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China, a Year of Dining


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Well, I spent close to 45 days in China this year. I usually spend about a month for work but, this year was an exception.. I had some really interesting dinners and experiences there. I have written a blog about it on another website but, wanted to use this thread as sort of a best of. I am just a few nights back and am having trouble sleeping, might as well, take the time to organize some meals here.

This meal was from my first night arriving in China back in Jan of last year. I flew to Shanghai, took a 5 hour car ride up to Zhangjuagang and had dinner right from the airport.

Chief A restaurant in zhangjiagang



First dish blew me away.. I love this type of crab. It is very expensive and certainly has a season around here. these were served cold with some type of wine sauce. So delicious.


Next up durian in a flaky pasty.. The dorian was creamy and delicious. I must say i was rather nervous but, it was fantastic. I see signs all over the place with durian warnings. You can't bring it on planes or trains and they don't want you bringing in to most places. When cooked like this, it's rich and creamy. It's really wonderful.


Lamb meatball soup with a ginger mushroom broth with these tiny little spicy pepper floating in it..


Chinese broccoli:


Head on sweet little shrimp: The only dish that seemed familiar to me:


And finally, this incredibly spicy frog stew. Lots of mung beans, frogs legs,they were from special black frogs, there were fresh green peppercorns still on the branch, peppers, sour string beans and sichuan peppercorns.. This was phenomenal.


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Another meal in Zhangjiagang

We started with this amazing green salad. Now, everyone I know, doctors mostly, will tell you not to eat salad, as well as soft skin fruits and vegetables while in China. They say the water can pass easily through the skin, they also will tell you the vegetables are rinsed in tap water. I managed to eat at least two or three of these items per meal. Initially, when I started coming to China 12 or 11 years ago, I was somewhat fearful. But, outside of swimming in stagnant pools of water, or drinking from the faucet, I have ignored most of the advice people will tell a traveler.

Salad had mustard greens in it, cabbage, lettuce, frisse and some green leaf lettuce. It was really wonderful. The mustard greens will clean out your sinuses. Cleaning your sinuses is a good thing because the air quality is the worst i have ever seen it. It is literally cloudy inside buildings. The air is almost chalk. Like the chalky air that comes out of an e-cigarette. Apparently, DOW has a big plant around here. Peanuts on the side which added to the salad was very complimentary.


Next up was black chicken soup with a variety of mushrooms. Served in individual bowls. I could only imagine what the English Translation would have been on the menu.


Next up comes out this clay pot.. The pot itself was gorgeous. On top were homemade noodles.. Kind of reminiscent of udon noodles in their thickness but more round. Another item with the fresh green peppercorns. Also in a murky yellow sauce. The sauce itself tasted like the essence of fish.. It was very strong in a good way with a nice kick to it. I loved this dish.

Under the noodles were these little whole fish. When I asked what kind of fish they were, she told me her translator said, it was a mandarin fish. But, after googling mandarin fish, it did not come up as the same fish. As we are by a small river that runs off the Yangzhe river, she said, the fish hang out in the shallow area by the end of the river. if anyone has ever been on the yangzhe, it is a disgustingly dirty cloudy river that you wouldn't want to eat anything from the middle or beginning parts of, let alone the very end of it.. I was on a boat on the yangzhe and would not have dangled my feet in the water. It was delicious non the less.
Here is the little "Mandarin" Fish I ate like 5 of them. Other people have called this Globe fish.


Out comes fried coconut shrimp with fried pumpin logs. These were good. coconut shrimp and fried pumpkin, you've had it before. what was cool was the little mushroom and garnish. the logs, the garnish, it was a fancy hotel.


Roasted duck. Very nice. Not outstanding but, very nice.


A couple of pints of beer.. Lunch was 188 rmb or, 30 bucks.

Edited by basquecook (log)
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our host being from Hunan Province, I was excited to go with a true expert. It did not disappoint.

The name of the restaurant more or less translates to, well, Hunan Garden, how original!


Cold dishes come first.. This is goat with a pepper sauce.. The pepper sauce almost tastes like a fresh habanero sauce. Goat she explains is a great winter dish because it keeps you warm.. Not the freaking hot pepper sauce, it's the goat. I have never had goat burn my mouth like say a habanero. Even though I am kidding, i understand that different weather calls for different foods in Chinese Philosophy. It is nice coming here in the dead of winter to try these different foods.


