Girlie and I went to the LiuJiabang lu fabric market last night to visit her favorite tailor and have a look around. She’d not visited at night before, so we were both excited to find the streets around the market were buzzing.
Down every alley there was someone selling anything you needed: fruit stalls, tea carts, butchers, fishmongers, massage parlors of varying legitimacy, barbershops, bao and jiozi carts, wok noodle ladies and seed/nut stands. We walked around, watching the butchers work, stepping around puddles of blood, dodging scooters, and apologizing to the chickens who were clucking calmly, unaware of their fate.
We bought a few things, including a mattress topper for our incredibly uncomfortable bed, some good luck fish decorations for the new year, and I accidentally bought half a kilo of Oolong tea. On our way back to the fabric market to hail a taxi, we found a cluster of street food vendors underneath an underpass. They were hard to miss–the smoke and steam enveloped the roadway above, giving taxi drivers a fleeting reminder of where they should stop for their break. There were a few stands selling bao and wok-noodles, like we had seen in the market streets, but we happened upon a stand of Muslims of unknown Caucasian origin, making flatbread in what looked like a Tandoor oven. The bread reminded me of Bazlama, and may well have been, but the baker crimped a ‘crust’ on the outside and flattened the center to cracker thin, so it resembled a boboli pizza crust. Sprinkled with sesame seeds, they were so good Girlie doubled back to double our stash.
I’m glad she did, because just a little further we passed a kebab stand manned by a husband/wife team of Muslims of unknown Caucasian origin.
“A’alaykum Salaam.” We turned around and saw the Kebab duo beaming with wide smiles and bright eyes. Standing there eyeing the kebabs, knowing that this meal was fate, a frenchman named Fabien, who was waiting for his kebab, introduced himself and helped us select some kebab (chicken breast and heart), and translated for us and the cooks. The kebab chef motioned for our flatbread and wrapped our kebabs into them. Kebab chef had lightly oiled and shaken a spicy mixutre on each side, and we sat on a stoop nearby and inhaled our food. Perhaps most important, everyone was smiling.
So thanks, Fabien, and I think it’s fair to say this was a most auspicious beginning to our Chinese street food exploration.