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Gareth is an Australian who has lived in JiangSu, SuZhou (Heaven on Earth) for a few years - he is a keen observer of the Chinese people, Chinese culture and the changes that are occurring in China at break-neck speed. He can often be found on his a nightly 'perch' in front of his bar in the famous Bar Street in Suzhou, talking to the locals in his bad Mandarin, teaching the 'flower-selling girls' English, eating street food and smiling at the local chengguan (neighbourhood police). Gareth also has several other businesses in China around Business and English training. His experiences have been varied and interesting and his years in China have taught him to be wary of promises but excited about prospects, not a bad situation to be in!
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For Auld Lang Syne    

By Garreth Humphris
2143 Views | 3 Comments | 1/20/2013 4:18:03 PM

When I was a kid, a long time before all the health-food fear meant that eating anything that came from animals would not block your arteries in 5 seconds, I grew up with ’dripping’! For those of you not accustomed to this delicacy, let me highlight it’s origins and taste - essentially it is the juices, fats and tasty meat morsels that comes from roasted meats - and since my grandmother would insist on a weekly Sunday Roast, we had a bountiful supply.

Dripping was collected in an enamel bowl, and kept in the refrigerator - the contents of the roasting dish scraped in it and cooled - the fats congealing on the top and the other juices, rich in flavours' hiding at the bottom of this bowl.

The animal fat on the top was used for other cooking over the course of the next week but the dripping was collected and dripped over boiled potatoes, spread between thick slabs of homemade bread for impromptu lunch and added to soups for extra taste.

And it was tasty - concentrated meat, salt and herbs from the roasted meats - a comfort food like no other!

These days, living in China, I cannot wait for the cold weather to bite the fingers and the air to fog and chill - the main reason is a delicacy that reminds me of my childhood so well! This is Yang Rou Tang (Mutton Soup).

When I first came to China many moons ago, the street frequented by the ’night people’ had about 30 little storefront offering this dish - they were identified by a small glaring lightbulb hanging forlornly over a greasy glass display case - inside slabs of grey and white boiled mutton sat on trays and a large pot of steaming soup would simmer away on a single gas burner.

The owner, usually a small wiry man or an older portly woman would reach in to the tray, grab a slab of mutton and roughly chop a mash of meat with a gnarly old cleaver.

No Food Safety Inspector or latex gloves here, they would scrape the meat and fat up from the pitted chopping board with bare hands, toss it into a small wire cage and drop this into the soup.

Wiping greasy hands on an equally greasy apron, the chef would take a cracked bowl, wet with the cold water rinse after the last customer and toss in some other ingredients - a few chopped shallots, a heavy pinch of salt, a stick of chilli paste, some other pastes and powders from undisclosed bottles then opening the huge pot and disappearing in a spiral of steaming soup fume, would emerge with a full bowl of yellowy fatty goodness, strongly gamey, greyish meat and a deceiving smile.

Pushing deep into the back of the room, you would pull up a stool at whatever space was open, splash in a little vinegar and attack the dish with gusto.

These shop fronts were seasonal so no expense was wasted with decorations, heating or cleaning - wonky tables of chipped paint, mismatched plastic stools with their pattena of greasy dirt up the legs, napkins and chopsticks riddling the floors and people huddled inside great overcoats noisily slurping the soup. Looking up from your bowl, face red from the chilli steam as it clawed at your eyes you might meet a fellow person of the night; a taxi driver, a streetsweeper, a bar worker, a hooker on her way home after the last customer has stumbled out the door! Those were the days!

Nowadays I have to search quite hard down the back alleys to find the true survivors of this food. The rents in the old street have skyrocketed and the stalls first moved to the extreme ends of the street. Now they are down the darker and more foreboding alleys, perched half on the street and half in some small alcove. They are darker, less cheery, colder affairs! Eating, not communing!

Or maybe the heart is a little more like this...a little colder, less fascinated with the ebb and flow of life based around the darkened streets and the foreboding doorways.

But I know one thing, wrapping your fingers round a slightly greasy hot bowl of Yang Rou Tang on a cold and lonely night is a good way of snatching a few moments of childhood memories from a distant land! Drink up!

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(Showing 1 to 3 of 3) 1
#2013-01-20 19:28:05 by panda2009 @panda2009

Wow, how fresh soup!

#2013-01-21 21:30:18 by lhui @lhui

Wow, wonderful childhood memories.

but do you know, really traditional Chinese delicious are always deeply hidden in the folk. For example ,in Shanghai,if you want to eat really "Shaobing" — 烧饼— baked wheat cake, You have to look for an old-fashioned alley, if you find a man around a stove,which made of abandoned barrel of gasoline, and light fire with charcoal, head down and bent over, take out a piece of "Shaobing" with a pair of tongs, that is it, buy and enjoy it , sweet..salty... I bet you will like it. as well as "Chou Dou Fu"—臭豆腐、“You Deng Zi”—油墩子

#2013-01-22 17:47:52 by sandy339 @sandy339

Wow, what a writing it is! Interesting, Sarcastic and a little bit Sad. Something like Balzac’s the human comedy? Thanks for sharing your Yang Rou Tang, it seems really tasty. As I know fat and sugar is the twin pillars of the best comfort food. I might choose sweet foods for a comfort,haha. And I hope you could drink it up slurping as much as you can! LOL

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