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China Food Myths


liuzhou
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8 hours ago, Katie Meadow said:

The comments are hilarious.

Thank you for this, it gave me my morning laugh. I am going to have to admit that when I lived in The States, my favorite appetizer in a Chinese restaurant was the Chinese BBQ pork (Char Siu), that neon red stuff that was always served with the Holy Trinity. It always came with red sauce, hot mustard and sesame seeds. Well, working in the restaurant business myself, if I wanted to know what something was or how it was made I always asked. The least they can do is tell you no. The answer really surprised me. The red stuff came right out of a ketchup bottle (no, I didn't know what ketchup tastes like, I never eat it), and the hot Chinese mustard was plain old Coleman's mustard powder mixed with water. The neon red comes from food coloring, lots of it. Now that I live in Costa Rica and can't get it here, I make my own and I know what it is supposed to taste like. It is delicious. I'm a little ashamed to admit it but I do still serve it with the Holy Trinity. I learned to like it that way.

I was surprised to learn that mustard powder is not sold in China because the best mustard powder that I can get here is the one that I find in the Chinese stores in our Chinatown. I did realize, though, that our best store here does not carry mustard powder.

It does show you how versatile the Chinese are. They dumb the food down to the taste of whatever country they are serving. Tico's cook their vegetables until they are absolute mush and it is hard to find a Chinese restaurant here that serves crisp vegetables. They also bring you a plate of white sandwich bread with your meal. I can't even begin to tell you what an abomination the fried rice is. It is just arroz con pollo (rice with chicken) with a Chinese slant.

Edited by Tropicalsenior (log)
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More than once, I've mentioned here that egg rolls are not Chinese. I was lying! Here are some genuine Chinese egg rolls I bought in my local supermarket about an hour ago.

 

20210221_113302.thumb.jpg.4bcbd37ec6a0474087e6b6733707a366.jpg

 

20210221_113519.thumb.jpg.ea7f3ef496b4e836d1e7aeca5989d309.jpg

 

Yes, they are biscuits/cookies! Dip them in your mustard, if you want!

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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8 minutes ago, Tropicalsenior said:

It looks like they are those horrible little things that the cheap restaurants stick in their ice cream ice cream to look oh, so, elegant.

 

Look like, but much, much sweeter.

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  • 1 month later...
Posted (edited)

16. Horsing Around With Eggs

 

I read this on the interwebs


"Thousand-year-old eggs, a Guangdong delicacy, are made from duck eggs coated with lime, ashes and mud and soaked in horse urine for 100 days until the yolks turns green and the whites become gelatinous and dark brown."


Horse urine? Horseshit more like!


a) They are not from Guangdong. Tradition has it that they were invented accidentally in Hunan, but no one really knows. They are avalable all over China.


b) No horse urine is involved in any way.

 

Known as 皮蛋 (Mandarin: pí dàn; Cantonese: pei4 daan6*2); hundred-year-old eggs, thousand-year-old eggs, millennium eggs, skin eggs, black eggs, etc, the eggs (duck or chicken- less often quail) are preserved by coating them in a mixture of alkaline mud, quicklime and rice chaff and leaving them to cure for weeks or even months. Horse urine is not alkaline, so wouldn't even work if some joker tried to use it.

The traditional method involves the mud, but in modern methods various chemicals are used to replicate the curing process. Neither method requires equine assistance.

 

665223892_MuddyPidan.thumb.jpg.622ea9d16892b9cbd0b76b23618261c1.jpg

 

There  is a also a version known as 松花蛋 (Mandarin: sōng huā dàn; Cantonese: cung4 faa1 daan6*2), songhua eggs, pine flower eggs or pine-patterned eggs. They are prepared in the same way but are considered superior.

 

pidan.thumb.jpg.51bc41c0af2fb58a11769e37730ffb83.jpg

Songhua Eggs

 

The eggs are eaten as is, often with a chilli dip or a soy and vinegar dip.

 

pidan2.thumb.jpg.1e9242fa70ab35edd4a75e5f7a2eba21.jpg

Pidan with chilli dip.

 

They are commonly used alongside lean pork in congee (even Pizza Hut does their version).

 

840125339_pizzahutpidancongee.thumb.jpg.84951deea79aa38855922f928f0fad43.jpg

Pizza Hut Pidan and Lean Pork Congee

 

They are often cut up and mixed with tofu in various dishes. They also appear in noodle soup dishes.

