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Nibbling Through China : Part II

…. After a long bus ride back to our base in Chengdu from the giant Buddha in Leshan, we were ready for a quiet spot to have dinner.  That can be hard to find in China, but we ended up enjoying a typical Chinese style meal in a gated courtyard tucked away from the noisy street.  The standout on our table was a salad – a julienned toss of smoked tofu, red pepper, cucumber and carrots in a vinegary dressing – really delicious.

Dragonfruit – lovely, delicious & very common in China!

The next day, our last in Chengdu, we had a traditional Chongqing hotpot lunch – when we walked into the restaurant our eyes burned from the sichuan pepper laced steam rising from the bubbling pots!  Chongqing is a city in southwestern China famous for it’s hot weather and spicy, spicy hotpots.  Mouths on fire, after lunch we headed to the lively People’s Park to relax in its famous and very old teahouse.  Then we caught our flight back to Beijing!

Some serious hotpot eaters. Look at all those fresh ingredients!

On Sunday morning Kate had us scheduled to attend a Malayasian brunch in the Hutong, the same place where we’d attended our cooking class the week before.  The brunch was prepared by a special Chinese Malaysian chef.  It was a wonderful event and we enjoyed talking to other Westerners about their experiences in the East.  Malaysian cuisine is truly delicious, fresh and unique – a great place to try it at home is the Banana Leaf on Arch St in Center City, Philadelphia (one of Kate’s favorite restaurants).

A plateful of Malaysian goodies!

After a visit to the Drum Tower and a little boat ride on Houhai Lake, we spent the afternoon wandering around the traditional narrow lanes and alleys, stopping to enjoy a couple of craft beers at Great Leap Brewing.  Founded two years ago by a man from Ohio, this brewery is an important fixture in China’s emerging craft beer scene. Later, at a trendy cocktail bar called Mao Mao Chong we played more pinochle while sipping Asian inspired artisinal cocktails, our favorite was called “Sichuan Mule” and its ingredients included sichuan pepper infused tequila and spicy mango syrup. Dinner that evening was at a sidewalk table at a seafood restaurant on Gui Jie – or Ghost Street – at night the street is just blocks and blocks of restaurants with a sea of red lanterns hanging from their eaves. The restaurants display what they are offering in fountains and tanks and I felt like I was in a pet market – lots of turtles, shellfish, snails, frogs, fish, crabs, etc.

Seafood in a restaurant on Gui Jie.

On Monday morning Kate made a western omelet frittata in her apartment which is quite a feat since Chinese homes don’t have ovens!  Then we were off for our last adventure – The Great Wall!  The wall did not disappoint, and after all the walking we were starving.  The kids took us to their favorite neighborhood restaurant, which is owned by Uyghurs, a Muslim minority of Turkic descent from Xinjiang, the northwestern-most province of China.  The food was great & very different.  I particularly enjoyed the fried nang bread and lamb. There was also a wide noodle dish, they translate them as “flour slices,” with a tomato-based sauce and the most traditional Xinjiang dish, “da pan ji,” or “big plate chicken” – a huge plate with one whole chopped up chicken, curried potatoes, carrots, peppers and noodles – the ultimate Chinese comfort food!
After a quick visit to Tian’anmen Square on Tuesday and one last lunch of traditional Chinese dishes we bid zaijian to China and headed to the airport for the long flight home…

With my husband, Herb, at dinner among the lanterns on Gui Jie.

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