Another day, another trip to the mountains. This time to 9-waters trail, so named because of the nine places along the hike where water springs from the ground to form a river or water fall. Today as we drove in we were in a larger group, about ten people. As you can guess, this meal would require more dishes and I was a little more on the ball this time so took some close-ups so that its easier to see the dishes.
We all piled into a big van driven by another local party official to get up to the main trailhead. Very nice of him to accomodate up and spend the whold day showing us around. One of the many people who extended their hospitality to make this suchy a pleasant trip.
This meal was served on a roof deck in a small village that contained many summer homes for local villagers mixed in with wealthy local businessmen, so all around us were mountains, cliffs, forests, and red rooftops. About 80 degrees with a nice cool breeze.
And now for the food – or almost all of it. A few more dishes brought out after I took this shot:
And here are close-ups of most of the dishes. The ones I didn't capture were the steamed bun and corn bread in the center, a delicious egg and greens dish on the left, a kind of seaweed salad in the center made from skinng brown seaweed, and in the far back scallion pancakes. In fact, just those dishes would be a ful meal for me, but Chinese hospitality demands more.
Chicken and tree-ear stew. Tree ear is a common type of fungus. Here it has soaked up some the broth from the chicken for a very tasty treat.
Whole deep fried fish. You eat the whole thing. About 4-5 inches long. Very crispy, meaty, and crunchy. Much to my surprise, the head was especially tasty. Soaked up a lot of oil. A pile of spicy/5-spice powder on the side for dipping the fish. Yum!
Dumplings – wild vegetable and pork. And braised pork belly – cooked and served in its own fat. Meat was soft from being immersed in fat. Fat was soft and creamy in chunks. What could be better? Well actually the pork belly the next day wa even better, but more on that in the next post.
Here is the inside of one dumpling. This is typical of the other dumplings I had on this trip - lots of chopped up greens sauteed with some pork and garlic for taste.
Left side is pickled mountain ginseng. Front is home-made firm tofu with soy/garlic dipping sauce. Tofu had a wonderful chewy texture and a flavor as good as any tofu I have ever had – imagine the flavor of store bought tofu and triple that, but not too intense. Almost a nutty taste. Just outstanding.
Left side is mountain greens with peanuts. Slightly salty and sautéed. Right are frozen mountain cherries. We saw these along the paths during our hike, so seem quite common in the area.
This dish is made from a seaweed that is harvested, and then cooked at a low heat to remove a sea-weed tasting gelatin that is then cooled and cut into blocks or slices. Its often served in the mountains of this area to cool people off after hiking. I normally don’t care for it as it can have a very potent dried fish taste. Others seemed to think it quite good.
I believe that this is Chinese broccoli served spicy – sautéed with garlic and peppers. Was quite wonderful.
Finally a stew made of cut up chicken. Outstanding intense chicken flavor. Note the chicken foot reaching out in lower left.
And how do you know that the WHOLE chicken was really used? (I love this picture!)
In this case, total meal cost was around 600 Yuan – about $100.
My mouth is watering again just looking at all of this, and it was in fact the next days meal that was the most delicious.
QING DAO - PART VI
Numbers are very important in China. Our hotel in Beijing had not floor 4, 13, or 14. So doesn’t that make floor 16 the real floor 13 you may ask? Apparently not.
Six is especially lucky, so the best meal of this trip has been saved for part number VI.
On this day we were accompanied by a new set of friends and visited a new side of the Lao Shan mountains. It was a lovely day as clouds keeping the day cooler with dramatic patterns in the sky.
Passing by Pomegranite trees and tea fields as we hiked up the path:
We started the day with a traditional Chinese tea ceremony at a house high on a hill looking over the valley. The Chinese tea ceremony is much different from the more familiar (to me at least) Japanese ceremony. It is more social, with guests seated around a table in familiar conversation as one person prepares various types of tea with traditional tools. I have more detail on this I could add to a later post, but for now just a view of the table and a single cup of red tea from Lao Shan region.
And looking out towards a lake and then the ocean from the house
My dear wife posing under a goard vind that runs up the path to the house. Vegetables grown all over these lots for use by the locals.
In this setting we went to a restaurant by the ocean where once again the available stock of seafood greeted us at the door – fish and vegetables:
Clams, Oysters, Sea Urchins, Shrimp:
A famous local clam. We ate these in a previous meal. See the long foot extending from some.
Sea cucumbers. We didn't eat any this time, but a nice shot. Waling around this room was like being in an aquarium.
The meal that came out of this was a perfect ending to this visit. Although not as extravagant as some, the quality of ingredients was unsurpassed. Preparations brought out new flavors and textures to dishes I had had before, starting with a Tofu soup. As with all dishes on this day, ocean water was used to salt and bring extra flavor to this dish.
Mushroom soup with rice noodles. Same eggplant colored mushrooms collected from the mountains that I had on a previous day. Also a very meaty firm white mushroom. One or two other types as well.
Egg dish almost an orange color in real life from the freshest eggs gathered every morning, mixed with scallions.
Pork Belly. Meatier than before, less oily, fat still firm for exceptional artery clogging. Large chunks of belly in around 1 inch cubes. Served in some salty/slightly sweet sauce that made the whole dish just amazing.
Whole fish steamed
The seaweed based gelatin as seen in last meal. Even I enjoyed this one.
Green beans with peppers and pork
Whole crabs. How to eat with chopsticks? You don’t use them. Tear it apart with your hands and suck out the meat. Very meaty crabs with bodies full of white meat.
Some sea vegetable. Looks a little hairy, but nice and chewy and fresh ocean taste
The pink meat here looks like pork but its really the supporting structure of a jellyfish. Jellyfish don’t have bones, so I can’t call it jellyfish bones, but that’s kind of what it is. I couldn’t get enough of this. Like a combination of thin sliced pork with fish. Served with Grilled cabbage.
What a meal. What a week. Can’t wait to go back.
One parting shot as we drove off
And advice from a Bhuddist temple:
And now – after all that – I thought I really needed to hit the gym. Ate myself stuffed every day, but turns out I actually lost a few pound from the trip. A combination of relatively few carbs and lots of hiking I’d guess. Fortunately United Airlines also did its best to help me on the way to losing the weight I thought I had gained. Here is the “Braised chicken with Oyster sauce and black mushrooms and Chinese vegetables” that they served me on the flight home. You know, "Chinese vegetables" like the mini corn!
Yeah right, that’s Chinese food. Now I know better.