My last blog post on the Hadza tribe of Tanzania (see Hanging Out with the Hadza) was my longest post, so it makes sense to follow it with a short one, probably my shortest one. And I hope you will find it to be “short and sweet” as it involves food and hospitality.
Last fall, I visited the Guangxi province of Southern China to see the Longshen Rice Terraces. Located about 100 km from the famous city of Guilin, the terraces are also called Longji, meaning Dragon’s Backbone, as they are supposed to be reminiscent of the scales of a dragon. I had heard that the terraces are amazing at any time of the year as they change drastically in color from one season to the next. They are indeed stunning, even though we enjoyed them mostly under heavy rain.
As a respite from the rain, we visited a local family from the Yao ethnic group, Mr. and Ms. Pang, in their beautiful traditional house in Dazhai. The Yao people are one of the officially recognized ethnic minorities in China though some people from the Yao ethnic group now live in Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam. In Dazhai, almost everyone is from the Yao tribe.
Mr. Pang is 76 years old, while Ms. Pang is 81 years old (way to go, Ms. Pang). They live in a wooden house that has two stories. As in most traditional Yao houses, the first story is where they keep the farming tools and raise livestock, which in the case of the Pang family means a few chickens and a horse. The Pang extended family lives in the upper story, and Ms. Pang has found a clever way to feed the horse without going down to the first level.
As we were waiting (hoping) for the rain to stop, Mr. and Ms. Pang prepared for us a traditional Yao dish called you cha (oil tea). Tea leaves are sauteed with salt, pepper, and ginger, to which puffed rice and sweet potatoes are added. The dish is warm, quite fragrant, and a little bitter but has a sweet finish. It is said to warm the body and enhance blood flow. Exactly what we needed to continue on our journey as the rain was showing little sign of letting up.
Warm thanks to Mr. and Ms. Pang,