“Three square meals a day.”
How many meals do you eat in a day?
There’s breakfast. Then there’s second breakfast, elevenses, or yum cha.
Lunch, or brunch.
High tea, snacks. Dinner.
Supper. And siu yeh—late night meal.
Longwan, Qianjiang, Hubei Province, China
A farmer gets a canoe and row into the waterways near the fields.
This is an underwater trap.
Got any for me?
Hubei Province is the largest production area of crayfish in China.
Once autumn comes, crayfish season is over.
During summer, it becomes a common sight in roadside food stalls.
You can’t just eat one crayfish. It has to be a big plateful.
清蒸小龙虾 steamed crayfish
麻辣小龙虾 mala crayfish
蒜蓉小龙虾 crayfish in garlic sauce
茄汁小龙虾 crayfish in tomato sauce
十三香小龙虾 crayfish in “thirteen spices” sauce
小龙虾拼盘 assorted crayfish
A lot of work goes into preparing the crayfish before it becomes a favourite dish on a hot summer night.
Caught a jail breaker.
Cut off the tail and whisker-like feelers.
Remove part of the back of its shell.
This makes it easier for sauces and spices to soak into the meat.
Add oil and a dozen of spices first. (I think I see star anise and fennel.)
Then the crayfish.
Then a big scoop of chilli oil.
Then add beer.
油焖大虾 braised crayfish
The taste of crayfish dishes differs mostly because of the spices used.
Each crayfish chef has their own secret recipe.
Some have experimented with spices like golden and silver honeysuckle.
This pot of sauce is cooked for 5.5 hours.
Meanwhile, crayfish are dipped into an oil bath with a temperature of 200 degrees Celsius.
Once the sauce is ready, crayfish are simmered in it for 20 minutes.
卤虾 crayfish in mixed sauce
China now produces over a million tonnes of crayfish every year.
Yet it started off as an invasive species from US.
New Orleans, US
People here have been consuming crayfish since about 200 years ago.
A good harvest calls for an outdoor celebration.
Crayfish is boiled with onions, mushrooms, and corn.
Add Louisiana Cajun seafood sauce and lemon juice.
Rock the box to mix the powder with the crayfish.
A boatload of crayfish.
卡疆风味小龙虾 Cajun crayfish
They even have a crayfish festival in May every year.
70,000 people gather here.
A crayfish racing contest?
And a crayfish music festival.
Wuhan, Hubei Province, China
Chicken feet steamed in a pressure cooker.
Cut off the claws.
Thousands of chicken feet are processed in preparation for the post-dinner crowd.
After 9 pm, the street food stall gets busy.
拌毛豆 stir-fried edamame with garlic and chilli pepper
辣炒花甲 stir-fried spicy clam
Chicken feet are available everywhere, but the taste differs from place to place. Each chef uses different combinations of spices. (This one includes garlic, dried chilli pepper, star anise, and others.)
Add chicken feet.
Then soy sauce for colouring.
This is called 猛炒, a cooking method where the food is stir-fried quickly over open flames on high temperature.
Depends on the customers’ taste, sometimes sugar is also added.
武汉烧凤爪 Wuhan-style chicken feet
Chicken feet do not contain much meat.
The fun is in the process of eating.
Many of our fondest memories took place in roadside food stalls like this.
Look at all that chilli oil.
重庆火锅 Chongqing hot pot
邮亭鲫鱼 spicy carp with chilli pepper and Pixian broad bean paste
What’s in the glass box?
乱劈柴 Assorted braised meat
乱劈柴 literally translates into “anyhow”
To buy it, you’d have to first play a game of morra with the seller.
If you lose, you buy the food.
If you win, you get the food for free.
So what is “anyhow”?
卤菜 meat marinated in soy sauce
Typically it includes duck feet, chicken feet, chicken wings, etc.
The food is not as important as the game.
Jinzhou, Liaoning Province, China
The night market at Linghe.
A 600-metre long street.
Over 300 food stalls.
Many of the stalls sell barbecue.
They are called 小串, “small skewers”.
“Small” refers to the size of the meat skewered.
Smaller pieces make it easier for the spices to be rubbed into the meat.
And faster to cook, of course.
Customers normally order dozens, or even a few hundred, skewers like this.
锦州羊肉小串 Jinzhou mutton barbecue
Shantou, Guangdong Province, China
The amount of food eaten means this is no longer just night time snack. This is the fourth meal of the day.
All kinds of dishes must be complemented with a bowl of porridge.
潮汕白糜 Chaoshan plain rice congee
To be continued . . .
Watching documentaries about food, while there’s nothing in the fridge.
I know how you feel, cat.