Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tea Cup: 王老吉 Wanglaoji

2 layer Hot Pot: Safety inside, fire outside.

In Chongqing, the city of spice and 麻 (numbness), yin and yang come into play and save the day. Eating hot pot is always accompanied with drinks of some kind. Coca Cola, orange juice and bean milk for the kids,  local beer for the after work lime and bai jiu (Chinese white liquor) for those who have mislocated their nerve endings. However for the first timers, not so often-ers and the 'never will get accustom-ers', this particular drink can prevent bruised tongues and bruised egos. Imagine diving into your hot pot, underestimating the waves of pepper before you but despite the danger, you don't want to leave just yet. Wang lao ji is the banana boat that allows you to keep the fun and thrill all at once.
Wang lao ji is a natural plant beverage with the ability to 'remove' heat from the body. All it needs is a super-hero endorsement. The mixture is made up of Mesona chinensis*, common frangipani, Microcos paniculata*, chrysanthemum, honey suckle, Prunella vulgaris*, and licorice root along with water and sugar. The healing properties of these plants include removing heat as mentioned, regulating the liver and kidney, halting dysentery and treating fevers and headaches. They are brewed together in a proportion known only to the makers. The result is a dark, sweet tea with slight velvety and bitter tones. First time drinking it, it awakens the taste buds and you may not like it. Try it a couple months later and you may not even recognize it. My story, at least.

This household drink even has its own name scandal but you'll have to come to Chongqing for me to share it with you. Over a hot pot dinner of course!

*Common name unknown