Notes from Changsha, Hunan province

Changsha is the ugliest and most ungainly Chinese city I have seen, which is saying something.  Nonetheless for a food pilgrimage it is a serious rival for #1 spot in the world, perhaps surpassing Chengdu for the quality and novelty of its dishes.  Very little effort is required to do well, and some of my best courses I had at the Hunan restaurant in the Sheraton, also the only time I saw an English-language menu.

Even at major hotels, hardly anyone speaks passable English, much less good English.  But you can find many hanging portraits of Chairman Mao, who converted to communism in this city.

Carry an iPad, so you can look up and communicate the Chinese characters for “eggplant with orange chilies on top.”

There were plans to erect the world’s tallest building, and ground was broken, but the foundations were not extended and they have since been repurposed as a fish farm, hail Friedrich Hayek.

When they set their minds to it, they can build towers at the rate of three stories a day.

Changsha

The marginal value of entering a park here is high, as I stumbled upon card games, group exercise sessions, dance clubs, and performances of traditional music, all at higher rates than in most other Chinese cities I have visited.  At the entrance to one I read on the sign: “Don’t sneeze into the face of others,” and also I was ordered to reject “feudal superstitious practices.”

The people seem…different.  I feel the cab drivers often are on the verge of cackling, except when they are cackling.  Then the verge disappears.  The word “rollicking” frequently comes to mind, which of course is a sign you would not want to be governed by this province.

Kind of like New York.

Comments

A curiously similar dish is considered Korean

http://www.maangchi.com/recipe/gaji-namul

Eggplants with spicy crap on top is hardly an original idea.

Nor is vegetables with fat on it or burnt meat. But there are many many thousands of creative versions of each of them.

Personally, eggplant with spicy crap is one of my favourite foods in China, but I've never had it the same in two places.

Potatoes with meat is not exactly a "dish" which any nation or ethnicity can lay claim to. It's just...two ingredients which everyone in the world puts together. Kind of like, eggplants with spicy s**t on top.

Is...eggs...a dish of any "cuisine"? I suppose some hipster douche will have a theory on that.

Kind of like how a...banana...is now Somali cuisine :) How can a nation known only for its famines and starvation, have a "cuisine"? LOL

There are thousands of ways to cook an egg. Whatever ... apparently it gives you pleasure to shit on other people's cuisines.

There may certainly be thousands of ways to cook an egg.

An egg...is not a "cuisine", however. Unless those eggplants were somehow cooked in some unique way, then they are still not any unique idea that every other society in the world already hasn't had. That's my point: at what point does every stupid "dish" stop being a "cuisine", and just ends up being "eggs"?

You should try imam bayildi or moussaka once, and then tell me if it's just "eggplant".

But, since we're calling a banana " Somali cuisine", anything is possible.

Ha, this is your opinion on every food topic raised here.

That's cause it happens to be right.

So do you think ALL cuisine is bunk? Or can you explain to us something that passes muster for you?

Lasagne? Just some dried what stuff, rotten cow's milk and stewed tomatoes. I don't know why the Italians even bother.

Here's the part I think you don't understand. Western food often involves a single dish that you eat as a completed whole. Much of the world sits down to a variety of simpler dishes and mixes and matches as they please. But there is enormous variety in how each of those individually simpler dishes is put together.

For all that you have very negative opinions of a lot of things, somehow you never seem to get to the point of what's good enough for you. Except for the obvious answer of "Me, of course. I'm better".

You clearly have not the slightest clue what "much of the world" eats. It's exactly the opposite. Much of the world eats the same 2 basic staple foods over and over and over with absolutely no variation or difference between dozens of countries or whole continents.

I'm saying: how can something that is a identical to every country on earth, basically, qualify as a "cuisine" of any particular country? Potatoes and meat is not a "cuisine" of anybody, even though that's what much of the world eats.

Lasagna is an original idea. A plate of eggplant with chilly peppers on top, is not.

A "cuisine" has to be defined by something original in it. If there's nothing original, then there's no "cuisine".

"Unless those eggplants were somehow cooked in a unique way" But of course they are. I have had similar dishes at Hunanese restaurants. They taste different from what you would get elsewhere. This is why all those cuisines taste so different from one another, whether you are talking about cuisines from one country to the next, or regions or micro-regions. The proof is in the flavor.

If I am not mistaken, there have been countless books, articles, recipes, discussions, classes and.... (drum roll, please) internet threads devoted to just this topic. You might want to get cracking.

