Street Food 3

We didn’t have much an interesting experience in Xi’an – more later when I figure it all out, but the street food there produced one of the best meals we had in the whole month.  After we finally convinced our guide to take us to the Muslim quarter, and further convinced him that “NO, WE DO NOT INTEND TO EAT LUNCH IN THE HOTEL!” he brought us to an amazing shopping street.  The tourist crap was somewhat better quality than usual, but the food sellers and fruit and nut markets were great.
As we walked up the street, we looked at what people were selling.  All kinds of meat stuff on skewers (with great crowds lined up), soups and stews in huge steaming vats, steamed cakes made of rice flour and jam, unidentifiable animal parts, cold dishes (particularly cold rice noodles), new and different looking drinks.  I suddenly locked on something in a huge vat outdoors that looked like a thick stew.
“I want that!”
Victor was hugely uncertain.
Really tried to talk me out of it.
“What if you don’t like it?”
“I’ll get something else.”
How hard is that?  We finally convinced him to come into the restaurant and help us order.  Julia got dumplings.  Dumplings were 40 Y (about $7) on the menu.  This was OK, but we find out that means about 60 dumplings!  So we convinced them to make 18 lamb dumplings.  I also ordered a cold drink that was swirling in a chiller.  It was delicious.  Somewhat sweet, somewhat smoky, somewhat spicy and very cold, cooling the fire of the chilies added  to my soup.  Unfortunately I didn’t get the name of the drink.
To get the soup, you take your receipt to the girl tending the soup pot, she fills up a bowl and then adds sesame oil and chili to your specs.  Hands you a spoon and away you eat.  It had cabbage and potatoes and onions and some dark greens and wonderful little meat balls in a thickened broth, seasoned with star anise.  I looked at Julia.  “Beef stew.”  Victor was still worried as hell that I wouldn’t like it, or the drink.
In the mean time a trio of  Muslim ladies sat down with us.  These are the first women our age that we’ve seen out and about.  They’re dressed in pants and sensible shoes, very floral and colorful tops, vests and jackets, and their headscarves are made of beautiful lace in a variety of pale shades.  No hijab here.  These women are earthy and earthly and we start enjoying each others’ company even though we have no common language.  They have travelled 1000’s of kilometers from a place called Urumqi, which is far to the west of anywhere.   We get into taking pictures of each other, various groupings of westerners and Asians, laughing and giggling and being girls. Victor interprets that they want to send the pictures home to their children.
Good food and sweet friendship.  What more could one ask?
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