Sunday, November 14, 2010

Adventures in Eating

It's been a while since I posted anything because I haven't done much cooking over the past month.  I have done some eating, however, so I want to share that with you.

We spent two weeks in China in October and it was an experience unlike any other.  Not only is China a beautiful country (and we have 3000 pictures to prove it), the people are incredibly friendly.  We were often approached by people who wanted to have their pictures taken with us - they love Westerners, I guess.  The places we visited were all different but had some things in common:  good food, beauty, cultural and historic sites, and crazy traffic!  We also discovered that, while tea is offered at meals, the beverage of choice seems to be beer at both lunch and dinner.  And no napkins.  And no ice.  I asked one of the guides about the ice thing and he told me cold was bad for the stomach.  Hmmm.  Finding ice got to be a bit of a scavenger hunt.  In Hong Kong, we went to a 7-11 so I could get a drink from a drink dispenser and have ice.  In Beijing, I asked our hostess at the hotel buffet if I could have some ice and she brought a whole glass - bliss!  In Guilin, the breakfast buffet had a little ice bucket by the OJ.  And in Shanghai, I requested ice at an Indian restaurant and the waiter brought an ice bucket and carefully added one cube at a time to my glass until I told him to stop.  Oh, and Bob found a Starbucks which was willing to put ice in my iced tea!  He's a hero.

So here are some shots:

In Hong Kong, I missed out on a seafood dinner, but Bob brought the best back to the hotel. This small lobster-like crustacean was superb!

These prawns were also on the seafood dinner menu and he saved some for me.  Excellent and so fresh.

This is a picture of jasmine.  The tea comes in a tightly rolled ball, which, when soaked in hot water, actually blooms.  We went to a tea house outside the grounds of the Summer Palace in Beijing and a lovely young woman went through an elaborate tea preparation and tasting ceremony.  I left with 6 different teas and a special clay teapot.  Some of the best tea I've ever had - fragrant, nuanced flavors, totally different from Lipton's!

One night we were taken to a restaurant which specializes in Peking duck.  The drive late at night past the Olympic buildings in Beijing and ending at an outdoor mall which could have been transplanted from any upscale community in America was a little surreal.  This restaurant, which is clearly on the tourist route, is huge and has a multi-item menu featuring virtually every part of the duck.  This particular dish was garnished with crispy scorpions!  And would you believe it - not a scorpion was left uneaten by our table of adventurous gourmands.  They were crispy but had no particular flavor.  I would have eaten more.

A slightly better shot of the actual little critter.

And evidence that I ate it!

Sometimes there were creative garnishes on the dishes - this is a lovely little swan made from a carrot.
In Guilin, we ordered (despite the server's concern) a beef dish with very spicy peppers.  Bob scarfed it down!

In the old town outside Guilin, these eggs were cooking in ash in the market area.  Didn't try one, but this is a traditional way of cooking eggs in this area.

The best dish of the trip - river crabs in ginger and scallion sauce.  Absolutely incredible!

Breakfast in the Western style hotels in which we stayed followed a pattern:  European breakfast food (salami, cheese, croissants, yogurt), American food (eggs to order, bacon, sausage, sometimes pancakes or waffles), Japanese (miso soup, vegetables, rice), and Chinese (congee, wonton soup with veggies, dim sum).  These little dumplings were served at the Swissotel in Beijing - some of the most creative we saw and all very tasty - if you could bear to eat a panda!

This was a little penguin, I think.

As I mentioned above, getting ice was an endeavor.  Here is my glass of ice water -  protected until every cube was gone!