The top and bottom layers of this exceptional sandwich (Y2) were cooked up from batter mixed with an egg, minced pork, sliced sausage, and scallions, then sliced and stuffed with two types of pickled vegetables, plus cilantro, hot sauce, and a mystery sauce I didn't manage to I.D. Step aside, Egg McMuffin!
Griddled Sandwich Cart Taiping Lu, near Zhongshan Lu, Xiamen
Xiamen's downtown wet market — east of Kaihe Lu and north of Kaiyuan Lu, which is itself several zigzagging blocks north of the main shopping street, Zhongshan Lu — is very wet indeed, but the well-cambered, wide passages should keep your feet dry enough while you gaze upon the likes of sea worms, softshell turtles, and baby hammerhead sharks as well as more-traditional fare. If your appetite's up, several cooked-food stands do business around the edges of the market. Here, I slurped down fresh noodles with mussels and green vegetables (Y4.5) in the less fearsome-looking broth to the left — somewhat peanutty, just barely spicy.
Soup Stand Downtown wet market, just north of the Guying Lu entrance, Xiamen
The local equivalent of arroz con pollo (Y5) was very moist, due in large part to a heavy hand with the cooking oil. The final product sported just a little chicken, plus an assortment of veggies; it's really all about that terrific rice.
Hop off the ferry from Xiamen when you disembark at Gulianyu, and not too far ahead you'll see a McDonald's to the left. Veer right for local options like this wood apple, also called rose apple or wax apple (Y1 each). I had planned to wash them with some bottled water back at my hotel — streetside fruits and vegetables can be dodgy in China — but managed to leave my bag behind at a later stop, before I'd had a taste. I came across them again, in a larger, duskier guise, only when I reached Taipei, across the Formosa strait.
Fruit and Vegetable Vendors Longtou Lu, Gulian Yu, Xiamen
Anchored by a Wal-Mart, Xiamen's World Trade Center includes a top-floor food court operated, unfortunately, by staffers who seemed as disinterested as at any other mall; fast-food options outside the nearby train station were equally unenticing. After a 15-minute walk west, however, I found a small eating hall that offered a no-frills, all-business atmosphere, and treats like this zongzi (Y2.50), a rice pyramid that began to sag shortly after the server removed its leafy wrapping. (In the local language, more likely my rice dumpling was called bak chang.) This version was studded with pork, shrimp, and vegetables, accompanied by a ladled-on blend of spicy sauces.
Cooked-food storefront Hexiang Lu near Meihu Lu, Xiamen, China
This handheld nosh (Y2.50) served up pork, scallions, and a dribble of juice from the stewpot, plus a pinch of red pepper and a dash of cilantro, atop a soft bun with the texture (but not the nooks and crannies) of a well-known English muffin.
Fresh noodles with pork, cabbage, and egg (Y5, about 63 cents at the time) were very light and clean-tasting; clear soup on the side further refreshed the tastebuds. Good thing I snagged one of the few seats just before the school up the hill let out for lunch. Also shown: the humble storefront itself, and several nearby back streets.