Friday, December 9, 2016
China Trip: The Food
Oh my goodness, we ate so well! If you've ever thought about going on an advocacy trip, but hesitated because you were unsure about the food, please don't let that stop you.
My last US meal was a salad in the SFO airport, since I knew I wouldn't be having salad in China.
I'm not a great flyer. I love airports, I love traveling, but the actual flying part is not my favorite. I get motion sickness. And the scopalomine patch makes me sleepy. So I skipped lunch. Afterwards, they came around saying, "Ice cream? Ice cream? Ice cream?" I opened one eye and took a cup. This, folks, was not ice cream. I had 2 bites. The second one, I only took because I couldn't believe the first one was really that bad. Bleh. It was essentially cold matcha. Being not a huge fan of green tea, this didn't work for me. The pretzel mix that came around later was more my speed.
In China! This was from the breakfast buffet in Chenzhou. If you haven't been to China, I need to take a minute to explain breakfast buffets. Here, when we have "complimentary breakfast" in a hotel, it ranges from juice, coffee, fruit and pastries to a full breakfast-y spread. In China, breakfast is not limited to breakfast foods. There's always congee (rice drowned to the consistency of wallpaper paste--it's kind of the Chinese equivalent of oatmeal), but there can be lots of other interesting foods, too. I absolutely loved having noodles and fried rice as breakfast options. The steamed bun has meat in it, above that is a fried dough bread-ish sort of thing, and the one with the holes in it has a mildly fruity filling.
We ordered a cake in each city to end our festivities with. When we went to the bakery to order, I got myself a little chocolate treat to enjoy in my room that night. With the currency conversion this was under $2 bucks.
This was not the cake we got, but it was so cute, I had to take a picture of it.
Oh yum! Okay, the green is a wrapper, kind of like a tortilla. The rectangle on it is duck. I don't remember what the other meat was, but I remember it was delicious.
I really like the Chinese style meals with everyone around a big table and new and interesting things passing by on a lazy susan in the center.
Chinese fast food. The "delicious burger" came with clear disposable gloves. So one does not soil their hands eating chicken, I guess. I thought the gloves were hilarious, and they ended up coming home with me. I should give them to Brianna for the next time she dyes her hair.
Mmm, breakfast buffet in Hefei. The white things with black spots? That's dragon fruit. I big puffy heart love it. More steamed buns, more fried dough, plus bacon, potato wedges, different noodles, watermelon, and rice.
We took the Hefei kids out to lunch at KFC. I'll share more pictures from that adventure later.
Dinner "on the hoof" so to speak. The grocery stores had all sorts of interesting live food.
China has a lot of different flavors that we don't have here. Shrimp flavored chips, cucumber flavored gum, etc. These chips come in steak or honey flavors.
Way way more flavors of Pocky in China than we can get at our local grocery store, or even at our Asian markets. I brought home a few boxes for Brianna.
These were so yum! ("So yum" is a thing in our house. I think it started as a Katie-ism.) Warm purple balls of gooey sweetness. Sounds faintly disturbing, but I could have snarfed the entire plateful.
I suppose a discussion of trip food is a good time to bring up weight. I was pleasantly surprised. Going 2 weeks without tracking my food and eating pretty much anything I wanted, I expected to gain a few pounds on the trip. For those who don't know, I started a weight loss journey in June. I set a goal of 40# by 10/31. I didn't hit that goal, but I had lost 31.4# before I left for the trip, and I came home a pound lighter than when I left. Since then, I'm hovering right around #35 pounds lost altogether. Up a little, down a little. I'm okay with that. I think maybe I'll hang out here for a while, get through the holidaze, and then pick things up again in the new year, or maybe even the springtime, when we can get outside more. I'm down 3-4 sizes, so I'm still weeding things out of my closet that are too big, and figuring out what I can wear now that I haven't been able to wear since before our second adoption.
This was one of the coolest dishes we had. Okay, so they bring it to the table, and it looks like this mound of white rice, right? Wrong! They pour this brown sauce with little bits of meat & veggies over it, and stab it with a pair of chopsticks and it shatters into chunks! It was kind of like a rice cracker. Really really good. We had it a couple of times, and I liked it a lot.
