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Flat-out Pigs’ Heads, Yongkang Lu

Need a flattened out pig’s head to help with your Chinese New Year celebrations? Or how about a compressed dried chicken, feet’n’all? Just two of the many intriguing items available at the Year of the Rabbit market on Yongkang Lu this week! Festive markets like this one spring up all over Shanghai in preparation for the upcoming Spring Festival, and whole streets are taken over by long rows of red-tented stalls. The stalls are open all day, every day, and into the night, and after close of business the stall holders, who may have come from far afield, put up a drape and sleep on the floor of the stall to keep their goods safe from would-be thieves. Tough going when it’s minus four outside. 
Everyone loves to buy special foods to take home for the holidays, just like we do, although at these markets you won’t spot a single box of chocolates or marzipan fruit, and there certainly aren’t any neat packets of assorted nuts. There is dried dog but I didn’t want to put you off, so no photos, sorry. Luckily there are plenty of other slightly more palatable options to choose from!

You could try the red dates or dried lychees……

Special harvest rice……

Various dried seaweeds, or Chinese pork sausages and other assorted bits of dried meats, geese, ducks, dogs….
Or you could just hang out in your warm quilted PJs and sample all the pickles on offer…including pickled jellyfish….

In amongst all the odder foods I was dragged over to take the photo of this super-apple-salesman, along with the sign that says he is a certified apple seller, best quality. There was a really great camaraderie between the sellers as they joked and gave him a hard time about having the poses he was happily adopting for the picture. Apples are popular Chinese New Year gifts because they’re red. And the redder they are, the more expensive they are. Of course!
And by the way, does anybody know what you do with those pig’s heads? I tried googling ‘how to cook a Chinese flat dried pig’s head’ and got this fascinating account of Imperial Foods of the Ming Dynasty:
 How to pickle a pig’s head and trotters. Cook the pig’s head and trotters until they are very soft, then remove the bones. Spread the meat on a cloth and press it flat overnight with a large stone. It is very delicious when pickled in grains. (Eight Commentaries on How to Live )

Love that google.