The next stop on my journey Guangzhou, China’s third largest city, is known as the food haven of the Republic of China. Eating is a big part of Chinese culture, but for this particular area, that doesn’t really adequately describe their way of life. These people are known not just for eating, but for eating everything! In fact, it is often said that Cantonese people “eat everything that swims except a submarine, everything that flies except an airplane, and everything with four legs except a table”. Almost five days in the area not only allowed for some free time to explore, but also meant plenty of food adventures, so settle in and prepare yourself for a long post….
The first night we arrived, two of the local guys from the Guangzhou sourcing office picked us up at the airport and became our unofficial tour guides for the rest of the stay. Sensing that I might be in need of a break from the heavy, multi-course Chinese meals we’d been having, Samuel had them arrange something a little different for our dinner. With approximately 1000 tables, Japan Fusion is touted as being the largest Japanese restaurant in Asia. You can’t imagine the size of this place! I was scared to go to the bathroom by myself for fear of getting lost. Seriously.
Dinner was definitely lighter than the fare we’d been consuming, and a nice break before the multi-course Cantonese meals that lie ahead. Our Japanese menu: assorted sushi and sashimi, two mushroom dishes, cheese smothered tofu, snapper sashimi and fried snapper (the fish was brought to the table live on a skewer for presentation before taking back to the kitchen to fry. I thought I would spare you that sight), and spicy mussels.
The next day we had lunch with a local factory contact at Jumbo Pearl restaurant. As a whole, this was definitely one of the better meals of the trip. The menu:
Spicy Beef with Peppers
Freshwater Fish with Yellow Bean Sauce (shown below- delectable!)
Fish cooked in Cabbage
Alligator with Garlic, Mushrooms and Broccoli (shown below)
This was delicious, so I inquired about the ingredients used in the preparation- the alligator was fried then added to a mixture of oyster sauce, dark soy sauce, sugar, salt, ginger, and garlic
Wow! I couldn’t quit eating this. The mushrooms were not fried like what we think of when we say fried mushrooms. There was no batter on them, the ‘fried’ just referred to the style of cooking, pan-frying.
“Snails“- at least that’s what they were calling them, but I don’t really think that’s their proper name. They’re pictured below in the red sauce. Anyone have any idea what they are?
Served piping hot with toothpicks to dig out the wormy creature inside, they were -believe it or not- quite good!
That was lunch! So, so, so much food, but of course we had another big dinner ahead that night at Bing Sheng Restaurant. On the menu there:
Pork 3 ways– Crispy Barbecued Roast Pork, Fried Pork Belly (thick layer of fat, but quite tasty), and Thinly Sliced Barbecue Pork Belly (paper thin & very good!)
Water Spinach with Beans in Vinegar (this vegetable they just refer to as “hollow” vegetable was served at many meals)
Whole Fish served various ways:
1) Fried Fish Head and Tail – way too bony for me to deal with
2) Sashimi with bowls of various toppings including shredded ginger, spring onions, herbs, and crunchies to create your own tasting spoon (pictured above) so wonderful that I lost count of how many I ate!
3) Fish Skin – very strange rubbery texture (shown in pic below)
4) Egg with Fish “insides” – they don’t let anything go to waste!
The next day we lunched at Mao Jing restaurant, (named for Chairman Mao) a restaurant known for their spicy food. You know I love some spiciness!
Greeters at Mao Jing restaurant (note the statue of Mao to the far left)
On the menu:
Fava Beans again (I love these things!)
These beans were listed on the menu as Sha Guo Can Dou, which Eric said translates to Frosted Pan No Sauce- so basically just describing the cooking method.
Duck, Yellow Eel, and Cow insides (???) – yeah, not my favorite
Frog – listed on the menu as Gan Guao Tian Ji (translates to Dry Pan Frog)
Glass Noodles with Spicy Sauce
Whole Chicken in a Pot –great flavors, tender & juicy
Pork with Peppers
Steamed Cabbage with Garlic Sauce (pictured below) – Scrumptious!
Can you tell what I am holding in my hand? Perhaps not. That would be a pig hoof. The pork flavored soup arrived with a piece of leg bone protruding from the bowl, a set of plastic gloves and a straw. Anyone want to guess what you do with the straw? Why, you insert it into the leg bone and suck out the marrow! Not exactly my cup of tea, but at least I can say I did it.
