Guangzhou (Guangdong Province) – Shangxiajiu Pedestrian St Part 1

Shangxiajiu, literally means vertical 9, horizontal 9 in Chinese; it refers to the fact that 9 vertical streets and 9 horizontal streets make up this small shopping district. Think lots of people, lots of cheap clothes and lots of food.

Riding like a boss

Riding like a boss!

Okay so that had nothing to do with food, but I had to show you that.

My apologies that this post is going to be a little bit scattered, because I thought rather than showing you everything I ate. In this post we will stick to the interesting or yummy things only.

IMG_20131225_122801

Huangshanghuang Lawei Shop 

2-3 Shangxiajiu Pedestrain St,

Liwan, Guangzhou, Guangdong

China

In the hearts of many Chinese people Huangshanghuang reigns king as the best Chinese deli, with the most authentic flavours. Wait, let’s back up a little and let me show you what a Chinese deli is.

Cured chicken whole

Cured chicken (whole)

Nothing, absolutely nothing could have prepared me for a whole entire wall, full of cured whole chicken. So, I stood there, jaw-dropped, like a tourist, while other shoppers rushed past me to buy what they needed.

Chinese sausages & Chinese ham

Chinese sausages & Chinese ham

Of course, no Chinese deli is complete without a large variety of different cures of Chinese sausage and a large selection of Chinese ham. I do have a rather unhealthy obsession with Chinese sausage. There is something so addictive about the salty sweetness of the oily sausage. Steam it together with rice and I’m a very happy girl. Since most of the Chinese sausages are sold raw there was no way we could have purchased some, however we did each fill up a small plastic bag full of fun-sized Chinese sausages and jerky in an array of flavours (yes that does exist!). So I happily snacked on those as we browsed through endless clothing stores.

Herbal Tea

Herbal Tea

Guangzhou HuangZhenLong Herbal Tea Company

They are everywhere and I saw at least two on my walk around Shangxiajiu alone. Well, they are what their name says: they sell herbal tea or “凉茶” (“cold tea” in Chinese). Whether you think Chinese medicine is amazing or it is absolutely rubbish, let’s just look at this bottle of insanely bitter black liquid and call it tea. They have a variety of teas with different therapeutic properties, the one I got was for cold prevention and coordinating general balance in the body. It is probably the most bitter from their range, but I was coming down with the sniffles and it was only the 2nd day of my holiday, so I sculled the whole thing down anyway. I don’t know if it was because my immune system was being wonderful to me or the stuff actually worked, but I was very relieved that I didn’t become ill.

Tao Tao Ju

20 Dishifu Rd
Liwan, Guangzhou, Guangdong
China
IMG_20131225_123717
You cannot go to Guangzhou and not have some yumcha and what a better place to go than Tao Tao Ju, which opened its doors in 1880.
So, I was a bit disappointed when I visited last time on an overnight stopover in Guangzhou, but I pardoned it since I did visit at 10.30pm and they close at 11pm. However, they didn’t really rectify their reputation in my books. They certainly had more variety than the last time we visited and the staff were not rushing us out of the door, but the majority of the dim sums we tried were cold. I was extremely disappointed, because a lot of the flavours were spot on and just simply wonderful, I could imagine their potential if they were served hot. I was so close, yet so far. So here are a small selection of dim sum that I really enjoyed.
Prawn Dumplings

Prawn Dumplings (har gow)

These were textbook perfect: taut, gelatinous skin, taking on a little of the umami imparted by the balanced, plump prawn filling. The best har gow I had on this southern China adventure.

Sticky rice chicken

Sticky rice chicken (lo mai gai)

My all-time favourite and done so well. I’m in love with this version and this thankfully was hot. The rice was sticky, clinging onto the strong fragrance of the lotus leaf, hiding away a balanced moreish filling of chicken, Chinese sausage, duck egg yolk and shiitake mushrooms.

Sesame balls

Sesame balls

Always a crowd-pleaser around the table and this one certainly was no exception. The interior was especially gelatinous, paired with the nutty sesame exterior and the sweet mung bean paste on the inside, these little ones were delicious. So delicious that I ended up stealing half of dad’s.

Silk Worms

Silk Worms

I’m putting this in just for trivia, because I didn’t really like silk worms. They aren’t really repulsive and their squelchy texture was actually quite interesting, but the muddy taste they left on my palate didn’t quite agree with my taste buds. That was alright, because my dad and his friend quite happily polished off the whole plate, saying it was cleansing and refreshing.

Would I recommend Tao Tao Ju? Not really, since I don’t think is worth it for the cold food, but you may want to go just so you can say I’ve been there. However, personally I would visit again, because I’m in love with the lo mai gai and love makes you crazy. I want some right now in fact, but I guess I’d have to wait until the next time I visit Guangzhou.

