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Chinese Noodle Joints


liuzhou
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NoodleNoodle.jpg.5dd6ffb19f91e880b211760

 

Everywhere around me are noodle places. When I go down town, I see even more. I find them interesting.

 

I am in the south of China where the preference is for rice noodles. In the north, wheat is more common. But that's not the only choice you have to make.

 

Here are a few noodle joints, all within ten minutes walk of my house. There are more (though some are still closed for the New Year holiday).

 

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This one specialises in not specialising. They are all rice noodles though.

 

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This one give more choice. You can have either rice noodles (粉 fěn) or wheat noodles (面 miàn), but again in a variety of styles

 

IMG_7055.jpg.d2981c8beadc4a4b5620d239db0

Beef Noodles

 

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Lamb or Mutton Noodles

 

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Guilin Rice Noodles

 

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Mushroom Noodles

 

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Donkey Noodles

 

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Horse Noodles

 

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Snail Noodles

 

Snail noodles is THE local dish. There are literally hundreds of shops selling this dish. More on this topic here.

 

More to come

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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I'll have a large order of mushroom noodles, to go please!  Thank you for sharing and I look forward to more Chinese noodling info, "from the horse's mouth"  (sorry, couldn't resist the bad pun).  PS I wonder how a computer translation would mishandle puns?  O.o

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Is there a significant difference between horse and donkey noodles, taste and texture wise?  Does the second balk at being chewed or stubbornly resist tenderness?

 

I would love to know more about (and see pictures of) snail noodles. I love escargot ... are those buttery, garlicky and reminiscent of those? Or are these tinier snails, more akin to periwinkle size, and swimming in soy sauce?

 

I am eagerly awaiting more noodle facts and pics from the heart and soul of your fascinating area, luizhou.

 

And, by the way, did Pig Face make a New Year's debut yet?

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On 20/02/2016 at 1:53 AM, Deryn said:

Is there a significant difference between horse and donkey noodles, taste and texture wise?  Does the second balk at being chewed or stubbornly resist tenderness?

 

I would love to know more about (and see pictures of) snail noodles. I love escargot ... are those buttery, garlicky and reminiscent of those? Or are these tinier snails, more akin to periwinkle size, and swimming in soy sauce?

 

I am eagerly awaiting more noodle facts and pics from the heart and soul of your fascinating area, luizhou.

 

And, by the way, did Pig Face make a New Year's debut yet?

 

Horse and donkey are similar in taste, but the donkey meat is more tender - melts in the mouth. It is, by a long shot,  my favourite.

 

The snail noodles dish, 螺蛳粉 luó sī fěn is rice noodles, chilli, dried tofu skin and pickled bamboo in a stock made by boiling snails and pig bones, stewed for ten hours with black cardamom, fennel seed, dried tangerine peel, cassia bark, cloves, pepper, bay leaf, licorice root, sand ginger, and star anise. The customer then adds coriander leaf, Chinese chives, more chilli etc to their particular taste.

There are not usually any actual snails served in the dish. The locals can't get enough of it, although many outsiders are put off by the strong scent of the bamboo. There is even a Facebook group page celebrating the dish.

 

Here is one version from my nearest shop.

 

luosifen1.JPG.457665cbaf5f6627df5a960563

 

And another

 

luosifen2.jpg.c3a19f272d146d69c76d815c0b

 

It is being unusually warm here right now, so Cameron Pig Face hasn't made her debut yet.

 

On 20/02/2016 at 3:15 AM, Lisa Shock said:

Do you have a place near you that makes the sliced/shaved noodles?

 

There was one very near that did 刀削 面 (dāo xuē miàn) or knife cut noodles, but the street in question has recently been pulled down for 'development'. They may have popped up elsewhere, but if so, I have yet to find them. There is, however, another shop slightly further away. Maybe 30 minutes walk. Worth it though.

Edited by liuzhou
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12 hours ago, Deryn said:

What, may I ask, is so obnoxious about the scent of pickled bamboo? Are there unusual ingredients used in the pickling process?

