The food in Guiyang is one of our favorite aspects of the city. It is flavorful and diverse and 96.3% of the time incredibly spicy. We are still exploring the cuisine but have already found some staple meals and a few all time favorites. Over the next few posts we will be doing our best to recreate the sights, smells and tastes we have been enjoying so much.
One of our favorite meals so far is a dish only found in Guiyang. It is called Siwawa which, when literally translated, means “shredded vegetable babies”. It is rare to find a meal utilizing as many fresh and un-oiled food items as this. Like many Chinese meals Siwawa should be eaten in community, never alone. Tom (our manager from New Zealand) Daniel (an Irish foreign teacher) and their two Chinese girlfriends introduced us to this fantastic food our second week in Guiyang.
The meal begins as the fuwu yuan (server) brings out a steaming hot bowl of broth along with small bowls for each diner filled with spices. A tray of brightly colored shredded vegetables is then placed in the center of the table consisting of: radishes, cucumber, carrots, kelp, soy bean sprouts, spiced tofu, and a number of unidentified pickled vegetables. Finally small plates stacked with rice pancakes/tortillas about as round as a nalgene bottle and paper-thin complete the provisions for the meal and the dinning begins.
Diners fill their bowl of spices with some broth creating a sweet and spicy soup. Taking a pancake/tortilla the diner fills it with whatever combination of vegetables seem most appealing; this can be based on color scheme, predicted taste, location on the tray or any other organizational method. When the diner is satisfied with their combination they proceed by rolling the vegetables in the pancake/tortilla like they were a baby in swaddling cloth (hence the name). Peanuts are added on top for a crunchy texture. Holding the baby over the bowl of soup, the diner uses a Chinese soupspoon to pour soup over the vegetables allowing it to seep through the bottom covering everything in warm spicy goodness. Finally the dinner is able to stuff that tasty baby into their mouths and enjoy the amazing contrast of flavors. Repeat until full.