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Friday, October 18, 2013

Market day . . .

With working a Sunday through Monday evening schedule at my current job, I get a virtual long weekend every week - Friday morning through Sunday afternoon when I need to be back in the office at 1630. It makes it possible to take mini-trips as I did to Seoul last month and plan to do to many more places, as in addition to everywhere in China I want to visit, there are many other fascinating countries within a few hour's flight.

When I stay in Beijing for the weekend, it becomes my nesting time, particularly as the days get shorter and cooler. A usual Friday routine has become to visit my favorite food market, Sanyuanli, to which I introduced a friend today.

Located just four bus stops and a short walk from where I live, Sanyuanli is my go-to place for my weekly stock of vegetables, herbs and herbal tea supplies and also has just about anything else one might require for cooking, including kitchenware at a few hardware stores at the rear of the market.

There are hundreds of stalls, of which I have found firm favorites to which I return each week, while also keeping an open eye for specialty items I might want. The front of the market is dedicated to fruit, all of which looks fabulous but most of which I can purchase at better prices elsewhere so I walk through there quickly, replying politely to greetings but not stopping to buy.

There is then a section with many imported products, plus teas, nuts, grains and spices. There is a tea store I also stop by, even if I'm not buying anything, as the sisters who run the stall are always friendly and welcoming and make me practice the little Chinese I have learned thus far. The younger sister (mei mei) speaks reasonably good English but seems to like to teach me new words in Chinese and I definitely need the help.

rice and grains
dried fruits and nuts

the tea shop
 Thanks to her, I now have a extensive selection of herbal teas that I mix and match to try new combinations, both hot and iced. She also has beautiful cardboard canisters she gives me to store them in (inside ziplock bags for freshness).

Just past the tea lady is the meat section, which my friend, who is basically vegetarian, found a little hard to take. She had to shield her eyes and run the gauntlet, while I find it rather fascinating. I haven't bought pork or beef there as I'm a little wary of both here (although I eat both when the canteen serves it so I admit I'm inconsistent), but there is a particular stall I frequent for chicken and am happy with in terms of both price and quality. I was even more reassured when I met a Chinese friend at the market on Saturday morning and found we both prefer the same chicken vendor. The seafood section is next, which seemed a little less disturbing for my friend, but I think she was glad to get through both.



Once past the dead creatures (tho some of the seafood is still alive), we come to my favorite part - the vegetable section. My first stop here is always an old lady who always has the most amazing fresh herbs - basil, mint, cilantro/coriander - plus other things not found most other places. She doesn't always have a huge selection but did this time, with fennel, witloof and rocket as well as more conventional lettuce and cabbage varieties, plus beets, potatoes and sweet potatoes (one of the sweet potato varieties here is just like kumara in New Zealand - which makes me happy). There's another stall that is primarily different varieties of tomatoes, and a couple of vendors who carry only mushrooms, both fresh and dried, in a wider range than I knew existed.

The produce is beautifully displayed and the stalls look like artworks.
bags of fresh basil and mint for only a dollar or two

a riot of color

Today's swag for me was fresh basil and mint, asparagus, bell pepper, radishes, tomatoes, red onion, ginger and garlic, a good grater and an electric mixer from the kitchenware store (winter = baking time), a large bottle of olive oil, some peanuts, dried lemon slices from the tea lady and a bag of mushrooms. A quick stop across the road at a liquor store scored me a bottle of Grant's whisky at a ridiculously inexpensive price (less than $US11.50) and I'm a happy gal.

A neighbor dropped off an organic cabbage, carrots and beet yesterday so for dinner, I poached a chicken fillet with ginger, garlic and lemongrass (tea), then sliced it and added it to shredded cabbage, grated carrot, finely sliced red onion, fresh basil, mint and crushed peanuts. I'm fighting off a cold right now (tho it could just be the crud in the air giving me a sore throat and snuffly nose) so plan to make a hot toddy tonight with lemon (dried and some fresh that my friend gave me), ginger and garlic steeped with a little lemongrass, with New Zealand honey, fresh mint and Grant's whisky added before sipping.

I do like my market day . . .