This is an extremely rare photo of Mrs. MM sitting on a low seat in a somewhat grimy alley in Xi’an, China. Let me stress, this is NOT her comfort zone. But when traveling, we almost always do things that we rarely, if ever, do at home, it’s just part of the adventure. Actually, the alley wasn’t that bad really, but just before we managed to get this particular table, it was filled with other people, and let’s just say there were projectile this and that which was enough to make one’s eyes roll here and there. :)
Stop #2 on the Lost Plate Food Tour that morning was a ginormous cauldron (batya or filipino laundry basin more accurately describes it actually) of steaming soup. Thick enough to be a stew, it was a stick to your ribs (literally) type of breakfast treat. This couldn’t have been much past 9 in the morning or so, and there were lines for this particular purveyor.
The soup, made with little lamb meatballs, cabbage and various other vegetables, probably a starch thickener of some sort, or one of the veggies acted as a natural thickener, was heady with aroma and chockfull of stuff. at about $1 or just a little more, it seemed like an incredible bargain, all over again.
Several ladles full of soup are placed in a large bowl. The man serving it makes very, very pointed efforts to count the number of meatballs that get included in each bowl, then you can choose a little or a lot of chili sauce, chopped herbs and greens to go on top of it.
I love how abundant these servings are, you don’t get the feeling that it’s all carefully costed and measured to the gram (except for the meatballs, of course)… and it definitely looked like one got his money’s worth. It’s heavily vegetable inclusive, but the strong flavors of lamb also make this meaty at the same time.
You get an old or dry piece of bread for each bowl (we split one order into three bowls) and you break this bread up into little pieces. Ladle the soup over this and mix until the bread absorbs the liquid and it all gets even thicker and heartier. It’s got your carbohydrates, vegetables and protein all in one bowl. I found this a bit heavy and I have never liked starch-thickened soups, but I must say, it was delicious nonetheless. I don’t think I could have finished a whole order, but it was definitely worth the experience. It was still a bit cool the morning we set out on this tour, so a bowl of hot soup was a welcome treat.
We were increasingly flabbergasted by how economical and abundant the meals on this tour were turning out to be. I can’t imagine doing a similar tour anywhere in the Philippines with the same kind of reaction, perhaps only in places like Bacolod or Pampanga, but at PHP40-60 per large serving of anything? Not so easy… After the soup we got back in the tuktuk and headed to the nearby Muslim market…