Monday, January 13, 2014

Mushrooms, Peppers, and Carrots


I wandered around a bit looking for a likely place to eat.  I love Chinese food, but it can be really frustrating when traveling alone-Chinese restaurants are so completely designed for groups.  Honestly, it seems a bit ridiculous to me that they can't make any sort of accommodation for solo diners, but that's just how it is.  At home I can order the usual meal for two or three, and then just take half if it home for leftovers for another meal, but while traveling... While I am complaining, when I travel I miss Hubei food; I understand now why most Chinese people prefer their own style of food, because I have come to feel the same way.  Food in other places often seems bland if you're used to spicy Wuhan cooking.  

But enough complaining about tourist food.  As I was saying, I was wandering in search of dinner.  I came across a couple of places like in the picture-rows of chefs lining the bar around the walls, each with a couple of specialties in front of them to be heated on the griddle. I took a stroll through and looked at all the offerings, as they all called out recommendations. 

After making a lap, I circled back to inquire about the things that looked most appetizing, giving the large fried insects on a stick a wide berth.  I stopped in front of a lady selling a mixture of mushrooms, peppers, and carrots-all three my favorites, so couldn't be too bad, right? She scooped a generous portion onto the griddle and heated it while adding spices.  While I was there, she also sold me chicken on a stick-although, in the typical Chinese group mentality, it came three sticks for ten yuan, when I really would just have bought one or two if it was up to me.  

I managed to balance it all on my arm while digging out some money, and then found a spot at one of the huge dark-stained wooden tables.  I cautiously speared a mushroom with the pronged toothpick-like utensil provided. I expected that it would be either bland and boring, or too spicy to eat. But I took a bite and my face lit up.  The spice was unusual; these vegetables didn't taste like anything in Wuhan, but they were wonderful. I wish I knew what spices she used; I would love to cook something like that.  And they were cooked just right...soft without being mushy.  They were so good that I came back the next night for more, and my one regret now that I have left Lijiang is that I didn't go back one more time. 

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