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Srinivas Velidanda

My HK - Mongolia trip

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As has been the habit with me, every time I travel out of Bangalore on a food expedition, I try to put the images and my thought together and what better place to put them than on Gourmet India :) 

 

 

 

 

My trip to Hong Kong, Beijing and Inner Mongolia

 

When my boss called early July to tell me that I have to go to China for a business review meeting and then on to Inner Mongolia for management development event, the first thing that came to my mind was food. This was one rare opportunity to sample food from parts of the world that we rarely get an opportunity to visit. 

Hectic activity followed.. Visa, tickets, shopping for the special attire / dress needed for Mongolia !! I had four flight options from Bangalore – Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways, Malaysia Airways and Cathay Pacific. I chose Cathay Pacific since I didn’t need a visa to stop at Hong Kong and also since I have never been there before. The plan was to spend the weekend at Hong Kong, travel to Beijing for the business review, to Baotou in Inner Mongolia and back to Bangalore.

 

And so it began. The evening of my departure, decided to attend a Bangalore Thirst Club get together. A good opportunity to irrigate my throat a bit and get some good sleep on the late night flight. Left early from the party and straight to the airport with apprehensions about what the business review holds for me but the thoughts of new & good food and the few drinks in the evening kept my spirits up.

 

The first encounter with food that night was on the flight. “Chicken curry with rice sir ? ”  was the question and I decided to pass. Asked for just the starter part and was content with a tangy sprout salad. Meal done and a sideways glance at my co passenger brought the first food horror. The guy was picking his teeth with his fingers, pulling out fragments of whatever he ate, inspected it and was promptly putting it back in his mouth. This was the biggest motivator to put my book away and shut my eyes tight.

 

Hong Kong

 

Stayed in the central business district and had sampling of some lovely food. Dinner was with an absolutely wonderful host Claire Lin and her team. We went to a “Michelin Recommended” restaurant. While the restaurant was called Hunan, they had some Cantonese food too. The Copper Pot Chicken was absolutely delicious. Chicken oven roasted on a bed of Spring Onions, Onions. Sweet and Sour Pork – my first time eating pork was a revelation. No smell of fat, no large chunks and absolutely delicious. The sweetener used was pineapple. Next on the dinner plate was squid. Cooked to perfection, large chunks of squid came with sprouts and very tender ginger slivers. An aroma to die for. And finally came the pork bao. Minced pork inside a bao. No hint of any spices. Just a mild hint of lemon grass.

 

large.Michelin_(480x640).jpg.673504d71ca

 

large.Copper_Pot_Chicken_(640x480).jpg.7large.Sweet_and_Sour_Pork_(640x480).jpg.large.Squid_with_Ginger_and_Sprouts_(640

 

After a lazy wake up, went in search of breakfast the next day. The street food place that was open was serving a million varieties of beef and pork but that was too much for a hard core meal for me. Walked up to McD – had a burger and apple pie. Decided that dinner had to be street food and what a feast I had. Many varieties of food on the grill. The food in the big melting pot is beef “spare parts” as we call them. Some of the spare parts were skin ( which is cut with a scissors and served ), Intestines ( top left corner of the melting pot ), Liver, Kidneys and of course the testicles (In the ladle just above the scissors). Pic two is an assortment of sausages, Octopus tentacles and chicken on skewers.

 

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Street-Food 

 

Beijing

 

The next day was spent in business review meetings in Beijing with everybody tensed up. Evening was dinner at a German brew pub. No great food worth mentioning and off we went to prepare for our early morning departure for Baotou ( Inner Mongolia ). It was 10pm and time for something to happen that caused a bit of sleeplessness. I forgot to carry a hat with me and its too late to buy one now !! A 16km walk in the desert without a hat ? That too with a head like mine ? Disaster !!

 

Baotou ( Inner Mongolia )

 

And finally the much awaited morning. We started off from the hotel after breakfast at 8am. Took an hour long flight to Baotou. Flight delayed by 2 hours. Reached Baotou at noon and realized that there was no immigration !. That’s when I realized that Inner Mongolia was still a province of China ( felt like an idiot as I had spent lot of time and money getting a Mongolia visa )

 

The Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, bordering to the north with both the Republic of Mongolia and Russia, is the widest province in China (by its latitude). It is the third largest Chinese province (over 1.1 million square kilometers or 424,736 square miles) but not very populated. The province has about 24 million inhabitants. Many ethnic groups are living in this area including Mongolian, Daur, Oroqen, Ewenki, Hui, Han, Korea and Manchu. Hohhot is the capital of Inner Mongolia.

The food is completely different from the traditional Chinese cuisine and a lot of flavors were common with Indian preparations ( though there were no sign of any spices in the food ). Ginger is used extensively and lamb is very popular & common. Pork is another favorite local food.

