Rice, laid out on bamboo fiber drying pads.
Rice plant stalks, gathered for transformation into rice paper.
Bamboo being cut down to size. Its final destiny? Sticks of bamboo incense.
Sichuan mountains, in all their sunny green glory.
That’s a lot of bamboo….
Corn for the chickens, red banners for the ancestors.
The all-important hóng jiāo.
Taro (yù tou) crop.
Note the hóng jiāo drying on the roof.
A road guardian meant to protect travelers–I guess that’s us!
A quiet grave in a bamboo grove. Whenever possible, ancestors are buried near living relatives’ homes.
A Chinese village home.
Impromptu emergency housing for earthquake victims.
Amber and me, very sweaty victors over Wáng Shān.
Xīn Chǎng–(old) new market.
More Xīn Chǎng.
Offerings to ancestors, including “heavenly money”, written prayers, apples, and glasses of báijiǔ.
“Heavenly money” and faux silver, gifts for the ancestors for sale in Xīn Chǎng.
Whole-fried duck–probably more appealing when it’s not 90+ Fahrenheit out.
Pig’s blood stir fry, if you’re game.
While my best friend Amber was visiting me in China, we took a gamble.
Qingcheng Shān (Qingcheng Mountain) is a well-known tourist destination in these parts. A quick consultation with Dr. Google will provide a bevy of beautiful photographs. But when I called to set up a trip with Mr. Lee, a local English-speaking tour guide, he warned us of the crowded commercialism that would be Qingcheng Shān on a Sunday. He encouraged us to try a different mountain instead.
He painted a pretty picture of Wáng Shān (King Mountain)–bamboo forest at the top, authentic, un-commercialized villages on the descent–so we said yes to the mystery tour. But as soon as I hopped off the phone, doubt swept in. What had we just signed up for? Continue reading “Ritual & Rice”
With China’s emphasis on beauty of appearance, it’s always worth taking a look up whenever exploring any place new.
The essentials: A bowl for flavored cooling oil (so you don’t scorch your tongue on food fresh from the cooking oil), chopsticks, tea, and a napkin. This last item, you’ll need most of all.
Sichuan Food Groups: Tea, beer, and “hĕn là niúròu” (spiced beef wrapped around a whole red pepper, complete with seeds).
Note the fierce red of the outer rim of oil. Guess which one is the spicy stuff?
With beautifully decorated nooks like this one, you feel like you’re stepping back into ancient China.
Next trip–a splurge on the private dining room!
If ever you find yourself in Sichuan Province, China, hot pot is a must. In 2011, UNESCO named Chengdu (the capital city of Sichuan) a UNESCO City of Gastronomy, so you’re guaranteed to find some good grub, from the ubiquitous gōng bǎo jī dīng (Kung Pao Chicken) to hand-pulled noodles. But hot pot is a truly unique experience, and not just in terms of taste. (My first experience with hot pot actually had our cooking oil catch on fire at the table!)
Essentially fondue with boiling oil, the hot pot ritual begins when you order your choice of meats and veggies, ranging from meatballs and potato to goose intestines and lotus root. Then you dump your selection (raw at this point) into your choice of savory oil and/or spicy oil and let it simmer away.
Half the fun is in trying to dig your dinner back out of the oil once it’s finished cooking, with only the length of your chopsticks between your hand and a third degree burn. Continue reading “A Sichuan Necessity”