Thursday, 1 May 2014

Chinese banquet(s)


Day 31 - Ulan Bator - 9431 km travelled

We're now in Mongolia, about to embark on a 5 day trip to do some horse riding across the Steppe. I'm somewhat nervous having not ridden a horse for 7 years. The last time was in Bolivia - to cut a long story short it was a fairly traumatic experience. But I'm also pretty excited as we'll be riding from ger to ger staying with local families.

But the main purpose of this post is to provide a culinary update. Beijing was a bit of a holiday within a holiday; we enjoyed a week of - mostly - amazing food and quite a few happy hour cocktails for 15-20 rmb (less than £2) including the biggest caipirinha I've ever had (see photo).

The highlights were the pizza, followed by a feast at The Drum and Gong, which is a rooftop restaurant in the Nanluoguxiang hutong. In China it was far too tempting to order too much and our meal here was no exception. We had disanxian (aubergine, potatoes and peppers), spicy ginger dry fried beef with veg and green beans with pork, all washed down with a few Beijing beers. The Chinese also tend to order far too much - the difference being that they just try a bit of everything and leave lots. I think Julian and I are too much of the 'waste not want not' school of thought (in other words we're a bit greedy) so we ate everything.

The next highlight was hand pulled thick noodles with a tasty broth and tender beef, in a sunny hidden courtyard - noodle bar 1949. There's some serious skill involved in making the noodles - they are all perfectly uniform and really long. Best noodles to date and trust me we've eaten a lot!

The next experience worth mentioning was dumplings at a heaving local restaurant. Now, I'm not the biggest dumpling fan, but Julian is and these were pretty tasty. Good job too because we ordered 30 of them plus two veggie main courses...all for under £10. If I return a stone heavier you know why!! The dumpling feast was going well even for me until I bit into what should have been a cabbage and peanut dumpling only to discover it was fatty unidentified meat. I don't recommend this place for veggies!

Of course it wouldn't have been a trip to Beijing if we hadn't had Peking duck so on our last night we splashed out on a meal at Da Dong, one of the best duck restaurants in the city. In our fleeces and walking trousers we were seriously underdressed!

We opted for an aubergine dish and  half a duck roasted to perfection and carved in front of you. My initial thought was it was never going to be enough food - particularly given we were getting accustomed to ordering enough for 4! But in fact we both left really full and it was the best duck I've ever had.

We'll keep you posted on how Mongolian food compares!

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