PANDA, traditional OPERA and excellent FOOD! Welcome to Sichuan in China.

In Southwestern China, there is an agricultural province of Sichuan with its 110 million inhabitants. Its capital city is CHENGDU and it has over 8 million inhabitants. Sichuan is known for its spicy food, traditional and unique opera, Giant Buddha of LESHAN (on the UNESCO list) sculpted in the rock mountain and…… Giant Panda natural reserve.

A few kilometers away from the capital city of Chengdu, we find the only Giant Panda research station in the world, built back in the 80’s. Today there are about 20 Giant pandas that live in the area of 100 hectares with all facilities available – personal kitchen, panda “kinder-garden” etc.

What do you know about PANDAS?
• Pandas eat a lot and then sleep a lot but they also play, roll around, climb on trees from which they sometimes fall down! We got the chance to admire one during an afternoon and it truly was an unforgettable experience to observe they playing around.
• Pandas love bamboo….and more bamboo! Each Panda savors about 15-30kg of bamboo shoots a day…
• And what about pandas’ private life? In nature, they often live as loners. This is because panda is a very COMPLICATED animal, especially when it gets to the choice of her partner! That is one of the reasons why they have such a low birth rate in addition to the already restricted fertility period that happens only once a year.
• Panda baby does really fit into one’s palm! It weighs only 100g. Nonetheless, an adult panda can still weight up to 200kg! The mother takes care of its child until it is 3 years old, then hurray into the wild.

WHERE DO PANDAS LIVE? The only place where you can find pandas living in the wild nature is China. They still belong to endangered species! Today, it is estimated that there are about 1200 Giant Pandas in the wild and that they live up to the age of 25 in average.

Sichuan is not only known for pandas, equally famous is its special CUISINE. Neatly everyone knows the famous recipe of Kung Pao Chicken, prepared in different ways! Local cuisine is very very spicy – probably most famous is local HOT POT. A large pot filled with oil and hundreds of chilli peppers in which you dip and cook various meats and vegetables. The most magical moment comes when you move a mushroom for instance, towards your mouth and realize that you’re probably dying suffocated, your eyes are wet and you definitely need a glass of water. It basically burns like hell.

We spent one long beautiful weekend in Sichuan and have lots of memories from this trip! Giant Buddha was as impressive (the biggest carved stone Buddha in the world) as performance of Sichuan opera where the actors change 10 masks in less than 20 seconds – unforgettable! We observed the Giant Pandas in real nature park and finally, we bought one PANDA as well! And it wasn’t even expensive – in a local souvenir shop, we bought a little soft plush toy in memory of this extraordinary TRIP!

Finally, let us go and try cook (my TIP) – FLOWER CHICKEN – together – quick, light, beautifully colored and a bit SPICY! WHAT DO WE NEED? ½ of a sweet red pepper, ½ of a sweet green pepper,
1 pack of chicken breasts, 1 tsp of cooking wine, 2tbsp soy sauce, 
1tbsp white blended pepper, 1tsp of sesame oil, 1tbsp of thinly sliced garlic and ginger, 1tbsp of peanuts, 1 lettuce for decoration..

WE CUT, cut, cut everything into tiny pieces. We heat up the oil in the wok pan, we add the ginger + garlic and mix for 1min. Then we add the chicken and mix for 2-3min until it gets soft- possibly, we can also add a bit of water or cooking wine. Finally, we add the spoon of peanuts into the wok, we mix it and serve with rice on plates with prepared lettuce. Time of preparation approx. 25 min.

EXTRA TIPS – As always, I am careful with the seasonings. This recipe is great with freshly sliced ginger that is very cheap in China. The cooking wine is not that important but the sesame oil is a true necessity. Have fun!