Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Across China with the vermin


Peter Green
 Share

Recommended Posts

Oh. My. Goodness. I want that market. Thank you for a) taking the trip b) taking prolific and mouth-watering photos c) writing with wit and insight, and d) posting all of this, especially while on the road. So, is the scud named after the missile or the chile?
I wasn’t cracked up to shell out for them (sorry).
Heh - you don't sound very sorry. :raz:

Please don't give me too much credit for on the road posting. I only managed the Beijing section while traveling, and everything since then is being done at home (although that's a challenge, too).

Scud is quite a nice name. Scud East was one of the characters in Tom Brown's Schooldays, and later in the Flashman series (which, I must admit, is where I chanced across it).

In the dictionary it's first given as a meteorologic term, refering to a light bank of clouds, running before the wind. From there it is taken up by sailing.

And of course there's the next entry: a Soviet built ballistic missile capable of carrying chemical, biologic, and nuclear warheads.

Given the accuracy with which they were tossed at us in 1991 as we huddle with our gas maks on, it's purely an instrument of random terror.

What better name for a boy? We had to call him that when he was born on Friday the 13th, September, 1991.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The piles of green stuff in the market ----

Could it be a form of stem lettuce/asparagus lettuce? (萵筍 - wo sun) The stem to the left, the tips in the middle and the whole thing on the right.

(But the leaf tip looks different)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

definitely is wo sun..

I remember seeing an english translation of it in a restaurant once that mentioned it as some form of lettuce, but can't remember now. In any case when it is fully grown out, it does look like a kind of lettuce

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Day 9 – part 3 - A Spot of Dinner, and a Cuppa after

Dinner was at the Han Ding Hot Pot on Qintai Lu, just up the road from the teahouse we were going to for the opera later on.

gallery_22892_4411_72713.jpg

Hot pot is one of those things you’re supposed to do when in Chengdu. Every part of Asia must have a version of this, but Chengdu was notorious for the quality of theirs; hot, burning, and intimately painful.

But, it also came in a ying-yang version, with a mild broth countering the brute force of the chili. This meant that Serena could eat as well.

gallery_22892_4411_95261.jpg

Believe it or not, this was my first chance of the day to indulge in a beer. Snow is the local varietal. While lacking in head, it was pleasant enough, and maintained a good cloud of bubbles. I could work with this.

Our dipping sauce came out. This consisted of a bowl of oil, with chopped garlic in the bottom.

gallery_22892_4411_47317.jpg

Into this was introduced a handful of coriander, some ginger, and some more garlic.

gallery_22892_4411_89597.jpg

Then the pot was settled into it’s place on the table and the fire started below. Is it just me, or does anyone else get nervous sitting around a pressurized canister of flammable gas that’s on fire beneath your legs?

gallery_22892_4411_152937.jpg

Java was becoming more comfortable with us once we started the order with beef tripe. Along with this we called in some udon noodles for Serena, enoki mushrooms, luohan bamboo shoots, pig throat, and Hang Ding’s housebrand meatballs, and their house beef (which Java said was particularly tender).

The hot sauce is reasonably well loaded with chilis in the oil, the broth worked up from pig bones. The milder side is very mild, and very good, a fish and mushroom broth. We load some of the enokis in there, and let them get going.

On the yang side, Java washes the tripe in the sauce, and then hands it out to each of us to dip into our own sauces before eating.

gallery_22892_4411_112183.jpg

While working the tripe, we add in some of the bamboo to give it time to cook while we’re busy. Then we move on to the beef, which really is very tender, that buttery consistency that they seem to do so well here.

The pig neck isn’t what I was expecting. It was pale pink/white sheets, but, cooked in the thickening sauce, it was excellent in both texture and taste, coming across very clean.

Java ordered some pumpkin pie. At this Serena got all excited.

gallery_22892_4411_54431.jpg

But “pumpkin pie” didn’t come as expected. What arrived were crisp fried pumpkin-flavoured glutinous rice cakes, that made a nice counter to the spices in the broth. (Serena still at them).

gallery_22892_4411_136743.jpg

We soldiered on, devouring the bamboo which had now cooked, and dropping in the meatballs into both sides. We were filling up, so I did what needed to be done.

gallery_22892_4411_183896.jpg

I ordered more food.

I wanted some lotus root, as I was getting hooked on that crisp, clean texture it has. And the shrimp dumplings were recommended.

And then there were the ox liver mushrooms.

gallery_22892_4411_137618.jpg

These really did look liverish. And not just any liver, but like the liver of a diseased, hepatitis victim who’d lived a hard life of alcohol abuse. These were great.

