WildChina > WildChina > Off the beaten path in Shimen County

Shimen (石门) County of Changde (常德) prefecture in Hunan province — On a trip through Hunan to learn home-style recipes, the train from Changsha passes flooded rice fields gridding the landscape. A mixture of earthen homes and tile-faced two-story homes perch themselves in between.

Off the beaten path in Shimen County

It is the weekend and students have packed the train, having bought standing room only tickets. There are no seats available, and they stand for up to four hours, disembarking at their respective villages. The train is bustling with the energy that preludes a weekend of fun. The same energy finds me anticipating  new adventure in Shimen.

Off the beaten path in Shimen County
Unable to buy train tickets in advance for departure, the free time suggests a gander.
Off the beaten path in Shimen County
Stepping into town from the train station — arrival in Shimen
Off the beaten path in Shimen County
石门县博物馆 (Shímén xiàn bówùguǎn, Shimen County Museum)
Off the beaten path in Shimen County
While weeds grows wild in cracks, a garden is tended by groundskeepers.
Off the beaten path in Shimen County
The former temple built in 1052 AD houses old furniture, clothes and other historical relics.
Off the beaten path in Shimen County
Not really sure why this man was chosen to rest above ground. The intention to preserve him as a historical figure was surely out of the question. The scare of seeing his body certainly put the Shimen County museum on the map of China for me.
Off the beaten path in Shimen County
Any other museum might not have permitted this, but the drum and bell on the grounds were free for the pounding and chiming.

While traveling, markets are a must-see. In China, there tends to be an open market in most neighborhoods. If one doesn’t run into one, a wander or guidance in the right direction will lead to a colorful peek into the local diet, people, and culture.

Off the beaten path in Shimen County
A market nearby invited a wander.
Off the beaten path in Shimen County
Chinese herbal medicine
Off the beaten path in Shimen County
Chilies spice the market scene.
Off the beaten path in Shimen County
While I’ve seen là ròu (腊肉, cured pork) throughout Sichuan, Yunnan, and Hunan, but never had I seen such a wide assortment of dried meats!
Off the beaten path in Shimen County
Dried chicken and fish hang, looking like creatures that died from fright.
Off the beaten path in Shimen County
A fine line between taxidermy and food, all parts of a pig can not only be eaten, but dried to be eaten.
Off the beaten path in Shimen County
Tucked into another open-front shop a machine rests with broken noodles scattered about.
Off the beaten path in Shimen County
Freshly cut noodles hang from rafters to dry.
Off the beaten path in Shimen County
A birthday meal of longevity noodles made from these could ensure two lifetimes.
Off the beaten path in Shimen County
Nearby, fentiao (potato starch noodles) are sold in bundles.
Off the beaten path in Shimen County
Encased in this ceramic oven appears to be a matrix of smaller ceramic urns.
Off the beaten path in Shimen County
In each urn stews a soup.

After the market prelude, I went on to meet Zhou Yi and her husband in their newly-wed nest wherein the next day I would learn their favorite new-family recipes.

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Interested in learning more about China’s food history? Take a look at China for Foodies, a set departure excursion exploring Beijing, Xi’an, Chengdu, Shanghai and Hangzhou.

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