Guangzhou (Guangdong Province) – Hong Xing Seafood Restaurant

IMGP0931

So, Uni has well and truly started, which means my stress level has sky-rocketed again. I’m slowly learning to take it one step at a time and just slowly push through the mountain of notes, slides, references, books and whatever else there is.  So, I can’t think of a better time than now, to look back on my summer break and relive those happy, carefree days.  For the next few weeks, I’m going to take you on a foodie holiday to China! We are going to visit 4 cities, including my hometown, where I can introduce you to all the foods I grew up with and share some of my food-related memories.

Before we went back to visit my hometown in Northern China,  dad and I made a gastronomical stop in Guangdong Province. If I’m not wrong, I think the famous Chinese saying, “we eat everything in the sky, except for planes and everything with four legs except tables” comes from this province. My dad is so obsessed with the food here, that he makes sure to visit on nearly every single trip back to China. This was my first time entering dad’s “food heaven”, so he was very excited to be my food guide and I was more than happy to just follow him around.

*Disclaimer: this post may contain seafood or other animals that may be disconcerting for some readers. In no way does this blog endorse the consumption of endangered species, nor have I consumed any species of animals that I am aware of that is unsustainable. Pictures are simply of what was available at the restaurant at the time of visit.

Now the housekeeping is done, let’s get exploring!

Hong Xing Seafood Restaurant (鸿星海鲜酒家)
2 Qiaoguang Rd
Yuexiu, Guangzhou, Guangdong
China

On our first night in Guangzhou, dad took me and another two of his friends, we were travelling with at the time, to eat seafood at one of his favourite seafood restaurants right by the Zhujiang River.

Zhujiang River

Zhujiang River

When I stepped into the restaurant, I thought I had stepped into a seafood market. I know there are seafood markets, where you can get food prepared right then and there, but this wasn’t one of them, this was an actual restaurant. The majority of the ground floor was dedicated to the seafood hall, where customers can walk  around perusing through the various live seafood available with one of the staff members in toll, who will note down on an order pad which seafood you want, how much it weighs and advising you on all the choices you have on how it will be prepared by the kitchen. Let’s take a look at what’s available then.

IMG_20131224_183712

IMG_20131224_183807

very happy to have gotten a photo with everyone opening their gobs

Wow, what is that big thing in the tank? Very curious to find out what this fish is.
Wow, what is that big thing in the tank? Very curious to find out what this fish is.

IMG_20131224_184101 IMG_20131224_184045 IMG_20131224_184038 IMG_20131224_184010 IMG_20131224_183845 IMG_20131224_183900 IMG_20131224_183945 IMG_20131224_183955 IMG_20131224_184005 IMG_20131224_183724 IMG_20131224_183458 IMG_20131224_183504 IMG_20131224_183603 IMG_20131224_183815 IMG_20131224_183826 IMG_20131224_183447 IMG_20131224_183424 IMG_20131224_183236 IMG_20131224_183704 IMG_20131224_183323

Please do not ask me to name all the seafood that you just saw, because I cannot. Really, I was truly humbled by how much I don’t know about food on this amazing trip and this is only the start. Just out of curiosity, how many can you name?

So many choices, but what to choose? I am as indecisive as they come, so if it was up to me to make the decisions we would still be there by the time the restaurant is ready to close, which by the way is at the ungodly hour of 6am in the morning. So, you will be happy to know that I didn’t need to choose anything, because dad took care of that.

Just a special note for people thinking of travelling to China. At almost every restaurant we ate at, there was always a plate of peanuts or some other kind of nibbles on the table. 9 out of 10 times, this will not be free. So if you do not want to waste a few RMB (10-20RMB, depending on the restaurant) on stale peanuts, just ask the waiter if they are complimentary and if they are not, ask them to take it away. The same thing applies for serviettes, packaged wet wipes, chopsticks or other packaged utensils – it is not free of charge most of the time. So if you don’t want to pay for it, bring your own. Not the most consumer friendly restaurants, but most of the time I was glad to find a higher level of service in China than what Chinese restaurants in Melbourne offered.

Pu'er Tea

Pu’er Tea

We started off with some Pu’er, which is not normally my drink of choice, because I find it to be too strong for my personal liking. It is one of the many teas that I do not know much about, so I won’t elaborate here, but this is the start to the many pots of quality tea I was to have in China.

Beef flat rice noodles

Beef flat rice noodles

“If you want to eat a lot, you need to eat smart” is my dad’s motto, which was why this plate of slippery noodles was ordered. Excuse the inappropriateness of this question at the table, but have you ever found after consuming too much seafood you get a little bit of diarrhea the next day? Now provided your seafood is fresh, dad does have a way to combat this problem. His secret is to first eat some carbs and a decent amount of ginger, before you start gouging your face in seafood. This has no scientific backing at all, but it does tend to prevent those stomach grumbles in our family. These rice noodles were delicious, wonderfully springy and chewy, nothing like the limp rice noodles we tend to get here in Melbourne. With a dash of vinegar, these slurped down like a treat.