I've had gaji-namul countless times as part of the banchan. It does not taste the same.

maybe s thoroughfare where you buy bedroom set furniture or something . . .

death do we part, send the check, in the mail . . . .

lazy afternoon, f o, lazy, s face, nobody slacker, d bags . . . https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BqqPgA-yuuc

Interesting how liberals just fluff off the death and destruction that was caused by the Civil War. While it is unfortunate that slavery was extended 10 more years, it wasn't like the alternative was getting rid of slavery somehow peacefully. The alternative was all out war, and a death toll we have not seen since, not even in WW2, and from a much lower population base. Not to mention the civilian casualties.

The alternative was gradual emancipation on terms that amounted to a buyout of slaveowners.

How did it look without the benefit of hindsight?

I don't think it was clear in 1850 that slavery was on a long term path to eradication no matter what actions were taken. Given what was known at the time, a compromise probably increased the odds of the institution's survival.

Also, the death and destruction of the Civil War were definitely not anticipated. It was not clear that war was the alternative to this compromise, and even at the outbreak of the Civil War, few expected it to be so long and costly.

There were also non-war alternatives to compromising. For example, the southern states could have been allowed to secede.

Also, at least some aspects of the compromise are morally indefensible: the fugitive slave law in particular was odious. The agreement that territories could decide for themselves about slavery is less clear--it didn't have a practical effect of expanding slavery, since the territories didn't want it. But in my view supporting even a theoretical right to slavery is indefensible.

Overall, I think the conventional wisdom that the compromise--and therefore Fillmore's presidency--was bad is correct.

I thought I had visited this country, en route to Tibet, but it was Chengdu. After a while all these Chinese cities begin to look the same, no character, just glass, concrete and steel, except for the showcase buildings in Shanghai, Beijing

If it's Tuesday, this must be 比利時 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/If_It's_Tuesday,_This_Must_Be_Belgium

You are right. I recommend Chongqing or Xining for something different.

My wife was there for about 10 days picking up our third child, about 8 years ago. She said the school that Sun Yat Sen attended is worth visiting and that the Chinese hold him in reverence.

Sun Yat Sen was pretty active in Singapore, raising money from local Chinese and setting up reading rooms in Boat Quay and Armenian Street. Singapore-based support for the nationalists in China was significant in WWII as well, and a primary reason for Japan's rush to take the colony.

That Filmore article was weird. Apparently, we are supposed to be outraged at the compromise of 1850. I've been an American all my life, and I never knew I was supposed to have an opinion on this.

I remember it as part of High School history, but that was California. In the South they may teach it differently.

In general I think "what would I have done, had I been slave or master?" is an impossible question. It is unreachable world view. We can't unlearn the following century.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hunan_cuisine#Features

"Known for its liberal use of chili peppers, shallots and garlic, Hunan cuisine is known for being dry hot (干辣) or purely hot"

http://shanghaiist.com/2013/10/22/_a_bighead_carp_weighing.php

"A Bighead carp weighing 50 kilograms was chopped up, cooked, and honored as the World's Biggest Hunan Cuisine Dish ... please remember that all of the meat is from one single goddamn fish."

To those complaining about the article, the point of that reference is to compare Trump to Mao, not to say anything about Fillmore.

I have long been a fan of the Sheraton Changsha's restaurant, too. When it first opened, they had an all-you-can-eat menu, which I found strange in a hotel. The hostess at the time explained to me that it was a compromise measure - they wanted a buffet, but they found that the local cuisine didn't do well under the heat lamps (what food does?). During my last trip there, I was sorry to see that they were no longer doing that. Though it was probably for the best (for my waist line). During trips there, I used to seek out markets where I could bring hunks of dried, smoked pork that we'd slice into dishes. Don't know that you'll make it through US customs with one of those, but you could try some in Changsha, ideally fried with dried long beans. To order in Chinese, show the wait staff this: 干豆角蒸腊肉. They'll know what you're getting at.

Ironically - and my Hunan friends will back me up on this - the best Hunan food is actually found in Chinese cities home to the large Hunanese diaspora. Shenzhen, in particular, has tremendous Hunanese restaurants. And Shanghai, not far behind.

Agreed on the last point. In fact, I'd also say the same is true for Sichuan food, though not to as great an extent.

So you didn't visit Mao's home town nearby at Shaoshan? It was remarkably quiet when I visited in 2000. I've heard it has since become more popular and crowded again.

also I was ordered to reject “feudal superstitious practices.” - See more at: http://marginalrevolution.com/#sthash.FjKpZEMZ.dpuf - wonder if that is a reference to Shin Yun?

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