Around the World: A Brief Overview

I've been pondering lately (I do this a lot...ruminate and gnaw on things in my head, it's a joyous pasttime).

As of late I've wanted to share my international ventures with you all.  I haven't had many, only a few in the greater scheme of things, but the few experiences I have had, have been quite interesting.

Interesting enough to share.  Or at least I think so.

Maybe you will disagree.  That's your prerogative.

However, I will share regardless.

My hope is to feature a few recipes here-and-there of various places and cultures.  I may have visited these lands, or may simply dream about them now and then.  I dream a lot.  Ask my husband.

I have quite a few experiences and stories in this cavernous head of mine and before long they're bound to burst forth and spill all over the place.  Might as well let them seep out slowly.

Sorry for the visual.

A few places that I've been ever-so-blessed to visit are the vast continents of Asia & Africa, however I'll talk about the latter later (haha), today we'll focus on the former.

During college, I spent a month perusing and teaching in Wuhan, China.  Wuhan is located about an hour's flight south of Beijing, in the Hubei Province.  It is also known as one of the hottest locations in central China.

I chose to visit in late June.

I know, smart.  I didn't have a choice, really- that's when our group was scheduled to go and we dealt with it accordingly.  While in China I enjoyed the culinary fare immensely.  I can't express to you enough how amazing real, honest-to-goodness Chinese cuisine really is.  Beef and broccoli?  What the heck IS that?  They don't have it in China.  That is an Americanized dish, people.  Neither do they have sweet and sour chicken the way we're used to (heavily fried, with a miniscule shred of chicken within)- no, their sweet and sour fare is intensely sweet, tangy, with a crisp, thin breading and a large portion of juicy chicken or fish inside.

It's to. die. for.

The Chinese are a fun, hilarious sort- and boy does their food represent their vibrancy.

For example, if you are having chicken, they will include nearly all of it on the platter.  Yes, all of it.

That's a chicken head, people.  
Chinese don't skimp on the goods.
The reason they include both the head (and feet) is to symbolize
unity, a wholeness, a comprehensive relationship.

This is what I love about the Chinese, their food is
wholly symbolic.  It encompasses feelings, moods,
emotions, wholistic ideals.  

One of the best books I've ever read regarding Chinese
culture and culinary practices is this:

It's fiction, but extremely indicative of Chinese culinary arts.  

Another great book for learning about Chinese
culture in general, especially historical background
and the whole "foot-binding" era, is this:

Anyway, didn't mean to do book talks with you!
I adore reading, almost as much as I love cooking.

Back to China.

The Chinese, going with their symbols of unity
and eternity, always eat around a revolving, 
circular table:

Each person sits around the table, is given a pair of chopsticks
and a small plate.  The mid-section of the table is then laden
with various dishes and revolves, while you are required to
pick up a few bites here and there to nibble at while conversating
with the rest of the diners.  

The small plate you are given is not to load up with food,
but to deposit bones, fat, or anything else you do not 
choose to eat.  

You pluck-as-you-go.
I love this method because it forces you to focus on
your food (albeit actually getting it off the main plate
via chopsticks, a feat in itself), nibble at it, really taste it.
You aren't scarfing down huge portions, but rather
tasting a little of everything as you go.

My digestion got a whole lot better while in Wuhan.
No more details needed.

Chinese are also known for their beauty of presentation:

Now these are the lovely portions of Chinese cuisine.

There are some challenging, perplexing foods as well.

Like this:

Folks, you don't even want to know what I'm eating here.
It's curdled pig's blood.


Hey, try everything once, right?
Okay, maybe not.
But I did, and I lived to tell about it.

Apparently, the Chinese believe it purifies.
Not sure what I think about this so I'll just move on.

One food others have chosen to hate (without trying, most often)
is tofu:

Now I have to admit, I really like it.
The Chinese do it well, and it is darn good.
Tofu doesn't taste like anything, 
it takes on the flavor of whatever you add it to/with.

It's the consistency most people don't like.
I, however, had no qualms partaking.
I rather enjoy it these days.

The Chinese also make a mean mango smoothie:

They also make a great smoothie out of this:

Yep, the mung bean.

And guess what?

I loved it.  

They concoct imaginable dishes out of this bean.

Items such as soup:

Ice cream (yeah):

Face wash:

Who knew the Chinese green bean was so versatile?


I actually love the flavor and texture of these beans.
You can find them at your local Chinese grocery.


So yes, my Chinese culinary experience was incredible.
Simply incredible.

So, in lieu of the beginning of this Around the World series,
I am starting off my first recipe as an ode to Asia.

However you will have to stay tuned...

Muah haha.


Kirsten's Cooking said...

love it! I really haven't had much chance to travel (I, too, am a dreamer) I will gladly live vicariously through your traveling (and eating)...keep it coming!
I am not a big fan of tofu, the firm kind of reminds me of an eraser or something. I could maybe see myself using the silken for a smoothie or something, though.
Curdled pig blood, not so much, thanks!
Loved the watermelon presentation! Was it local to that area? it looked like summer- yum
seriously, thanks for sharing - that was really interesting.

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