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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!