 

I don't know the answer to that one. It doesn't smell in the least obnoxious to me. But I've heard it said, often. In fact the subject came up at the banquet I had the other night and none of us could understand it. The pickling process is pretty standard.

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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Hello @liuzhou,  I have a question. Is it hard to accommodate vegetarians or pescatarians in your part of China?  From your posts, it seems meat-centric. But perhaps I am misinterpreting. I'm seriously considering adding a side trip to your part of China when I visit Vietnam later this year 

But I do strongly prefer vegetarian food, when available 

Just curious to know if this will present a problem in my trip planning. Thank you so much for sharing your wealth of knowledge. 

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8 hours ago, Deryn said:

love escargot ... are those buttery, garlicky and reminiscent of those? Or are these tinier snails, more akin to periwinkle size, and swimming in soy sauce?

 

Sorry, I forgot to answer this part of your question. The snails used are, I'd say, medium in size. They are river snails,, or rice paddy snails.Not buttery or garlicky, but equally delicious in another way. They are also often served in a chilli sauce.

 

Here are some being prepared in an old photo of a less than hygienic restaurant (long gone).

 

snails.jpg.e48f518c96d39572fff099a0e8b03

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2 hours ago, kbjesq said:

Hello @liuzhou,  I have a question. Is it hard to accommodate vegetarians or pescatarians in your part of China?  From your posts, it seems meat-centric. But perhaps I am misinterpreting. I'm seriously considering adding a side trip to your part of China when I visit Vietnam later this year 

But I do strongly prefer vegetarian food, when available 

Just curious to know if this will present a problem in my trip planning. Thank you so much for sharing your wealth of knowledge. 

 

I have written extensively on vegetarianism and veganism in this topic. Or there is a slightly revised version on my blog here.

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12 hours ago, Lisa Shock said:

Do you have a place near you that makes the sliced/shaved noodles?

 

Here is the one about half an hour away. It specialises in hand-pulled noodles and knife cut noodles. I preferred the other place, only because it had a more open kitchen and you got the theatre of watching them pulling the dough into strands and see them cut the knife cut noodles into the boiling water.

 

IMG_7105.jpg.ed28f5aa9c2d6373877761afc5a

 

These noodles and techniques are from the north and west of China, whereas I am in the south, so there aren't so many of these places, but this one is popular.

Edited by liuzhou
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Some more

 

IMG_7095.jpg.278b5394422f8ba8cee8c4baa77

This one is quite new and I've never been, but the picture shows the set-up in nearly all these noodle joints. There is a desk just inside the door on the left. Here you order and pay. You are then given a ticket which you present to the kitchen at the back. With a bit of luck, you will be given your noodles of choice, which you garnish to your satisfaction, then find a seat.The picture was taken in the mid-morning, after breakfast but before lunch. Hence the emptiness.

 

IMG_7103.jpg.78aa6588a170377abdbe112a21f

This is a very popular Guangzhou (Canton) style noodle emporium. Always busy. Not my favourite style of Chinese eating though.

 

IMG_7112.thumb.jpg.f9c13317acbddd9058662

This one has 老友分, or Old Friend's Noodles, a specialty of Nanning down the road. As with many Chinese dishes there is a story behind the name. In fact, there is usually a choice of different stories. But I’ve heard this story pretty consistently. It seems that some time ago there was a man who became sick and lost his appetite. His friends and doctors urged him to eat to keep up his strength to aid his recovery, but to no avail. Finally, one of his oldest friends, a chef, prepared him a bowl of noodles. As soon as he smelled the dish, he perked up, finished the lot and went on to make a full recovery. Or so they say.

 

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This is one of the oldest noodle joints in town. It does many different preparations.

 

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This is the most popular snail noodle place in the city centre. I took this picture at noon today. What you are seeing is the overspill from the restaurant. They only sell one dish.

