Sabor Sichuan (Taste of Szechuan) 川百味

Sabor Sichuan 川百味 (Taste of Szechuan)

Calle Gabino Jimeno 6: Usera, Madrid


Wanzhou Kaoyu 万州考鱼 Sabor Sichuan 川百味

Do you like Spicy Food?

Madrid is a fabulous city for eating out. For the adventurous, boundless opportunities for exciting dining exist all over the city. However, those who crave spicy food, and I mean really spicy food, are often disappointed by the dearth of options.

川北凉粉 spicy mung bean noodles Sabor Sichuan 川百味

Some Peruvian restaurants make brave attempts to keep up their spicy tradition, but most succumb to the whims of their autochthonous diners by watering down the kick. Kitchen 154, a mecca for spicy food in the market of Vallehermoso, does a pretty good job. Cruel, there own chili brand, is pretty fiery .

四川凉面,cold Sichuan noodles Sabor Sichuan 川百味

This after all is the country were the giant Tabasco Sauce company has almost given up the ghost. Sales in Spain are about its worst in Europe. Spanish tolerance of hot spice or chili is pretty low.

Sabor Sichuan 川百味

Thank heavens for Sabor Sichuan (Taste of Szechuan). This small little restaurant in the barrio of Usera , south of the River Manzanares, and  in the heart of Madrid’s China town is a godsend.

青椒皮蛋 green peppers and 1000 year old eggs Sabor Sichuan 川百味

If you have ever been to Sichuan or Chongqing and continue to crave that lip burning and tongue numbing Mala 麻辣 spice then Sabor Sichuan is Continue reading “Sabor Sichuan (Taste of Szechuan) 川百味”

Wanzhou Kaoyu 万州烤鱼: Grilled Fish from Chongqing 重庆

Wanzhou Kaoyu 万州烤鱼 the Chongqing dish that is hot in Madrid’s Chinatown

Lotos Roots; one of the usual condiments for Wanzhou Kaoyu 万州烤鱼

 A local specialty from Chongqing, China called Wanzhou Grilled Fish (Wanzhou Kaoyu 万州烤鱼 ) is now all the rage in many restaurants in Madrid’s Chinatown neighbourhood of Usera.

Wanzhou Kaoyu 万州烤鱼

What is Wanzhou Grilled Fish / Wanzhou Kaoyu 万州烤鱼

It is a grilled /roasted whole fish covered in a dry dressing of Sichuan peppercorns, dried chilies and and served in a big pan filled with a soup like sauce that is not to dissimilar to the stock used in Sichuan hot pots 火锅 (huoguo).

The dish originates from Wanzhou (formerly WanXiang) in Chongqing municipality: It’s now popular all over Mainland China.

The original way of making this dish is to first grill a freshwater fish (Carp 鲤鱼 is popular) over charcoal and then cover it with various condiments that you order from the menu.

Some of these condiments might include lotus roots, potatoes, bamboo shoots, glass noodles, edible fungus, and beansprouts.

In Madrid the fish is usually Sea Bass (Lubina in Spanish)鲈鱼.

A great place to try Wanzhou Kaoyu 万州烤鱼 is in the Sichuan restaurant Sabor Sichuan in Usera, Madrid. See our review:

Huanghua Cheng 黄花城 Walking the Wild Wall: 2001


From our Diary 

Monday 24 September, 2001.

The Wild Wall at Huanghua 黄花城

The Wild Wall at Huanghua 黄花城

We are picked up at 7.30 sharp by Sue Lin in his shiny black car and leave Beijing via a four-lane road, lined with old trees. The road looks innocent and pleasant enough, but apparently people get killed here everyday. Although Sue Lin is a good driver, we ourselves experience a couple of near misses, due to the crazy manoeuvres of other vehicles.

The Wild Wall at Huanghua 黄花城

It’s supposed to be only 60 kilometres to the village, but it takes us more than two hours. We have to stop and ask for directions a couple of times and once we even have to backtrack a bit. We don’t mind at all, because the scenery is absolutely gorgeous; we are surrounded by those dark, rolling mountains that I remember from my first visit to the Wall, so many years ago.

The Wild Wall at Huanghua 黄花城

In fact, our route takes us quite close to Mutianyu. From time to time we can actually see crumbly bits of the Wall, running along the tops of the hills. At the foot of the mountains there are fields of corn, wheat and beans, and small villages. There is a busy traffic of donkeys and carts because this is September and the harvest is in full swing. We are in the middle of the real, rural China, we have seen so little of on this trip, and so close to Beijing as well!

Our journey ends at the refreshment stall of an incredible old lady who whips out a copy of ‘Lonely Planet’ and explains all the pros and cons of the two possible routes. She proudly shows us her collection of photos, taken by and with foreign visitors.

The Wild Wall at Huanghua 黄花城

Apart from selling drinks, snacks and film, she also keeps the most amazing toilet: it’s a concrete box, open to the air and entirely without doors, so that you have to climb over the wall to get in, or out. Most importantly, it’s clean, airy and quite pleasant.

