In Suzhou, China it’s all about night street markets. And man, do they offer a variety of numnums. Steamed things, fried things, gelatinous things, things wrapped in banana leaf, soup, seafood, tofu, rice in every form imaginable, and some of the most interesting desserts I have ever seen. The following photos should serve as a slideshow of sorts of all the things I saw in this culinary amusement park, one-bowl dishes that I’d never seen before and which made me question whether I know anything about Chinese cuisine at all. This one was a night market on one of the streets around the Xuanmiao Taoist Temple, but these type of food stalls pop up all over the city.
This particular stall cannot go without a description. Four big bins containing rice noodles of different thickness (vermicelli to udon), along with a ton of things on sticks to cut in there, veggies, balls of different types of protein, as well as sauces to stir into the otherwise plain vegetable broth. I got one made with one of the thicker noodle types, which were chewy and filling. Thrown in were some gummy beef balls, chick peas, chop shallots, ginger and a bunch of different things I couldn’t identify or can’t remember. The broth was comforting and warm and a bit funky, with plenty of shrimp paste and a bit of chili oil mixed in. There was also a nice citric element which may have been from the lime juice added or from some lemongrass thrown in. I chose this stall mainly because there was a very long line leading up to it and very satisfied looking customers sipping from bowls all around it. For a cold, rainy night in Suzhou it was the perfect medicine.
These were also pretty good. Whole crabs deep fried and shoved onto a stick. Legs were crispy enough to eat and the sweet, soft innards came out in one scoop of the finger after breaking through the hard carapace.
These were also pretty delicious, sticky rice and little chunks of pork wrapped into banana leaf.
These were some desserts I tried which the vendor explained were traditionally Suzhoan. A wad of slightly sweet sticky rice flattened against a heated metal service and pressed there until very dense. Topped with green tea flavored sago pudding which was rich and warm, the perfect companion to the chewy rice. Topped with a sweet Chinese date. We also had red bean soup with sago and glutinous rice balls which was very nice and warm as well. The red bean sweet soup was still a bitch chunky which gave it a nice, hearty thickness. The little white glutinous rice balls were chewy and gummy, providing a great textural contrast to the mushy bean.