 

IMG_7110.jpg.c88f1e5779981404754d5977715

Some places don't even have a restaurant as such. Real street food. I've eaten here - often. Delicious snail noodles.

 

Finally, for now, a couple of oddities.

 

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This is a Japanese-style ramen shop. The owner is Chinese but lived in Japan for some time. Very friendly man. He usually gives me free beer when I visit. Again a popular place.

 

and

 

56c94e157a410_VietnamRollNoodles.jpg.f75

Tucked away in a side alley, making it difficult to photograph, is a Vietnam Rolled Noodle place. Also very good.
 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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  • 2 weeks later...

At noon today, I came across this sign with an arrow pointing down a lane. It is interesting in that it is for a restaurant selling something I hadn't seen before.

 

IMG_7521.thumb.jpg.bafd0b9652bf3f4d7d271

 

From top to bottom it reads

 

猪脚粉  Pig's Foot Rice Noodles
牛腩粉  Beef Tenderloin Noodles
鸭肉粉  Duck Meat Noodles
云吞     Wontons
饺子     Jiaozi (Dumplings)

 

I don't recall seeing duck noodles before. I didn't investigate further as I'd just finished lunch - donkey noodles again! But I'll be trying out the duck soon.

 

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@liuzhou

 

What is not to love about duck noodles?  I will be anxiously awaiting your report.  I am picturing in my mind slices of rare duck breast but it is my understanding that rare meat is not the Chinese way. 

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1 minute ago, Anna N said:

@liuzhou

 

What is not to love about duck noodles?  I will be anxiously awaiting your report.  I am picturing in my mind slices of rare duck breast but it is my understanding that rare meat is not the Chinese way. 

 

Indeed. I find it a bit odd. Every supermarket and farmers' market has buckets of congealed pig or chicken blood for use in hot pots and soups, but show them a bit of rare meat and they recoil in horror. Although I have been served pink chicken and baffled the wait staff by rejecting it.

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  • 3 years later...

This is the 老友分 (lǎo yǒu fēn) or "Old Friend Noodles" dish mentioned in this post (3rd from top).

 

laoyoufen.thumb.jpg.18e1fd2d46347e2ee7a150070e5e5c92.jpg

 

It's rice noodles with tomato, pickled bamboo shoots,  chili,  fermented black  beans,  garlic, scallion, and of course pork.

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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On 2/20/2016 at 9:45 PM, liuzhou said:

 

I don't know the answer to that one. It doesn't smell in the least obnoxious to me. But I've heard it said, often. In fact the subject came up at the banquet I had the other night and none of us could understand it. The pickling process is pretty standard.

 

 

You will know better than I - but is there a difference between preserved vs pickled bamboo?

 

I local (and excellent!) Vietnamese place has one bowl which I simply cannot bring myself to try as the aroma is too off putting - it is a duck and preserved bamboo soup.  I can smell it from tables away.

 

No thank you.

 

Love noodle soups, this is great stuff!

 

 

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26 minutes ago, TicTac said:

 

You will know better than I - but is there a difference between preserved vs pickled bamboo?

 

I local (and excellent!) Vietnamese place has one bowl which I simply cannot bring myself to try as the aroma is too off putting - it is a duck and preserved bamboo soup.  I can smell it from tables away.

 

No thank you.

 

Love noodle soups, this is great stuff!

 

 

 

To know for sure, I'd really have to see the Vietnamese or Chinese names. Preserved bamboo is a blanket term - pickled bamboo is preserved, too.

 

I've seen bamboo shoots dried, salt fermented, vinegar pickled and more.

I'm guessing the smelly one is the vinegar one, as I know some people do dislike it, although I find it inoffensive.

 

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)

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  • 1 year later...

Last night (Beijing time) I was asked by @Tropicalseniorto start a topic covering China's noodles dishes. I apologised but explaned that that would be a never-ending task. There are thousands!

Later, thinking about it, I thought maybe I could just do Guangxi, where I live. So, this morning I sent out an SOS to all my friends on WeChat, China's equivalant of Facebook combined with Twitter and much more.
 