Also with the goat is a cold pig stomach dish.. Wonderful as well.


Octopus served in a cast iron skillet with sour beans and a few different types of peppers. Fresh and dried.


Sliced potatoes with peppers and pork.


Corn in a sweet and peppery spicy sauce over rice cakes.


Some sort of pork pone and special yucca type potato soup. The yucca thing supposedly held some medicinal purpose. It wasn't funky enough to help virility but, it was bland enough to be healthy.


And just when we thought lunch was over, the star of the show arrives.. Holy cow this was the best fish head I have ever had. Fish head is my favorite dish and this was my favorite fish head. Loved this thing.. Ate it until I was uncomfortably full. It was in a yellow bean paste with some wine and soy. So good. Just amazing. I might be able to eat this dish everyday. With a bow of rice or two


Damage done:


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Here is another lunch.

First dish comes cold fish.. Loved it.


Another round of that spicy mustard green salad.


In addition to the spicy peanuts, she also added lotus nuts served in a coconut milk..



A typical appetizer plate. Cold firm tofu, some sort of marinaded egg, cold pork belly, duck wings and the honey comb is pig tripe.


It sucks this photo didn't come out good because these were the best dumplings I have ever had. They were so light and crisp. Fresh vegetables and pork. They served them with a clear vinegar sauce with a couple of chili peppers floating in it.


Clear bean thread noodles with roasted garlic.


Same preparation as the Mandarin Fish except there were pickled vegetables and pickled peppers added.

Love the fresh green peppercorns on the vine. I think you can see the dumplings better in the background too.


i like this photo too. It's all dreamy like.


Another light lunch.

Edited by basquecook (log)
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Dim Sum in Yangzhou.

Today, this morning, we went back to Fuchun.. There are four locations around Yangzhou. I had taken you to the oldest location a few trips ago. it's about 500 years old, in an old complex where older people do thai chi and hang around and practice with swords. This location is in some ugly old non descript building. Regardless of the outside, the food is still wonderful..


Loved the shredded tofu. Another thing Yanzhou specializes in. Sitting in a sweet garlicky soy based sauce. I have been in many places in China, no place makes these shredded tofu noodles like they do in Yangzhou. They are soft, yet sturdy. It's like better than pasta. So delicious and special.


Out comes the dumplings and bao

Here is steamed bread, some sort of vegetable (spinach like) dumplings, and fish dumpling


BBQ Pork, shredded meat and rice dumplings.


Interesting soup dumpling

These little guys come out in individual steamer baskets, you are instructed to place a straw into them and suck out the porky broth



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Here is a party I went to:

Our host brings a bottle of rice wine.


That is not water. it's an 8 ounce glass of 104 proof liquor.


cold pickled fish with chili peppers: I will tell you when something is not amazing. Spitting out fish bones on the table, no problem round there parts.


cold goose sweet goose:


cold wine flavored fava beans





everyone starts wearing a jacket because, they don't heat the buildings in the winter.. after the second round of rice wine, the jackets come off.


baby shimp in a white sauce.. they pour you a bowl of black vinegar at this point. my single favorite condiment. first time i have had shrimp without the shell in china.


a roasted tuber of some sort.. not a potato, not a sweet potato, at one point i thought it was roasted garlic. slightly al dente


yangzhou is famous for their steamed pig head balls and their fish balls. they call them lion head meatballs. they are fall just falling apart but, maintain their integrity. very rich and such a soft consistency. wonderful with a little vinegar to cut through the richness. unbelievable.


soup dumplings: yeh, the best soup dumplings I have ever had. even better than this morning. and that was from a 250 year old recipe


glass noodles with roasted garlic:


shredded tofu noodles. another dish that yangzhou claims to make the best of in all of China. I have had this dish in other parts of china and yangzhou does make the best I have had. the consistency is chewy yet soft. It's great: we had it for breakfast this morning.. it's almost served at every meal in this area.


this dish might be my favorite chicken dish I have ever eaten. served in a cast iron pan with a burner under it. there are wonton skins crisped and stuck to the side of a cast iron pan.. chicken on the bone serve in a soya sauce. but, more complex and sweeter. really, the best chicken dish I may have ever had.


more red and green pepper fish head: not as good as it was at the Hunan place..



the crappy fried rice you eat today was invented in yangzhou say over a 1400 years ago. there is no exact version but, it has many different things from dried scallops to shrimp, ribbons of egg and the list goes on. this was my favorite yangzhou fried rice. in China, rice always ends a meal.


i am so not meeting these lunatics for breakfast tomorrow.


such a great meal.. such wonderful people.

