Sichuan Dinner


Tonight we ventured “outside our comfort zone” as Alison said when we returned from dinner. What that means is that we visited a restaurant with no English on the menu at all. It was a little (seven table) restaurant specializing in Sichuan food that the apartment owner pointed out to us as she walked us around the neighborhood as we arrived.

sichuan_restAlthough there we could not read the menu, each dish in the thick menu-book had a large color photo so we would know a little more about the dish then ordering blind. Even so, we resorted to the oldest trick known to tourists: point to dishes on other people’s tables. That way we knew that the dishes must be good, and the live dishes were a little easier to interpret then the photos.

What we ended up ordering was a tank of fish soup, and a plate of spicy fried green beans. The tank was a ridiculous size — bigger than most soup tureens meant to serve six or eight in America. And it was chock full of chunks of fish that had a similar texture to cat fish, together with a bok choi like green, plus tons of garlic and ginger creating a nice full flavored broth. It was so good that Alison asked if I thought there was MSG in it, and it could have been, but I didn’t get that chemical waft in the back of my sinuses that usually is the red flag for me.


There were an equal amount of hot red pepper pieces as there were green beans in our side dish, along with a post-fry sprinkling of course salt. Both dishes were hot, but we were prepared, and there were other flavors to meld with the hot flavors, and it was all good. Plus the young people we met outside the Shanghai Museum assured us that hot peppers were good for your skin, so we were looking forward to not needing moisturizer for the next month…


The hot food demanded cold beer, and there was plenty of that in the form of liter sized bottles of Tsingdao Draft. Soup, a bite of fish, beer, a couple green beans, beer, some more soup, some green beans, more beer. Pretty soon my nose was full running, but we were both enjoying the experience

As we paid our bill (77 yuan, or about $12), the skies opened up, so we got soaked sprinting back to our apartment and that almost, ALMOST cooled us off.


2 thoughts on “Sichuan Dinner

  1. Great pictures and commentary.
    Somehow, it doesn’t look so different from Chinatown here. Pictures I’ve seen of Shanghai depict massive, sprawling, ugly new development. You are showing us a personal view not unlike street level Boston or New York. Thanks.
    Food looks good, again, not unlike our local Chinese — but way less expensive. Yum.


  2. It’s hard to experience the “whole city” all at once — perhaps my first photo of Shanghai from the car in from the airport is as close as you get. Shanghai is massive, sprawling, and in many places ugly. But from the sidewalk you can only experience a few hundred yards at a time, and yesterday on our walk from our apartment to the People’s Park we saw some serene and beautiful bits, as well as some loud banging full-bore construction bits, sometimes jarringly adjacent. I think the most distinctive feature of this city I’ve noticed is that every square foot seems to be in motion. Every street and sidewalk is crowded with activity from morning through the evening, and explosive growth we read about in the abstract is visible everywhere, from sidewalk/street repairs every hundred feet, to new storefronts being installed, to the ever growing new buildings every few blocks. I think the calmest spot in the city for me so far was when Patrick led us into an alley community on Wednesday: the sound of the growing city faded within a few steps of the entrance, and I notices immediately how the residents were *not* rushing around as everyone is on the streets and sidewalks. Instead many people were sitting and chatting, and those that were moving walked with calm but direct purpose. It lasted a few minutes only as Patrick described how these communities were organized, and then we walked out into the ever flowing City beyond the alley gate.


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