Okay, so here I have goat on a stick with my rice cracker stuff and looks like a little Kung Pao chicken in the bottom. The goat was good! This particular goat was seasoned with black pepper, which is not a spice I use much, but I like meat, and this was tasty.
This was our goodbye cake in Hefei. (The little face with one paw on the table? That's Dawn. She's 4, and has pulmonary atresia, a heart condition. She needs a family to bring her to the US for surgery.)
This was kind of neat! When we got to Guangzhou, we had a couple dinners with people from the orphanage. This one was at the mall within walking distance of our hotel. They brought out these bamboo sticks, and when you open them, they're filled with sticky rice!
Potato! These were a lot like hash browns.
I was at the "rowdy stepchildren" table, away from the agency reps and orphanage staff, and we were all tired and giggly. These may have been referred to as meconium eyeballs at our table. I tasted them, because I was feeling adventurous, but the powder tasted like dirt. When we asked what they were, we were told, "rose flower." I'm guessing they were a local delicacy? It was served like a little dessert treat, they brought them out at the end of the meal in individual dishes, instead of communal ones.
Another breakfast. I'm thinking Guangzhou. Last year, in Beijing, I had to play charades to get my eggs scrambled instead of fried. Here, they had scrambled eggs in warmers.
Actually, one of the things that surprised me was the breakfast buffet in Hong Kong. They had Chinese foods, "western" foods like bacon, eggs, etc., but they also had a significant selection of Middle Eastern and Indian foods.
I think this was our lunch at GZ orphanage. Each facility we visited fed us well.
Ah, yes, definitely westernized Guangzhou breakfast. See the donut among all the Chinese loveliness?
I thought this Lego cake in the hotel bake shop was awfully cute, too.
Things that make you go hmm. This is deep fried corn and shrimp with birthday sprinkles and green onion. The corn was not bad, but the presentation was odd. (I don't eat shrimp.)
We ended up at Pizza Hut twice. Once, with guide and orphanage dignitaries, where we had an orderly meal at the end of a long day, and I excused myself as soon as I politely could to walk back to the hotel (with a buddy, of course. I get lost on my own). The second time, on our last day in GZ, we tried to do some shopping, and ended up scattering in different directions. That evening found Rachel, Laura, Annette, Jenny and I back at Pizza Hut, getting more adventurous with pointing at the picture menus. Laura (I think) ended up with a hot pear tea that sounded lovely, and the drink above is Annette's (again, I think) pomegranate boba.
I'm not sure which meal this was. It could have been when we ate donkey, which was a lot like beef, and quite good. Or, it could have been at the meal with a fish dish so spicy that it made our guide sweat.
Taking the children out to to eat was a great way to interact the kids and get to know them and their preferences. These are GZ kids, with Stella on the left, Brett in the left yellow, Benjamin on the right, and Samuel right yellow. One thing I think might be better to do differently next time would be to order the food ahead next time so that ordering isn't such chaos, and we don't have restless, hungry kids waiting while it's prepared.
This was our goodbye cake in GZ. The swirls are chocolate.
I learned something this trip. Orange chicken really is Chinese food. I kinda thought it was like fortune cookies; something we think is Chinese, but isn't. But we had orange chicken twice in China. The only thing is, orange chicken in China is not boneless. So that was interesting.
Overally, the food was amazing. The nice thing about a big group was that we were served several dishes at every meal, so if you didn't like one thing, there were plenty of other options available to you. Even the vegetarians ate well.
In 2010, before we traveled to adopt Hannah, I remember being worried about the food being "different." I am a pretty picky eater, and not big on vegetables. I still remember some of my favorite foods from that trip! Paratha, which I came home and discovered is actually Indian, not Chinese, and a really wonderful dish with chicken and peanuts, that I only found in Jiangsu province.
I miss China. I miss interacting with waitstaff and hotel staff who laugh at your attempts to communicate. I miss playing charades to find the nearest restroom. I miss hanging out with the team. I miss loving on the kids, getting to know them all a little bit. And I really miss the food. I think I might need to hit the Panda Express drive through after writing this post. It won't be the same, of course, but it's close enough to make me happy, and maybe a little nostalgic.
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