Animal, vegetable, unidentifiable…?

Qibao (literally translating as “Seven Treasures”) is an ancient canal-side town, once lying to the west of Shanghai city, but now absorbed into this ever-expanding megalopolis.  It is at least 1000 years old, dating back to the Northern Song Dynasty and becoming a bustling centre of activity during the Ming and Qing periods (several centuries mid-millennium).

It is packed full of traditional Chinese buildings, clustered around canals and tiny laneways, and connected by old arched bridges.

Surprisingly, Qibao doesn’t feature too heavily in tourist publications, but it does attract many local visitors.  And, I mean many … the little lanes and spaces take forever to navigate.

There is a newer commercial area, no less hectic than the older parts, but at least with a bit more room.  The whole area is closed to cars, which is somewhat unusual and a tiny bit pointless, given the large number of speeding delivery vans, scooters and bicycles.

I am loving this mural … for a minute there I thought I had been transported to a mountainside in the country (with air-conditioners and windows…)

Qibao is renowned for its old-style handicrafts and food, which make it a favourite for the locals and a surprising place for the internationals.   Besides the traditional brewery and carving museum, you can come to Qibao to pick up some amazing hand-crafted goods.  Wooden buckets – sized for a bath or just a foot-spa- seem to be popular.

    

But, the food is the really amazing stuff.  Huge stacks of freshly-steamed corn…

and these delicious-looking fruit skewers.  The kiwi fruit were massive, about 10 centimetres in diameter.

People were also strolling about munching chunks of meat off timber skewers about a metre long.  (Given the confined spaces, I imagine that skewer injuries are not uncommon here.)  Similarly, bamboo sticks were a popular snack-and-stroll item.  Although the hard outside layer was peeled off, I am surprised that bamboo could be soft enough for this kind of consumption.  But as Mr I.E. tells me, there are 800 types of bamboo, so I guess one has to be chew-friendly.

These appeared to be some kind of sesame desert.  At least, I think it was desert.

And these …?  I am putting my bet on lotus root, cooked and stuffed with some kind of gluggy white thing.  They do kinda look like some body part though.

Not so much as these though.  I think they were knuckles, delicately tied together with string and placed under a red light to give them a real glow.

Or these. These are just gross.  A whole small bird (perhaps a pigeon or half-grown chicken), cooked and skewered via the head, ready for instant consumption.  And, popular they were … with many people grabbing one to sustain them on their shopping journey.

I am told that in Qingdao (a city north of Shanghai), the local version consists of a whole rabbit head, ears included, deep-fried and mounted on a stick.   I’ll just stick to the bamboo, thanks.

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4 Responses to Animal, vegetable, unidentifiable…?

  1. Adina West says:

    I’ve been to Zhouzhuang (China’s ‘Venice’) but not this one. The food does look…interesting. I think you’re pretty safe with the steamed corn, but even as a non-vegetarian I have to question the wisdom of walking around eating a whole skewered bird. So many bones!

    • I think we’ll do Zhouzhuang soon enough. We visited Suzhou, the another “Venice of the East”, last weekend. Must put the pics up soon…

  2. Adina West says:

    Looking forward to the Suzhou pics.

    Try and make time for Hangzhou too, if you haven’t been there. One of my favourites of the relatively small number of Chinese cities I’ve been to. Their night markets sell beautiful traditional handcrafted stuff (like hand carved stone name stamps) and at actually reasonable prices even by Chinese standards (ie not as dear as the tourist precincts in Shangers or *gasp* Hong Kong department stores).

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