And once I bit into the first one that was cooked, I was back with an old friend. These were very similar to the desert truffles I’d been eating back home. I asked Java about them, and she told me that they were found after the rains, when they would crack the surface of the ground.

And, just like the desert truffles, they had a certain amount of earth still trapped in their folds that gave them a certain grittiness.

The shrimp dumplings weren’t as expected; stubby cigarillos of shrimp rolled in a blanket of wrapper. But they tasted equally good when buried in the chilis or done up in the ying.

gallery_22892_4411_111763.jpg

gallery_22892_4411_170114.jpg

All through this the sauces were thickening and developing their true natures; the ying becoming more comforting, and the yang getting angrier and more confrontational with our taste buds.

Java recommended the dessert, and a young lady came out nearby to prep the table. She sprinkled a bit of flour down, then took her dough and twirled it out in the air, developing it as you would a pizza. Then she attached it to the surface

gallery_22892_4411_1306.jpg

and then coated like a crepe and topped with pineapple before folding it all over and frying it on the nearby pan (sorry, I wish I had better stills. But the video is fun).

gallery_22892_4411_102458.jpg

What we got were very crisp, thin, sweet fritters. We managed a couple of pieces before the boy had his wicked way with them.

We were sated. The sauce was getting thick enough to stand a spoon up in it, and someone must have leaned over and made a mess of my setting when I wasn’t looking.

Dinner in hand, we headed up the street.

A Night At The Opera

Our venue was the Shu Feng Ya Yun Teahouse, home of (you got it) the Shu Feng Ya Yun Operatic Circle. They’re one of the largest of the Sichuan groups operating, with an (interrupted) history going back over a hundred years. Okay, that sounds better than “early part of the 20th century” but still, it’s older than I am (although considerably livelier).

gallery_22892_4411_38650.jpg

After having seen the video and camera police in action in Beijing, I’d assumed that it wouldn’t be allowed to do any shooting at the theater.

“Why wouldn’t you?” queried Java. “You’ve bought tickets. Of course you can take pictures.”

So take pictures we did, along with the smattering of tourists in the place (although it was not overwhelmed with Westerners – a lot of the crowd seemed Japanese).

This was fun for a voyeur like me. The dressing room was open to the public, and we were welcome to take shots as they developed their makeup and got their costumes ready.

gallery_22892_4411_174997.jpg

Being a teahouse, we had tea. The tea is the classical pour, delivered in a jet from a short distance. I’d seen this before in Korea, at a place called “Feel Like Throwing The Flowers” in Insadong, and was impressed by the accuracy with which they could hit the teacup. The same for here (although I did put my notebook and camera safely to the side). I’d watched a young lady earlier in the day on Jinma Lane practicing her draws and back pours (I was only admiring her technical form, I swear), and I appreciated better now her practice in what she’d been doing.

Service was excellent, not only the tea pouring, but if you were cold they had housecoats for you to wear, and if you were aching a bit,

gallery_22892_4411_82628.jpg

then you could take in a massage as you watched. This was also my first exposure to the ear cleaning phenomenon. Yoonhi considered this, and then reconsidered once she saw the collection of hardware that was used.

The show was fun, and the kids enjoyed it as well as us. Where Beijing is about large, heavily choreographed “shows”, this was vaudeville. A bit of this, a bit of that. We got a bit of music, an acrobatic precision tea pouring drill

gallery_22892_4411_191208.jpg

some opera proper - which appeared to be the Chinese equivalent of The Fighting Sullivans, a mother seeing her sons all go off to war with the Mongols.

gallery_22892_4411_155074.jpg

I like the subversiveness of much of the Opera. With a lot of the roots in the Qing Dynasty, with the Manchu in charge, the Han took every chance they could to tell stories of the valiant Han fighting the riffraff from the periphery – the Mongols or Wei making good proxies for the Manchurians.

And so more music, excellent shadow puppets, the Chinese equivalent of a Honeymooners skit (but a lot more flexible than Jackie Gleason), and, what we’d really come to see, the Masks.

I’d seen the classic film The King of Masks, and one of my prior business trips in Beijing had included a show that had a piece by a Sichuanese mask artist. I was impressed then, but here the finale given over to it, and it was impressive.

They’ll run through a series of quick changes with their masks, changing in an instant with a slight distraction of a fan in hand or a burst of flame. But then they would come into the audience and change just as they’d shake your hand. And at the end they would go to bare face, then quickly convert back to a mask.

Now that’s entertainment.

This was one of our longest days so far. All of us were tired, but we were still looking forward to the next day.

Next: Shu' 'nuff

Link to comment
Share on other sites

gallery_22892_4411_175424.jpg

And the pickles were well worth a taste test.  I wonder what that green stuff is back there?

