Sunday, December 16, 2007
THE STREET SELLER FROM XINJIANG
(Scenes from Shanghai, Part 3)
I spent some time walking along the Bund, Shanghai's historic waterfront lined with colonial-era buildings. In recent years, it has become gentrified, in the sense that fine dining European cuisine restaurants, high-end (read: very expensive) spas, designer luxury goods stores and "in" nightspots/bars have sprouted inside the buildings.
The weather was cool and slightly windy, and the architecture was really grand. I spotted this:
This vendor, i realized, came from the remote province of Xinjiang. And how did i deduce this?
Elementary, my dear Watson. Just last night, i had dinner with my friend (and business competitor) JPL, his wife and their local friends (Looi and quite-charming Mary), at a Xinjiang cuisine restaurant. Not only was the food quite good (special mention: their lamb kebabs were simply out of this world!), we were also regaled by native song-and-dance numbers from the restaurant staff, all dressed in traditional Xinjiang attire.
According to Wikipedia:
"Xinjiang (Uyghur: شىنجاڭ, Postal map spelling: Sinkiang) is an autonomous region (Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region) of China. It is a large, sparsely populated area which takes up about one sixth of the country's territory. Xinjiang borders the Tibet Autonomous Region to the south and Qinghai and Gansu provinces to the southeast, Mongolia to the east, Russia to the north, and Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and the Pakistan- and India-controlled parts of Kashmir to the west.
Xinjiang is home to several Muslim Turkic groups including the Uyghurs and the Kazakhs. Other PRC minority ethnic groups include Hui Chinese, the Kyrgyz, the Mongols, the Russians, the Xibes, the Tajik, the Uzbek, the Tatars, and the Manchus."
So, while this guy is technically Chinese and can speak Mandarin, with his relatively fair skin, hair and eyes, he can be easily mistaken for an Eastern European.
Here's a closer look on his merchandise. As far as i could tell, it's basically glazed nuts with dried fruit attractively arranged in patterns on top, and looks very much like a cake.
Once you signal your interest to buy, he cuts a standard portion with a knife and puts it in a clear plastic wrapper.
I asked his permission to take photos, which was stubbornly refused. Drat! Finally, i offered to pay him one yuan for one photo. He silently assented, and demanded i pay up first before proceeding further. Finally, with the crisp note in his hands, i fired away. Okay, okay, so i took more than one shot, but who's counting? :-D
There are quite a few of these street sellers from Xinjiang, spaced a few hundred meters apart from each other. Here's a photo of the almost-entirely-unsold-yet cake of one of his colleagues:
Quite pretty, isn't it? And they all don't have the exact same designs!