Monday 14 April 2014

I miss cheese...

Day 14 - on a bus from Chengdu to Jiuzhaigou - 5631km traveled

Continuing my food theme, cheese isn't popular over here and it's the thing I'm craving right now as we wind our way up this dusty valley in northern Sichuan. We've been in China for a few days now and we've had some delicious food. We started off in Shanghai by stuffing ourselves at Beyond the Clouds—thanks Steven!—a Yunnan restaurant. For less than 200元 (about £20) we had a couple of large bottles of beer and probably enough food for four: soft tofu in a spicy sauce, aubergine in a sticky delicious sauce, beef with wild mushrooms, some kind of green vegetable, black wood ear mushrooms, and rice. That's fairly upmarket though: yesterday for lunch we had bowls of spicy pork Dan Dan Noodles at a hole in the wall for 7元 (70p) each. We've had delicious Sichuan spiced aubergines and some tasty peanut-like and—see the photo—curiously-shaped bean sprouts.
All this to say that there's no shortage of amazing food but—and I've noticed this even when traveling for extended periods closer to home—I can eat a lot of dinners out but sometimes you just want a  yoghurt or a cheese sandwich for lunch. And I find breakfast the toughest: I don't really want raw fish or pickled vegetables for breakfast. I don't even really want an English breakfast after a few days. I really just want a slice or two of toast and maybe a cup of tea.
Yesterday we went to the panda breeding centre and successfully boosted our average daily photo count by a fair margin. Despite being millions of years old as a species, pandas don't seem to be particularly effective breeders, particularly in captivity, so the centre has been doing a lot of work to improve the breeding program to help boost their numbers. Survival of babies is now close to 100% and released pandas are apparently doing well. Bringing it back to food again, pandas are also not particularly effective at digesting their daily diet: they were originally carnivorous and their digestive systems have not really evolved. As a result, they can only process about 20% of the bamboo they eat. This means they need to spend a lot of time eating!
Last night, trying to be efficient myself, I used hand signals to indicate we wanted a table for two. In China, they have a series of signals to represent 0 through 10. As they led us to a surprisingly large table and began setting places for 8, I suddenly realized that I had forgotten the details and used the wrong sign. Trying to correct myself just resulted in the drinks menu being brought so we had to fall back on pointing at relevant lines in our phrasebook. This meal was actually or most difficult ordering experience to date and, though I ordered a particular Sichuan chicken dish I knew, we ended up with chicken and chestnuts. I like chestnuts but have only had them roasted in small bags; it turns out you can only eat so many... they're filling!
By the way, I apologize for the lack of formatting and links. We can't access Blogger through the Great Firewall so are having to submit by email. This also means I'm showing as the author of Ruth's posts. Hopefully you can work it out.

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