It looks like pickled green beans, chopped up. They're amazingly good. Here's an example (at right, obviously) from a Sichuan restaurant in LA:

sichuan3appsweb.jpg

And here's what they look like stir-fried with ground pork (homemade -- recipe and discussion here):

pickledbeansporkweb.jpg

Edited by jmsaul (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

gallery_22892_4411_175424.jpg

And the pickles were well worth a taste test.  I wonder what that green stuff is back there?

It looks like pickled green beans, chopped up. They're amazingly good. Here's an example (at right, obviously) from a Sichuan restaurant in LA:

sichuan3appsweb.jpg

This is the great part of getting this stuff posted. I get answers! Thanks very much for this!

And Kitchen Chick's article was good to read. She touches in something in a parallel thread Peppercorns in that the peppercorns outside of China never taste as numbing.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

looks like it..

forget the name for them. But they see far more everyday use in Hunan cuisine. That dish you just posted in particular is a very famous hunan dish, not sichuan. Typical home-style food. But every hunan restaurant in China will offer it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Day 10 – Part 1– The Martial Marquis (A great name for a rapper)

So, here we were in the heart of Shu. We’d been in Wei territory earlier, and Wu was still to come.

I’ve already mentioned that Scud and I are big fans of the Three Kingdoms, and of Zhuge Liang in particular, so I won’t belabour that point….

Yes I will! This place was great. It had all the major characters in the bigger-than-life-size mode, everybody with a plaque and an explanation of who they were. Sure, there’s a sop to Liu Bei here (the old sandal maker), with claims to be his memorial, but (outside of people with the surname Liu) folks come here to admire the master of strategy. Plus, this place has a great exhibit, with detailed dioramas, comics, and virtual reality bits on the Battle of Red Cliffs……

Okay, I’ve got that under control again.

gallery_22892_4411_142665.jpg

Besides all the literary gushing, it is just plain pretty in parts. The gently curving red walls in ZL’s grounds are considered to form perhaps the most beautiful passageway in China.

I could rant about Zhuge Liang and his three psychopathic friends friends for ages. It’s probably my Korean bias. (As a note, there’s a lot of Hangul – Korean script – on everything here). This is supposed to be about food.

So…..Right next to the site is Jinli Street.

gallery_22892_4411_74689.jpg

Y’know, this should be a lot more touristy than it was. Maybe I just can’t spot the Chinese tourists well enough, but outside of a few Japanese, a crowd of Koreans, and us, there weren’t many others about that I could spot.

They did have a sign of rules posted with advised that “in order to build a civilized and harmonious tour environment and to improve the moral standards of both tourists and our citizens, please abide the following rules:”

These were all, basically, good advice. Don’t spit, dress properly. Keep silent (good luck). “Don’t chase or beat animals”. “Resist superstition”. No pornography.

And my favourite “Don’t force foreign tourists to take photos”. (Just wait ‘till we get to Shanghai)

Back to Jinmi Lane. It’s about food.

What do we find first? Noodles being hand pulled.

gallery_22892_4411_39404.jpg

gallery_22892_4411_75929.jpg

Then there’s the Zhang Fei jerky section, with all the different types of gift bags to buy. There was the Tour series, the gift series, the cartoon game series, the be-eaten-together-with-rice-or-bread-series, and the lie fallow series (which consisted of the following “breeds” Zhangfei beef, Zhangfei assorted beef, Zhangfei 9 flavour strip beef, Zhangfei tear beef, Zhangfei fruit beef grain, and Zhangfei beef series) A bag (for about a dollar or two) comes with an assortment of vacuum packed bits of soft, chewy, juicy jerky. We bought about a dozen bags (I’ll try to get a picture later if Scud hasn’t eaten them all).

gallery_22892_4411_50269.jpg

I grabbed a quick skewer of grilled duck hearts to keep me busy. I like duck hearts, that chewy, rich consistency.

gallery_22892_4411_71764.jpg

gallery_22892_4411_97678.jpg

And Serena and Scud looked for new experiences in ice cream (The sesame was quite good).

gallery_22892_4411_77114.jpg

And then were lots of things on sticks, but here they’re kept marinating in chili oil. Lots of organs and odd bits, but what I wanted were the lotus roots. I really am getting addicted to those.

gallery_22892_4411_158118.jpg

Stuff stuffed inside of bamboo shoots was neat. I hadn’t seen this since my Cambodian days (and I trusted this more). Eating something you can’t fully observe in Cambodia is never wise. Sort of like drinking Aswan Stout in Egypt. Who knows what body parts might be in there.

