Sunday, April 15, 2007

Beijing: Food & Culture

The food was great, filling, and CHEAP! Of course, we had to try Peking duck! Another late night dinner brought us to a "famous Peking duck" restaurant near our hotel. The duck came beautifully roasted along with a bamboo steamer of thin rice wrappers, cucumbers, scallions, and sauce. Forget my craving for fajitas! This was it! We also had a rich milky broth made with the leftover duck not in our "fajitas". "Oishiiiiiiiiii!!!!" err, wait, wrong language... "Hung haochi!"

Another meal included rice cooked with almonds inside a pumpkin, pork dumplings, savory pea shoots, spicy pork wrapped in cabbage leaves, beef cooked with tea (?), banana pancakes for dessert, beer, and fresh-squeezed pear juice! (I think this was our most expensive meal, at almost $15/ person).

Our private tour guide had taken us to a few factories, including a jade factory, a cloisonne factory, and a tea house. The jade factory was a total joke, but we got a kick out of watching these people behind glass carving out jade with water jets and polishing them.

The cloisonne factory was pretty cool though- there was a huge workshop where artisans were applying the intricate "partitions" to vases, boxes, etc. and then hand painting them with tiny brushes. We ended up buying some cool gifts for family and friends.

The tea place was also really cool. I had no idea that the Chinese had their own version of the "tea ceremony"- although not nearly as time consuming and meticulous as the Japanese ceremony. We tried all these different kinds of tea, from ginger oolong to jasmine to this great blend of rose & lychee black tea. Apparently there's a whole art to the different temperatures that teas react to water and the type of pot and cup you should pour and drink from, etc.

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