It used to be that I only know the Taiwanese Shaobing Youtiao and soymilk as Chinese breakfast, but after going to China twice in the last year, I've come to crave more variety of Chinese breakfast.
I was in Flushing last weekend. When I walked into this little strip of Chinese eats I thought I was back in China again. Narrow, crowded spaces, cheap tables and chairs, the muted colored suites that medium to tallish Chinese men wear, the old hair styles, the northern accent and tones. The mall has food from more than one region, but the hopping place is in the back where the Qing Zhen (Muslim) place is serving up breakfast.
I sat down and one man in a group of 4 readily asked if I'm "also from Tian Jin". That's one clue of the customers there I guess. Then I see people eating this thick soup with muted green/yellow ribbon-like noodles and dark,goopy, hot and sour-looking soup and a swirl of dijon mustard-colored sauce (their peanut sauce)plus a smaller swirl of mute pink sauce. "I want that!What's that?!" I asked one of the guys bring stuff out of the kitchen. "Guobian..." Guobian something or rather. Guo1 means Pot, Bian1 means side. Good stuff.
Then I saw someone eating the soft soybean curd in a similar type of broth. They call it Dofu Nao ("Tofu brain") as opposed to the Taiwanese's "Dofu Hua" ("Tofu flower"). Of course I gotta have that. It really hit the spot. I knew there was a reason why just a week before this I suddenly had a craving for the "HuLa Tang" (translated to be goopy and spicy soup)that I had for breakfast in Zheng Zhou. It was a premonition of what I would find in Flushing.
The group of four was enjoying their breakfast. One was talking about how the soup in the Guobian isn't quite right, yet, but I couldn't understand his speech enough to get the whole meaning. Two of them were breaking off pieces of the steamed Chinese roll (like the steamed buns but twirled and braided) into the soup(dunking) and then eating the soup with chopsticks.
The other two each had half of the Da Bing (closest to the big sesame pancake without the sesame)in their hands and a huge, paper thin, dark brown and blistered sheet of deep fried wheat dough (think they called it Shao Mai) that they insert into the many folds of the Da Bing. I have to explain that this Da Bing (which I had purchased and tried the night before) is one of the two versions. The "Shou" Da Bing is the one they're having. It's not as wide, but thicker with several spiced layers inside. It was explained to me that you could eat it as is. (Where as the "shen" Da Bing is not flavored and is used to shred into soups like noodles).
I don't want to give false impressions when I said it's not as wide. The Shou Da Bing is about 10 inchs in diameter. It's pretty darn big. It is perfectly constructed for a Chinese Muffaletta sandwich should one decide to make one, because when cut open there are so many layers partitioned and ready. Also, it tastes better than any of the best sesame pancake to me.
I don't want to leave out the red bean filled golden fried glutinous rice pastry. I don't like most glutinous rice things because they are too thick. This one was thin and again blistery on the outside. You barely notice that it's glutinous rice flour. The red bean filling was plentiful, scented with guihua maybe(?) and not too sweet. I had again done the stop-the-moving-tray point-and-ask routine, and so had one fresh out of the fryer. New crave item.
Oh, did I mention the steamed lamb buns? 3 for a dollar. So lamby and juicy that I can only eat at the most 2 in one setting. But it's good.
Other stuff I hadn't tried is the triangular steamed hamantache (sp?)shaped buns filled with yellow sugar. I hear it's really good, but I'm saving it for next time.