gallery_22892_4411_131061.jpg

For beer, I was drinking Blue Sword. It came out good and cold, reasonable head (although like many Chinese beers, no staying power), and clean bubble columns.

gallery_22892_4411_126711.jpg

There was some really pretty looking bean curd, piled high with toppings.

gallery_22892_4411_145791.jpg

And then there was the Seven Coloured Jewel corn. We asked Java about the seven colours part, as it just looked black to us, and she wasn’t sure. Not having a chromospectrometer with us, we just ate some. It was alright, but I must admit it doesn’t hold a candle to Chilliwack’s Jubilee.

gallery_22892_4411_49265.jpg

We wer sitting next to the Three Big Bombs stall. This was rice cake. Every time he would slam a new order down into the wok, the collection of metal plates would bang out the boom.

gallery_22892_4411_20524.jpg

I couldn’t help myself, and ordered the spicey intestines noodle

gallery_22892_4411_140477.jpg

as well as the soft tofu in a hot broth.

gallery_22892_4411_188397.jpg

Along with all of this, we were also eating some duck heads on a stick, and I had a big plastic bag made up of bits of a pig’s face (which unfortunately came out blurred in the shoot…oh, well).

And Java ordered some technicolour pineapple rice that snagged Serena’s attention right away.

gallery_22892_4411_62188.jpg

As a finisher (if there is such a thing around us), we ordered some of the crisp fried wheat cakes stuffed with beef. And that was a very tender slice of beef inside.

gallery_22892_4411_100227.jpg

So, after a filling meal of this, that, and the other….what to do?

After the Three Kingdoms, my next favourite Chinese book would have to be The Watermargin, the happy tale of 108 homocidal lunatics who, when not engaged in wanton (wonton?) slaughter, were eating huge amounts of meat and drinking jugs and pots of wine.

I’d always wondered about this, and I do have a fondness for wine houses.

Remember Kasden’s Silverado? Hailed as the return of the Western back in 1985? At one point, Kevin Kline is in Sang’s Saloon, and, in conversation with says “One of the things I really love is a good saloon.”

This had the makings of a good saloon.

gallery_22892_4411_69763.jpg

Unfortunately, time was limited (we had to go home and rest for dinner, after all). I settled for a trial of two wines.

My first choice was a Sichuan “Heroes’” wine.

gallery_22892_4411_148729.jpg

The second, for contrast, was a plum sol wine.

gallery_22892_4411_26905.jpg

Both of these were kept (as I’d hoped) in pots and jugs. The red sack on top was obviously there to protect against evil spirits.

The plum was quite nice, with a good sweetness to offset the high alcohol content. But the Heroes’ wine was obviously the evil spirit we were worried about, a solid proof, good for cleansing the palate or cleaning old paint off your driveway.

gallery_22892_4411_73324.jpg

However, in the interests of research I finished both. The white sort of grew on you (kind of like liver failure), and we worked our way through the cups of both.

gallery_22892_4411_33631.jpg

It’s not a bad way to pass some time. A couple of bowls of wine, some Zhang Fei beef, and idle conversation and puns. But all such happy moments must come to an end, and we needed to go shopping.

Next: “Copyright? What copyright?”

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There was some really pretty looking bean curd, piled high with toppings.

gallery_22892_4411_145791.jpg

Are those bean curds? It's interesting that on the Chinese label, it said "Leung Gou" [Cantonese] where it means "cool cake". I haven't see Chinese refering to tofu as cake before.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
Link to comment
Share on other sites

gallery_22892_4411_42628.jpg

We spotted some more manifestations of flubber, that gelatinous stuff we’d seen in Xi’an (or at least I think it might’ve been the same).  The brown stuff on the left sure looked a lot like the acorn jello of the Koreans.

Could these be Agar Agar? With color added? I cannot imagine what they are used for except desserts.

gallery_22892_4411_180533.jpg

While the eggs looked good, especially the packed and sealed ones (those odd misshapen things), I wasn’t cracked up to shell out for them (sorry).

When buying these Thousand Year eggs (the ones in the front), it's best to buy with with the brown stuff on them. These mud substance can keep the eggs from drying out. These days they sell Thousand Year eggs already cleaned up. The down side is the shelf-life is shorter. If you eat them right away, no problem. But after a while the egg inside dries up.

gallery_22892_4411_76691.jpg

There was a mix of what looked like gizzards from chicken and other parts from who knows what.

The basin on the left looks like beef tripes? The basin on the right, and the small one on the top look like some intestines? Chicken intestines?

