A fresh market in Beijing.

A fresh market in Beijing.

I didn’t expect to fall in love with China, but that is what happened. I’ve just spent a week on business in Beijing, with a side trip to the city of Chengdu, and I was won over by everything, from the universally kind and gracious people who welcomed me, to those more anonymous people – on the subway, the street, in a cab, at the massage clinic – who kindly answered my questions, to the popsicle vendor who carefully counted out the change I owed him (yes, I felt like one of the “ancient ones”).

Beijing, with its 14 million people, is a cauldron of sights, cars and every other contraption on wheels, markets, food stalls, streets so wide you can hardly see the other side, and monuments and buildings so enormous they swallow up everything you previously knew. The air is thick as mud but, but…it also smells enticingly of food, all the time and everywhere.

 

Tianaman Square

Tianaman Square

And what food!  From the fanciest dinner at Green Jade restaurant where chubby little river shrimp with a light soy sauce competed for my favorite with a light and delicate soup of pine mushroom, to the sautéed lamb slices (prepared at my street-side table by a young woman named Sara and her coterie of waitress colleagues), cauliflower with fat slices of browned garlic, and shaved ice smothered with vanilla syrup and sweet red beans, barely cooked spinach rolled in little logs and bathed with a richly flavored sesame sauce, every taste was thrilling.

Preparing my dish street-side (because she was darling and I seemed helpless!).

Preparing my dish street-side (because she was darling and I seemed helpless!).

On my last evening, I had a snack in my hutong (a hutong is a neighborhood, and I was right in the center of an old one of single story grey buildings, narrow winding street punctuated with bicycles, armchairs, tables where families had their meals, and tiny restaurants of every type) of jellied rice seasoned with cilantro, onions, and a deeply delicious  vinegary soy sauce spiked with hot pepper.  It was everything – light, fresh, satisfying, exciting…

In Chengdu I enjoyed the most amazing and crispy sweet, deep-fried eel, And Lion Head Soup, which is a bath of tongue-tingling pepper oil with the most delicate, flat fillets of river fish and bean sprouts floating in it.  You extract the fish and the bean sprouts from the oil, negotiate the bones, and float to heaven on the flavor and the texture!

Sweet, deep-fried eel

Sweet, deep-fried eel

There was so much more, of course, but let me stop so you can enjoy a few more photos!

Aperitif, Beijing street style.

Aperitif, Beijing street style.

 

Spinach "rolls" with seasame sauce.

Spinach “rolls” with seasame sauce.

 

Greens with dried dates.

Greens with dried dates.

 

Sara, a waitress and college student....my favorite!

Sara, a waitress and college student….my favorite!

 

 

At the market

At the market

 

Red bean and vanilla shaved ice (was amazingly delicious and refreshing, typical to Beijing)

Red bean and vanilla shaved ice (was amazingly delicious and refreshing, typical to Beijing)

 

Cooling off at the tea house terrace in the garden of the Forbidden City

Cooling off at the tea house terrace in the garden of the Forbidden City

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3 Responses to Some Tastes of China

  1. What a fabulous looking trip. The red bean and vanilla shaved ice looks interesting… to say the least.

  2. Dory Herrmann says:

    What a grand trip, full of surprises. China,as it is now , is such a mystery. The food looked incredibly good. I,too, vote for the red been shaved ice although eel also looked delicious.

  3. Ann Meads says:

    What a fabulous experience

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