If you are like me you grew up hearing your mother say ‘ Clean your plate, there are starving children in China!”
Yesterday was day one of our China vacation and I think Gate1 Travel and our Chinese hosts are out to prove that theory wrong.
Our first function of the trip was breakfast in the Novatel Peace Beijing Hotel’s buffet style restaurant; before meeting up with the 35 other travelers in our group.
The restaurant is a huge two-story room with glass windows overlooking the street. It was great to watch Beijingers on their way to work.
The buffet had a huge selection of Chinese and Western foods. Whenever Chuck and I travel we try to really stick to foods of that country. I can get bacon and eggs at home.
The had very traditional Western bread, and cereal stations with yogurt and fresh fruit as well as omelettes made to order, bacon and sausage.
We went straight for the congee, a rice porridge, this one has mung beans in it for texture and sided of pickled cabbage, a root vegetable with red beans and they added lots of salt, texture and flavor to the porridge.
We also had roasted Chinese cauliflower. It tends to be looser and a little longer stemmed than the western cauliflower we are used to and has a great crunch. I will definitely start buying in our local Asian market when I see it.
We had some fried rice with lots of egg and corn in it as well as some spiced greens, sort of like a baby book choy. Followed up by several delicious steamed buns with pork and greens in them. The seemed lighter and fluffier than those we are used to at home.
Chuck opted to have the chef make him one of the noodle and dumpling bowls. A light broth with tiny dense dumplings and some noodles with spinach. You could ass your own garnished of sprouts, seaweed and some seasoning to it as well.
After meeting our group and starting our first day we drove through Beijing, made a stop at a the Temple of Heaven for some sightseeing, and a jade factory to see beautiful jade carvings and some shopping.
This was followed by lunch at a family owned restaurant undergoing renovations. We had the place to our selves with four large round tables with lazy Susan’s in the middle. Most of our breakfasts will be buffet, as well as all of the meals on our three day Yangtze River cruise. Other meals will generally be family style with a few a la carte meals.
The tables were set with a pot of Jasmine tea and they keep the bottled water, Coke /Sprite and beer flowing. You won’t find much Diet Coke in restaurants and you’ll find Coke Zero on a very limited basis in some stores ( sorry Chuck).
The first dishes to come out were a very pink colored, sliced sausage, a huge tossed salad with greens and roasted red peppers, braised cabbage( sort of like Napa), white rice and crispy noodles.
AND THEN THE FOOD STARTED, LOL. They followed up with dishes of sautéed spinach, chilled head on prawns, roasted fava beans, roasted mushrooms and peppers, lamb with onions, spicy chicken which had both Sichuan peppercorns (kind of a numbing floral flavor) and red chili and a wonderful, flakey, most whole fish with a spicy sauce. I think there were more than a dozen dishes in all, it felt like the food just kept coming.
Toward the end of the meal they brought out a tureen of clear broth with noodles and big chunks of thickly sliced tomatoes. Soup, thankfully, denotes the end of the meal.
There was a TON of food for the eight people at our table. As a self avowed food junkie I closely watch the people who don’t eat certain things and happily take their portion. There are number of people who chose to avoid foods like salad that are washed but not cooked as they worry about food born illnesses from the water. PS, only drink bottle or boiled water and stay away from ice.
After this we drove out to the Great Wall and spent the afternoon there followed by a Peking Duck Banquet. But those are worth entire posts of their own.
And now off to BREAKFAST! FitBit says we walked over 17,000 steps yesterday with part of that being straight up hill at the Great Wall.