It’s no secret I’m not a fan of Xiamen food. The specialty here is seafood, which is my least favorite kind of food in general. And the other food here, the common dishes like Japanese tofu, sweet and sour pork and others, just aren’t as good here as in Hangzhou. Truth is Hangzhou food is amazing. It’s not too spicy, not to sweet and just every dish packs a flavor that the dishes in Xiamen just don’t come close.
But there are some special foods here in Xiamen that have really grown on me, and they are not easy to find on other parts of China so I thought I’d show you them.
Fujian Rou Pian (Meat pieces) 福建肉片
Now it’s best to eat this dish the first time before you see it made because frankly, it looks kinda gross. You know the “pink slime” made fampus by McDonalds chicken nuggets? Well, it looks a lot like that. Each stall that sells these has a big tupperware of…well, meat paste. Honestly, I have no idea what it is, nor do I want to know. I’m going to assume that it is just finely ground pork with no bones or other nasty bits to make me feel better.
The cooker scoops a bunch of the paste onto a flat spatula type thing, and with a spoon, sweeps off little pieces of the meat paste into the awaiting boiling pot. I’m not gonna lie, it looks a lot like caulk or cement at this point.
Meanwhile they have little to go boxes waiting with a plastic bag on the inside to contain the soup. They add a bunch of flavors such as dried seaweed, chopped onions, ginger, MSG and vinegar. (You can get some spicy peppers too if you want.)
Then they add some of the boiling water to your awaiting bowl and scoop out the boiled meat pieces. Since they are quite small they take just a minute to boil and you never wait more than five minutes from start to finish. They then wrap the whole thing in another plastic bag, give you a little spoon and you’re on your way. The meat pieces are chewy but yummy and the flavor of the veggies and soup is thin, but warming. The best part is? The price! This is a street food and the biggest bowl of it, which is plenty for dinner, will set you back $1.20. A small bowl is less that .50 cents.
Sha Cha Mian 沙茶面
Sha cha mian is a kind of peanut satay soup with noodles and other things in it. This is a very DIY kinda dish and you can choose whatever small foods you want to eat in it. Meatballs, or stuff like shrimp are a popular choice as well as different vegetables, tofu, eggs or thinly sliced meat pieces. If you get it from the street they will boil it all together for you, cooking whatever you’ve added in the soup. But if you order it at a restaurant they’ll serve it to you with a flame underneath to keep it boiling and you can add the food you want when you want it, almost like hot pot.
As a satay soup, it is peanutty flavor, but not thick like a peanut sauce and it’s not overwhelmingly sweet. It’s more like a peanut flavored broth and is delicious.
While I’ll never like Xiamen food as much as Hangzhou food, these dishes are growing on me.