The lunch was a buffet and the highlight was pork shanks. Huge oven roasted shank bones. I have had more pork in the last 2 days that in all my life. See, it’s because I’ve never eaten pork before J !!

Pork-Shank

 

 Noodles

 

The evening was an outstanding experience with local food at a hot pot. The menu just consisted of four varieties of soup. Clear, Spicy, White ( with a lot of rice starch ) and dark. We basically get a hot pot with just the base soup of our choice and to that we are given tens of ingredients to add ourselves. I chose the spicy one with lots of red chillies ( it was not spicy at all but had a lovely mutton broth flavor – without the smell of fat ). In the pics below, you can see the ingredients that they gave us. Sprouts, lots of greens, prawns and meats. Thin slices of lamb, pork and beef that got fully cooked just by dipping them for a few seconds in the hot soup, oodles of noodles and a kind of minced prawns that became like balls when boiled in the soup. You put each ingredient in the soup and taste it for the flavors. In the end everything gets into the soup to kind of become the main course.

Little Sheep-Hot Pot

Greens-Starters

 Hot Pot-Stove

Spicy-Soup 

Lamb-Slices 

Pork-Slices 

Beef-Slices 

The next day was the most grueling day in my life. We were supposed to walk 16 kms in the Kubuqi desert of Inner Mongolia. Huge sand dunes the height of 3 storied buildings and almost 4 or 5 in each km. The sand was so soft that our foot prints vanished in seconds. Managed to buy a hat on the way finally. I was able to do 8kms by lunch time and then gave up. It was too much of an effort after an hour’s rest and some food in the stomach. Had we continued without stopping, I might have done a little more but not now. And then I got a ride of my life in a Mitsubishi Pajero for the rest of the 8km desert going up and down huge dunes to reach the base camp. I thought I was the only guy to give up until then and was feeling bad but at the base camp I saw that there were more than 20 people who gave up a lot earlier and were happily playing cards.

Desert-Entry

Huge-Dunes

 

Now for the true Mongolian food being cooked next to our camp in the desert. The first dish was lamb with lots and lots of ginger and spring onions. No other spices added. The second one was a combination of Chicken and Pork. Almost made like a fry. These two dishes were served with lots of greens, fruits and Chinese wine.

 

Mutton

Mutton-Half-Done

Pork---Final-Touches 

medium.55e2abe572f6b_Pork__Chicken.jpg.2

 Chef--Asst

 

The next morning we walked about 6km to get to a place where our bus would pick us up. Had a super relaxed lunch – the highlight ( just to see ) – was the papaya with frog saliva. I did not have enough courage to try it but many colleagues were drooling over it – literally.

Papaya-Frog

 

The evening was a grand affair again. After the debrief meeting, the evening started off with Mongolian tea. It was made right in front of us. A large cauldron was placed in front of us. Add a lot of butter and then dry roasted rice is added to this. Once the rice starts to further cook in the butter, add beef and dry fruits to it. Then add a generous portion of milk and let it simmer. Though there is not “tea” in this, its called tea – mostly because its usually taken at tea time. Needless to say, the flavor of rice, boiled milk and raw beef kept me well away from this drink.

 

The dishes that followed were exotic, unlimited in quantity and variety and absolutely wholesome. Stuffed lamb intestines, lamb blood sausages, baby lamb ribs, Beef curry, pork curry, chicken, lamb and pork on skewers, dry fruits, fresh greens, beans, sprouts and lots and lots of wine and a dessert made of pork. Tasted each and every one of them.

 

medium.LAmb_Intestines.jpg.223b7c7278434medium.Lamb_Ribs.jpg.f5e3317dbeaed737ab5medium.Lamb_Rib.jpg.ae1b380affb65862cffdmedium.Beef_Curry.jpg.127a0087d5d392ad21

 

And as per classic Chinese tradition, the plates must not be empty at the end of any meal. The food and wine kept coming !!

 

My colleague: Whats your hobby ?

Me: I find wildlife and nature very exciting

MC: Did you ever see any tigers ?

Me: Many (showed her some pics on my phone)

MC: How come they don’t eat you ? Are they vegetarian ?

Me: Huh ??

 

 

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Great report Srinivas.

This is hilarious!

MC: How come they don’t eat you ? Are they vegetarian ?

Me: Huh ??

Edited by Suresh Hinduja
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Fantastic, Srini garu! A foodie travelogue!

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Great report Srinivas.

This is hilarious

Thank you Suresh

Fantastic, Srini garu! A foodie travelogue!

Thank you Sekhar Garu. Will try to edit tomorrow to provide descriptions for each picture. I really enjoyed this trip. 

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