Luodai is a town outside of Chengdu with 90% Hakka population. The language, buildings, and food that you can find here, distinct from Sichuanese, make Luodai one of my favourite day trips outside Chengdu.
We first went to climb the Jinlong Great Wall, which has a long history of about eight years and leads up a small mountain to the Jinlong temple at the top. The climb is an hour or so, depending on your fitness, and there is a breezy little tea house at the top where you can get chrysanthemum tea for Y5. There is nothing better than sitting with a glass of tea on a mountain after a hike.
One new thing I noticed this year was the number of places selling grilled deer and pheasant skewers. This is pheasant.
They were selling beggar's chicken at the gate. I got a Y5 leg. The paper outside had a coating of dirt, like it had been buried. Inside the chicken was wrapped with a red pepper inside another leaf. It was a tad dry but had a good flavour. The vendor told me very seriously to unwrap the chicken before eating it.
Back in town, the side streets off of the 'ancient town' area have many fruit and nut vendors. They had big piles of almonds, macadamia nuts, walnuts, pecans in the shell, and some things that looked like large, flat, black bean pods. Pecans and the 'beans' I had never seen in Chengdu. Anyone know what these are?
One thing I always look forward to in Luodai are the qian (or quan) si bing (thousand-string cakes) and this time we got to watch them being prepared. It's pretty complicated - first they stretch the dough into thin strands that are oiled and then cut. They then form the cake around a little filling, shape it, and then fry it in oil. The fry person has tongs to shape the cake during frying so that it stays flat. Pretty complicated, but worth the trouble. They shatter when you bite into them and are very good. I like the sweet ones best.
I was with a friend from Canada who wanted to taste everything possible while in China, and spied the scorpions on skewers. She invited me to eat scorpion and I could not refuse as a matter of face, though I wouldn't have chosen to eat one on my own. The vendor asked if we wanted hot pepper, and I nodded automatically. He put the skewer into hot oil for a few seconds, then dusted the scorpions with hot pepper and handed us the treat. We couldn't really taste anything except for the hot pepper, but they were crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, with a good burn from the pepper, and very good. I would eat them again.
Ancient town street:
We didn't get to try the shuang xin fen or eat Hakka grilled fish at Jiu Dou Wan restaurant this time, but definitely will next time.