Snack Safari

Hot pots

Service with a smile
When we were living in Kenya, just outside Nairobi, we would sometimes go for a little safari in the Nairobi National Park that was maybe ten minutes’ drive from our bungalow in Kisembe Road. On other occasions, we went on safari to the Mara, Samburu or Nakuru. The essence of a “game drive” is that you never know what wild animals you are going to see or if you will see any at all. On a smaller scale, I get a similar feeling of excitement whenever I am walking down the street in Shenzhen around lunchtime and there is a simple reason: street food.

Why do I like street food so much? Maybe it is because I have no idea what it is called or what it is made out of, but my guess is that it is going to be delicious and it usually is. Another thing that makes street food more enjoyable is the amazingly low price. However, one of the best things about street food is that they cook it right in front of you and it is always fun to see how they mix up the ingredients so quickly and flip over that pancake with what looks like casual carefulness. Better than all of the above is the human interaction that you can have with the person who is preparing your tasty snack. There is an old English proverb that says that hunger is the best sauce, but the smiles, the winks and the incomprehensible comments from the street vendor also add a lot to the food’s flavour.

Eggy ball things
This afternoon, when I came out of the Shenzhen University MTR, there it was: a street foodie’s Mecca, the Holy Grail of snacking or perhaps the El Dorado of cheap eats. (As I noted in my earlier blog post called Cheap Street Eats, anywhere near a university campus is a good place for bargain scoffing.)

Pan-fried something - but what?

Shengcai inside

On either side of the pavement were lines of food stalls, with a variety of tasty-looking treats and even some that I had never seen before. I was tempted by what at first looked like quails’ eggs, but on closer inspection turned out to be balls of crispy eggy dough with veggies inside them. As usual, the sweet potatoes, hongshu, were making some yummy smells and they were hard to resist. In the end, I had a sort of wrap with lettuce and something crunchy inside. Not a bad lunch for 5RMB.

Another bargain in Shenzhen is the city excellent Metro (MTR) system. It is so much quicker and cleaner and cheaper than the London Underground. Even if you are a foreigner and you cannot read a word of Mandarin, the MTR is still user-friendly and convenient. 
As well as clean toilets, there are maps of the system in all of the stations and the staff try to help you, even though they do not speak English. Yes, it occasionally can be crowded and it is a bit tiresome to have to check your bag through the X ray machine each time, but it is easy, cheap and quick - a bit like Chinese street food, in fact.  


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