That night we dined at Shui He Tian Restaurant in the Panyu district of Guangzhou. It was explained to me that this was a “locals only” place. Tucked back behind several buildings, it was difficult even for the local with us to find after a couple of phone calls, so I’m pretty sure no tourists ever stumble upon it!
Scallops with Black Bean Sauce –a bite of perfection (pictured above)
Fish head and 1,000 year old egg with ginger- the egg isn’t really 1,000 years old, but the dark color made it a little scary. As I had discovered with other dishes, it wasn’t as bad as it looked. Not great, but not bad.
Sweet Potato Leaf cooked with Pork and Garlic
Assorted Mushrooms with Carrots and Green Onion
Spicy Fried Shrimp with Peanuts (yes, yes, yes!)
Crispy Skin Barbecue Pork
Steamed Fish with Ginger, Spring Onion, and Mushrooms (very clean, fresh flavors)
Crispy Noodles with Mushrooms and Onions in Oyster Sauce (like Ramen)
Warm Almond Milk– served in a bowl like soup, this was very soothing
After dinner we decided to burn off some calories with a hike to the local mall. Okay, so we weren’t really looking to burn calories, that was just an added bonus. We were actually in search of dessert, specifically Ginger Milk. Samuel knew this place served the best ginger milk around, and in his opinion, my trip would not be complete without trying it.
Ginger Milk Curd, or simply Ginger Milk as they called it, is a warm Chinese dessert that originated in this very district of Guangdong- Panyu. Ingredients include sugar, ginger, and milk, with the key to this particular recipe being water buffalo milk. The preparation takes some skill to make sure it gets hot but not too hot. The photo below show the two girls preparing our bowls (note the action shot of the milk in the air as she stirs it just so).
Once the mixture is poured into a bowl and allowed to cool for two to three minutes, it solidifies into a custard. Perfectly yummy, warm, and comforting, this was definitely one of the high points of the entire trip.
At this point of my journey, I’d had 6 very full work days. I’ve only been sharing the fun food stuff with you, not the hours I’ve spent touring factories and traveling between cities. Every day I’d been averaging 12-14 hours of almost non-stop work or travel with little time for anything else other than eating. After 2 days of walking the floor of the Canton Import and Export fair, I was a little burnt out. Fortunately, we made it through the show in less time than we thought it would take, leaving us about 5 extra hours to explore and shop before hitting the road again! On this particular day, we were also joined by Fanny, one of my contacts in the Guangzhou area. As much as I enjoyed traveling with the guys, it was nice to have another female around for a little while.
After sightseeing, we had lunch at a beautiful restaurant on a lake with lush landscaping. The food here was just adequate, but that’s okay, because the surroundings made up for it. The table was filled with BBQ Goose; Mushrooms, Scallops, Peppers, Garlic & Greens; Fish Soup; Traditional Bok Choy; Pork with Ginkgo and Peppers; Steamed Fish with Green Onions; and Pork Bun with Mushrooms & Spring Onions.
At this meal, the guys also ordered Apple Cider Vinegar to drink. When they informed me of this, I was a little bewildered considering the only apple cider vinegar I knew of was to cook with, not to drink. When it arrived in a wine bucket, on ice, in a bottle just like you’d be served white wine, I was a little less fearful. Turns out it was quite refreshing. Oh, the many delightful discoveries you can make when you’re willing to try new things!
The desserts here were better than the lunch dishes: Egg Cups (pictured below)- little tarts that reminded me of mini chess pies; Coconut Gelatin– even though I was fairly stuffed I ate more than one serving; Ginger Milk– this was not nearly as good as what we had the night before at the mall. Samuel explained that it was because the milk was not as pure. Instead they used 2 kinds of milk blended together, not just the water buffalo milk.
After lunch it was time to hit the road again, traveling to Pattra Resort, high in the mountains of Zengcheng, another city in Guangzhou. This stop of the trip is a story in itself, so it will have to wait until next week. I hope that you guys are still enjoying following the details of my trek through China. I promise only a couple more posts and we’ll be at the end of the trip. Some of the best parts are still to come!!