Quote

This may sound strange, but I’ve been asked to write about all the noodle dishes in China, but that would take the rest of this life and most of next, too! So, I thought maybe I could write about noodles dishes in Guangxi. Of course, I know every city has different special noodles. Liuzhou's 螺蛳粉 (luó sī fěn), Guilin's 桂林米粉 (guì lín mǐ fěn), Nanning's 老友粉 (lǎo yǒu fěn) etc. But I don’t know all the others. I guess I have friends in every part of Guangxi, so please tell me about your home town special noodles!


Within minutes I had this list. They are still coming. I have given the city where they are considered to be local.

武鸣榨粉 (wǔ míng zhà fěn)  pressed rice noodles from Wuming, Nanning
宾阳酸粉 (bīn yáng suān fěn) sour noodles from Binyang, Nanning
北海蟹仔粉 (běi hǎi xiè zǎi fěn) crab noodles from Beihai
北海猪脚粉 (běi hǎi zhū jiǎo fěn) pig foot noodles from Beihai
玉林牛腩粉 (yù lín niú nǎn fěn) beef tenderloin noodles from Yulin
玉林牛巴粉 (yù lín niú bā fěn) beef jerky noodles from Yulin
柳江三都镇烧鸭粉 (liǔ jiāng sān dū zhèn shāo yā fěn) duck noodles from Liujiang, Liuzhou

狗肉粉 (gǒu ròu fěn)dog meat noodles from Dongquan, Liuzhou
钦州猪脚粉 (qīn zhōu zhū jiǎo fěn) pig foot noodles from Qinzhou

 

You will notice both Beihai and Qinzhou are claiming pig foot noodles, but they are adjacent prefectures on the coastline of the Gulf of Tonkin near the border with Vietnam. Which one wins, I will leave for others to decide.

 

Untitled-1.thumb.jpg.d46c7afe7b8b0379ebea0f8074201d7c.jpg

There are other cities yet to come. I'll edit and update as and when.

 

Also many noodles dishes are not specific to one place.

 

A few of these I've never had, but I'm on the lookout.

 

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Thank you so much, but now I'm completely confused. Are all the pasta type dishes in China called noodle dishes? Do they use a lot of different types of pasta? Then there's always the inevitable question. Who made them first? The Italians or the Chinese. I have a hunch that the Chinese were making them long before the first Italians we're still trying to find the wolf.

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16 minutes ago, Tropicalsenior said:

Thank you so much, but now I'm completely confused. Are all the pasta type dishes in China called noodle dishes? Do they use a lot of different types of pasta? Then there's always the inevitable question. Who made them first? The Italians or the Chinese. I have a hunch that the Chinese were making them long before the first Italians we're still trying to find the wolf.

 

Most are called noodles, but there are exceptions. Someone, not so long ago, posted on another topic that noodles were the only type of 'pasta' in China, but soon shut up when I posted pictures of non-noodles pastas. I forget which topic.

Noodle/pasta certainly existed in China long before in Italy. These ossified noodles, found in China, are about 4,000 years old according to the boffins.

 

665782083_oldnoodles.jpg.6539916f95308541790c8f434ef6cc23.jpg
 

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Posted (edited)
On 8/11/2021 at 10:46 PM, Tropicalsenior said:

This recipe for Chinese hand-pulled noodles showed up in my email the other day. I'm just curious. Do very many people make their own noodles and have you ever made them?

 

Very, very few people make their own noodles. In fact, the only people I've met who do so are professional noodle makers, one of whom attempted to teach me about twenty years ago. I go with the majority in this. It is not worth the effort.

 

Why spend time and effort making something so difficult to get right, when you can buy them so easily for much less than it would cost you to make them, to say nothing of the hard work and the high probability of failure?

 

I buy my lamian (拉面 - lā miàn, pulled noodles) freshly made from a small restaurant near my home which makes them to order as you watch. They are from Lanzhou and serve the noodles in various dishes, but also sell them uncooked for you to take home.

