Food, food, glorious food.
Food, outside of tourist restaurants, is wonderful!
It's not at all like the typical Cantonese, heavy on the apricot-syrup,
glop we often get in the US either.
There are many different local cuisines in China, local dishes, as well
as local spices.
In the north, in Shandong province, fish is big. The province is
traversed by the Yellow River and borders the Yellow Sea. Local dishes
include herring, cuttlefish, eel, mandarin fish, trout, perch, and fish
no one I asked knew what they were.
This is a banquet in Jinan with some government officials. The menu
included other Shandong specialties: fried grasshoppers, friend cicada,
and fried grubs.
In China, especially in Shandong province, there is a custom of having
toasts thruout the meal. Oftentimes, they say "Gombai" which means
"Bottoms up!" It's not too bad to do that with the small beer glasses,
but rit's a killer with the Chinese White wine (ca. 180 proof
There is also a custom that more food is ordered than anyone can eat.
It's an insult to the host to finish all your food, since it implies he
didn't offer you enough. The food doesn't go to waste because everyone
assured me the leftovers were fed to pigs.
At another lunch with another gov't official. This time, it was in the
town of Wulian. The specialty was fried baby sparrows. We were informed
that you eat the middle part only.
The north of China makes noodles, while the south is rice country.
Noodles are made from wheat, and generally hand-cut. Noodle-making is
From start to finish, it takes about 20 minutes to
make and boil noodles for soup.
In Guilin, we went to a restaurant where Bill Clinton had eaten. Five
years ago, we also ate at a restaurant in Shanghai where he had eaten.
That restaurant served us Lion Meatballs which they claimed Clinton
raved about. We thought they were greasy, like all Shanghai food. I
Clinton liked this Yin-Yang soup for some inexplicable reason. It was
spinach and wheat gruel, or something equally as unappetizing. The
nifty part was it stayed separated all the way thru the bowl.
This was another pretty dish Clinton liked. It is sweet rice cakes. The
garnish is green jello, with cucumbers as the lotus leaves &
radishes as the lotus flowers.
Now this dish, I really liked! It is Chinese kale, with mushrooms,
garlic chives, and lotus bulbs sliced paper thin, all sauted in a thin,
clear broth. The plate is surrounded by mandarin orange slices and
walnuts. The arrangement is supposed to look like a flower, so
they placed red chilis at the ends of onion strands.
This restaurant was really "into" food presentation. They made another
dish that looked like a big-eyed koi, complete with fancy tail. The
head was a mushroom, the eyes were carved radishes, and the tail
was thin sliced salmon. Quite tasty.