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
Link to comment
Share on other sites

As we strolled through this, we came across one vendor selling extremely pretty candy, spun out like glass into crickets and butterflies.

gallery_22892_4411_27871.jpg

My brother and I used to buy those all the time when we were kids back in China. the Vendor would come around and with a spinning wheel with all 12 zodiacs on his wheel. You would pay him and then spin and which ever zodiac you would land on would be the shape of the candy he would mold for you. My brother would always get a dragon for some strange reason. Of course after we spun the candy we were never allowed to eat it because my grandmother didn't think it was clean enough to eat. :sad: Can you imagine a 3 year old with candy the size of her head and not to be able to eat it?? :blink:

gallery_22892_4411_127744.jpg

The tomatoes added some colour, as did the eggplants.  And the only eggplant I saw was this form.  There were none of the little pea sized aubergine, or the other varieties I’d been accustomed to in Laos.

Eggplants in China are normally in that shape. We also have white eggplants in the same shape. The eggplants I get in Wuhan are so fresh that the sellers are usually the same farmers that cut them off that morning to sell in the market. And most importantly, that only sell young eggplants about half the size of the ones we get in the US. My grandmother told me once in a US market that people in China would never buy the eggplants that we have here because they're so old and no longer tender.

gallery_22892_4411_193228.jpg

And piles and piles of green stuff.  I wonder what this was in the front middle?

The stuff in the middle is a vegetable indigeous to China. It's actually "lettuce."

The correct name is Lettuce Celuce. We actually buy it to consume the stalk. You have to peel it, cut it up and stir fry it or make a salad. It actually has a taste of a combo of lettuce and cucumber. You can definitely eat it raw. You can also eat the leaves but only if it's still young and tender, if it isn't then you want to cook it before eating it.

gallery_22892_4411_167580.jpg

There were piles of dried stuff.  More fungus, ginger.  I think those might be shallots in the front left, and I’m not certain about the stuff above the shallots, or the shredded orange stuff.

The thing that you're calling shallots is actually garlic. It's a single bulb garlic that is very convienent and garlicy. It's not mild like elephant garlic, it's definitely as strong as the regular garlic we get but it's just bigger and you don't have to peel as much. Easier cooking! :biggrin: And the dried stuff on top is dried bamboo. Not sure how to use it though.

The yellow stuff on the right of the ginger is what we call "Jing Ying Hua" or in english: dried lily bulbs. We use it in soups and stir fries. It has a tangy and woody flavor.

gallery_22892_4411_19482.jpg

And then there’s the really fun stuff.

These dried peppers are actually called "heaven peppers" and they're not as spicy as they look. Generally, you would see a ton of them in one dish but it won't be a firey as the little thin dried peppers. This pepper is a MUST in Sichuan and Hunan cooking.

gallery_22892_4411_175424.jpg

And the pickles were well worth a taste test.  I wonder what that green stuff is back there?

As someone else pointed out, those are picked long green beans. I love them! My grandmother (I think I should just have my grandmother post here instead of me :laugh: ) use to pickle her own. I remember going into her huge clay pot in the storage room and fishing strands of pickled green beans out. YUM! We usually cut it up and stir fry it with garlic, ginger, chilis and minced pork. Speaking of that, I have some in my fridge. I think I have to make some now.

gallery_22892_4411_180533.jpg

While the eggs looked good, especially the packed and sealed ones (those odd misshapen things), I wasn’t cracked up to shell out for them (sorry).

Those packed and sealed eggs are actually "Pi Dan" or thousand year old eggs or Salted duck eggs. That's how they use to sell them back about 20 years ago. They pack them in mud, straw and salt to preserve them. After you buy them home you take a knife and scrape it off to clean them off and cook them. I remember watching the elders do it when I was about 3 or 4. Sigh...those were the days. :wink:

gallery_22892_4411_187751.jpg

And right beside the offal the seafood started up.  These squid looked really good, and would’ve been wonderful stuffed with some of the minced pork and herbs we’d seen already seen, then cooked up with the Sichuan sauce…..I’m drooling again.

That looks like dried squid that has been reconstituted. It's very popular in in-land cities to sell them this way because you can't get fresh squid.

gallery_22892_4411_134344.jpg

And then we found the eel whacking lady.  Traditional eel preparation.  They’re taking live and wriggling from the bucket, given a solid whack on the head, and pinned to a board with a nail in it (one of mankinds most sophisticated weapons, Scud pointed out).  Then she guts it in an instant, and tosses the meat into the little pink basket. 

