i found myself on the other side of the world, reunited with Y for another wacky adventure through some remote areas in china. we ended up doing a fly-by tour of inner mongolia, ningxia and sichuan. the trip was a bit of a blur, and in my jet-lagged state, i’m kind of piecing things back together. bear with me while i try to clear out of my dazed and confused state . . .
visiting the pandas at the chengdu panda base was by far the highlight of my trip. i spent about 2 hours running through the reserve, ooo-ing and aahing at the cute and cuddly creatures. couldn’t get enough of them! for a RMB1,000 donation, a visitor could hug a one year old live panda in one’s arms and have her picture taken. i thought about doing so long and hard; ultimately, i decided against it — a decision that i still sorta regret. i guess i’ll have to go back one of these days.
afterwards we headed back into downtown chengdu, and ate a hot and spicy dinner at 外婆乡村菜 (roughly translates into Grandma’s Country Cooking restaurant) based on our cabbie’s recommendation. it turned out to be a mid-scale chain restaurant with 5-6 different locations. we ordered a few classic sichuanese dishes that were tasty — although i had to say a bit different from how my very authentic sichuan grandmother prepares them. so, for example, my grandmother makes her 粉蒸肉 （powder steamed pork) with pork ribs and taro and without chili peppers. the version we got at the restaurant ended up stewed in chilis, minus the taro, fashioned out of a very fatty pork belly, and accompanied with some pancakes for wrapping. hmmm . . .
we couldn’t find an available cab after dinner, and Y and i resigned ourselves to walking back to our hotel. on my way back, i came across a newly opened store selling sichuanese delicacies. they had spicy beef jerky, tea smoked duck, hot sauce, and most importantly, mouth numbing sichuanese peppercorns. you know, the kind that until recently was contraband in the US (the ban has since been lifted). [fuschia dunlop has got a whole chapter on the subject in her book Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper, which i found enjoyable]. i snagged a few bags to bring back with me, and am now toying with a recipe that incorporates the peppercorns. more hmm. . .
here’s what i did with some of the peppercorns:
sts pickled radishes
Grandma’s Country Cooking
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