I am a big fan of Chinese street food. In every city in China, hundreds of vendors sell snacks on the street, from a cart or from a small booth or table. Some of them are licensed, and some are illegal: you can tell the difference when the 城管 (Chinese city police who enforce street vendor licenses) arrive. The legal vendors remain cool, but the illegal ones pack up their gear in seconds and run off. But in either case, you can find some seriously delicious street food all over China.
Salmon and dill; pizza and beer; sushi and green tea; Laurel and Hardy: what do these all have in common? They are all perfect matches, perfect pairings. Well, in the Western culinary world, almost nothing pairs quite as divinely as wine and cheese. There is just something about the sharp, tangy complexity of each, the smooth, luscious richness, that draws wine and cheese together like Romeo and Juliet. But unlike the fate of those two lovers, pairing wine and cheese ends happily.
In my native Louisiana, when the weather begins to turn get cold, people start to say that it’s gumbo weather. Gumbo is the perfect warm, spicy, nourishing stew for the cold. Well in China, gumbo weather means hotpot weather! Hotpot is a creation of Sichuan province, a province known for its excruciatingly spicy food and love of meat. Hotpot is also popular in Mongolia, where it is even more meat-heavy than in Sichuan. So when the weather in Kunming turned cold this week, I knew that it was time for a hotpot night.
Ah, chocolate, that ancient aphrodisiac and portal to the spiritual realm, that soother of beasts, seductress of women, and killer of dogs. Where would be be without it? Chocolate has been used by human beings for over a thousand years, and probably even earlier. Originating in the Americas, chocolate was perfected and revered by the ancient Maya, especially as ritual drinks in religious rites.
*Note: my friend and I took a trip around Yunnan Province for four days, focusing on food and adventure. It was an incredible trip in so many ways. I hope that this four-part series of articles about the trip delights and enchants you as much as the trip did me. Before you read this, Part Four, you may want to catch up by reading Part One, Part Two, and Part Three. This is the last part in the series.
On the fourth and last day of our food tour of Yunnan, we returned from Shaxi back to Dali in a small van. The van was much less crowded on this journey, so we were able to actually sit down and relax, and contemplate the trip, as vast expanses of Chinese mountains and farmland rolled past the windows. It was slightly overcast and drizzling — perfect weather for pondering food, love, and life.