My family in China has this "tool" at home as well. We use to gut our own eel but now that labor is so cheap and competition is so fierce that they clean them for free now. But I remember the days when we use to kill our own chickens, ducks, frogs, and eels. But that's sooo old school now! :cool: Or at least that's what I have been told. :hmmm:

What do we find first?  Noodles being hand pulled.

gallery_22892_4411_39404.jpg

Are you sure they are noodles? They look like dragon beard candy dusted with peanut powder. A very traditional and extremely famous dessert in China.

Thank you so much for sharing your pictures with us! It's like a blast in time for me. So many fond memories were triggered looking at your wonderful pics. I hope we will see more. :wub:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There was some really pretty looking bean curd, piled high with toppings.

gallery_22892_4411_145791.jpg

Are those bean curds? It's interesting that on the Chinese label, it said "Leung Gou" [Cantonese] where it means "cool cake". I haven't see Chinese refering to tofu as cake before.

The Liang Gou is probably not made of tofu but rather the geletan stuff that they were selling in blocks in the market.

We generally eat them in savory sauces such as the one on top of the Liang Gou in the picture. In Wuhan we eat them in thick slices and we call them Liang Fun. Liang Fun will be mixed with garlic, spices, soy, vinegar, sesame oil, scallions, chilis and etc. and eaten like a noodle salad.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What do we find first?  Noodles being hand pulled.

gallery_22892_4411_39404.jpg

Are you sure they are noodles? They look like dragon beard candy dusted with peanut powder. A very traditional and extremely famous dessert in China.

Yeah. I agree. I missed the caption. Those are dragon beard candy ("lon so tong" in Cantonese), not noodles.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Chengdu looks awesome! I love those markets you're showing us! And thanks for showing us something about Chengdu Opera. I've seen Beijing Opera and excerpts of Cantonese Opera but have yet to see any part of any Chengdu Opera.

Peter, I think you're spoiling your children. :wink: What great stories they'll have to tell!

Michael aka "Pan"

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks, everyone, for the notes and details.

My plan'll be to rewrite all of this when it's complete, with the proper descriptions and corrections to this stuff.

That's assuming, of course, that I can stay focussed long enough.

Cheers,

Peter

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Day 10 – part 2 – Shopping

Digital centre is where we were, shopping for stuff.

Like reading Playboy for the articles, my defense is that we needed more batteries for the still camera and for the video. That was it! Honest. The other things just crawled into my hands.

Okay, so there we are hip deep in videos and PS2 games. What I found really fun was that a lot of the films had had their titles transcribed back into English from a Chinese title. For example:

Science Fiction Monster Beast: this was the last remake of King Kong

Monkeys in Outer Space: this one was Planet of the Apes

Violent Cop Movie: can’t quite recall, there’re so many

And the best....

Everybody Sinks But Japan: I can sort of remember a tsunami movie from a few years ago, but the title is the real draw here. In a country where Japan is generally reviled, this isn’t what I would expect to be a hot-selling title.

My favourite is still one where they mixed up the subtitles for the Gangs of New York with Piglet’s Big Adventure. I’ll leave that to your imaginations.

Disclaimer: I have no reason to believe any infringement of copyrights was involved.

In the afternoon we cleaned up a bit, and Scud and I checked out the famous swimming pool of the Yinhe Dynasty hotel. Approached through the gym, it was quite nice. Deep, and long enough to do respectable lap swimming in. The only shortcoming was a complete lack of water. The life guard (yes, they had a life guard at an empty pool) explained the situation to us by saying “no!”

Dinner was a mixed bag. One of Java’s friends was trying to do Sichuan in a more Western venue, a place called Susan Pizza Coffee. The food was good, no real complaints, but I like the crowded, yelling environments we’d been working with. (and they do have such a venue right next door to them they serve from the same kitchen)

gallery_22892_4411_9484.jpg

Here’s what we had:

gallery_22892_4411_63877.jpg

Fish flavoured cucumber, a little salty, so a nice enough nibble with beer.

gallery_22892_4411_86815.jpg

Then they brought out a tomato sauce fish, with a good tang to it. This had been flower cut and inverted deboned (is this the “squirrel tail” presentation I’d wondered about in Beijing?)

gallery_22892_4411_101479.jpg

We had some of what they called lemon sauce chicken, but which carried more than a hint of tangerine in it. I know a lot of Sichuan recipes I’ve looked at in my kitchen call for the use of dried tangerine peels, so perhaps that’s what I was tasting here.

gallery_22892_4411_150788.jpg

Sizzling beef is a traditional approach for Chengdu, the hot plate finalizing the cooking of the meat.

I found the hot and sour soup a disappointment. Neither exceptionally hot, nor sour, and not as packed with stuff as I’m used to.

gallery_22892_4411_61073.jpg

But the water boiled pork was very good, far too spicey for the rest of the table, and quite satisfying for me.

gallery_22892_4411_54726.jpg

And the beans were good, liberally coated in chilis, and with a texture of an old lady’s skin.