I doubt very much anyone has successfully made them from that recipe you linked to. For a start, the flour here is different (usually lower in gluten), and a herbal alkali known as 蓬灰 (péng huī), erigeron acris  is added to the mix to make them more elastic. Only true masters can make the noodles without it; it takes years of practice.

 

I had a look at a few of the "Chinese" recipes listed below, too. They are awful; full of mistakes and false information. Hainanese chiken rice isn't Chinese; it's from Singapore. Kung pao isn't from Hunan; it's from Sichuan and the recipe is nothing like Kungpao (宫保- gōng bǎo) anyway! Those recipes are, at best, American restaurant dishes, but not good ones. Some of the comments are amusing, though. Especially one comment where the person substituted almost every ingredient in the recipe for something else then announced the recipe was garbage as it didn't taste good!

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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      December sees the arrival of what most westerners deem to be the standard mushroom – the button mushroom (小蘑菇 xiǎo mó gū). Unlike in the west where they are available year round, here they only appear when in season, which is now. The season is relatively short, so I get stuck in.
       

       
      The standard mushroom for the locals is the one known in the west by its Japanese name, shiitake. They are available year round in the dried form, but for much of the year as fresh mushrooms. Known in Chinese as 香菇 (xiāng gū), which literally means “tasty mushroom”, these meaty babies are used in many dishes ranging from stir fries to hot pots.
       

       
      Second most common are the many varieties of oyster mushroom. The name comes from the majority of the species’ supposed resemblance to oysters, but as we are about to see the resemblance ain’t necessarily so.
       

       
      The picture above is of the common oyster mushroom, but the local shops aren’t common, so they have a couple of other similar but different varieties.
       
      Pleurotus geesteranus, 秀珍菇 (xiù zhēn gū) (below) are a particularly delicate version of the oyster mushroom family and usually used in soups and hot pots.
       

       
      凤尾菇 (fèng wěi gū), literally “Phoenix tail mushroom”, is a more robust, meaty variety which is more suitable for stir frying.
       

       
      Another member of the pleurotus family bears little resemblance to its cousins and even less to an oyster. This is pleurotus eryngii, known variously as king oyster mushroom, king trumpet mushroom or French horn mushroom or, in Chinese 杏鲍菇 (xìng bào gū). It is considerably larger and has little flavour or aroma when raw. When cooked, it develops typical mushroom flavours. This is one for longer cooking in hot pots or stews.
       

       
      One of my favourites, certainly for appearance are the clusters of shimeji mushrooms. Sometimes known in English as “brown beech mushrooms’ and in Chinese as 真姬菇 zhēn jī gū or 玉皇菇 yù huáng gū, these mushrooms should not be eaten raw as they have an unpleasantly bitter taste. This, however, largely disappears when they are cooked. They are used in stir fries and with seafood. Also, they can be used in soups and stews. When cooked alone, shimeji mushrooms can be sautéed whole, including the stem or stalk. There is also a white variety which is sometimes called 白玉 菇 bái yù gū.
       

       

       
      Next up we have the needle mushrooms. Known in Japanese as enoki, these are tiny headed, long stemmed mushrooms which come in two varieties – gold (金針菇 jīn zhēn gū) and silver (银针菇 yín zhēn gū)). They are very delicate, both in appearance and taste, and are usually added to hot pots.
       

       

       
      Then we have these fellows – tea tree mushrooms (茶树菇 chá shù gū). These I like. They take a bit of cooking as the stems are quite tough, so they are mainly used in stews and soups. But their meaty texture and distinct taste is excellent. These are also available dried.
       

       
      Then there are the delightfully named 鸡腿菇 jī tuǐ gū or “chicken leg mushrooms”. These are known in English as "shaggy ink caps". Only the very young, still white mushrooms are eaten, as mature specimens have a tendency to auto-deliquesce very rapidly, turning to black ‘ink’, hence the English name.
       

