Category Archives: Food + Recipes

Trying new fruit

I saw a bizarre red fruit in a street stall while going for a morning walk and I knew I had to try it. After some haggling I walked back to the hostel with it. The lady at reception informed me it’s a dragon fruit. I’d seen them in China but never eaten one before.

Dragon fruit
A very strange looking piece of fruit…

I cut it open and was instantly impressed with the incredibly rich colour. The deep purples, pinks and reds are visually quite impressive and foreign looking.

Sliced-open dragon fruit
Incredibly vivid colours

The idea is to scoop the flesh of the fruit out with a spoon. It tastes a bit like a less tangy kiwifruit. I really enjoy it, definitely a new contender for the favourite fruit category…

Sichuan cooking class and the streets of Chengdu 

I had a Sichuan cooking class today, I started off by wandering through the open produce market just around the corner and then launching into cooking two different dishes under the guidance of an experienced chef with an English translator.

Picture of chopped ingrediants
Tofu, pork, ginger, garlic, spring onions and what I was told are garlic shoots?

We began by prepping ingredients. We tried a piece of Sichuan pepper each as well. This stuff is amazing! Never had anything like it before. It makes your mouth tingle and water uncontrollably although it isn’t ‘spicy’ like chilli is.

Picture of completed sichuan dishes
The finished results. A little underwhelming really…

I think the class was really valuable as far as the techniques learnt go (working with insanely hot pans on gas namely). The food itself really wasn’t my thing though – velvet tofu with no texture and really fatty pork are ingredients that just don’t appeal to me, no matter how they’re cooked.

Street food stall in Chengdu
A typical street food stall in Chengdu.

Dinner was nice, more street food of the noodle variety. Saw an insanely loaded down three wheeler motorbike thing, which was a laugh too. I’ve never seen one in Australia. Providing they’re not illegal (they probably are) I’d definitely like to get one! That was until I almost got flattened by one that was careening around a corner tipping up on to two wheels, anyway…

PIcture of overloaded 3 wheeled vehicle in Chengdu
Looks very safe…

The main river looks beautiful at night. Having scouted the area out I got a nice loop for running figured out too, which is good – got to keep up the fitness while I’m on the road.

Picture of bridge over a river in central Chengdu
An astheticaly impressive bridge and also a good road crossing free running route.

It’s amazing how nowhere here is small though. From talking with Chinese friends I’d been given the impression that Guilin and Chengdu would be small rural areas. They certainly have more trees and some impressive natural features, but I wouldn’t call them small – certainly when you think about how much bigger they are than the capital city of Tasmania, back in Australia.

Craft, street food and Grocery confusion

I made it to Chengdu! Another relatively uneventful train trip and also a fairly easy-to-find hotel, which was nice. As soon as I got there I noticed they had a craft thing going on in the evening, I always sign up for any free things that the accomodations run so naturally I put my hand up.

Picture of chinese decoration being made by author
Check out those craft skills… Wasn’t at the top of my high school sewing class for nothing!

The hotel staff and onlookers had a big laugh when I signed up. I was in a class of 9 girls and one who spoke a bit of English explained that typically only women do sewing/craft stuff. Clearly China is a little more behind when it comes to gender roles etc. That being said, being in a class of entirely cute Chinese girls isn’t the worst thing that could happen really is it? Everyone was great and I had a fun time although I think the poor teacher barely coped. I was pretty hellbent on finishing quickly and efficiently (just how I do things) which resulted in her constantly telling me “slow, slow”, much to the amusement of everyone else in the class most of whom were spending more time watching me than actually making the decorations. This rather irritated some onlookers who’d laughed at me at the beginning, which I thought was quite amusing.

Picture of Chengdu style fried noodles
A $2 Aud dinner, lots of chilli but just bearable.

I then went out to find food. Chengdu food is notoriously spicy but I was determined to brave it and intentionally never learnt how to say ‘not spicy’ in mandarin. I had a rather spicy fried noodles dish. Cheap and cooked right in front of you, which I like.

Picture of alcahol section of a chinese grocery store
Cheap grog section, not quite what I was after…

Finally I dropped by a grocery store to get a big bottle of water. I like to get 5 litre bottles everywhere I go because it saves a little money. I was surprised at how expensive water was. It’s typically around $2 Aud for a 5 litre bottle and it was around $7. I couldn’t be bothered walking to another place as it was late and I was tired, so I was about to grab a bottle when I realised that it was vodka (alcohol is sold in standard markets in China, unlike Australia). Certainly could get very drunk for very cheap in Chengdu!!

Introduction to hotpot

My idea of hotpot is basically stew or casserole, so when Tim and Manuel wanted to go out for it on our last night in Shanghai I was initially not terribly impressed with the idea. That was until they explained what hotpot is over here in China.

Picture of Chinese Hotpot meal
Fresh ingrediants and a unique cooking method. Fun and very different to back home.

Hotpot is (as the name would imply) a hot pot of soup that is placed on a stove in the centre of the table. You then get plates of thinly sliced meats and vegetables along with bowls of sauces. You grab food with your chopsticks and cook it in the pot before eating the food with the various sauces. It’s a messy but really fun meal and definitely an experience I’ll remember!