The eggs sometimes have a faint ammonia odour (which may be the source of the urine myth), but the taste is simply that of intense egginess. I like them a lot!

 

Here is a video which explains the science behind the eggs.
 

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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Posted (edited)

17. A Mixed Bag

 

The article which included the horse urine nonense above also went on as follows. I've put their claims in italics; my comments follow unitalicised.


1. Sparrows are a common food both in the street and as a snack at home.

 

No they aren't. Never seen any such thing.


2. Banquet specialities include cow's lung soaked in chili sauce, goose stomachs, fish lips with celery, goat's feet tendons in wheat noodles, shark's stomach soup, chicken-feet soup, monkey's head, ox forehead, turtle casserole, pigeon brain, deer ligament and snake venom, also lily bulb.


Some of these are common world-wide. Chicken-feet soup, for example. Some (marked in red) are extremely rare or mythical. It is well-known that sharks are de-finned then cruelly thrown back into the sea to die. They take their stomachs with them. Fish maw (float bladders) , usually from freshwater fish, are used in soups.

Snakes are eaten; their venom rarely if ever.

 

254120519_grasscarpwithfloatbladder.thumb.jpg.35215b90badba846502d7e2ea0adf9bf.jpg

Grass Carp with its Float Bladder

What is so surprising about lily bulb?


 3. Some people in China eat dirt as "famine food."


What? Drivel!


4. Huangshan Stone Frog is a speciality of the Anhui province.

 

Yes. So? Frogs of many varieties are eaten world-wide.


5. Interestingly, the Chinese considered many foods eaten by non-Chinese to be strange. They consider eating a plain cooked steak as primitive and unappetizing. Many regard eating cheese or butter as disgusting and find the French custom of eating snails to be strange.

 

Yes. But you might want to consider that if a food is popular in a country with a population of 1.5 billion, but 'strange' in a country with only 330 million, then maybe it is you who are strange!

 

And you should have stopped at cheese and butter (but see my comments on dairy above). Snails are extremely popular in China. Why  would they think France was strange?

 

1124524153_CookedSnails2.thumb.jpg.121c190abe3fa0247b2612e5a7a17a80.jpg

Chillied snails in my local market

 

These Jade snails below are imported from Africa at great expense and are considered a delicacy in China.

1832436292_JadeSnails.thumb.jpg.a69649ff2ca422bdc37e9d746fd387a5.jpg

 

"Don't believe anything you read on the internet" - Plato.

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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7 hours ago, liuzhou said:

Some people in China eat dirt as "famine food."

As I am certain you know, dirt/clay/non-food-item eating is a medical condition called pica. It is not something exclusive to any one peoples nor is it associated with famine. Perhaps this is where this myth originates. 

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2 minutes ago, Anna N said:

As I am certain you know, dirt/clay/non-food-item eating is a medical condition called pica. It is not something exclusive to any one peoples nor is it associated with famine. Perhaps this is where this myth originates. 

 

Could be, but it still seems an odd thing to list.

Montmorillonite clay is a common anti-diarrhoea treatment here. Useful after eating non-existent sparrows!

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The persistent myth I think for China is not eating uncooked vegetables because the fields are supposedly irrigated with "night water". 

 

The dirt thing brings on the strong visual of Scarlett O'Hara. I was 13 and thought she was eating dirt. The quote from the novel is:

“A spicy, sharp-tasting radish was exactly what her stomach craved. Hardly waiting to rub the dirt off on her skirt, she bit off half and swallowed it hastily. It was old and coarse and so peppery that tears started in her eyes.”

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14 minutes ago, heidih said:

The persistent myth I think for China is not eating uncooked vegetables because the fields are supposedly irrigated with "night water". 

 

What makes you think that is a myth?

 

Fields are most certainly irrigated and fertilised with 'night soil'. Chinese people wash vegetables thoroughly and still eat almost nothing raw for this very reason.

It's not that long since night soil was used in the USA and UK, too!

 

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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Thanks for setting me straight. I thought it was an older discontinued practice.based on no data - assumptions ya know how they bite one in the butt.

