It’s no secret that things are cheap in China- handbags, watches, sunglasses, beer.
No one told me how cheap mushrooms are, though. I can usually get two handfuls of these fresh shiitake mushrooms for about a buck.
Where does an hour and a half down the Li River take us? Nowhere, really. But in the middle of nowhere is a small town called LiuGong (留公).
In our exploration of the small village, we came across as family restaurant on the top of a hill overlooking the river. Built on a cement slab with a stone roof that looked like a carpark, the aesthetic was pretty similar to the rest of the town. A small group of Chinese tourists and a couple of Czech bikers were sitting around the fire pit in the middle of the concrete floor- so of course we were inclined to join.
As the river and cold had built up our appetites, we ordered a few plates of homestyle fried rice. I’ve just finished reading Jen Lin-Liu’s Serve the People- a stir-fried journey through China, and there are a few passages that jumped out at me while reading. One is a bit of advice which was passed down to the author: “there is a difference between best restaurants and favorite restaurants”. In the states, I don’t think I had much of a distinction. I though Franny’s, or Prime Meats, and ok Blue Hill too, were simultaneously my favorite and the best restaurants. But things differ in China, where class distinctions are so apparent, and there is such a huge jump between new and old. The best restaurant in town might not be my most favorite, and vice versa.
Something about this meal- eating on fold-out mini chairs on a concrete slab, among karsts rising out of the fog, with and international cast of characters snapping pictures left and right- I found to be so memorable and endearing. One of my favorite meals in China so far- even if it wasn’t really a full “meal”. I had ordered a tomato-beef fried rice, and each time my huge spoon hit the bottom of the shallow cheap plastic plates, I scooped another spoonful of beefy tomato-y rice into my mouth with glee.