       
      Not in season now, but while I’m here, let me mention a couple of other mushrooms often found in the supermarkets. First, straw mushrooms (草菇 cǎo gū). Usually only found canned in western countries, they are available here fresh in the summer months. These are another favourite – usually braised with soy sauce – delicious! When out of season, they are also available canned here.
       

       
      Then there are the curiously named Pig Stomach Mushrooms (猪肚菇 zhū dù gū, Infundibulicybe gibba. These are another favourite. They make a lovely mushroom omelette. Also, a summer find.
       

       
      And finally, not a mushroom, but certainly a fungus and available fresh is the wood ear (木耳 mù ěr). It tastes of almost nothing, but is prized in Chinese cuisine for its crunchy texture. More usually sold dried, it is available fresh in the supermarkets now.
       

       
      Please note that where I have given Chinese names, these are the names most commonly around this part of China, but many variations do exist.
       
      Coming up next - the dried varieties available.
    • By liuzhou
      According to the 2010 census, there were officially 1,830,929 ethnic Koreans living in China and recognised as one of China’s 56 ethnic groups. The largest concentration is in Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, Jilin Province, in the north-east bordering - guess where – North Korea. They have been there for centuries. The actual number today is widely believed to be higher, with some 4 to 5 thousand recent refugees living there illegally.
       
      Anyway, what I have just taken delivery of is this Korean blood and glutinous rice sausage from Yanbian. I am an inveterate blood sausage fiend and always eager to try new examples from as many places as possible. I'll cook some tomorrow morning for breakfast and report back.
       

       

    • By liuzhou
      Note: This follows on from the Munching with the Miao topic.
       
      The three-hour journey north from Miao territory ended up taking four, as the driver missed a turning and we had to drive on to the next exit and go back. But our hosts waited for us at the expressway exit and lead us up a winding road to our destination - Buyang 10,000 mu tea plantation (布央万亩茶园 bù yāng wàn mǔ chá yuán) The 'mu' is  a Chinese measurement of area equal to 0.07 of a hectare, but the 10,000 figure is just another Chinese way of saying "very large".
       
      We were in Sanjiang Dong Autonomous County, where 57% of the inhabitants are Dong.
       
      The Dong people (also known as the Kam) are noted for their tea, love of glutinous rice and their carpentry and architecture. And their hospitality. They tend to live at the foot of mountains, unlike the Miao who live in the mid-levels.
       
      By the time we arrived, it was lunch time, but first we had to have a sip of the local tea. This lady did the preparation duty.
       

       

       
      This was what we call black tea, but the Chinese more sensibly call 'red tea'. There is something special about drinking tea when you can see the bush it grew on just outside the window!
       
      Then into lunch:
       

       

      Chicken Soup
       

      The ubiquitous Egg and Tomato
       

      Dried fish with soy beans and chilli peppers. Delicious.
       

      Stir fried lotus root
       

      Daikon Radish
       

      Rice Paddy Fish Deep Fried in Camellia Oil - wonderful with a smoky flavour, but they are not smoked.
       

      Out of Focus Corn and mixed vegetable
       

      Fried Beans
       

      Steamed Pumpkin
       

      Chicken
       

      Beef with Bitter Melon
       

      Glutinous (Sticky) Rice
       

      Oranges
       

      The juiciest pomelo ever. The area is known for the quality of its pomelos.
       
      After lunch we headed out to explore the tea plantation.
       

       

       

       

       
      Interspersed with the tea plants are these camellia trees, the seeds of which are used to make the Dong people's preferred cooking oil.
       

       
      As we climbed the terraces we could hear singing and then came across this group of women. They are the tea pickers. It isn't tea picking time, but they came out in their traditional costumes to welcome us with their call and response music. They do often sing when picking. They were clearly enjoying themselves.
       

       
      And here they are:
       
       
      After our serenade we headed off again, this time to the east and the most memorable meal of the trip. Coming soon.
       