The Wild Wall at Huanghua 黄花城

The views from here are stunning: there is a very steep piece of Wall right in front of us, and a reservoir on the other side. Something that looks like a Continue reading “Huanghua Cheng 黄花城 Walking the Wild Wall: 2001”

Bolivia Invades China (town)

Bolivia Invades China


China Town Usera Madrid IMG_20190210_115953_1Download

Earlier this year, Madrid’s barrio of Usera; a  gritty, slightly run-down area, and home to a totally authentic Chinatown, was turned into a riot of color and boomed with the sound of South American music as Spain’s Bolivian community danced up Calle Dolores Barranco, one of the main arteries in Usera, and the beating heart of Madrid’s Chinese Community.


Bolivians In Usera

Only a few weeks before the Bolivian parade,  thousands of Madrileños (people who live in Madrid) had lined the same street to watch Madrid’s Chinese community celebrate Chinese New Year and welcomed in the year of the Pig. It appears that the two communities are going to battle it out every year to see who can put on the best show in Calle Dolores Barranco (both parades were pretty good).


Bolivians dancing up Calle Dolores Barranco, Usera Madrid

I must admit, though I am a great Sinophile, I think the Bolivians edged it this year with a display of extravagance and vibrant music that lasted three hours compared to the much shorter Chinese New Year Parade. I am sure the Chinese comunity are going to up the ante at next year’s New Year parade.


Bolivian Dancer in Usera, Madrid,

For people who don’t know Madrid; Usera is a District south of the Manzanares River that cuts through the city. It’s quite close to the historic center and near the hotly promoted Madrid Rio green area. This area was created by putting the enourmous ring road, the M30, underground and building a park above it. In the last decade Usera has become home to thousands of people from China.

Gongs and Drums. Calle Dolores Barranco Usera, Madrid

They have created a Chinatown were any Chinese citizen could probably live without ever having to venture any further out into Madrid. All services and whims that a Chinese person would want are catered for so that they need not feel they have left China.

Chinese New Year Usera, Madrid

There are numerous streets where nearly all business signs are in Mandarin characters. From restaurants, supermarkets and hair salons to real estate businesses, lawyer’s offices, and churches, the presence of the Chinese community is everywhere. Unlike other Chinatowns in Europe, such as London’s Chinatown which is more orientated to tourism, the Chinese community in Usera, live, work and have their businesses in this area.

Taiqi students Chinese New Year Usera, Madrid

The two main streets are Manuela Usera and Dolores Barranco. These two streets are intersected by many much smaller streets that undulate between them. Basically, from Calle Olvido, closer to the river, until almost Calle Mariano Vela near the park, Olof Palma.

Guizhou Fish, Sabor Sichuan, Usera, Madrid

Usera is also home to a large Latin American population, especially from Columbia, Ecuador and Bolivia. This year, the Bolivians put on a fantastic show with their colorful carnival parade.  The festival was called FIACBOL, Carnaval Boliviano en Madrid 2019. In 2018 the FIACBOL parade took place in the Paseo de la Castellana, one of Madrid’s main streets.

Bolivians dancing up Calle Dolores Barranco, Usera Madrid

More recently young Madridleños have begun moving into the area as rising rents and house prices have pushed younger people further from the city center

Chinese Lanterns floating on the lake in Pradolongo Park Usera, Madrid

And yes, the word gentrification is being banded around and there are rumors that Calle Dolores Barranco could be pedestrianized in order to make way for a touristy Chinatown. The neighbours are not impressed. Calle dolores Barranco is a busy commercial street where people live and make a living from small businesses. The last thing that the street needs is to be turned into a gaudy tourist trap. Let it be and keep it authentic.

Sichuan Spicy Sweet Patato Noodles: Sabor Sichuan, Usera, Madrid

If you missed this year’s parade but fancy seeing traditional Bolivian and other South American dancing just go along to Parque Pradolongo, the fourth biggest park in Madrid, every Saturday and Sunday afternoon and you’ll be treated to quite a show.

Bolivians dancing up Calle Dolores Barranco, Usera Madrid

This park is where Madrid’s Latin population practices their traditional dances. A visit to Pradolongo makes for a great off- the – beaten track excursion when visiting  Madrid.

Bolivians dancing up Calle Dolores Barranco, Usera Madrid

You can finish the excursion off with a fantastic meal in one of the many fabulous Chinese restaurants in Usera, where every culinary corner of China is represented.

Spicy prawns in the Restuarant Jin Lai Usera
Bolivian dancers in Calle Dolores Barranco Usera Madrid

Hakka Tulou / Earth Buildings / 土樓

Photo of the Week:  福建土樓 Fujian Tulou 2005

Tulou Fujian  福建土樓

Just a few of the magnificant Hakka Earth Buildings (Tulou) we were fortunate enough to visit before the arrival of mas tourism.

