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    Guilin, Guangxi, PRC
  1. Hey Basquecook, I've been on these boards off and on for a few years and I don't he was trying to be adversarial. All of your meals don't necessarily look like they were ordered in a hotel, but "hotel food" in China is a word I've heard used to mean basically anything that is served in a private room that has been decorated with gold, glass & leather. I think this is more of an expat saying, and Liuzhou has probably just been in China too long and has unwittingly included this bit of jargon. I will agree that, with the exception of the Pinghu pictures, all of these look like very fancy restaurants that common Chinese people either couldn't (or wouldn't be willing to) afford, or would only go to on special occassions. Especially, the seafood hotel - I went to one just like it in Xiaoxing, and while the prices seemed more than reasonable to me, they would have been hilariously extravagant to my in-laws. You were definitely being treated as a guest, and were taken to places meant for showing off. While smaller, more simply decorated specialty places (like a place that serves tripe hotpot and very little else) might have better dishes, the places you went usually do have some awesome, well-prepared and presented food. Also, fancier places in China are were you're going to see more experiemental dishes, whereas the small neighborhood places tend to stick to what they're known for with almost no deviation. The only sentence I want to point out is, "...depressing trip down incredibly poor alley..." You were in Jiangsu province, which has very little real poverty compared to other parts of China (try Anhui or Ningxia), and especially other countries (or how about Detroit?). That alley is what most of urban China looks like, and probably housed a restaurant better than the one you were on your way to. Those areas are incredibly safe (compared to the US), and would not be considered poor by most Chinese folks. If you meant the traffic situation was depressing; well then, I totally agree. Regardless of everything else, you definitely had some awesome food on your trip, and that's what's great about China - great food is literally everywhere! Next time you're there, tell your hosts you're looking for something a little less fancy and more local. Or tell them you want to go to a night market and eat some food from street stands - you will have a blast and walk away with even better pictures.
  2. Cheers, I'm happy to share. With Suzhou's incredible growth I just hope those places are still there. My wife and I were discussing the quantifier used when ordering Sheng Jian Bao in some Suzhou shops. Just like some places will give you dumplings by the "liang" (两, and is usually about 6 or 7), sheng jian bao, last time I was there, were being served in batches with some bizarre quantifier. Do you know what it is?
  3. The stuff in your picture actually is la rou, specifically Tian Rong La Rou (天荣腊肉). Made in Shanghai. The "la" (4th tone) in "la rou" just means cured. My own experience with the stuff came on my second week in China, living alone, and hankering for bacon. Tried to cook it up as such and ended up drinking a lot of water that day.
  4. Did they serve it to you hot and in a bag after forming into a kind of ball? I've seen that done on the street in Guilin (Guangxi Province) with glutinous rice, chili, sausage and little fried crispy bits, which is traditionally called Nuo Mi Ji (糯米鸡). Since it's street food, the variations on a theme can be too numerous for even mainlanders not from the immediate area to recognize, as was the case with my Nuomiji in Guilin and possibly your mutton matter in Xi'an. Btw, I used to live there. Have you tried the Lamb Soup garnished with ripped up pieces of pita/nang bread? Very tasty.
  5. I lived in Suzhou for about a year before moving on to Guilin in the south. Great city to eat (and live) in, especially if you learn to appreciate the subtler flavors of the Jiangsu/Zhejiang region, maligned as they are by most Chinese. But please, please, please, sacrifice an hour of sleep on at least one day of the week to get out there and try what the city has to offer. Suzhou, more than any other Chinese city I've spent time in, is best viewed in the early hours of the day. Sure, the baozi there are particularly good, but the Xiao Long Bao (soup dumplings) restaurants are numerous, distinct and almost all fantastic. Go to the corner of Jing De Lu (景德路)and Xue Shi Jie (学士街) and look north across the intersection. There on the right side of the street (what should be the northern continuation of Xue Shi Jie but has now become Wu Qu Fang 吴趋坊) is one of the best places in the whole damn city for xiao long bao and wonton soup. From that intersection you could also continue west on Jing De Lu, cross the bridge, turn left at the first intersection and immediately stop. On your right will be a small Sheng Jian Baozi (soupy baozi that are seared crisp on the bottom and sprinkled with sesame and scallions) place that is and always will be my 1st stop for breakfast when in town. If the weekday mornings are just too much, at least plan to hit up one of Suzhou's tea houses, and plan to spend 4-5 hours. You'll be treated to everything from the finest, local Biluochun tea to homemade strawberry ice cream, chicken wings on a skewer or boiled peanuts (served randomly and usually all included in the price of the tea). And most of all, keep up the vivid posts. You have a real skill for capturing the sensory overload that is the daily hustle and bustle of a typical Suzhou morning (thankfully,minus the bike horns).
