Friday, June 15, 2012

Of the food of Nanjing;

Top L: super tender long noodles, Top R: pigeon egg, Middle: orange juice and our first round of dishes, Bottom: beef dish (tripe and other unknown cuts of meat)

After climbing to the top of the Purple Mountains with a group of friendly Chinese coworkers, they asked me if I would like to join them for dinner. That was an offer I couldn't turn down. They asked me what sort of Chinese food I liked, but all I had eaten in China was a few little noodle dishes, street food, and a feast of Peking duck. They all started throwing out ideas of where to go and they told me about their favorite restaurants in the city. They told me about Sichuanese food and they were surprised when I said I had never had hotpot (a big pot of spicy hot broth that you cook meat in at your table). They also told me about the differences between Shanghai and Nanjing cuisine. Eventually they decide on a place so we make our way down the the mountain, hop on some buses, and head across the city as they point out sites and tell me about life in Nanjing. It was awesome! They knew just where to go.

The girls having a little fun posing for photos on the way down the mountain.
I had no idea where they were even taking me, but they told me that they would help get me back to my hostel by the end of the night.
I'm not sure what the name of the restaurant was, but I got a picture of the front.
When we got to the restaurant they led us into the back where they had a private room prepared for the group of us. We all sit down around the table and my new Chinese friend Amy grabs the menu and starts order for all of us. I took a peek at the menu which had amazing photos of all these dishes for about $3-4USD each. Amy would just flip through the menu, page by page, telling the waitress which dishes we would have. She knew which dishes were best and ordered us up about 25 different ones.

The dish in front was the best thing I ate in China. It is a big bowl of broth with peppers, bean sprouts, a white fish, and an amazing spice which I think may have been Sichuan peppercorns. Eventually we picked out all the good stuff till the bowl was just full of hot peppers and broth. That isn't wine on the table. It was a sweet juice which I couldn't identify and no one knew the translation to English.
Crispy cauliflower and behind it is a dish of shrimp and peppers in broth.
As we ate our way through the dinner the waitress would take away the finished dishes and bring out even more to put on the table.
It was an amazing meal. Everything was so good. My Chinese hosts were excited for me to try the different foods. I would ask what some of the dishes were, but for many they didn't know how to translate it. Other times they would wait for me to eat it and then tell me that it was frog or something else Strange. I had so many new things. The pigeon eggs were super good. They were cooked in a dark sauce so the egg was entirely black with lots of flavor (with an odd pigeon aftertaste). I didn't like frog so much. It think it was frog hips. There were lots of chewy chunks of cartilage and bones. The rabbit was probably the spiciest thing I've ever had. Many of the dishes were packed full of red peppers. Some seemed like it was 70% made of peppers which you just pick around. With dishes like the rabbit, when we done picking out the meat, all that remained was a mound of peppers.

Lamb ribs.
The group of us after the meal. If you look closely you'll see that all that's left of the dishes are the mounds of inedible peppers.
It was so nice of all of them to show me around the city for the day and let me experience the best Chinese food I've ever had. And to top it all off, one of the guys covered the whole bill. Over my trip I've found that the Chinese people can be so friendly. I really enjoyed my time with them.

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