The Tulou are found in the province of Fujian. Other hakka earth buildings can be found in Guangdong and Jiangxi Provinces

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International Women’s Day in China

During the One Child Policy (一胎政策) which finished in 2015, the Chinese government tried to persuade the population not to discriminate against having female children.  Unfortunately, the campaign was not successful and has resulted in there being far more males than females in China. Traditional families, especially in the countryside chose to have a male child over a female child.

This is a government propaganda sign in Rural China (Bakai, Rongjiang, Guizhou Province) reminding the local population that males and females are equal.

Boys and Girls are the same.

However, due the gender imbalance, the government is now asking women to lower their aspirations and be less picky when choosing a male partner for life.

There is still a lot of work to do.


Maijishan: Haystack Mountain

Maijishan 麦积山

Haystack Mountain:

Tianshui 天水  Gansu Province 甘肃省

Maijishan 麦积山

There is nothing quite like Maijishan 麦积山 in China. The bizarre, haystack shaped mountain rises majestically up over a subtropical zone of greenery and rivers.  Other Buddhist sites might have enormous statues or high ceiling-ed painted caves, but the views they offer are often more restrictive and it may be difficult to get up close, due to barriers or hordes of visitors.

Maijishan 麦积山

At Maijishan 麦积山, the cave art and statues are right in your face and you can almost touch them, though you mustn’t, of course!  And, in addition, there is the mountain itself: a honeycomb of caves and statues reached by climbing up a snakes and ladder board of incredible staircases that cling precariously to the side of the mountain.

Maijishan 麦积山

The first Chinese character of Maijishan, “mai” (麦), means wheat or grain resulting in the mountain being called Haystack Mountain, because of its uncanny resemblance to the Continue reading “Maijishan: Haystack Mountain”

Lijiashan 李家山窑洞村

Lijiashan 李家山窑洞村


Lijiashan 李家山

Lijiashan 李家山 is probably one of the best examples of Northern China’s cave dwelling architecture 窑洞风格. Situated in a steep valley above the Yellow river 黄河, it exudes bucolic charm. However, if you are not going to stay the night or go off hiking, an hour or two is enough to see everything and have a cold beer.

Lijiashan 李家山

Lijiashan (from Margie’s diary 26/8/2016)

Qikou 碛口Guesthouse 13.00

The driver, who had taken us to Qikou 碛口 from Lüliang Lishi 吕梁离石, has convinced us that Lijiashan village is much too far too walk. For another 30 Yuan he’ll drive us, wait and take us back. But first we can have a beer and something to eat. As we fancy the home-made noodles which have to be ordered for three, our driver joins us for lunch. We have cucumber salad, aubergine with beans, plus the delicious noodles with a simple fresh tomato, coriander and chive sauce.

Lijiashan 李家山

The ride to Lijiashan is not far (5kms), but the road is windy and at times exceedingly steep. It’s also a scorching day and there’s little or no shade from the merciless sun, so we are pleased we took the lazy option.  The village is really tiny, much smaller than I’d expected. Our guidebook had written a whole column about it. The setting is nonetheless lovely: the village is surrounded by green hills, some of them terraced, and there are lots of fruit trees and plants.

Lijiashan 李家山

There are cave-dwellings, mostly abandoned, as well as more elaborate complexes, set around courtyards with cave-rooms at the back. Most buildings are dilapidated, though some Continue reading “Lijiashan 李家山窑洞村”

Harbin Ice and Snow Festival 2015

Harbin Ice and Snow Festival 2015

Harbin Ice Skyscrapers
Harbin Ice Skyscrapers

At last we made it to Harbin. We had wanted to go to Harbin for its Ice Festival for years and at last everything fell into place.

What would the Ice festival be like without Harbin's favorite brew?
What would the Ice festival be like without Harbin’s favorite brew?

Here is the rundown for this year’s Harbin Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival. Later we’ll be putting up a more personal account. In this post we’ll give you the info you need if you are planning to go this year 2015.


The Festival has 3 parts:

  • Harbin Ice and Snow World
  • Harbin Sun Island Snow Sculpture Art Expo
  • Harbin Ice Lantern Fair


The Harbin Ice and Snow World


This is the big one. It’s out on Sun Island, and it’s where you’ll find the Continue reading “Harbin Ice and Snow Festival 2015”

Chinese New Year 春节: The Nightmare of Going Home

Chinese New Year

The Nightmare of Going Home

By Train

The New Year Rush
The New Year Rush

Getting train tickets in China has always been a hit and miss operation, especially if you want sleeper berths for long distance trains. At Chinese New Year, getting a ticket becomes something akin to winning the lottery.

Train Mayhem
Train Mayhem

This BBC clip sums the situation up quite well, and shows the growing divide between the haves and have nots in modern China, where just having access to a computer is an advantage。

We've got a seat!
We’ve got a seat!

Glad to be home
Glad to be home