I don’t usually do this, but I just came across this amazing video about the wonderful food scene in china as made by the perennial plate.
china is remarkable for its sheer size, and an accompanying vast array of cuisine, all distinct in their various regions and styles. I had a great time when I went there last year, and I ate so well; I used to be rather disdainful when it came to going to china when younger – there is something about being a young asian exposed to american television and finding that cool that nurtures this sort of fallacy, but now I realize just how amazing the place is. and it doesn’t hurt that the food there is still of such great quality and diversity.
here’s the video, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. and if you’d like some recommendations on where to eat in china, here are my suggestions.
also known as 潮濠酒家. located at 4F, Telecommunications Plaza, Zhongshan
Road II, or 广州市中山二路18号电信广场3 / 4楼.
I’ve saved the best for last, and this is it. chaohao has a very high standard, which remains consistent (we came here based on my family’s past visit two years ago, and apparently it remains as good as ever). service is friendly and knowledgeable, prompt and attentive – you really couldn’t wish for more. they even tell off patrons who decide to light up in the non-smoking (this doesn’t really count for much in china) hall, which made my dining experience all the better.
our lunchtime visit meant we had the chance to try the dimsum – their custard buns are a must-try; if you have never had the joy of a salted-egg-yolk custard bun, then you have never truly had dimsum. dumplings are as good as you’d expect in a restaurant like this one – substantial fillings and good wrappers.
we had two meals here, and everything we had was good. like a good chinese restaurant many of the best dishes aren’t on the menu and can I suggest you ask for the oyster porridge – essentially baby oysters boiled with rice until the porridge comes to you with a slightly green tinge from them. I don’t even like oysters but I could definitely appreciate the depth of taste. the fried prawn fritters (I don’t really remember the name but the photo is there above and on the menu) were also very good. they were a little oily, but they were lovely balls of prawn surrounded by squid paste and coated with large breadcrumbs.
the restaurant is large, almost to the extent that it scares you while you wait that they might not be able to cope with the numbers. you realise soon upon seating though that they do have a system in place, no matter how chaotic it all seems – our teapots were always filled, and we were never left waiting long for a dish.
reservations recommended for a good meal.
also known as 广州酒家. located at 广州市文昌南路2号, also very conveniently downtown. this restaurant has an awesome design, and feels almost like you’re eating in an olden establishment what with its courtyard design and upper floors all overlooking the central courtyard. actually come to it, many restaurants in china feature this design, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. it adds a certain authenticity no matter how orchestrated.
as with the previous restaurant, this is traditional cantonese cooking at a very high standard. I didn’t quite enjoy this as much as lianxianglou though, which I thought was slightly better.
we started off with jellyfish that smelled very suspiciously fishy. when we asked the waitress about it, we were told this was normal and that it was a result of marinating the jellyfish overnight. I think you really need to stand your ground in restaurants especially when they try to convince you that your intuition is wrong, and so we rejected this dish. not a great start.
but they recovered with the double-boiled soups – we ordered two types, watercress and abalone – both nourishing and tasty. the rest followed quickly enough, with deep-fried pork ribs – a little fatty but rather tasty; fried prawns atop broccoli; rolls of pork around yam; goose web; and our now-standard steamed mandarin fish.
a good experience and very tasty food – just perhaps skip the jellyfish unless feeling adventurous.
if you’re interested, this restaurant is called 吴淞口河鲜川菜馆, and we stopped here on our way to the dujiangyan irrigation system, also known as 都江堰.
the cab driver put us down here for a spot of lunch, as an example of local food and we partook, but obviously steering away from the traditional spicy szechuan dishes. we had chicken soup with gingko nuts – I think this is a local specialty, salty waxed pork stir-fried with local vegetables – very fatty like bacon, stir-fried wild vegetables that tasted like stalks of parsley – fragrant though we’ve never had ‘parsley’ stir-fried on its own before, as well as an omelette.
I use this as another instance of local food, rather than a recommendation to a restaurant. I have no idea where this is, except that it is near 都江堰, but I do have a contact number (028-89700800).
also known as 成都映家. located (I think) on the ‘wide’ side of kuanzhai street. traditional szechuan food, though I have no basis on which to vouch for its authenticity.
the only thing I really knew about szechuan food before coming here was its heavy use of chilli and oil. now that I was here, you realise that beyond that, they have a very complex food culture that differs in taste and feel from my traditional and familiar cantonese food. I emphasise this a lot – largely because sometimes the variety of chinese cuisines gets lost under the overriding umbrella of “chinese” found in restaurants all over the world (those are also mostly cantonese, though highly bastardized).
in any case, this meal was a good introduction to local food. we started with a bright purple drink – I spotted this on many tables together with many bottles of alcohol (very typical chinese entertaining – the alcohol I mean) – which we found was actually a mild sweet potato drink. very filling but it felt nutritious and wholesome and good. the complimentary appetisers were very salty and spicy, and we could only manage a little of each.
this was followed by cold liangfen noodles – 凉粉 – starch jelly with a salty savory sauce. these are very bland noodles with an intensely salty sauce, and we found it interesting. very quickly the mains followed: a tasty grilled pork dish – we ordered a second dish once finishing the first half; scallops with vermicelli and garlic; tangy vinegary jellyfish; kailan stems; a egg-tofu stew in a crab-roe-coloured sauce; pan-fried gyozas that had a tasty filling but a very thick skin and oily; very sweet pork rib and sweetcorn soup; an oily but tasty dish of celery and prawns; and all this finished with a bowl of sesame dumplings, steamed papaya with hashima and a traditional dessert that I cannot remember, but was starchy and had beans in it.
the food was all good, but I think local food is too oily to my taste and so I washed much of what I ate in tea before eating. I think you realise upon eating these just what sorts of tasty and hearty food people can create to try and deal with the cold and bitter weather. I forgot to mention that this restaurant was multi-storey, with the floors above the basement sort of balconies looking down on the performance stage in the basement which had a chinese band playing for the night. a good visit.
amazing gelato at kuanzhai street, also 宽窄巷子, which means wide-narrow street. this is an ancient street preserved such that its facades are traditionally and beautifully chinese, but the stores and restaurants are remarkably and almost astoundingly modern and well-furnished.
köko casa is located (I think) on the ‘narrow’ street – but neither street is that long, so it’s quick enough to walk down either side. the chocolate is exceptionally good, and we also had two types of sorbets – mango and raspberry – which were fresh and not too sweet.
this had us craving gelato for the rest of our trip. nice.