Most of my meals have been in Peter Hall. I was thoroughly enjoying the food until I learned that in this region of China, they thicken sauces with wheat instead of the cornstarch or arrowroot I’d expected. My ankles were as big as my knees by the time I figured this out.
One student had told me to say “booyah mein”. I found out later that essentially means “I don’t like noodles.” Not liking noodles and getting sick when I eat wheat/gluten are very different things. The note below tells folks I can’t have wheat, MSG, or soy sauce. I outlined the characters for wheat and MSG in the event that folks got so blown away by seeing soy sauce on there that they forgot the others.
After discovering that Peter Hall thickened with wheat, I began augmenting my diet of bok choy and rice with boiled eggs I pilfer from the breakfast buffet and fruit.
Dragonfruit is freaking amazing. The ones cut open at the supermarket are as deep fushia inside as they are outside, but the one I got was white inside. I saw some at the restaurant tonight that were also white, so perhaps there are different varieties. There are lots of seeds inside, and the texture is reminiscent of kiwi fruit. You just slice it open and scoop it out with a spoon.
I don’t know why I forgot that star fruit are supposed to be yellow. I got so excited when the students said they’d never had one that I just took one. It was incredibly tart, so of course they didn’t like it. I finished it for breakfast with peanut butter. The other fruits are called mipolo, I was told. They’re not from this region, so they were significantly more than the other fruit out and were wrapped up in a container. When I opened the wrap, I wondered if I’d made a terrible mistake. They smell a bit of Valerian- which smells like feet. Not pleasant. They’re a rubbery sort of texture, and you tear them open and get out the seed inside. Once you get past the smell and texture, the taste is actually quite nice. It’s definitely a tropical fruit flavor that tastes like a milder version of papaya with a hint of mango thrown in.
This is a desert dish at one of the little spots on European street. Yams with caramel sauce, the menu said. Sugar sauce is more like it- it comes out with the sugar still stringing. We were given a little metal bowl of water to dip the bits in to cool the sugar down so it didn’t peel off the inside of our mouths. That gets the sugar to dry in all sorts of fun spikey shapes. Yams are one of my favorites anyway, but having crunchy caramely projections be part of the fun made them that much more fabulous.
Meals are served family style, and everyone gets a small bowl of rice at their setting. People take a bit from the communal dish, dab it on the rice, then eat it up. Gloria had brought forks for us when we arranged to meet here. I’ve been happy to show off my mad stick skillzzzz.
Spotted in the fruit tray in Peter Hall. I don’t think I have enough peanut butter in my cute little pot for that thing.
Had 100 year eggs for the first time last night. “You tried that?” Jason asked, “That’s really an acquired taste.”
Tell me about it. The eggs are preserved and so the white takes on a gelatinous quality. I tried going at it with my chopsticks, but decided it was a bad idea, so I got my spoon instead. I slurped up the first quarter. My mouth didn’t know what to think. The flavor was so completely different that I really had no idea what to do. I must have made one of those faces that babies make when they try new foods because Gloria and Grace started laughing really hard and began to move the dish away. My dad taught me to try everything twice, so I went ahead and got a second quarter. The texture is so unusual- or at least it is when you think of it being an egg in your mouth, but I liked the aftertaste. Huh. If I like the aftertaste, there must be something there. So used to thinking something is okay or maybe even good at first, but wincing and stomping at the aftertaste. If the aftertaste is good, I must like it. So I tried one more quarter. Yup. I definitely like it. I don’t know if this restaurant prepares them in a particular way or if it’ll be easy to find, but I do hope to have those again.
When I tell people that I can’t eat wheat, MSG or soy sauce, the first suggestion they have for me is hot pot. “Then you can put in only what you like” they assure me. There’s a hot pot restaurant right next to the administration building. I hadn’t even realized this building was full of restaurants. Looking at the picture now, I’m sure the sign says something like “delicious eats inside”.
We climbed the stairs once inside, and came into this round restaurant decorated with purple and red. Loving it already. They showed us to our own little room with our own air conditioner. Totally enamored now. The table has little hot plates installed at each place setting, and each person gets their own pot.
You also get a small plate, small bowl and spoon and a bowl of sesame sauce.
You dip food into the boiling broth to cook it, then put a little sesame sauce on your plate and eat it with that. Or you can let things stew around in there longer. I didn’t touch the tripe. I’ve had it prepared in 5 different kitchens—Hungarian, Spanish, Mexican, Southern, and Chinese—and never once liked it, so I’m done trying it. J doesn’t like mushrooms, so I was really happy they’d ordered 2 kinds—I take every opportunity to eat them when he’s not around.
We went to another place tonight where they had little boats floating around with things you could put into it.
The spigot is there at the table so you can fill your pot back up when its boiled down. “They say hot pot gives you beautiful skin,” Sean told us, “do you believe it?” You certainly get a good steam facial. Though I wasn’t impressed with the broth at this place, they did have lots of things you could put in your sesame sauce—peanuts, coriander, and several different chili & sesame pastes. They had seafood, so I got some squid and little scuttlefish to go in mine. Sorry I didn’t take more pics. I’ll have to go back and add them in later. They also had lots of different greens. I was taking large greens and making little lettuce wraps with them. Sean was so surprised by it, he asked me to make him one. Sean is the reason there is a Men’s Academy for the Future of Women. He saw the difference the World Academy for the Future of Women was making in the female students that went through it, and stayed on Jerrie until she relented and started a Men’s Academy. Recruitment for facilitators for the Men’s Academy has been much more difficult. The young men that joined have personal reasons for being committed to the 8 UN Millenium Goals, and are eager for role models in Service Leadership and Transformational Leadership. Though China is dominating the manufacturing scene and moving more and more deeply into the world market, the leadership and working environments leave much to be desired. We’ve all heard stories. The stories I’ve heard here are positively Dickensonian.
But back to hot pot. I think the restaurant we went to tonight is the “cafeteria” the students were telling me I’d like. I insisted that cafeterias don’t have good food. “But you can get whatever you like” they insisted. “But I don’t like any cafeteria food.” I said. “Besides, I need to go to places that make it when I order so they’ don’t put wheat or MSG in it.” That’s when they told me that there were little dishes floating around and you could get whatever you wanted. I realized that when they say “cafeteria”, they don’t mean what we mean when we say “cafeteria”. I like being able to pick up what you want to eat as you go instead of ordering everything from the beginning. There were also smaller portions of everything, so you can try more. They also had eggs. You just crack them into the pot and poach them, then eat them with the sauce. If you’ve never had a spicy sesame sauced egg poached in Asian broth, go try one now. Seriously, right now. What are you waiting on?? Go!