Our last full day in China, sadly. Today we went out for bauzi from our usual lady and also tried her ‘tea eggs’ – salty and delicious. They are cooked in water with tea plus salt and sometimes fennel seeds, then left to soak in the water as it cools. The result is very tasty but not altogether appealing to look at; the egg white is stained brown and the outside of the yolk blackens – just how we were taught not to hard boil eggs! We watched the lady making something which turned out to be fresh, warm soya milk too. I thought should try some but it turned out to have a very ‘beany’ taste which was a bit too much for me, especially at breakfast time!
We’d decided on a quiet morning given that some of us were going to a four hour bauzi making class in the afternoon, so relaxed in our apartment for a while before venturing out for a look at Daci temple, which Martyn had spotted yesterday. It sits in the middle of Taikooli shopping mall on Zongfu Road. The mall is quite bizarre – packed with high end fashion, particularly at ground level; Stella McCartney, Cartier, Issy Miyake, Alexander McQueen, Givenchy, Versace, Dior … the list goes on and on. The bookshop on the bottom floor is a real treat though – one of Ed’s havens of peace and tranquility, with a great selection of books in both Chinese and English.
We ambled round the temple then sat in the teashop enjoying a cup of green tea. As we found yesterday, there seems to be no problem with commercial activity around the temple, although there were also people worshipping in some of the halls.
Pat and I picked up some bread and fruit for an early lunch while Martyn had a bowl of street-food clams. Lance (“like Lance Armstrong”, to quote) from Chilli Cool cooking picked us up from our nearest metro station at 1.30 (Hazel was picking up Rosie and Sam from their hostel) then we picked up the fifth member of our group, Nat who turned out to be a 2018 Durham chemistry graduate. What a small world! We all met at the Wenshu monastery hostel where Rosie and Sam had stayed for their first few days in Chengdu before setting off on our walk round the local wet market to look at cookery ingredients.
Lance and Hazel were excellent guides, showing us plenty of fresh and dried fruit and vegetables new to us, as well as herbs and spices.
Clockwise from top left: dried hawthorn berries and Chinese dates; eggs, including ‘Century eggs’; lotus rhizomes and lettuce stalks; bitter melons and purple carrots.
Top: left, angelica roots; right, green and red Sichuan peppers. Bottom: four types of chilli including ‘rice’ and ‘bullet’
We’d each been given a challenge to ask for in Chinese – Sam’s was to buy a century egg and Nat’s to make some pork dumplings.
We also got to choose fillings for spring rolls; not the deep-fried pastries we associate with Chinese food in the UK but delicious thin pancakes filled with a selection of finely chopped vegetables and pickles.
Other parts of the market were not for the squeamish; fresh fish in plastic tanks which kept flopping out onto the road, only to be unceremoniously picked up by the tail and returned and buckets of live crayfish and frogs.
Hazel was feeling the heat, as well as us, so we headed on to the ChilliCool building after a fascinating hour or so to enjoy a sit down in the cool and the inevitable tea, while the bauzi making process was explained.
The dough is wheat-based, with yeast, not rice as I’d assumed and they’d already started the dough proving for us – a very liquid, bubbly mixture. No doubt the heat makes the yeast especially quick to start acting!
We were each given a lump of wet dough to knead more flour into then shown how to roll it into a sausage and break off bauzi-size pieces. These had to be flattened into circles about 8 cm across, a dob of filling (minced pork, pickled vegetables or a peanut and brown sugar mixture) put in the middle, then the edges folded up in a series of small pleats. The lady showing us made it look very easy but, needless to say, it wasn’t. Our bauzi looked nowhere as neat as her’s but, after 15 minutes of so steaming, they looked and tasted pretty good!
Our bauzi, before and after steaming
The cold beer served with them tasted equally good. We also got to try Sam’s century egg – I think it was one from the mild end of the spectrum! The eggs are cured by coating the shell in an alkaline paste made of clay, rice husks or ash with salt and quicklime and then leaving it for a few weeks or months. The yolk becomes creamy and strongly flavoured and the white turns into a salty, translucent jelly. To be honest it’s an acquired taste, though I struggled more with the texture than the taste!
We caught a taxi back to the apartment and relaxed until Ed finished work at 8.30 pm, then we headed off to meet him at his closest metro station, having picked up some imitation ‘Waggon Wheel’ biscuits in lieu of a birthday cake. Eight party-hat-wearing foreigners walking through an area of town which doesn’t see many tourists raised a few eyebrows and Ed enjoyed us all trooping into his local off license to pick up some beer!
We partied (not very hard) till around midnight in his lovely flat on the 38th floor and said our goodbyes – tomorrow we fly home.
What an experience, though dodging the traffic is is one thing I won’t miss…