Gulangyu Island in Xiamen, China
Xiamen continues to surprise me. There's a little island called Gulangyu that is just a five minute ferry ride away from downtown, making it a convenient place for my lunch break before scrambling off to the airport. With its colonial architecture and lack of cars, it reminded me a bit of Catalina back home. The main thing I was told to get was fishball soup, which I found pretty quickly after getting off the ferry. I wasn't expecting these to be so chewy, nor so small compared to big ones used in Taiwan. But it was fine, especially with an unexpected dash of cumin on top.
As I proceeded further inwards to see what else was available, I was surprised by all of the street snacks available, be it little sesame candy to freshly squeezed orange juice to savory steamed rice dumplings. There was lots of seafood available of course, including live specimen held in tanks outside sit-down restaurants as well as little snacks put on a streetside grill. The crab looked great but would have been a struggle to eat given how small they were, so I grabbed that skewered squid instead, complete with its inedible pen, as I found out after finishing it. Its earthy, spicy sauce made it tasty, but word to the wise...don't wear a white shirt like I did; the brown sauce splattered onto my clothes when trying to bite off a piece, eliciting a few swear words from me in public.
On my way back, I stopped at one more shop to round out my meal, getting not only an order of clams (I just can't resist), but also some strange jelly-like things that were apparently also very local. Well, the mustard and vinegar seasonings made them taste better than they looked and sounded at least. Anyway, I've come to realize what an underrated destination Xiamen is. Gulangyu had the street food culture of Taipei but put it in a cleaner and cozier Catalina-like place. There were definitely little differences though; milk tea was available all over the place, but instead of those big tapioca pearls and a fat straw like they do in Taiwan, they gave you a spoon to scoop out the raisin bran that they had puzzlingly put into it instead.