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A Canadian in Beijing: The Great Baozi, A Tribute
I have put on weight in the past month, partly due to almost zero working out (too hot, too polluted, too much else to distract me) and partly due to my discovery of the amazing food known as "baozi" ????.
Now, I'm generally not a big person and I was honestly worried about dying for hunger the first three weeks that I was here. I lost a bit too much weight, I'd say, and I really didn't have much to lose. My body has recovered, however, and then some... which is not a bad thing in the least. I got curves now! I'm not complaining.
So this is a small tribute to the glorious "su baozi" ????? (vegetarian baozi) and how they have joined forces with my language study to help me, bit by bit, find food to eat in this city that isn't imported from overseas or grossly overpriced in western restaurants. (See my next post for a Vegetarian Language Surivival Guide!)
What makes baozi great? Let me tell you. . .
Baozi are steamed breads with various fillings. Usually, they are filled with meats of various kinds, but "su baozi" are vegetable-filled and they are delicious. Think of a dumpling but imagine that the outside is soft bread instead of the dumpling skin which is usually boiled or fried. This steamed bread is delicious and even more delicious when the inside is all vegetarian. (Or, so I'm assuming since I have not tried the meat ones!)
In fact, I discovered these treats here at the school outdoor canteen. Many "su baozi" are filled with chopped green vegetables that are also combined with "ji dan" (eggs.) Here at the canteen they make their "su baozi" that way and so, being the vegan that I am, I developed a system of methodically picking out the bits of egg every morning before eating them. It was easy and the resulting egg-free (reasonably small) baozi were delicious. I would eat four to six of them every morning (two for 1 kuai) and sometimes pick up more for lunch. Okay, I'll admit it: sometimes I lived on baozi all day. (I have truly been a bachelor in the food department.)
Then I discovered the baozi at the market.
The same market that I wrote about last week has the most amazing baozi vendor and the women who work there have come to recognize me. They have all different kinds of vegetarian baozi including egg-free options (mushroom and greens) and "mala dofu" (spicy tofu) options. They are incredible, not to mention the fact that they're fresh from the steamers when you buy them (i.e. still steaming) and are twice the size of the ones at the canteen. What's more (and there is more!), they are the same price as the ones at the school and you get twice as much for your money.
This is my kind of food.
So, of course I go there and buy them by the steaming bag full. That doesn't sound delicious... unless you know about baozi. <wink> I even asked these women to pose for a photo with me the last time I went there, fearing it would be my last trip to this oasis. They obliged my request with a smile.
Aw, even writing this post is making me crave more, more, more! (Is that my new-found wheat addiction?)
When I came to China, I was also wheat-free. In fact, I've been mostly wheat-free for the past couple of years. I'm not allergic, but one of my band members is (Lyndell) and I've also read terrible things about how wheat is produced these days and what it does to one's body. So, my first period of time here in China was also wheat-free.
That, however, went right about the window when I discovered baozi. Perhaps I'm now not only addicted to the taste of the baozi in general, but I'm also addicted to the gluten in the wheat? It's possible!
Now, I know this doesn't constitute a complete diet and so I have to admit that I have done a bit more exploring in the world of food here. Most of this exploring has come through friends' suggestions or through my own risk-taking in restaurants. So far, just a few stomach aches later, I'm feeling great and confident about the food here.
What I'm getting at is that this post is only meant to offer a singular suggestion in a world where there are many options. My next post will offer some assistance when seeking those options. Mainly, it's a language issue and so I'm hoping that some key phrases will keep fellow vegans from starvation in Beijing!
But, if all else fails, then there are always "su baozi" (pronounced: sue bao zeuh).
They help put meat on your bones. . .
Without eating meat!