Flavors of Chengdu

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April 19th 2011
Published: April 20th 2011
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It is said that you can learn a lot about a culture by the food that they eat. Well, after almost 10 days in Chengdu, I couldn’t agree more. The food here is colorful, spicy, and full of flavor. And when I think about it, the people and the culture are too. Now for those of you who know me, you understand I am quite a picky eater who doesn’t like spicy food. You may be wondering what on earth I have been eating in Sichuan province, an area known for its extremely spicy food. Well, lets just say that one of the first Mandarin phrases I memorized was “ Bu yao lae de,” which means no spice. Spice aside though, I have still been able to find some dishes that I really do like. My favorites so far include Gong Bao Ji Ding (Kung Pao Chicken) Qiao Mian (Chow Mein Noodles), and of course no meal would be complete without some Mi Fan (White Rice). Some of the other dishes I have enjoyed include a Chinese style Chicken Noodle Soup, a slightly spicy braised beef dish, and some veggie dumplings. I even stretched my culinary boundaries and attempted to eat some of Sichuan’s famous hot pot. I made it 2 bites before the spice overwhelmed me and my burning lips suggested that if I kept going, I would be having a fairly painful meeting with the porcelain throne. Beside the flavors of the food here, the presentation is phenomenal. Most dishes are extremely colorful and presented in a simple, yet visually enticing way. There is no fancy plating or avant-garde interpretations, just simple beautiful ingredients that makes for simple beautiful food. Some of the dishes I have enjoyed looking at, but not eating, include an entire fish in vegetables, spicy grilled green peppers, twice cooked pork, and Ma Po tofu. How does all of this food relate to the culture? Well, the traditional clothing in China is simple, but colorful like many of the dishes I have described, and listening to the locals converse in Mandarin gives a sense of the flavor and spice of the different tones used to communicate. I must say that when I arrived here I was apprehensive about what I would eat, and how I would survive a month without my usual foods and flavors. But, after nearly 2 weeks of opening my mind, and my mouth, I have found both the food ,and the culture, to be quite palatable. And hey, if all else fails and my culinary adventurousness is lacking, I know I can always count on the deliciously familiar flavors of a Big Mac and fries.

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20th April 2011

You sound wonderful and I am impressed with the food that you have eaten. I never yhought I would ever think of you as an adventurous eater!! Good for you. Much more exciting than the cardboard we are all eating. Miss you and look fwd to tasting some of these dishes at your home :)

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