Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sneaky Sichuan Noodles

I went to see the pandas in the morning, cause there are only like maybe 2,000 left and I figured now's a good time to see them.

They're pretty awesome: they just hang out eating all day, a lot of the time not bothering to even sit up to get the food in their mouth. Sounds kind of like me on an off-day.

When I got back to Chengdu from the Panda Reserve, I was starved, so I went out to find some amazing food.

After walking for a bit, I passed a noodle place where lots of local Chinese people were having their lunch, so I figured it was a good bet. When I entered, the woman working there seemed really busy. She started pointing at large pictures they had of dishes on the wall, and I just nodded at the first one she pointed at because I panicked and didn't want to waste her time. After, I hoped I had made the right choice. Maybe I should have taken a second longer to study the pictures to find something truly interesting. I was so ready for an amazing meal.

The place was packed, so she sat me down at a table with a Chinese couple who had ordered already. They smiled very widely at me when I sat down and I smiled right back at them. Their food arrived seconds later, a kind of cold meat salad. The meat was sliced and it was on a bed of things like spring onions and coriander. The couple smiled at me again, and the man motioned to the salad. When I smiled and shook my head politely, he became much more animated and pushed one of the salads towards me, insisting that I share their meal with them, wanting a foreigner like me to share in this Sichuan specialty. Plus I was starved. So I broke apart a pair of chopsticks and dug in.

It was absolutely fantastic! Extremely spicy, but the flavors were so intense and interesting, and it all fit so well with the spring onion and coriander. I began thinking that anything they served here would have to be fantastic, and started really looking forward to the bowl of noodles I had ordered. The couple seemed thrilled that I had enjoyed their meal so much, and continued to insist that I eat with them until all of their meal was gone.

As they were paying the check, my noodles arrived, and as my mouth watered, ready for round two of an amazing meal, I shoved the first mouthful of noodles in my mouth. My heart sunk: the noodles didn't taste like anything, they were super-bland and unexciting.

Oh well, I thought, at least I had a very nice meal with the couple and tasted something as phenomenal as the meat salad they shared with me. I continued eating the noodles, though, and then 5 minutes later, something happened. The same noodles I had been eating all of a sudden tasted like something. Something amazing, actually, not at all like the previous mouthful I had taken. What in the world is going on? I thought.

And then I remembered about the tongue-numbing peppers that Sichuan is so famous for. And I felt my tongue tingling.

I laughed to myself and chopsticked some more amazing noodles into my mouth. Hooray for sneaky, amazing Sichuan food!

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