Because China’s so fucking big, train trips tend to last a fair bit, and Chinese people invariably bring shittonnes of food with them. In general, Chinese people seem to travel with as much as they can possibly carry, but half of all their luggage seemed to be food designated for the trip. The most popular item was undoubtedly pot noodles, but apart from pot noodles people brought on fruit, cakes, tupperware boxes with home-cooked stuff, funky Chinese sweeties that I couldn’t really place, dried meats and fish, bread, anything, really.
I was always unaccompanied on my train trips, and I think the sight of a young, lonely white chick on a big-ass Chinese train by herself awoke some maternal instincts in the middle-aged ladies I encountered, because they invariably offered me food, usually saying something like “mei you“. In this situation, this phrase is most logically interpreted as “you don’t have any”, which was almost never true, because I did normally have food on me but was too embarrassed because at this point I’d already accepted their delicious dried fish with savoury pancake/walnuts/mooncake/tiny apricots (of course after the obligatory initial polite refusal).
I was always dead happy with whatever I was offered, more so than normal on one particular journey. On a certain 16-hour train trip, karma had decided to give my ass a thorough whooping after I’d used my old student card to get into some attraction for half money. I’d saved myself about 30 quid with this fraudulent behaviour, and clearly the universe wasn’t for having it, because after an unfortunate 15-minutes of unsuccesfully hunting down ATM’s in the railway station, I ended up having to run my legs off to catch my train with only 6 kuai, or 70ct, and zero food or water on my person. Yeah, those 16 hours were gonna suck.
Or so I thought, because as ever, middle-aged Chinese ladies came to my rescue! I was offered some fruit, a moon cake, and then something I never thought could be so delicious: boiled peanuts.
It’s weird man, I’d never even considered boiling peanuts, but really, they are legumes and therefore totally suitable for boiling! I decided to try this shit at home. However, what I hadn’t realised when I put my peanuts on the fire at around 4 pm, getting ready for a good late-afternoon peanut-and-beer snack moment, is that you have to boil these motherfuckers for like, four hours. I kid you not, they take forever, because most peanuts that you buy in their shell are actually dried, and so you need to rehydrate them.
Dammit, that ruined my late-afternoon snack, at least for that day, because you can keep them and eat them cold the next day. Don’t keep them too long, they’ll go funny, but a night in the fridge (in their own cooking liquid) they’ll survive. Or you can go for the other, better solution: soak them in cold water overnight and boil them for one hour only.
Here we go! Boiled peanuts, as they have them in China:
- one baggie full of raw peanuts in their shell – a sandwich bag full should do
- a whole bunch of water
- 3 espresso cups of salt
- optional: a couple of star anise, if you like that flavour
You’ll also need a big-ass pan!
So pop your peanuts in a big pan of water and leave them like that overnight. It’ll take longer but it’ll cost less in gas.
Next day, grab the biggest pot you have, and fill it with water. Now chuck in three espresso cups of salt and the star anise. Bring to a boil, then chuck in your peanuts. Boil them for an hour and a half, drain, then eat straight away! The shells will be super easy to open and the peanuts inside will be soft and salty, and totally legume-like and not nut-like at all.