China is famed for its cuisine, I’d imagine only India and Italy rival it for popularity worldwide. I personally couldn’t choose between the three! Of course, one of the best things about living in China was eating authentic Chinese food – at ridiculously cheap prices. At times it was hard to find things as a vegetarian, there were no menus stating what I could and couldn’t eat like I’m used to in the UK. We’re spoilt. I would usually reject any food that’s been in contact with meat but I couldn’t live by this rule in China. I’m sure I ate things cooked in meat stock – I picked at noodles that had been ordered with pork (despite me specifically asking the local to pass on my message to the chef for NO meat). Safe to say, it wasn’t always plain sailing…
Sichuan food has a reputation for its spice, they cook with the Sichuan pepper. This ingredient creates a weird numbing sensation. Sichuan food was great, perhaps the most disappointing meal was the hot pot. Everyone asked ‘have you tried the hot pot?’, they’re obviously very proud of it. In my opinion, it’s nothing special, our particular favourite dish was similar but much better – ‘Maocai’. You pick your own ingredients, normally different types of meat as well as vegs – of course I just went for veg and tofu, they had so many types of tofu. The chef then cooks the ingredients together in a big vat and pours on the spicy stock. It is delicious! I’m not sure the photo does it justice but you get an idea.
We had it a least twice a week, it was becoming an addiction. To feed the cravings we found a restaurant in London that offered Maocai but, sadly, they couldn’t confirm it was vegetarian. As tempted as I was I couldn’t use the ‘well I’ll starve otherwise!’ excuse this time. London is a bit different to a Chengdu suburb! I had to order another Sichuan dish – Mapo tofu. Also delicious to be fair.
If anyone plans to do a trip to China – don’t just visit Shanghai and Beijing, venture over to the west and try the incredible food from this region. I miss it everyday!