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Tibetan Villages

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Chinese Ethnic Minorities and Their Foods

Summer Volume: 2019 Issue: 26(2) pages: 21 to 22

Near Donba and Jianju, near Tibet too, we learn and taste foods from Tibet. Before that we stop to visit the Song An Temple. It looks as though covered in gold, but the roof is copper and shining in the sunlight. Yellow Buddhists live and work here. When we arrive they are in the fields or running errands, only one monk is here and near the entrance. He meets us in front and tells us twenty-four local tribes live nearby, most are Buddhists, and they worship here. They are from the ‘Value of Beauty’ area. After we look around, we go to the fish restaurant called Qiong Lai. It is on our way to but quite far from Chengdu. Our driver says we should eat there and try their Pig’s Feet Soup local-style. We love its many noodles, mine made with sweet potatoes as requested, my husband’s and all others are made with wheat flour. Every one’s is fantastic, some are stir-fried with sliced wild mushrooms and sliver of silver carp, red, yellow, and green piquant peppers, garlic slivers, and red carrot strips. There is also pork, wild mushrooms, beef, pickles, and greens that look like lettuce but it is celtuce cut in thin strips.

Later, we stop to have Shuangliu, a pig intestine soup similar to that had at the earlier place, but it is really not a soup, just more like a stew. Our driver makes sure we miss no special food on the way including some at a side-of-the-road dumpy places we would not otherwise know to try. The dishes there have oodles of noodles, chives, small pieces of cilantro and scallion, and a gorgeous view looking at the Four Girls Mountain. It is late October and the far-off mountain peaks are covered with snow he says is fresh from a week ago.

We did see them when we came out of a five mile tunnel, the longest seen so far in China. He says it is not the longest in China or elsewhere, and asks us if we are aware it is on the way to the Bailang Mountain and the Panda Research Station.

Then, we stop to purchase apples, figs, walnuts and other nuts, and some very dry pork as hard as nails. It is a local delicacy, spicy and very good though biting in is no easy task, it tastes like the local cement-brick houses we see. All are topped with red, black, and white designs, and corn drying on their flat roofs. The driver says the designs are Tibetan and that is how he knows who lives in them, the tall bunkers with slits on their sides seen before are Suopo Bunkers once used to fire at less friendly tribes causing havoc here. They are not used now.

Mostly focused on food, that night we stop for dinner getting some street food including pancakes filled with yak butter under coarse sugar and delicious yogurt. We have these and other Tibetan foods with milk tea loaded with more coarse sugar. The pancakes are filled with chopped potatoes, some with pickled pork called jia rong. Every one is fried in hot oil and with some of the corn we saw drying. He says that some of the corn is mixed with pork cracklings, sweet potato pieces, and highland barley.

The next day we meet Professor Zhao’s niece for lunch. Going in her Honda we are off to ‘Shujouxia.’ She calls it her and many others Number one special hot pot restaurant. She also says it is the first of many with that name. There, she orders a special hotpot sauce with two and not nine sections telling us the other one might be too piquant for us. While there, she cooks most of my meats and organ meats. They are among the dozens she orders. As to the sauce, she is probably right as this one burns all the way down.

This dipping sauce is special, made before our eyes first using a sealed can of special sesame oil, about half cup of it. This beauty of a place, open since the early 2000s, uses one can as the base of the other ingredients at every table. Special it is, and they gave us one to take home; still have not opened it. In truth the sauce is superb. Some of us do spill and need an apron replacement more than once. No one there seems to mind; we are glad they are not caring about the laundry we make for them during the more than two hours we indulge as did our clothes.

After lunch, we get to see their kitchens, cleanest places of any ever. Here, their hot pot is unique, so was the citrus beverage we had before; it was to clear our palates, and was made with yogurt, soy milk, or both. It did coat all flavors from earlier meals, and prepared us for this huge one. No dinner this night, we are too full.

This restaurant serves beautiful presentations. For instance the beef stomach, string beans split the long way, konbu leaves, lotus root circles, sweet potato slices, enoki mushrooms, rabbit, goose, fresh or roasted, goose intestine strips, and some thirty other meat and vegetable offerings each is a picture, even the coagulated pork blood, lamb pieces, bacon, beef, and on and on. After we polish off every meat served and cooked for me, each of us is are handed a plate with five different fruits, most cut in triangles, each juicy and very ripe. Loved every one of them!

Every food comes plated like a picture. One is better looking than the one before it. There are outstanding, a yellow tofu made with egg yolk, and (See the pictures below on this page of the corn drying on the roofs and the designs painted on their homes.)

On TV we get to see their ‘‘Big Story’ about a long bridge and tunnel complex traversing four man-made islands and four tunnels built in thirty-three sections, not a robot used to do so. Modeled on many seen by its engineer Lin Ming and chief designer Meng Li and their crews. We were told that this marvel can be seen on CGTV’s “America CGTV Big Story’. This magnificent bridge and tunnel complex was made to connect Hong Kong to China with stops along the way. We had never heard of it but now know of its existence. The next day we stop on Restaurant Street in Chengdu and had delicious Diced Rabbit with Orange Peel, also stir-fried Sea Cucumber with Piquant Peppers, Mapo Doufu, Zhoa Dumplings in an egg sauce, and many other dishes, one better than the next. This place is across the street from a ferry we take in the morning to see a huge statue of a sitting Buddha there.

The next day we also eat at the Deng Quiang Restaurant in Leshan after the short boat ride to see that sitting Buddha. We all adored all we ate including more corn and doufu in the Jin Hotel, and Xiba Tofu, the softest, silkiest, and most succulent tofu ever with barley tea grown by local Yi people called shu jiu xiang. Visit here if you have the chance, they surely know how to make great Chinese food.


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