Razor clam in XO-sauce

Razor clam in XO-sauce

These tender clams were smothered in a mildly spicy, moreish XO-sauce, which would be perfect with a bowl of freshly steamed rice. Did you know that XO sauce does not actually have any cognac in it? You probably did, but I didn’t.

Prawns fried with garlic sand

Prawns fried with garlic sand

Excuse the ignorance, but I really cannot remember what type of prawns these were. But I do remember them being very crunchy, allowing you to eat them with out taking off the shell, which is really good news for a lazy-eater like myself.

Thailand Mantis Shrimp

Thailand Mantis Shrimp

Dad hyped this one up a bit too much, resulting in a bit of disappointment at the table. They weren’t as fat as we had hoped, so that did put a damper on the high price tag that these two babies came with. Having said that, the two shrimps were of a very decent size, enough to be split among the four of us. The flesh reminded me of a lobster and was sweet and succulent.

Smoked quail

Smoked quail

We actually wanted to order the syrup glazed quail, but dad had a slight mind blank so we ended up with these smoked ones instead. I think the only one who was disappointed at the table was himself, because he’d have to wait another year to taste the flavour he was craving for. But for the rest of us, who had no idea what “this other amazing quail dish” tasted like, these were wonderful – lightly smokey and succulent. I thoroughly enjoyed sucking the meat of the bone.

Stewed hasma in coconut milk and papaya

Stewed hasma in coconut milk and papaya

This was something I did not want to try, but dad quite literally forced me to take a gulp. What is hasma? It is the “dried fatty tissue found near the Fallopian tubes of true frogs”. Now do you see why I was so reluctant? However, embracing my own motto of not turning my nose up to something I’ve never tried, I did end up tasting it. Well, now I can say, no matter how expensive hasma may be or how many therapeutic properties it may have, I really do not want to eat it again. The taste is rather fishy, combined with the gelatinous texture of amphibian fat, it really did taste quite foul with the coconut milk and papaya.

The whole meal for the four of us ended up costing around $200 AUD, which was probably the most expensive meal I had in China. According to dad, the quality of Hong Xing have gone down since his last visit, but it is a restaurant, with an extensive selection of live seafood and a beautiful view of the river. So maybe we will visit again on our next trip to Guangzhou or maybe it is time to look for a new seafood restaurant. Anyhow, this did whet my appetite for more Guangzhou had to offer!

Shamrock Hotel (Echuca)

579 – 583 High St, Echuca

Tripadvisor

Hotel website

IMG_20140205_235842[1]

 

IMG_20140205_235858[1]

Parmas! Parmas! More Parmas! Yes these are all the parma options Shamrock has: 2 A3 pages full. Wait, is that sweet parma I see?

IMG_20140205_235912[1]

Sweet parmas

How about a parmadamia? Or a parma mah na mah na? Or a parmalova? The options are endless.

So how it works is: you pick your topping from the vast A3 page; then you pick your schnitzel from chicken, beef, pork or fish; then you pick two sides from salad, chips, mash or vegetables.

The Texas T w/ bacon & smokey BBQ sauce topped w/ jack cheese & beer battered onion rings (24.90)

The Texas T w/ bacon & smokey BBQ sauce topped w/ jack cheese & beer battered onion rings (24.90)

I was beastly hungry that day, so I ordered this artery clogging beast of a parma. Anyway, sadly the onion rings weren’t crunchy, the heavy toppings made the parma underneath soggy and the chicken itself was overcooked. Oddly enough, it reminded of a domino meatlover pizza. So this beast was all about clogging my arteries and did nothing for my taste buds. 

BOCM Parma w/ crispy bacon, caramelised onion, cheese and sauteed mushroom (24.90)

BOCM Parma w/ crispy bacon, caramelised onion, cheese and sauteed mushroom (24.90)

Luckily, I had more sensible friends who ordered much tamer dishes. Though sadly, the tamer toppings couldn’t make me overlook the soggy and overcooked parmas.

Creamy Tomato w/ Virginian ham and creamy tomato and melted mozzarella cheese sauce (22.90)

Creamy Tomato w/ Virginian ham and creamy tomato and melted mozzarella cheese sauce (22.90)

Out of all the parmas we ordered, I liked this one the best, because it wasn’t overbearing and the tangy creamy tomato actually paired well with the schnitzel underneath.

The Shamrock definitely made up what they lacked in quality with quantity. I mean, both in the variety and the size of the dishes, none of us could finish our meals. So they may not serve up the tastiest parmas I’ve had, but really the novelty is quite fun. So I think I would actually take my family there to show them all the possibilities a parma would adorn the next time we pass through Echuca. Maybe I will even be game enough to have a chocolate parma next time.