Life in the small tourist town of Xizhou is completely the opposite of my life as a student in Philadelphia, which is a nice change of pace. Most tourists stay in the larger neighboring town of Dali; Xizhou is just an interesting stop along their way to other bigger sites. Thus, shops here open late and close early, which gives me a lot of free time before and after work that I am not used to. I have already finished three books in the last week and a half, soaking up as much as I can about Chinese history and the local area. After a couple hours of reading in the evening, I go to bed almost as soon as it is fully dark out: around 9pm.
However, when I want a break from reading, I have been dreaming up all sorts of interesting flavor combinations I want to experiment with in future baking projects. Maybe it is because I am being exposed to such different, incredible foods (allllll the Chinese food + my Xizhou xiaochi project!), or because I suddenly don’t have access to ingredients/kitchen like I am used to. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not pining over the new absence of blueberries or dark chocolate chips in my life. But I am already making a list, ranked by priority, of the things I am going to make at the end of the summer!
Here are some recipes with unique flavor combinations that I am feeling particularly inspired by:
Sichuan Peppercorn Blueberry Oatmeal Pie / Lady and Pups
Fig, Balsamic, and Rosemary Hand Pies / Local Milk Blog
Blueberry Lavender Pound Cake with Lemon Mascarpone Cream / The Kitchen McCabe
Strawberry Basil Cupcakes with Basil Buttercream / The Cupcake Project
Looking back, it actually looks like there is a common theme of fruit + herbs!
Side note – in case you’re interested, here are the books I have read so far:
- River Town, Peter Hessler
I keep catching myself narrating my life in Xizhou in the same way that he writes…. weird?
- Travels Through Dali With a Leg of Ham Zhang Mei
An interesting combination of travel, autobiography, recipes, and photos. I love that I am starting to recognize the places + ingredients she talks about!
- Dragon Lady, Sterling Seagrave
The real (?) story of Empress Cixi, one of the three empresses in Chinese history. Depressing and a little inspiring, but mostly just fascinating.