One of the advantages to living here for 3 months is that I have the luxury of being able to explore all the smallest corners of Xizhou. Even though I go to the morning market at least once a day, I am still discovering new things.
I have always thought it was strange that baba, the food that Xizhou claims to be so famous for and that you see all over the center square, is relatively expensive and that you only see tourists eat it. Shouldn’t a local specialty be eaten by locals all the time, too?
I recently discovered a baba shop in the far back corner of the morning market. Instead of using heavy, old-fashioned ovens, they use a streamlined, thinner machine that can cook more baba at one time. The baba is thinner, far less greasy, and tastes way better. Also, unlike the 10 RMB baba that they sell in touristy center square, this baba is 2 RMB. As the Bai ladies collect their unidentifiable leafy greens in their traditional baskets in the morning, I often see them carrying a bag of baozi or this local baba.
I have never tried the tourist sweet baozi because the dough looks so greasy and weighed down with an oozing coating of rose jam and brown sugar. However, this local sweet baozi is the perfect balance: just enough oil on the outside so it is a little crispy, and a thin layer of sweetness on the inside.
I also found out that there is a special “Bai price” for most street vendors. While tourist baba is 10 RMB for tourists, it is 6 RMB for Bai locals. From what I observed in the morning market, however, baba is 2 RMB regardless of whether you are Bai, Chinese, or American!
I feel like this discovery has opened a window (not a whole door) of access to local food.