Ritual & Rice

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”

A Sichuan Necessity

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”