Sunday, March 28, 2010

NOTD #5: su chao bing

Spring has made it to Beijing! It was almost too warm for a coat today. Blue sky, even, and buds on the trees.

Fashion Week has also arrived, so the same hotels that were swarming with Lexus-driving bureaucrats two weeks ago are now swarming with leggy, intensely makeup-ed models. They are a funny addition to the usual wangfujing weekend scene: red-hatted Chinese tour groups; fresh-off-the-train peasants from the countryside gaping at all the glitz (and at the foreigners); pairs or trios of young women trying to strike up English conversation with foreign men, who are usually smart enough to flee as quickly as possible.

But enough about Beijing. I can't believe I haven't written anything yet about what might be my very favorite noodle-like substance--su chao bing (素炒饼), or stir-fried vegetable cake.

I have never seen this stuff in the States, and it's a bit hard to describe. Thin strips of something chewy and doughy--thicker than a tortilla, thinner than naan--are stir-fried with cabbage and garlic. And that's it. It's basically just stomach-filling, greasy street food, but for some reason it's infinitely more satisfying than other greasy noodle dishes. As we already established, more chewy = more delicious.

This particular plate of su chao bing was served to me in one of my favorite hole-in-the-wall places, so small and unremarkable that I don't know the name and wouldn't be able to give meaningful directions about how to get there. But their su chao bing and dry-fried string beans (干煸四季豆) are amazing. Here are the string beans, with the owner and his buddies behind them:

As you can see, the decor is, well, basic. But in China nonexistent decor and lots of customers are usually good signs that the food is decent.

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