Not in the photos, we also had some fish flavoured eggplant, and a bottle of Green Sword which was completely lacking in bubbles.

Not a bad meal, I enjoyed the sauces, the fish was good, and the water cooked pork was excellent, but perhaps, when Java first talked of this place, I’d taken more the idea of a fusion restaurant. Of someone experimenting a bit with the ingredients and methods at hand.

And that’s one thing about Chengdu. There’s not a great variety in the food outside of the native cuisine (which has outstanding variety). When I talked to people in Beijing, Xi’an, Guilin, Shanghai, they’d all have their favourite foreign cuisines (in addition to Sichuan….everyone likes Sichuan). Korean is probably one of the top draws of “foreign food”, and Italian is always a safe bet. But in Sichuan, you eat Sichuan. There are a few Cantonese places about, but not many. Foreign restaurants? You’d better check out the hotels.

I talked with Java about this place a bit. My idea was that it would make a good place for informal cooking classes, seeing as the kitchen was fairly modern, and there was lots of room. Schedule things for the mornings when there’s no crowd, and it would be a good venue as well as an income generator.

But Java’s point was valid. At this time almost all the tourists in Chengdu are transient. They’re on their way to see Tibet, and papers for Tibet need to be secured at the office in Chengdu. There’s some panda trade, but they don’t generally keep Western tourists for more than a couple of nights, so we were a bit of an exception.

That’s okay, I’m full of stupid suggestions.

After dinner we dumped the kids and wandered a bit, taking in Tianfu Square with its Ying and Yang fish statues and the Divine Sun Bird, a motif that’s turned up in a recent archeologic dig at Jinsha, in Chengdu’s suburbs, a find that happened only due to construction work in 2001. These finds are linked to the older digs at Sanxingdui.

gallery_22892_4411_102775.jpg

The square’s being tarted up to serve as the central underground station, still under construction. But in the evening it’s thronged with photo opps and people just sitting about talking. And killing time.

Sort of like us.

One thing we didn’t come across was a comfortable bar. Much of downtown Chengdu is karaoke or big time disco, so the two of us finished our perambulation, and headed back to the kids.

I stopped in the lobby bar to work on my machine for a bit over a cold bottle of Green Sword (this one with bubbles). As usual, my photos were a source of general entertainment for the staff, but I was surprised to find a general expression of disgust when I got to the scorpion pictures. I thought everything was fair game for the pot, but Sichuan seems to draw the line at bugs.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Peter,

I live in China and my local market, which I visit almost every day, is not so very different from the one you so excellently pictured and described, but I still enjoyed.

Your tale is getting closer to me. Here in Guangxi, we are geographically between Sichuan and Hunan to the west and north, but also Guangdong to the south. And the local food reflects these two very different influences.

The dishes in the last lot of pictures - Fish Flavoured Cucumber, Sizzling Beef etc, are available in almost every restaurant here. Water Boiled Pork is a bit unusual, though. Shui Zhu Niu Rou, Water Boiled Beef is much more common.

I know that you got to Guilin which is so near to me that the two cities are usually combined in terms of dialect and food style (Gui-Liu).

Can't wait to read what you think. And see the pictures. Thank you so much for all your entries.

One thing we didn’t come across was a comfortable bar.

Well, that's China (on the whole.)

Edited by liuzhou (log)

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is the great part of getting this stuff posted.  I get answers!  Thanks very much for this!

And Kitchen Chick's article was good to read.  She touches in something in a parallel thread Peppercorns in that the peppercorns outside of China never taste as numbing.

Happy to help!

I agree; the peppercorns we had in China, even in ground form, were much more intense than the ones we can get here. I had a powdered seasoning in a department store court in Zheng Zhou (I was with Kitchen Chick; I'm her husband) that made me think I was having a stroke or something. It was a completely unfamiliar sensation, and we've been cooking with Sichuan peppercorns for more than a decade. I just hadn't had any good ones up to that point.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Day 11 – Happy Time for Scuds

After another breakfast, which was abysmal, we made our arrangements.

The boy was in heaven. We weren't going to force him to come with us today.

We had reasonable internet in Chengdu, and Scud had done his part through the trip - hauling, toting, and being educated - so we gave him the day off. Gleefully he retreated into our room and took over the mac, assuring us he’d change out of his pyjamas later. We left instructions with him to use room service if he wanted, or to change and go across the street to get food, but it was kind of apparent that he and our Zhang Fei beef had a prior arrangement.