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Re: the century eggs, the closest I have come to that is eggs boiled in the hot sulfur springs in Japan (I forget the name of the place, but it's a day-trip from Tokyo). The water is so filled with minerals that runoff areas look like someone washed out a concrete mixer and dumped the water. Anyway, the springs are hot enough the eggs are boiled in them. The shells are black and pitted; the eggs themselves are not discolored, but have a salty taste that permeates them. Pretty dang good. Legend has it eating such an egg will extend your life by 7  years. I asked if I could eat two and get 14, but apparently it doesn't work like that.

 

Edited by kayb (log)
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Don't ask. Eat it.

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Posted (edited)
On 3/23/2021 at 3:45 AM, kayb said:

Re: the century eggs, the closest I have come to that is eggs boiled in the hot sulfur springs in Japan (I forget the name of the place, but it's a day-trip from Tokyo).

 

Ōwakudan Valley in Hakone.

 

Yes. I've been there and sampled one of the black eggs. Interesting and different. I believe it's now closed due to volcanic activity.

 

The eggs are called Kuro-tamago and are boiled unlike century eggs, which are just cured.

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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12 hours ago, liuzhou said:

 

Could be, but it still seems an odd thing to list.

Montmorillonite clay is a common anti-diarrhoea treatment here. Useful after eating non-existent sparrows!

 

Interesting. Kaolinite has been used for this in the past. I would think montmorillonite would swell too much.

It's almost never bad to feed someone.

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On 3/23/2021 at 11:35 AM, haresfur said:

 

Interesting. Kaolinite has been used for this in the past. I would think montmorillonite would swell too much.

 

I suppose it depends how much is used, but what do I know?

Edited by liuzhou (log)

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Posted (edited)

18. Monkeying Around

 

Quote

There are people who enjoy eating monkey's brain. It is served directly in the skull of a monkey that is still alive or where the cook has just killed it prior to serving. The simian brain begins to shut down a few minutes after the death of the animal giving it a bitter taste. The monkey is usually strapped down rendering it virtually immobile. Using the knife, the skull of the monkey is sliced. The top of the skull is cracked open further to allow easy access for the guest to start eating. The fresh brain is not very strong in flavour and tastes like tofu.

 

from an internet site I won't dignify by identfying it.

 

Or so the story goes, with various embelishments. I have several times read that the live monkey sits under the circular table and sticks its head through a hole in the centre to allow the diners access to the cranial delights on offer.


The main problem with the story is that it is utter BS. No one has ever satisfactorily photographed or filmed this practice - YouTube videos are obvious fakes. Any accounts are always third or (3,000th) person anecdotes.


Wikipedia unconvincingly suggests that the legend may have risen due to a mushroom known as 猴头菇 (hóu tóu gū - Hericium erinaceus), which means 'monkey head mushroom'. The mushroom is white when fresh but turns brown when dried - the most common way they are sold. Allegedly it looks like a monkey's brain. No! It vaguely looks like a monkey's intact, furry head - hence the name.

 

Lion's Head Mushroom.jpg

Fresh Monkey Head Mushroom

800px-Monkey_head_mushroom.jpg.39b5e8be7

Dried Monkey Head Mushroom

 

My main problem with that theory is that you would have to be brainless to confuse a mushroom with a brain!

 

My own theory is that when some westerners came to China they saw tables like this in many restaurants...

 

1820811961_hotpottable3.thumb.jpg.9080b3895cd6a76a48939471ac9c8ce8.jpg

 

... and some wag came up with the story to explain why the table has a hole in the centre.

Of course, the hole is to hold a burner for hot pots. These are disappearing rapidly as built-in induction stoves are taking their place.

The story spread as some sort of sick joke or, more often, racist anti-Chinese propoganda.

Note: Eating monkey is illegal in China and attracts a minimum 10 year sentence behind bars for both the restaurant owners and customers.

 

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14 hours ago, liuzhou said:

 

Ōwakudan Valley in Hakone.

 

Yes. I've been there and sampled one of the black eggs. Interesting and diffferent. I believe it's now closed due to volcanic activity.

 

The eggs are called Kuro-tamago and are boiled unlike century eggs, which are just cured.

Hakone. Thank you. I would have not ever remembered that.

 

So you snagged your extra seven years, too?

 

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4 minutes ago, kayb said:

Hakone. Thank you. I would have not ever remembered that.

 

So you snagged your extra seven years, too?

 

 

Yes, But I'm getting worried. It was eight years ago!

