After the long climb down Huang Shan, all 18km of it, we took our wobbling knees off for a quiet rest in Xidi, another ancient Unesco World Heritage Village. Xidi sits in the midst of fields of yellow-flowering rapeseed, orchards of pink-flowering peach and rows and rows of green sprouting vegetables. A stream of fresh water is channelled to run past the front door of all the houses, and following it, we were led by and by to the wonderful Pig's Heaven Inn.
As you push open the heavy oak door of this 400-year old house, set in a high white wall topped with black tiles, you enter a quiet light-filled stone courtyard. Stand in the courtyard and look around you - you will see a heavy stone altar holding a small buddha, a high-ceilinged wooden chamber with a square elm table and four stools, positioned to catch the most sunlight, and a high wooden wall hung with calligraphy and ink paintings. High up on each side of the courtyard are the intricately carved lattice shutters lending privacy to the rooms upstairs.
I climbed the old stairs leading to the upper floor and noticed a small window closed with solid wooden shutters. As I opened them, they revealed the sight of all the Xidi rooftops, and an ancient stone bowl.
The dinner we ate that night was nothing short of a feast, made with ingredients only from Xidi village and cooked in the house's large kitchen. There was a whole chicken in aromatic broth (I do mean whole- head, feet, everything), meltingly tender pork slices with shaved winter bamboo shoots, wild herbs, water weeds with chillies, braised tofu with black cloud fungus, and slices of roasted pumpkin with ginger. It was accompanied by a stoneware bottle of the famous local huang jiu - yellow wine. De-lic-ious.
Labels: Anhui, food, Huang Shan, Xidi