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 Everclear-like liquor).

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 an art.

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 digress.

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.