Chinese Chow-down

Here it is - the long awaited food blog. I decided the easiest way to do this was to just fill the post with all of the pictures we took of our food (practically every meal we ate for 2 weeks), add captions and let Dave's camera's "food mode" do most of the talking. So here it goes...

The Duck
I have put this first because I imagine it is the thing you are the most interested in...maybe I should have put it last then so you'd still read the rest! Anyway, obviously once we got to Beijing, getting some authentic duck in our bellies was a priority. It was our one big splash-out meal so we went for a few starters, as well as the full-on duck experience. So here it is...

Starter 1: Cold, shredded duck and noddles with an
unusual flavour. Not that meaty, but Dave enjoyed it.
Starter 2: "spring rolls" that were very disappointing.
Hardly any meat and a dry, eggy outside layer.
Not off to a great start.
Then the pancakes arrived. Exactly the same as we get at home.
We didn't realise but there were actually 2 layers,
so we had loads left over at the end of the meal!
And here is the duck! We had the whole thing to ourselves!
They carved it up near our table and brought it out in parts...
First the skin. This was to be dipped in sugar and eaten alone.
It wasn't crispy and tasted nothing like the Peking
duck we have at home but it was delicious.
It melted in my mouth like MJ's face under house lights and
when I bit down it flooded my taste buds with delicious juices.
This is the meat. It was very moist and subtly flavoured,
and again, nothing like we have at home but very yummy.
We had a plate like this each!

This was the head, complete with brains. No thanks!
Dave tried a bit and confirmed that it did indeed taste like brain.
The sauce wasn't like the Hoi Sin we have at home but it was
really good. It was saltier, less sweet and had more of a soy flavour.
Finally they brought us some duck soup.
It was just duck flavoured water really.
Devoured. Delicious. Different.

The Mains
Right, on to the rest of the food! We ate a lot of different things and didn't really have much disappointment which was a welcome change to Korean food! Generally Dave found the portions to be lacking in meat, but then he always does. I was very surprised by the fact that there were very few new flavours - Chinese food back home seems pretty true to the real thing from my experiences. A few things stood out so I will elaborate on those but most I'll just name and you can imagine the flavours for yourselves :)

Our first meal...delicious beef that arrived lukewarm...
Fiery chicken full of bones, with cashews.
It arrived 15 minutes after the beef and 10 minutes before our rice! 
Szechuan style noodles. Cold, sour, spicy and yum!
After a long walk around the Forbidden City we found a
run-down looking restaurant and feasted on some delicious
pork in sweet chilli  sauce, beef in sticky soy sauce and fried rice.
In a really old Chinese feeling snack street we had some traditional
Beijing noodles. Cold, salty, crunchy and perfect with a beer.
In the lovely little canal village part of the Summer Palace we
had some sweet and sour pork with amazing garlicy noodles.
Beihai Park - some lovely meatballs with cucumber and bamboo.
And a huge side of roasted aubergine in sweet chilli sauce.
1st trip to the food court - Chicken and beef with an egg.
Some strange beef-filled flat was ok but kind of dry.
Chicken Chow Mein - exactly like the best you've had at home.
There were a few pieces of Pak Choi that added a nice crunch.
We didn't eat here but I was intrigued by it. You sat in front of
a pot of boiling broth while a conveyor belt brought you a
range of raw veggies, meat and eggs to drop into the pot.
Fancy looking (but surprisingly cheap) restaurant.
Roasted green beans, minced pork, chilli and spices.
Hole-in-the-wall restaurant where we had fried rice and a
lovely beef dish with green peppers and celery.
And some "meatballs" that were possibly made of
some kind of flour...or possibly actually testicles.
Either way the sauce/gravy was really good.
2nd trip to the food court - much tastier than it looks.
Really spicy salty broth with peppercorns, full of beef, veggies,
strange looking tofu and huge thick-cut noodles.
Food court at the top of the huge market Dave spent all his money in!
You paid for a plate and had a choice of loads of meat or veggie dishes.
We also had some noodles with cabbage. Greasy and great!
Probably our only disappointing meal. On a side road in a
restaurant where the owner was snoring in the corner.
I had cold Szechuan chicken which was ok but full of bones.
Dave had some naff prawns (the frozen kind) with celery.
The noodle soup was ok but we had some corn soup because
I've never tried it but it was sooooo sweet that we couldn't eat it. 
Breakfast of beef noodle soup at Mr Lee's in Xian.
A bowl full of meaty, salty goodness.
Bullfrog in XO sauce - quite bony but the sauce was delish and
frog had a lovely, fish-like texture and there was plenty of it.
Absolutely delicious beef stew with onions, carrots and celery.
The sauce was like a thin gravy and there was so much meat!
After another day of market-shopping we had some amazing
duck spring rolls, roasted garlic and aubergine and some beef
that was tasty but overwhelmed by onions.
In Hangzhou we asked Matt to take us somewhere cheap
for dinner because our money was nearly all gone. These
were the first of many dishes...roasted squash, onion and garlic
and some fantastic sweet sticky pork.
Then we had some Chinese leaves in soy sauce with chilli.
Some really spicy, peppery noodles with beef and bean sprouts.
More sweet chilli garlic aubergine!
And here you can see some Kung Pao chicken and dumplings.
We also had a couple of huge spring rolls.
8 sublime dishes (some of the best we had) plus rice for a
grand total of about 4 English Pounds each!
Our final proper meal in China - we put aside our money to get
to the airport the next morning and counted our pennies.
We hardly had anything left but the people at the hostel suggested
a hotpot place just down the road. It was a bubbling pot of
chicken and onions to which we added cabbage and potatoes.
It was really tasty and something new - the perfect final feast.

Ok I think I had better stop for now. I still have more to show you but I will leave it for another post. I am now starving and depressed at the thought of facing another lunch of rice and kimchi...

Come back soon for the second installment: 
Shanghai Snacks and Beijing Bevies!