 

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13 hours ago, liuzhou said:

19. Monkeying Around

Sheesh, that writer has zero fact checking skills.  It was a middle eastern restaurant per the Faces of Death (completely staged and funny) scene.   

 

I find the mushroom relation hard to swallow as well a big hole in the table.  How would you keep it secured to bash it's skull?  Insert a cage?  Westerner's aren't smart enough to piece all that together.  🙈

That wasn't chicken

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well

 

as posted before

 

hee or there

 

its quite possible

 

that 

 

very very very fresh 

 

monkey  w its brains 

 

did appear at a banquet

 

a very very very very long time long time ago

 

not recently Id think

 

huffing

 

and Puffing  about it now

 

well , there it is.

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8 hours ago, Eatmywords said:

Sheesh, that writer has zero fact checking skills.  It was a middle eastern restaurant per the Faces of Death (completely staged and funny) scene.

 

The myth and its association to China predate any movie. The middle eastern restaurant scene was based on the China myth, not the other way round.

 

6 hours ago, rotuts said:

its quite possible that (the) very very very fresh monkey w its brains did appear at a banquet

a very very very very long time long time ago

 

There is no documented first-hand evidence. And China has documented everything for centuries.

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Posted (edited)

19. Did You Ever See A Fat Chinese?

 

1720468001_fatchinese.thumb.jpg.ffb24ce850b1d163ca1ba8e64dc76ece.jpg

 

This advertisement from the Rice Council of America in 1967 is one of the dumbest thing I've ever seen. The obvious answer to their offensive racial stereotyping is “Yes! Often!” Had these cretins never seen a picture of Chairman Mao?

 

But the myth that all Chinese are super-slim lingers on. It is utter nonsense. I read things like this

 

Quote

There are many cultures in this world that eat far tastier food than the average American / Canadian yet the people of that culture are generally healthy and not overweight. Japan, Thailand, China, Korea, France, Italy .


What?

 

Never seen a sumo wrestler? French and Italian people are generally not overweight?

But I’m here to talk about Chinese people.

 

Historically, but within living memory, people were generally slim, yes. Because they were starving!

 

Between 1959 and 1961, it is estimated that between 15 and 55 million people died from starvation, thanks to Mao's insanity. And it took many years after for the survivors and their offspring to avoid lesser hunger. Several of my friends, some only in their 20s, tell me they remember childhood as being hungry.  Yet, even then there were the overweight.

Today, official figures indicate that over 50% of Chinese people are overweight with 16.4% obese, as reported here. And the number is rising. I see this every day! The fattest person I’ve ever seen was Chinese. He was being wheeled around in a barrow as he was too overweight to walk. Almost ever day, I walk past one of the local hospitals with its large sign pointing to the weight control clinic.

I know many people here who are overweight. Not critically, but they certainly wouldn't be described as slim. And I know slim (usually women) friends who fret about their weight obsessively as everywhere else.

 

There is a general perception that this rise in weight is due to the introduction of American fast food as introduced by the likes of KFC and McDonald's, but I'm not so sure it's just that. While I've no doubt they play their part, many of the overweight people I know have never eaten that type of 'food'.

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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2 hours ago, liuzhou said:

Today, official figures indicate that over 50% of Chinese people are overweight with 16.4% obese, as reported here.

Thanks. I have often wondered about obesity in China but have never taken the time to look it up. Looking at various sites I see that the obesity rate in the US exceeds 40%. Quite a difference! (It is somewhat less in Canada.)

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      A local shopping mall. The correct pinyin (with tone markers) is 'dōng dū bǎi huò'.
       
      But pinyin's main use today is as the most popular input system for writing Chinese characters on computers and cell-phones. I use it in this way every day, as do most people. It is simpler and more accurate than older romanizations. I learned it in one afternoon.  I doubt anyone could have done that with Wade-Giles.
       
      Pinyin has been recognised for over 30 years as the official romanization by the International Standards Organization (ISO), the United Nations and, believe it or not, The United States of America, along with many others. Despite this recognition, old romanizations linger on, especially in America. Very few people in China know any other than pinyin. 四川 is  'sì chuān' in pinyin.
    • By liuzhou
      An eG member recently asked me by private message about mushrooms in China, so I thought I'd share some information here.

      This is what available in the markets and supermarkets in the winter months - i.e now. I'll update as the year goes by.
       
      FRESH FUNGI
       
      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.
       
       
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