  6. Did you check the bottom of the bottle ? Any cloudy sediment? Sometimes I see that with the vinegars, so I just toss them. ← I don't remember if the Chiangkang had any sediment in the bottom, but by the end of an aged Shaanxi vinegar there's usually a little (which doesn't seem to bother the flavor). Any thoughts on the primary difference between the two? -SZ
  7. Just a thought/comment on the Chiangkang (sp?) Vinegar everybody's been talking about on this thread. Having tried it as well as other "black" vinegars that weren't labeled more specifically, I was just wondering if anybody else out there thinks it a poor substitute for real Shaanxi aged vinegar (老陈醋)? I use the latter mainly for use in noodles, dumplings and XLBs, and find it to be way better than that other stuff. Did I just get a bad bottle, or is there really a difference? Thanks, Sloppyzhou
  8. Here's a twist on the international Chinese food topic: http://www.dfjb.com.cn/ This is Yum Foods (Taco Bell, KFC, etc.) newest franchise opening in China. It's called Eastern Dawn or East Dawning or something, and the idea is to take their "western" fast food business model and apply it to traditional Chinese-style cooking. The style looks kind of pan-Chinese with maybe a few more northern style dishes, and I guess they would be competing with some of the Taiwanese chains already doing something similar. Interesting price point though, considering that RMB 20 (what they charge for that shrimp noodle bowl) will get you some pretty decent dishes at a sit-down restaurant. The question is, though fairly unlikely, will they be successful enough to then sell the same brand back here, and if so, how much internationalization of their menu do you think would happen?
  9. During my time in Guangxi Province I saw people eating/drinking, as well as tried myself: -lots of brains (still not fond of) -lots of congealed mammal blood (became very fond of) -bamboo rat (ok, i guess) -softshell turtle - 水鱼 but not a fish at all (never liked) -stinky tofu (i love this) -periwinkles 螺蛳 (love these) -snake blood with baijiu (the worst thing I've ever ingested in my life) -snake bile with baijiu (bad, but not as bad as the blood) -pangolin (still feel guilty, but didn't know what it was at the time) -smoked toads (in Zhejiang, but liked them all the same) -spicy duck heads (ok) -dog hotpot (tasty) -cat hotpot (never tried, and still wouldn't) -several kinds of lizard (not worth the price to pocket and environment) That said, I know plenty of Chinese who wouldn't touch half the stuff on this list. Then again, my girlfriend thinks bleu cheese is one of the foulest culinary inventions known to man. My next business venture will be exporting MD-style Scrapple to China. I'm going to open stands all over China selling scrapple 肉夹馍 with Vietnamese iced-coffee.
  10. Though I've never had HK teahouse coffee, I've had quite a bit of Vietnamese coffee which you guys seemed to cover as being the major technical similarity. In Thailand recently, I noticed that in the afternoons a bunch of iced coffee carts came out and sold huge cups of iced Vietnamese-style coffee as well, but as you said with the long bag of beans, they too were suspending giant cheesecloths (tied around a stick, resting on the brim of the container) full of of grounds, submerged in what appeared to be air-temperature water probably for many hours. The coffee was rich, smoky, smooth-finishing and strong. Next time I think I'm going to ask for it w/out the condensed milk, just get the full coffee taste. Have you ever tried the Tiawanese UBC or Mingdian coffeehouses all over China (and, I'm assuming Taiwan)? Though their coffee is expensive (appr. $3-5/cup), it is usually very, very good. I've watched them prepare it: usually hand ground to order and then boiled in one of those transparent double boiler, percolator things. Fresh tasting and excellent.
