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Chengdu in Sichuan Province is filled with panda memorabilia. Why? Because the Giant Panda Breeding Center, an effort to prevent the dying out of this species, is located there and draws millions of Chinese and foreign tourists. Of course we had to go and squeal over panda babies, lazy pandas, pandas in heat (which sound remarkably like goats…) and more.

What we didn’t quite expect was the Center’s restaurants offerings to “eat like a giant panda”. But of course I had to try!

So, while bamboo shoots, though boiled, not raw. I had no idea they turned black! We had to peel the outermost, harder layers (just like pandas do) to get to the soft, really tasty inner tube of flesh.

Buttery soft!
Now, pandas literally spend 95% of their waking hours eating. That’s because they can only digest 20% of the bamboo, and have to pass the rest. Panda droppings are *very* fibrous and green. As a gentle warning, humans don’t appear to be too much better at digesting bamboo shoots…

And to finish up, I ordered something by pointing at the picture on the menu (no English was spoken by the staff). I’d expected mushrooms, but got algae. This didn’t bother me one bit, I love pretty much anything that grows/lives in the sea, however, this was one true-to-Sichuan-hot-as-all-hell dish.

Lots, and lots, and more Sichuan peppers reduced me to a glazed-eyed, flaming red, perspiring, somewhat insanely grinning mess uttering high pitched giggles and “whoa”s, but I couldn’t stop eating, it was so tasty. I simply can’t explain the appeal of it; it’s this strange, tingly sensation that makes you want to cry and never stop eating at the same time. Sichuan isn’t for softies!

What vegetables have you encountered you didn’t think were edible or tasty and that blew you away? Anything you’re dying to try?