Field Chickens and Bleached Buns
I had lunch with some clients today. One of my co-workers, a teacher for my company, was there with me. She’s a Dongbei-ren recently arrived in Shanghai, so she’s still not used to the south in many ways.
One of the dishes we ate was called tianji, which literally translates as something like “field chicken” (“field” in the sense of “rice paddy” here). I had forgotten what this dish really is, so I was kinda glad when she asked, “what kind of bird is it?” Our hosts laughed. In China, a “field chicken” is actually a frog! I ate it, though. It’s pretty good, it just has a lot of annoying little bones. And it does taste kind of like chicken.
Another dish we had with which my Dongbei-ren co-worker was unfamiliar was suji. Literally, I guess it could be translated as “vegetarian chicken.” It’s a kind of tofu. It doesn’t really taste (or feel) much like chicken.
The clients were surprised that the south had so many dishes with which a northerner would be unfamiliar. They asked her what dishes the north had that the south doesn’t. She listed a few, but then mentioned that one should be wary of the mantou in Liaoning province. She said a good mantou should be a bit yellowish. A mantou that is too white may have had laundry detergent added to make it look whiter and thus more attractive to the consumer!