Chilli for the cold? The usual argument is that chilli is popular in the heat of the tropics. At the Longji Rice Terraces, I first encountered this idea of eating chilli against damp cold.
The Longji Titian, “Dragon’s Back” rice terraces, are a popular tourist spot somewhat near Guilin, in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.
Guilin and the area around Yangshuo are famous for the karst hill landscape around there; the Longji rice terraces are, obviously, known for the terraced rice fields.
The Longji Rice Terraces
The area is quite nice to have a look around, indeed.
The rice fields – if you can see them well – are a sight to behold; the work that must have gone into them is astounding.
The traditional architecture and dress of the ethnic minorities living there are getting rather commercialized, but are still different and interesting.
A Return for the Chilli
I returned here not because I had not seen much when I had come before, during the Chinese New Year, when it was all covered in fog, dark and cold and clammy.
I returned because people had been selling dried chilli, and the guide on the tourist bus I had taken had told us passengers that we would see it, because the people needed it.
When you have a climate that is so cold and damp, the argument went, you need to have chilli.
This is a rationale for chilli consumption that I have since found to be very common in China.
The Chilli Against the Cold
Sure, those people, in those places, who really love spicy foods will eat it year-round.
Still, the idea behind it is not usually that it protects from spoiled meats (one of the most aggravating non-arguments, anyways) or that it helps to sweat and therefore cool down.
Rather, the argument is that chilli drives out the excess moisture one suffers in damp climes.
Yeah, it might sound like a Chinese medicine idea that you either love or find a bit too woo-woo.
A good hot meal – hot in more ways than one! – on a cold day with clammy fog that chills to one’s bones, though, that is a good approach, indeed.
Finding Chilli in the Longji Rice Terraces
Chilli, as usual, gets somewhat hidden; it was not the easiest to find vegetable patches where it was grown. But grown it was, even if rice is, of course, the dominant crop in the area.
Chilli in the Sun
It was easy enough to spot it in another situation: When it was being dried.
Longji Chilli Sauce
By now, there was not only dried chilli being sold here (the way I had seen it all those years ago), even a brand and production of local chilli sauce has apparently been established, Longji Da Ma (“Grande Dame of the Dragon’s Back,” if you wanted to get extra-poetic with the name).
Guilin, but Longji Lajiaojiang
Even in Guilin, itself famous for its chilli sauce (Guilin lajiaojiang), I spotted a place which sold Longji chilli sauce!
So, time to warm up!