December 18, 2018

Secret Realms

 

Dalai Nur

Dalai Nur, “the ocean-like lake”, is a saline lake in Inner Mongolia, and home to the amur ide.

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Amur ide fish are only found in the Amur River basin in Russia, Mongolia, China, and Korea.

In May, amur ide fish swim upstream. Fishermen set down 2,000 metres of straw stalks in the lake as a place for the fish to lay eggs.

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These fish like to take their time in growing up. A 4-year-old fish weighs only 200 grams. Anything that weighs 500 grams would be considered extremely rare.

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And when it comes to harvest season in winter, fishermen have an agreement to keep the harvest each winter to 300 thousand kg of fish to ensure sustainability.

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清蒸华子鱼 steamed  amur ide

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酸辣华子鱼 spicy and sour amur ide

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油煎华子鱼 pan-fried amur ide

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炖烧华子鱼 stewed amur ide

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Beihai, Guangxi Province

Beihai is a seaport in Guangxi Province, and one of the departure ports of the ancient Maritime Silk Road that connected China to Southeast Asia, Europe, and parts of Africa.

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They are also the ideal spot for hunting 沙蟹—sand crabs or ghost crabs. They’ve existed since the age of dinosaurs, and they only come out during night (hence the name “ghost”, I guess).

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These tiny creatures are about 2 cm long, shorter than an adult’s thumb. But they move fast, travelling 1.6 metres per second (average human walking speed is about 1.4 metres per second, and we have longer legs than the crabs).

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sand crabs(1)

Sand crabs don’t have much meat, so they are made into crab sauce, with salt and baijiu.

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The sauce goes with cowpeas 豇豆

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Or white cut chicken 白切鸡

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Old Barag Banner, Inner Mongolia

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Wild Chinese leek flowers. Their blooming season only lasts for one week each year.

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They are made into sauces.

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手把羊肉 big pieces of mutton are boiled without adding any condiments, not even salt. Chinese leek flower sauces give the mutton an extra kick.

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Taklamakan Desert, Xinjiang

One of the driest places in China, the Taklamakan Desert has an average rainfall of 15.6 mm per year.

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But that doesn’t stop the locals from making a living right on the edge of the desert.

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羊肚包肉 mutton cooked in lamp tripe

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The lamb tripe is buried in a pile of charcoal with a temperature over 180 degrees celsius, for 4 hours.

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红柳枝烤羊肉 barbecued mutton cubes. They are skewered using salt cedar branches, which add a unique woody aroma that barbecues using stainless steel skewers simply do not possess.

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Look at how big those mutton cubes are. Sadly, outside of Xinjiang, a lot of the so-called “authentic barbecue mutton” sellers use duck meat with meat tenderisers and lamb flavourings.

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I’m starting to suspect that all the “Xinjiang BBQ mutton” I ate from a roadside stand next to the central park in my hometown is fake. Mutton costs about 50 yuan per kg. Each skewer contains roughly 20 grams of mutton, supposedly. Add in the condiments, the coal, the rental and everything else, the cost of an authentic skewer of BBQ mutton has to be at least 2 yuan. Yet I’ve eaten BBQ “mutton” for 1 yuan per skewer.

I guess I should have known: Uncle Mehmet the friendly stall owner doesn’t even speak Uyghur.

surprised cat

手抓羊肉 boiled mutton. You eat it with your hands. According to experts in gastronomy (translate: people who eat a lot), the best mutton in China comes from Ningxia Plain.

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囊 naan, made with wheat, chopped onions and sesame

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Zhuhai, Guangdong

Off the coast of Zhuhai, a typhoon is brewing.

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But fishermen haven’t given up on finding 石斑鱼. Groupers hide among rocks 10 metres below the surface.

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A trawling net is no use against them. Old-fashioned handline fishing is the only way to get these “chicken of the sea”.

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This fierce-looking grouper is made into 清蒸石斑鱼 steamed grouper.

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So much seafood.

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清蒸鱼干 steamed dried fish

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清蒸虾干 steamed dried shrimp

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Cangyuan, Yunnan

How come every place in Yunnan is pretty as a picture? I swear I just pressed ‘pause’ at a random point to take a screenshot, and it ends up looking like the setting of Game of Thrones.

a bite of china.jpg

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鸡枞 a type of mushroom the grows out of termitaria.

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炒鸡枞  fried “termite mushrooms”

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Yanbian, Jiling

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Locals trek 15 km in the Changbai Mountain, an active volcano along the China-North Korea border, hunting for something that’s believed to be the staple food of dinosaurs—the eagle fern 蕨菜.

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Don’t eat too much of it though, since the plant contains carcinogens (they denature at boiling temperature).

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dinner.gif

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About fmiswriting

One out of 1.4 billion voices.

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