Today is Logan's birthday! HAPPY BIRTHDAY BEAR!
It's also Crystal's birthday, which makes me miss her even more than I already do. Pour some of your birthday cheer out for absent homies, please!
Chengdu is the capital of Sichuan Province and has a population of over 7 million people, so it's big. It's also full of teahouses and gardens and public parks stuffed with bonsai, and is THE place to go if you want to shovel down a large bowl of the region's famous mapo doufu (post coming up!) or Sichuan-style hotpots.
Though there were a couple of days when we were there that I wasn't able to make it too far from the hotel (being sick sucks) we did do a good bit of exploring. The gardens around town are perfect for a low-energy wander, and the tea... oh, the tea. I've discovered the extremely common tie guan yin oolong (铁观音), or Iron Goddess, is a favorite.
Possibly named after Rachel?
At the teahouses in the Chengdu People's Park, there are roaming ear-cleaner/masseuse guys who charge 25 yuan or so for a thorough reaming out of the ear. When in Chengdu...
This was an extremely odd feeling, especially when he put a puff of fuzz on a skewer way down in my ear canal and vibrated it with a tuning fork. And I thought my ears used to ring after Goldfinger shows in college!
I love river towns. Or mountain towns, lakeside towns...
There wasn't nearly as much streetfood as we'd seen in Zigong, but we did find one lady cooking up hot bowls of noodle soup.
I had to have some of her freshly made wontons.
The most fun we had dining out in Chengdu, though, was at a branch of the hotpot place called Yulin Chuanchuan Xiang (玉林串串香). It's a very easy place to eat for us folks who don't speak any Sichuanese - you get a hotpot, fill your tray with raw skewered meat and veg of all descriptions, cook in the hotpot (Sichuan fondue!) and then when it's time to pay the service staff count up your (hopefully picked clean) sticks.
We ordered a two-sided hotpot. One side was super spicy in the Sichuan style, with lots and lots of numbing sichuan peppercorns, ginger, and chile; the other contained a whole guinea hen and some goji berries and was very rich. It's nice to have the contrasting flavors.
The dipping sauce of chile and cilantro and peanut oil is worth the extra couple of yuan.
Where the difficulties begin to arise is in trying to choose which delicacies to grab from the back room! It sure would be nice to be literate. Mostly, we weren't quite sure which meat bits we were eating.
On my turn in the back, I was drawn to the veggies, especially the mushrooms and seaweed. Such pretty greens!
The perfect wintertime accompaniment to a hotpot (if you're off beer, of course) is warmed peanut milk. It had the consistency of a really good almond milk, with just a bit of peanut sweetness. I was afraid it would be like drinking thinned-out peanut butter; no. Yulin Chuanchuan Xiang keeps it warming up near the front in a crockpot full of water.
I hear we're getting a hotpot place in Austin. I have high hopes, but I'm thinking it won't quite be Yulin Chuanchuan Xiang.
Chengdu Street Scenes, to round this out:
We saw people wearing these sleeves everywhere we went in China. Often they were coordinated to the day's outfit. Also, I'm not sure why they post the newspapers.
Traditional dress; rarer and rarer.
Just when you thought it was safe to relax... MAO!
Next up: MAPO DOUFU! And Pandas! Not together!