Chengdu, July 13, 2013
Though it is not my first time to Chengdu, the local friends refuse to pass an opportunity to take me out for Sichuan hotpot, one of the most popular specialties in this spicy province of China. Obviously the restaurant that we are heading to is even more authentic than the one we’ve tried last time, plus I will be entertained with Sichuan opera. Sounds like a super plan!
We pull over next to Wuhou temple and walk into the hustle bustle Jinli Street, said to be one of the busiest trading streets during the Three Kingdoms period, (184-280) in Chinese history. The area has been remodelled to reflect old architecture and has been converted into a tourist destination for sight-seeing, gift shopping, and local food sampling. The Western lunch in the hotel was not that inspiring to my friend, so it’s definitely time for some real food. With the great Sichuan hotpot in mind, we all march through the colorful alleys, heading towards Da Miao hotpot restaurant, where My friend refers to as the authentic place.
The restaurant is set up like a bar restaurant in ancient time, with an opera stage as the focus. Tables are placed facing the stage on the ground floor and private rooms are built around on the first floor, leaving open space in the middle so that everyone can stand around appreciating the performances as they please. No space is available on the ground floor, so we book a private room upstairs. The stock comes out immediately as we are seated with choices of spicy and non-spicy divided into 4 small containers in the same hotpot. Without a second wasted, my friend starts preparing my dip with lots of oil, spring onion, garlic, friend Spanish onion, chilli, and peanut. Oh dear, here comes the super oily stock and a bowl of oily sauce. There goes my calorie cap for the day.
In no time, plates of raw food line up on the table; cow’s stomach, pig’s liver, pig’s kidhey, duck’s indices, river eel, Sichuan smoked ham…. I struggle a bit through the cholesterol-stuffed dinner though I have to admit the taste is quite pleasantly exotic for a spice lover like myself. How is one going to make up for such an un-healthy meal, however, is still beyond human intelligence.
My friend’s wife arrives a little late as she has to drop off her father at the airport that evening. As she approaches the table, her face turns red; eyebrows raised and the index finger makes an akward move towards the empty can of coke on the table. “Why are you on coke?”, questions the wife in a betrayed manner. Before I could figure out what’s happening, the hubby gets all embarrased and mumbles some sort of explanation. Realizing the guest of honor is on the table tonight, she quickly turns to me, breaks a smile, and gently shakes her head. “He’s not supposed to drink coke, you know. We are trying to have a baby. Coke is no good for the baby, very unhealthy.”
Wow, it’s good to know that I’m not the only one trying to be healthy these days. Should I skip the oil?