check out our latest round-up of restaurant critic reviews in the city. Most of the restaurants that the critics hit up last week are classified under Asian cuisine or Asian-fusion. But I assure you there's much more to Chinese food than dim sum, dumplings, peppercorn-heavy dishes, and gua bao. The Chinese civilization is one of the oldest in the world, as is its culinary history.
I'll be here until the end of July and will be publishing regularly a series of posts on some dishes and interesting food-related stuff I encounter.
There are currently four confirmed destinations on my itinerary: Xiamen, China; Shanghai, China; Taipei, Taiwan; and Tainan, Taiwan. Both Xiamen and Shanghai are located in mainland China in the southern part of the country. Taipei and Tainan, which are cities in Taiwan, are also part of southern China (let's put aside all political arguments on whether or not Taiwan is part of China for now).
Because all of these cities are located in the southern half of China, there's an emphasis on rice as opposed to flour and noodles. Spicy foods are not the norm, and because of the cities close proximity to the ocean, there's a lot of seafood involved. I swear I saw more than a dozen varieties of clams today.
Now I'm currently at my first stop in Xiamen. To give a little context, Xiamen is in the Fujian province in China and a one hour plane ride away from Taiwan. Because a lot of Taiwanese people originally immigrated from the Xiamen/Fujian area, the local dialects are practically identical. Most importantly, the food is very similar -- especially the seafood (oyster pancakes and fish balls for example).
I'm actually residing on an island off the coast of Xiamen called Gulangyu (still considered part of Xiamen). It's a car free island that's tropical in nature and 0.77 square miles in area. There are papaya trees growing in the backyard of the house I'm staying at and winding alleyways with cutesy coffee shops, local vendors, and seafood restaurants.
I'll be hopping around between Gulangyu (the island) and Xiamen (the mainland). And because I'm staying with my friend's extended family, a bulk of my meals will be home-cooked and sourced from the local markets and vendors. I've only been here one day and I've already checked out Xiamen's Little Taiwan and their outdoor market.
As usual, I'll be bringing in a New York angle to each post. I'd love your feedback on this series. Let me know what you guys want to know from here and I'll try my best to figure it out. Much, much more updates to come. Stay tuned.