Up early, a quick gym session, a full bypass of the hotel breakfast and we are once again on the streets of Beijing. First stop is the wet markets of San Yuan Li to check out the quality of fresh produce.
A long corridor of local vendors awaits us at the door of the markets – its an array of colourful fruit and veg with the simmering stench of freshly carved carcass and recently killed fish. I wouldn’t say 100% amazing first impression, but it definitely reminds me of Asia. Truly Asia.
As we walk through, I’m surprised at the layout and the quality, it’s broken down into regions and all the fruit has been individually wrapped, its amazing organised.
Here you will find any animal and all of its parts laid nicely like a jigsaw puzzle, cleverly carved and portioned for an easy shopping experience. I didn’t buy anything as we don’t have a kitchen, however even minus the refrigeration I don’t think there would be any problems with this food.
The rest of the day we have an easy schedule, one of the girls at dinner last night has booked us in to her Chinese Masseuse who practices quite traditionally and apparently fixes all problems with the body – bring it on! She works at Vogue so I take her word for it of course.
After a little struggle to find the apartment we rock up at tranquil simple setting with the local radio station playing, the bubbling sound of the multiple gold fish aquariums and the faint smell of cigarettes. Which movie am I in? Where is Jackie?
We are ushered into separate rooms and let the massage begin!
I’m up first for the foot massage and reflexology… its painfully good and between him splitting by calf muscles and kneading the bottom of my foot with his knuckles I manage to keep the whimpering to a minimum.
An hour past and its my turn to don on the paper shorts and t-shirt and let the master do his work. My back is clearly a wonderland of knots and tension and the pain caused is similar to what I assume child birth to be.
To little surprise he finds comfort in tormenting my liver and kidneys and from this he follows the ‘line’ of my renal system down to my feet for some more serious pain games.
As a consequence the sweat starts streaming and disaster strikes.
He is a very informative man and extremely believable, so I take it quite seriously when he relates my proposed renal problems to a failing reproduction system, fast ageing and painful limbs as I grow older. He showed great concern and recommended secret chinese medicine herbs which could assist me so it will be my challenge for the next week here to find them!!
I really need a drink after the bad news!
We head into town for a tour of yet another ex-pat supermarket and shopping centre which is similar to the food court of David Jones. I stock up on delicious little Chinese snacks which look more like candy – they kept opening them for me to try so I kept feeling obliged to buy them! Depending on how you look at this I was taken advantage of.
We found a great little French bakery which put ‘Bread Top’ back home to shame and here we found a lovely little Royal Pudding and named this the dessert of the day! It was only around 100ml and came in the coolest little milk bottle. Delicious.
It was time to visit Obentos – a clean cut little Bento Box eatery recently opened in the CBD by Andrew Stevenson (a friend of a friend). It’s a cool setting, enticing menu and excellent quality food. There is something really great about a well thought out and put together Bento. We order the more pricey options (50-70RMB so really quite cheap) Teriyaki chicken and seared tuna – tataki style. Portion size is good, not too much protein which is nice and plenty of veg in perfect little square china dishes. The sweat potato salad which is more a mash is good, nice textures and soft flavours with plenty of herbs! The coleslaw is also a nice surprise with the inclusion of Fuji apple and citrus dressing for some extra crunch and freshness.
For dessert, a green tea panna cotta isn’t amazing but I’m not sure if it was because of the panna cotta itself or if its because I think that Green tea is exactly that and should only be a tea. I don’t think I have had anything flavoured with Green tea that I have ever enjoyed.
All tea aside though, this place is a little touch of genius in a big city and the rest of the world needs to get on board.
Funnily enough its time for dinner and I have committed to having a beer (or 2) as all the stress of today and walking in the pollution has made me very thirsty.
Dinner tonight is in the HuTong or the Village and it is at ‘Yun-er town’ in the Dongcheng District.
China is busy, there are a lot of people and it resembles organised chaos with a touch of love and respect. The Dongcheng District though is buzzing, the street markets, shops and restaurants are alive and it truly is a cultural experience you could get lost in. I did.
We managed to get a table on the roof, overlooking the hustle and bustle of the sandy street below and within minutes we had 2 large bottles of Tsing-tao on the table and 2 shot glass sized glasses to drink from – fun.
The menu was long and the pictures glossy, a local friend dining with us chose for us and the banquet began.
Dinner included haloumi-like fried cheese from the Yunnan district which was nice and crispy on the outside and just soft within. Cheese isn’t huge in China, or Asia in general, Tibet tends to get it a little right but thats only according to the western palate. This cheese was void of any seriously cheesy taste and lacked the expected salt but it was very much a pleasant surprise.
We enjoyed beautiful steamed whole Turbot, left on the bone and swimming in stock and simply butterflied out for ease of serving. Diced peppers, spring onion and lashings of fresh herbs made this a seriously fragrant and yummy dish.
Other dishes included dried pulled beef with plenty of chilli, minced pork with diced green capsicum, morel mushrooms and sweet sauce, wet garden herbs and a crazy little sauté of jasmine flowers and egg. The flowers were young and hadn’t opened, clearly keeping all the flavour inside – the only thing missing in this dish was some crunch, however I will be looking into these flowers when back in oz.
Overall, a great meal and for a tenth of the price of last night – a stand out!
To get home we walked through the street markets, with a great mix of local designers and cheap souvenirs, a few of which were necessary purchases.
Rating / 10
Drunk – 3
Gourmet – 6