  11. I lived in China for close to 5 years, and I can tell you that Kung Pao Chicken 宫爆鸡丁 and anything Sweet and Sour 糖醋 (though as covered in numerous threads here, the Colonel is now far more ubiquitous than the General ever was in mainland China) can be found at many big banquet restaurants, with the differences being marginal at best. There was even a cheap, student lunch place near my apartment that served single dishes like the ol' Kung Pao or Pepper Beef (青椒肉丝) on top of a mountain of rice. Chicken was boneless, and the overall flavor was, aside from the higher chili heat value, basically the same. What I don't understand (and any Chinese or Chinese-Americans please, please weigh in on this) is why, why on earth, aren't dumplings (and by this I mean the water boiled 水饺 kind) more popular here in the US (or UK, EU or AUS)? Talk about mid-western, rib-stickin' food. I think a place that served 7 kinds of boiled dumplings (could offer steamed and seared for early converts) and some cold northern dishes would take off once people realized it wasn't China Garden Buffet or Panda Express. I once knew a foreigner working in China for his American company who almost never partook of anything other than McD's, KFC, and UBC Coffee House type fare, but ate dumplings at least once a day without fail.
  12. My girlfriend's mother always gives her a couple of jars of these to take home to me whenever they get a chance. Her father makes lots of sour dipping sauces for his poultry dishes, a custom he claims is unique to his style of Zhuang cooking. Zhuang cooking is basically absent from cooking discussions in China, but I think what they do with poultry deserves recognition...also for kourou 扣肉. If you're in Nanning, go to the printing street behind the giant discount clothing mall downtown. At the end of the street, at the corner, is small 老友粉店 that has good noodles, but possibly the best kourou in all of Guangxi Province. Served on sticky rice with a little sweet Chinese sausage 香肠 cooked into it, and just a touch of the kourou sauce poured over the whole thing. Absolute country comfort fillin' food, Zhuang-style.
  13. I post some of my own lessons on this site: www.nciku.com, under the name "sloppyzhou." I'll try to add these, as well as others to a comprehensive and easy to index list. And sorry in advance to all the non-国语 speakers and 繁体字 readers out there. Btw, for anyone wanting to write Chinese on their computer, download either google or sogou's pinyin or stroke input apps. They are really easy to use even if your pinyin isn't so good. Don't know how they work for the 粤语 speakers - maybe hzrt8w can explain (maybe something like m'h = 霉香). The website above also has a hand-write input function for those of you with all those mystery cans and jars you've been afraid to open.
  14. Been living in China for about 4 years now, I eat anything (more or less), and have tried the following: - dog hotpot (very, very popular down in Guangxi where I live) - snake soup (looked cool, tasted very unspectacular) - raw snake blood and rice wine (the worst thing I have ever tasted in my life) - raw snake bile and wine (not as bad as the first, but pretty bad) - smoked toads (I tried this in Zhejiang - surprisingly, most non-Zhejiang Chinese I've talked to think eating these 蛤蟆 would be disgusting) - pangolin (a protected species - I didn't order it was angry that it was surprised on me) - deep-fried scorpions (sounds crazier than it is) - Sweet Wine with Rice 甜酒 (just odd, but you get to liking it after a few sips) - fried pig's penis - those little soft-shelled turtles (水鱼 - "water fish" - nice, incredibly misleading name to someone studying Chinese) - Geoduck (taste like soft-shelled clams from the Chesapeake, only much bigger) - Fresh-water snails (periwinkles? 螺蛳) - Plus tons of Stinky Tofu, congealed blood, fish heads, preserved eggs and every other delicious (and non-endangered) thing Chinese cuisine has to offer Seriously, China really is a country every food enthusiast should visit. And don't worry about language. A smile, a big ol' "NI HAO" and maybe a phrasebook will get you further than you think.
  15. Don't know if these are exported, but if so, try looking for vacuum-packed bag of shelled peanuts called Jiu Gui Hua Sheng (酒鬼花生 Drunkard's Peanuts). These are deep fried usually with a little dried chili and sprinkled with a little sugar. Since moving to China these have become a staple supermarket purchase (along with spicy fermented tofu and Japanese mayo). I like to put them in a covered bowl with some Old Bay Spice, chili flakes and whatever, and then let give them a good shake. The oilyness of the nuts will give them a good smothered in seasonings look.
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