Discovering China: Chengdu – Pandas & Hot Pot

discovering china你好 (Nihao) !  I’m delighted you are following along with us as we tour China, city by city.  We recently returned from a three-week family holiday in China. This is the fifth of ten posts whereby I introduce you to the culture of China through our eyes.  Today, I bring you to Chengdu – though a thriving modern metropolis, Chengdu is most well known for the Giant Panda.

Chengdu is the capital of Sichuan province in Southwest China.  Chengdu is one of the most important economic, transportation, and communication centers in Western China. As China’s National Treasure, the giant panda is one of the rarest animals in the world. The total number is estimated to be 1,500, including those living in the wild, 80% of which are in Sichuan Province.

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chengduPanda Breeding Center

Beloved by all, the panda has a special place in the heart of Chinese people and visitors alike.  At the Panda Breeding Center we had the exciting opportunity to encounter pandas and to learn about the care of these amazing animals. We were able to see pandas up-close and learn about their habitat, mating habits, diet, intelligence and how they have survived despite increasing natural and human threats to their existence.

Here we had the opportunity to hold and cuddle baby Giant Pandas but for the health of this remarkable species – and the exorbitant cost – we refrained.  Our friend Carlo put together a couple of great videos: the Giant Panda & Red Panda and the adorable Panda Cubs at the breeding center in Chengdu.

If you would like to learn more about the Giant Panda, I encourage you to check out the Free Panda Lapbook Lessons and Printables at Homeschool Share; Carisa Hinson and Ami Brainerd have done a fabulous job putting this together.  Partner these videos and lapbook together with a few non-fiction books and you have a great unit study.  A few titles I would suggest include Giant Pandas by John Seidensticker and another by the same title, Giant Pandas, by Gail Gibbons.

Hot Pot

 火锅  (huǒ guō) is one of our favorite foods. We first discovered it with our Mandarin tutor when he taught us how to make it ourselves.  As wonderful as his recipe is, it doesn’t quite compare to what you find in China, especially in Chengdu where huǒ guō is a specialty dish.

hot potA simmering metal pot of stock is placed at the center of the dining table; while kept simmering, ingredients are placed into the pot and are cooked at the table. It can be eaten bland to very spicy, depending on how much spice has been put in the stock.  We selected both varieties as I like it spicy but the kids do not.

Frozen meat is sliced thinly to prepare it for hot pot cooking. The common meats used include lamb, beef, chicken, duck, mutton, and others. Meat or vegetables are loaded individually into the hot cooking broth by chopsticks, and cooking time can take from 1 to 15 minutes, depending on the type of food. Meat should be cooked at the very least 20 seconds depending on the thickness of meat. Other hot pot dishes include leafy vegetables, mushrooms, seafood, and noodles. One of the foods I discovered I really like is Dried Black Fungus.

Here is an easy to follow tutorial on How to Make Traditional Chinese Hot Pot in your home.  As she stated, the food is usually eaten with a dipping sauce on the side. The important thing to remember is this sauce is personalized so be creative to find what ingredients and blends you like best.  You may wish to use soy sauce, oyster sauce, Sriracha, sesame paste, chili paste, minced garlic, cilantro, salt & pepper, sliced scallions, and/or sesame oil.

To make it at home, you’ll want a Tayama Hot Pot or other stainless steel cooking pot.  The divider isn’t necessary unless you want two different broths. An Induction Cooktop Stove is also recommended so that everyone can take part and enjoy the meal in comfort around the table.

I’ll be taking the weekend off but be sure to come back on Monday.  You won’t want to miss our visit to the Giant Buddha in Leshan.

Autumn-Hopscotch-2013This post is part of the iHomeschool Network’s Autumn Hopscotch, a 10 day series of posts by over 40 different homeschool bloggers. You can visit the hopscotch home page at iHN for ideas and inspiration in topics like Fun Autumn Craft Activities for Young Kids and Using Board Games for Learning.

All 10 days of Discovering China will be linked to one landing page.  Bookmark it for reference!

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