       
    • By liuzhou
      Last week, Liuzhou government invited a number of diplomats from Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar/Burma, Poland, and Germany to visit the city and prefecture. They also invited me along. We spent Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday introducing the diplomats to the culture of the local ethnic groups and especially to their food culture.
       
      First off, we headed two hours north into the mountains of Rongshui Miao Autonomous County. The Miao people (苗族 miáo zú), who include the the Hmong, live in the mid-levels of mountains and are predominantly subsistence farmers. Our first port of call was the county town, also Rongshui (融水 róng shuǐ, literal meaning: Melt Water) where we were to have lunch. But before lunch we had to go meet some people and see their local crafts. These are people I know well from my frequent work trips to the area, but for the diplomats, it was all new.
       
      So, I had to wait for lunch, and I see no reason why you shouldn't either. Here are some of the people I live and work with.


       
      This lovely young woman is wearing the traditional costume of an unmarried girl. Many young women, including her, wear this every day, but most only on festive occasions.
       
      Her hat is made from silver (and is very heavy). Here is a closer look.
       

       
      Married women dispense with those gladrags and go for this look:
       

       
      As you can see she is weaving bamboo into a lantern cover.
       
      The men tend to go for this look, although I'm not sure that the Bluetooth earpiece for his cellphone is strictly traditional.
       

       
      The children don't get spared either
       

       
      This little girl is posing with the Malaysian Consul-General.
       
      After meeting these people we went on to visit a 芦笙 (lú shēng) workshop. The lusheng is a reed wind instrument and an important element in the Miao, Dong and Yao peoples' cultures.
       

       

       
      Then at last we headed to the restaurant, but as is their custom, in homes and restaurants, guests are barred from entering until they go through the ritual of the welcoming cup of home-brewed rice wine.
       


      The consular staff from Myanmar/Burma and Malaysia "unlock" the door.
       
      Then you have the ritual hand washing part.
       

       
      Having attended to your personal hygiene, but before  entering the dining room, there is one more ritual to go through. You arrive here and sit around this fire and wok full of some mysterious liquid on the boil.
       

       
      On a nearby table is this
       

       
      Puffed rice, soy beans, peanuts and scallion. These are ladled into bowls.
       

       
      with a little salt, and then drowned in the "tea" brewing in the wok.
       
      This is  油茶 (yóu chá) or Oil Tea. The tea is made from Tea Seed Oil which is made from the seeds of the camellia bush. This dish is used as a welcoming offering to guests in homes and restaurants. Proper etiquette suggests that three cups is a minimum, but they will keep refilling your cup until you stop drinking. First time I had it I really didn't like it, but I persevered and now look forward to it.
       

      L-R: Director of the Foreign Affairs Dept of Liuzhou government, consuls-general of Malaysia, Myanmar, Laos.
       
      Having partaken of the oil tea, finally we are allowed to enter the dining room, where two tables have been laid out for our use.
       

       
      Let the eating, finally, begin.
       
      In no particular order:
       

      Steamed corn, taro and sweet potato
       

      Bamboo Shoots
       

      Duck
       

      Banana leaf stuffed with sticky rice and mixed vegetables and steamed.
       

      Egg pancake with unidentified greenery
       

      Stir fried pork and beans
       

      Stir fried Chinese banana (Ensete lasiocarpum)
       

      Pig Ears
       

       
      This may not look like much, but was the star of the trip. Rice paddy fish, deep fried in camellia tree seed oil with wild mountain herbs. We ate this at every meal, cooked with slight variations, but never tired of it.
       

      Stir fried Greens
       
      Our meal was accompanied by the wait staff singing to us and serving home-made rice wine (sweetish and made from the local sticky rice).
       
       
       
       
      Everything we ate was grown or reared within half a kilometre of the restaurant and was all free-range, organic. And utterly delicious.
       
      Roll on dinner time.
       
      On the trip I was designated the unofficial official photographer and ended up taking 1227 photographs. I just got back last night and was busy today, so I will try to post the rest of the first day (and dinner) as soon as I can.
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