October 29, 2008

No Place for a Gweilo

I was wandering around the neighborhood today and thought I'd check out the Causeway Bay Market. It's an indoor market filled with stalls, not unlike an outdoor market.

The signs outside suggest all sorts of interesting things inside, so in I went.

Things were a little too interesting. I don't think there are many Westerners in there; I got almost as many stares as I offered back. At first I thought it was just the usual fare: fish and meat and vegetables.

But no.

There was a cage at one of the fish stalls, and I glanced at it, thinking the shellfish was an odd size. Then I realized it wasn't shellfish at all, but frogs! The look on my face said it all, and then the vendor started to look at me, so I bugged out.

Moseyed around the vegetables and produce; nothing out of the ordinary up there. Although I think I saw some hundred-year-old eggs. These are eggs preserved in a mixture of clay, ash, salt, lime and rice straw. Anyway, I certainly smelled them. They are, I understand, an acquired taste.

Went back downstairs just in time to see the live birds. Ack! I'd been avoiding this. I looked over and the stall owner had a chicken by the neck, and was measuring it with the knife. Ack again! I looked away.

I didn't think I was squeamish like this. I'm OK with my meat hanging in the open air, although I do prefer refrigeration, yes. I'm OK with my fish laid out on ice. And in Paris, especially during game season, they hang dead animals all over the place. Recently dead. With fur and feathers.

Who knew my limit would be frogs and live chickens?

October 28, 2008

Baked Goods, Cont.

So Paul wrote earlier about his encounter with Chinese bread and just after reading it I passed by a bakery on my way back from running errands.

This was a different bakery, around the corner from the Indian restaurant. As I passed, I could smell the fresh-out-of the oven baked goods. Normally, I'm not a bakery kind of girl. I like cookies, but pastries not so much. And I'm a little wary of Chinese baked goods. They often have sesame or bean pastes hidden in the middle, and that often surprises me.

Anyway, the smell was tempting. I actually passed the bakery, then went back half a block. In the open window were apricot jam sticks, like croissant twists with raisins in them, and, presumably apricot jam. There also were pineapple buns, which I'd heard of and marshmallow buns, which I had not heard of.

Apparently pineapple buns contain no pineapple, but instead have a cross-hatch pattern on top that makes it look like a pineapple. I have no idea if the marshmallow buns have marshmallow in them, or just have the consistency of a marshmallow.

So I bought one of the apricot sticks, and it was hot and fresh. They use plastic bags here, instead of paper, which don't lend themselves to hot steaming things -- just makes them soggy. When I got it back to the apartment it was sort of falling apart.

But that's not what's important. Was it good? It was. Was it apricot? Sort of. Not slathered in apricot, but there was definitely some there. It was warm, and moist and tasty. A perfect bakery food.

Maybe the trick is to stay away from the proper bread?

October 27, 2008

About Those Fish ...

So earlier I mentioned that I was amused, walking by the many fish markets, to see the live fish. They pull them out of the tank and they flop around.

Well, I'm not amused anymore. Now I feel just awful. The more I see them, the more I see them gasping for breath. Their wide open mouths opening and closing and the gills flapping. It's really terrible.

Why the change of heart? I couldn't tell you. Maybe I've just been by more fish stalls since I've been here than I ever have before. But now, I don't want to see the gasping fish any more than I want to see the butcher kill the chickens. (And, thankfully, I haven't seen that).

It's not like I'm about to become a vegetarian. I understand that food lives, and comes from someplace. But I don't want to be amused by it.

I just wanted to clear this up.