Tuesday, December 16, 2014


Ayi is the cook and housekeeper at Da Wang.
She shops the market in the village daily and miraculously whips up two freshly
cooked meals 6 days a week. Monday is her one day off.

Ayi is an endearing term for 'Aunt'. Many people have housekeepers and they refer to them as their 'Ayi'. For the first couple of weeks I didn't know this and thought it was Ayi's actual name! She often mused how funny it was that Joop and I would call her Ayi since we were both a little older than she was. 

The kitchen is outdoors on a stone patio out the back of the building and at the base of the mountain. Ayi would perform her magic with a propane tank, single burner gas range and a rice cooker. Daily we would be served an enormous variety of fresh veggies and protein that wasn't always identifiable but always delicious. Ayi introduced me to fresh bamboo, lotus root, all sorts of radishes and a variety of greens so numerous that there aren't names for all of them.

The Chinese include bones in all their cooking. They enjoy the flavor and tactileness of moving the bones around in their mouth and chuckle at the disdain of westerners. When ready, they gently release the bones directly from their mouths onto the table next to their bowls. It is considered rude to use your hands to move the bones from your mouth to the table but that was a difficult habit for me to change. 

Never really got the name of the protein in this photo but it tasted a little
like a sausage but not with pork.
Legumes with tofu (similar to Fava but called something else that I can't remember);
Unknown greens with garlic; Spicy pepper condiment with red pepper and cilantro; Radish soup. 

Ayi is one of the warmest and sweetest people I met in China, and she is a general too. We were to be on time and make sure to wash before and after eating. The dishes were washed several times, then stored in a sterilizer and then washed again. To look at the setup one wouldn't expect it to be so hygienic but it is. I found this everywhere I visited in China. 

A typical scenario in this part of China. The tableware at a restaurant is served shrink-wrapped.
They were sent out to be cleaned and sterilized. The custom is to wash again using the tea in the pot to the left. A process of filling the cup cradled in the center until it overflows into the vessels below.
Then you dip the spoon too. When done, you empty everything including the wrappers into a larger
bowl in the center of the table (not shown here).

The meals were social events where we all sat around with our bowls, rice and chopsticks;  communally sharing the offerings and the events of the day. I really looked forward to them.

This post is part of a series documenting my experiences in China. 
Please follow previous entries by using the blog archive in the sidebar to the right. Or click here for the beginning. 

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