Sichuan Spice

Of course, no China travel is complete without indulging in the places “特色“, or specialties.

 

 

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Fresh mountain greens and pickled peppers, fried bamboo shoots, chicken boiled in Sichuan chilis.

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Sichuan special 豆花 and  豆脑, soft tofu in different forms, very soft and delicious. More fresh mountain greens and pickles. In Emei town, at the food of Mt. Emei.
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A small shop on the steep path up Mt. Emei. The old woman waiting patiently for hungry passer-byers disappeared behind the small building long enough for me to hear the abrupt “squawk” that heralded the end of lunch’s free roaming life… a few minutes later, this delicious chicken, sour bamboo and chili dish arrived.

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The famous 水煮鱼,fish filet boiled in wonderful 花椒 numbing peppers and chili.

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In the smaller city of Yibin, fish slices and chili of all sorts.

IMG_2415The wonderful selection of fresh veggies, pickles, and dumplings and buns. 20 RMB for a plate, all you can fit on it!

 

Chef Entrepreneurs in Myanmar

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I landed, or dragged myself up to, the Inle Heart View restaurant, off the road and through a field and up the hill, exactly at noon. The ladies tending the front if their house half way up the hill seemed a bit surprised and alarmed, and I saw why as I made it finally to the empty little restaurant. One if the old ladies came hurrying up the hill after me, and a minute later two fellows pulled up on their scooters. The one, his name Zaw I think (Burmese pronunciation is different than it looks), speaking excellent English, apologized saying they were back at his village. The woman was his aunt, and the other fellow his uncle. He gave me a menu – most if the dishes weren’t really available, the restaurant without electricity and seemingly not very busy thus dusty saturday, so he talked me through ordering some pickled tea leaves, a tomato salad with sticky rice crackers, and some grilled chicken.
And the verdict: excellent.

After bringing the dishes one by one up the bamboo stairs, Zaw stops to talk – not much else to do at the moment, I am the only customer to dote over. Zaw worked at one of the fancy Inle Lake hotels for years, he said, after a course in English and hospitality at the tourist hub Nuangshwe. After working at the hotel for a number of years, he obviously has a much more refined understanding of what western tourists are looking for as they “rough it” through Myanmar. He said he built his small restaurant, which only just opened its doors (there actually are not any doors) in the less convenient location away from the noisy main road, up a hill on a rough dirt road, to provide quiet and a spectacular view of the lake, mountains, and surrounding farmland. He has converted part of his family’s sugarcane plantation into an incipient organic farm plot where he plans to grow food for the restaurant as well as supply food to a Myanmar cuisine cooking school. The menu includes healthy versions of popular local foods – the best ones originally swimming in oil and salt – and a list of creative cocktails.

Zaw told me how the 2008 “monk revolution” centered in Yangon and Bagan brought the until then booming tourism industry to a virtual standstill. Some rough years ensued, but he said business has been picking up since. Finally in 2013 he decided to make an investment himself, building “Inle Heart View” on his family’s land, which is perfectly located southeast of Nuangshwe on a road frequented by tourists on their bicycle adventures to see some of the villages further south on the lake. Dusty and potholed at the moment, the road’s multiple points of construction foretell the increasing tourist traffic that is already painfully evident in the region.

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Jamaica’s Burmese: A Hope for Democracy Back Home

Jamaica’s Burmese community, I am told, is about 300 strong now. When my friend Jo arrived about 18 years ago, there were fewer than 100. Initially drawn by the availability of professional medical jobs in Jamaica (the island suffers from a chronic shortage of highly skilled medical professionals), friends followed friends, and families followed families, and the community is now quite successful.

Recent developments in Burma have sparked new hope for real change back home for this group. Many of them tell me of their support for the National League of Democracy, the political movement of Aung San Suu Kyi, back in the 1980’s, and about how the government violently suppressed the peoples’ calls for more democracy.

Now, for the first time in a long time, the NLD is being allowed to contest elections. Today, Jamaica’s Burmese community held a potluck fundraiser for Suu Kyi and her bid for electoral office in Burma.

Search for the Best Steamed Fish

I forgot  who recommended So So Seafood, on Chelsea Road, but the claim that they had the best steamed fish in town just may have to be declared true. I’m pretty sure a planted suggestion did not become a self fulfilling prophecy – my search for the best steamed fish on the island has honed a reliable judgement for the stuff. This one was really good.

 

Bless this coffee…

Biking through the posh neighborhoods, and gully communities, which seem to pass one into the other so abruptly in this bifurcated city, on a quiet cool Sunday morning can be a wonderful thing. Especially when there is rum to sweat out of the system, and the church choirs are just picking up steam in the omnipresent jamaican churches.

Destination: my favorite coffee shop, to check the morning’s news and views and to recaffeinate for the ride home (unfortunately it is all up hill…).

One of their morning’s first customers, I am privileged to witness the opening group prayer, what I assume is a daily ritual performed by the crew of pleasant young women who always serve me the lovely Blue Mountain coffee with a suggestive smile. Not simply a prayer, though, as much as a five minute plunge into song and hymn, holding hands in a tight circle, eyes closed, oblivious to the cafe patrons who continue to file in, patiently waiting for their own chance at redemption through ritual… Though their sacrament of coffee is not quite the same…

King Fish in Port Antonio

The rainy season makes it a little harder to enjoy the beaches of Portland, on the North Coast of Jamaica. But that can’t stop us from indulging in the bounties of the sea!

Saturday had us at a nice place on the outskirts of Port Antonio, in the Parish of Portland, called Anna Banana. The king fish steak, steamed, was excellent.