Wuhan is a city of some 10 million people in central China along the Yangzi River. I was more than a little surprised to discover that Wuhan noodle shops and food stands, of which there must be thousands and thousands, serve noodles and other items in paper containers. Disposable paper containers! And disposable wooden chopsticks! I was informed that the shops save money because they do not have to pay people to wash dishes. How nice. You could not ask for a better example of how Chinese and lots of other people deal with the (apparent) trade offs between sustainability and immediate gains. Money appears to win every time. I suppose it could be worse; the containers could be made of white styrofoam.
The beef noodle soup in the picture was quite tasty, but – go ahead and call me old fashioned – it would have been tastier served in a proper bowl. You are hearing from an old fogy who hates drinking coffee out of paper cups, though he has caved in to the inevitable and does so. But I absolutely will not drink the coffee through the little hole in the plastic cover on the paper cup. Not a chance! I take the cover off. There is a limit to how low I will stoop to accommodate the “modern” world. Under the best of circumstances, the aesthetics of food does not play much of a role in a down market Chinese noodle shop. But really, disposable container, disposable eating utensils, disposable napkin… At what point do we arrive at disposable food, disposable eating?
Chiang Mai has a huge night bazaar in the downtown area. Shops indoors and stalls that set up every afternoon outdoors, all loaded with plenty of stuff nobody really needs. Lots of people wandering around buying that stuff. And finally, when your bag is full of stuff you don’t need, there are plenty of places to eat. Amongst the restaurants are several fairly pricey—at least by local standards—seafood places. Given that Chiang Mai is several hundred kilometers from the ocean, I could not help but wonder what fresh crabs and oysters were doing sitting on piles of ice in a local night market. Until I recalled that Chinese are obsessed with seafood and will pay big money to eat it. And sure enough, most the diners in the night bazaar seafood places are Chinese.
The young guy in the photo is turning a whole fish wrapped in foil that is cooked on the big open air grill. I did not want to gawk and point my camera at diners in the restaurant, so I did not walk over to the tables to see how the fish is finally served, but I have no doubt it is tasty.
Grapes imported from where else—California—are a pricey treat available in Chiang Mai markets. I have seen them go for about $5.25 a pound in supermarkets, though I am sure they are less in an outdoor wet market like the one in the photo. In a place where a mango costs 50 cents or so, these grapes are expensive. People pick them off the stems and take the individual grapes away in a plastic bag. Thailand has a Muslim minority in the south of the country near the border it shares with Malaysia, but this trip to the market was the first time I saw women wearing the hajib here in Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand.