Thursday, August 20, 2015


In Zhongdian, it's customary for hosts to cook or take guests out to a traditional communal meal of beef (yak) hotpot (牦牛火锅). It's rich yet not oily and one could add plenty of vegetables to it. Very satisfying. Definitely need at least a table of six to justify all the food. We've had many happy dinners of hotpot on rainy summer evenings when temperatures dip to 8°C with windchill.

Our hosts don't take meat as often as city folks do. Their meals are simpler, but when guests arrive, they bring out the meat. Like a celebration of sorts. We're wary of the costs involved and don't want to put our hosts through the effort, but it wouldn't be nice to decline. Need to find other ways to express our appreciation. We are so pampered.

A newly-made black clay pot.
For brevity, most restaurants now use a Beijing-style utilitarian copper hotpot that's not as breakable as the traditional black clay Tibetan pots. There's this whole idea of how the traditional claypots would make the broth and food taste better than copper pots. Oh well.

The black clay pots are made by potters from Nixi Village in the same way for the past 1200 years. (尼西黑陶) The utensils are intended for daily use in the homes, with the red clay drawn from the surrounding mountains. Occasionally, white bits of porcelain or whatever stones would be laid within the clay as decorations.

At one such hotpot dinner at the hosts' restaurant, we loaded up on the greens. The tang-or (茼蒿) that is normally eeky in Southeast Asia was unbelievably sweet that we had two servings of it. For carbs, we ordered a flat square pasta of sorts they call '面块'. Literally 'squares of flour'. It came in soup form, sour and spicy. So far, the spicy items here induced heat from chillies or peppers. Haven't had any unfortunate shock tasting Sichuan pepper, yet. Also had steamed dumplings of which they called 'momo' (馍馍) in Tibetan.

I enjoy the hotpot not so much for the beef. Bit chewy, but not at all gamey and frankly, it's delicious. I like the broth and nibble on loads of potatoes and vegetables. Had to wrap my tongue and call potatoes '土豆' instead of '番薯'. Like how tomato is called '西红柿' instead of what we normally term '番茄'.

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