Friday, April 23, 2010

Winter warmers

As I search for consolation in this unseasonal chill (usually summer is here in Beijing by the end of April, but at the moment spring is still faltering, and we're suffering some of the chilliest nights I've ever known at this time of year), I reflect that at least it is extending the chuanr season for me by a few weeks. These bijou streetside barbecues - typically, little cubes of heavily seasoned mutton on a wooden stick - are a ubiquitous snack food here, but.... well, once the weather starts getting warm, the meat - often left out in the sun for hours at a time before being put on the grill - becomes something of a hazard, and I try to avoid eating mutton-sticks, or at least drastically cut down on my consumption, during the summer months. At the moment, though, I feel quite safe in continuing to chow down on them in prodigious quantity.

My other favourite foods from the Muslim restaurants that specialise in this snack are nang bao rou and da pan ji, rich concoctions of mutton or chicken with big chunks of vegetable stewed in a spicy tomato broth. These are just too darned filling for the summer months, when the hot weather begins to suppress the appetite. I seldom eat them from April through to September. However, while the weather remains this nippy, they are an essential source of comfort and insulation.

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