That's China - - 城市漫步 - Text by / David Kay

Most ex­pats have things they miss from home that just can­not be re­placed, no mat­ter how hard they try.Whether it be the cosy log-fire warmth of a lo­cal pub or a jar of Mar­mite, we all have a list of things that we’ve had to just learn to live with­out here in China. Other things, how­ever, can be repli­cated in some fash­ion - al­beit with a slight dip in qual­ity, au­then­tic­ity and taste per­haps.You can buy cheese here for ex­am­ple, but it’s more the Amer­i­can va­ri­ety than the smelly French stuff you re­ally crave. This dish falls into a new cat­e­gory al­to­gether; it’s some­thing that is missed from home (es­pe­cially by us Brits) but some­thing that is ac­tu­ally bet­ter here in the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic. It’s a sta­ple dish that the Chi­nese have ac­tu­ally im­proved on, mak­ing it their own in the process. Jiaoyan tuduo is ba­si­cally the roast potato of your dreams; a su­per spud; a top-tier ‘tater’. When I first came to the Mid­dle King­dom, my own mid­dle king­dom soon be­gan crav­ing pota­toes, but not the slimy string va­ri­ety com­monly served up in restau­rants around Hangzhou.What I re­ally needed, es­pe­cially in those harsh win­ter months, was a potato that was fluffy on the in­side, crispy on the out­side and tastier than a boat full of beans. I need some­thing I could sink my teeth into, some­thing that would line my stom­ach ahead of a bout of ex­pat ex­cess and boozy ban­ter. En­ter, then, jiaoyan tuduo, the king of pota­toes. I first be­came aware of the dish when I spot­ted a guy eat­ing it on a ta­ble op­po­site me at my lo­cal restau­rant. I im­me­di­ately asked him what the dish was called and, af­ter some mis­un­der­stand­ings and con­fu­sion (myYork­shire ac­cent some­times ren­ders my man­darin un­in­tel­li­gi­ble to lo­cal ears), I fi­nally thrust my fin­ger to­wards the man’s potato pile and yelped, “yao, yao, yao” at the flus­tered fuwuyuan.When the dish ar­rived I was in­stantly smit­ten. Ob­vi­ously fried in­stead of roasted (I se­ri­ously doubt that the tiny hole that this par­tic­u­lar restau­rant calls a kitchen has any­thing even re­motely ap­proach­ing an oven) the pota­toes are sea­soned gen­er­ously with a kind of spicy salt, dried red pep­per flecks and a fist­ful of scal­lions. Now, don’t get me wrong, this is no show-stop­ping cen­ter­piece - it’s just some fried pota­toes - but some­times in life, a fried potato is ex­actly what you need and, in China, this is as close as you’re go­ing to get to the real thing. And, what’s more, the un­usual sea­son­ings re­ally give these spuds a kick.Yep, pota­toes have rarely tasted so good - just don’t tell your mother you’ve found bet­ter than her own roast­ers!

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