That left the three of us to meet up with Java to go out for lunch at the ugly auntie’s place.

Ma Po Du Fu

This is one of the dishes that I’d come to China for. During my years at UBC Yoonhi and I would occasionally splurge and go to the Red Leaf for mapo tofu. And I’ve been trying to do this properly at home the last couple of years (with very mixed results).

So, I was pumped. Yoonhi was excited. Serena was bored silly, but it was okay, we’d get her some soup.

gallery_22892_4411_35794.jpg

There are a bunch of these about town. We went to the one on Kehua Lu near the west gate of Sichuan University. Supposedly this is the oldest of the group, but I’ll accept to be corrected on this (what choice do I have?).

gallery_22892_4411_144628.jpg

We ordered water cook fish, which was numbingly satisfying, smashed peppercorn on the top, the fish wallowing in a sea of oil after they scraped out the chilis.

gallery_22892_4411_106109.jpg

And chicken soup with mushroom for the girl, along with another chicken soup noodle to fill her up.

gallery_22892_4411_106533.jpg

And, of course, mapo tofu

gallery_22892_4411_72524.jpg

gallery_22892_4411_107034.jpg

and a bottle of Pearl River draft beer (Jiang Zhu). Now, I ask you, what was the Pearl River doing up here? This turned out to be a Guangzhou brewery that was muscling into the area.

With great expectations, I had my first spoonful of the mapo tofu.

Something wasn’t right with the tofu.

I expressed this concern to Java. That’s when we found out that the restaurant serves a smaller dish, with less spice, for the “foreign crowd”.

I squawked in indignation. This wasn’t right, it was a travesty, an assault upon the rights of man. An abrogation of human destiny! I let loose a moment of Bourdainian outrage (Yoonhi covered Serena's ears lest they fall off).

I never learn my lesson. They brought out the regular serving, and it was huge. And redder. This was going to be a challenge to finish.

On my first trip to Florence, after Yoonhi and I had already finished two bottles of Chianti, I noisily insisted in the restaurant that I wanted a fiasco. It was a name I’d been enchanted by for years, and I was there in Italy to have a fiasco. The waiter tried to talk us out of this, but I wouldn’t listen. (I think there’s another thread on the go right now on obnoxious restaurant activity).

So, you see, I have a history of bad choices.

They brought out the real stuff.

gallery_22892_4411_205326.jpg

It was big, and it was mean. It had a burn that started aggressively enough, and then turned nasty on you the more you ate. I ordered a bottle of Golden Blue Sword, and held my ground, taking what punishment it could dish out.

gallery_22892_4411_24901.jpg

I was a broken man. I’d managed to put away about 2/3 of the bowl, but that was the limit. I consoled myself with a plate of vinegary fungus, which acted to cool my palate, and which had an interesting back twist that stung up in my nose. This was wild pepper fungus, a little pickling water and vinegar used, with smashed garlic to perk things up.

gallery_22892_4411_6993.jpg

That gave me a bit of a second wind, but after another few forays, I was done for. I tried another beer, but there was nothing left for me to give.

Tragic.

Next: The Big Night

Link to comment
Share on other sites

and a bottle of Pearl River draft beer (Jiang Zhu). Now, I ask you, what was the Pearl River doing up here? This turned out to be a Guangzhou brewery that was muscling into the area.

It's Zhujiang and is available all over China. Ten years ago, I drank it regularly in Hunan.

They are the third largest in China and are also now in Canada.

Their rather noisy website is here.

Edited by liuzhou (log)

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My apologies for missing out on posting.

We had some internet problems here in the Land of Sand, and then I did dinner for some friends.

Water cooked fish

Eggplant in a sauce of minced p**k

Mapo Tofu

Gung Bao Chicken

and mangoes that one of our friends just brought back from the P.I.

Life's so hard abroad

Peter

P.S. - I'll get the big night up tomorrow morning

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My apologies for missing out on posting.

Since I've been lurking this whole time, it's only fair to take the pause to mention that this a fabulous set of blog entries. I've been thoroughly enjoying the food porn, drooling over all the photos. Many thanks for sharing.

(Waiting with bated breath for the next installment...)

David aka "DCP"

Amateur protein denaturer, Maillard reaction experimenter, & gourmand-at-large

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My apologies for missing out on posting.

Since I've been lurking this whole time, it's only fair to take the pause to mention that this a fabulous set of blog entries. I've been thoroughly enjoying the food porn, drooling over all the photos. Many thanks for sharing.

(Waiting with bated breath for the next installment...)

"baited breath" Is that the result of eating small raw fish? (ducks and runs very far away... :biggrin:

"Commit random acts of senseless kindness"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...