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Hot Pot in Yangzhou

Then out comes frozen beef and pork.

While you are eating your fish, a lady comes by with a tray of various meatballs. pork, fish, beef. She drops them into your boiling pot after you take your globe fish out and eat it.

Here is some meat and meatballs floating around in the broth.

that ball floating at around 8 o clock is not a meatball.. it is a hollow plastic like ball containing a pit of some sort. i forgot to ask what it was. It was there for seasoning.


After the meat comes various mushrooms: love the discs


then comes more fish, sliced:


this was AMAZING.. They said, it's fried fish. It turns out it was just fried fish fins. so crispy. covered in chile peppers.. oh my. i would have been happy with this and some beer.


so when the food is gone and your hot pot looks like this.


your waitress comes by and pour and bunch of rice into the broth so it becomes like a paste.


She then cracks an egg into the pot and mixes it up.


And that, I am pretty sure is how crack is made.


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And finally one last breakfast


But just an array of dumplings and bao. juicy pork, some sort of shredded bbq beef bao, this one green translated to sheppards something boa, steamed sweetbread, a fish dumpling, some sort of tapioca sweet porridge and the soup dumplings.

a light breakfast.


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This is from my May Trip, this includes, Yangzhou, Zhangjiagang and also Pinghu.


Our host told us, it is a fishing village, on a port and was excited for us to get a seafood lunch.

Out comes an array of food.. Kind of annoying, all the workers eat at 11:30 am.

We showed up and the place looked pretty darn shady. Among machine shop stalls, sewing machine stalls and stalls filled with junk was this small little restaurant.. They took us through a hallway and up a few flights of stairs and we landed in this pretty, small, private dining room


Beef is very expensive where we are. They ordered this small plate of cold beef and watched with pride as we ate it. It was not very good but, we ate it anyway. Served sliced and cold.


Jelly fish served cold with dipping sauce.. this too is considered expensive. I don't know why as there is no flavor, it is just a textural thing. You could substitute some sort of cartilage and you would not know the difference. Or beef tendon or something.. there must be some Chinese Medicinal explanation.


Some sort of sliced fish with a sweet and sour garlic sauce. This was really not that appetizing. the fish was fishy and mushy. it tasted like a mushy eel.


Super salted pork cooked in Rice Liquor.. Holy salted pork.. it was super salted.. they should have soaked longer. I liked it however.


Fried shrimp: Live in the tank.. very sweet and delicious


Another salty mushy fish. Lots of bones ta boot.


The best dish of the day, clear noodles made from potato starch, sweet live shrimp with tons of roe in them, in a ginger broth



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Sichuan in Pinghu. lunch

cold cucumber


cold beans cooked with dates:


sliced beef, served cold:


Big fat noodles made from ground green beans. served with a sesame paste and spicy oil.. this was awesome!


There was also cold seaweed serve with chile oil and one more thing, I forget now.. Cold seaweed with chile oil were really nice:

Then out comes the food.. these were those soldier steamed buns.. Underneath, there is a large indentation where you can fill the buns.. I have never had those color buns before.. almost like a malted flavor. Filled with dried shredded pork



Cabbage with pork served in a hot pan being kept hot over fire:


Spicy Bamboo shoots with pork in a spicy sauce..

Melon with pork and some sort of daikon


The best mapo tofu i have had.. well this was the end of the dish


This dish I have never had before.. It was like a pickled sour broth, it was the spiciest thing on the table.. it had thing mushrooms, thin noodles and paper thin fatty beef: It was pretty damn hot, people were sneezing and dropping away from this dish. Chinese Folk, not Americans.


This was the star of the show. The was a deep fried fish, sort of butterflied but, also curved like it was swimming.. it almost made it look like a sea robbin.. It was covered in chiles, garlic, onions and cumin. Served on a sizzling tray with sternos under it. So damn good.


This girl has had a grimace since we got here.. she was drinking beer with us at lunch and challenging us to drinking contest. She is kind of a bad ass.


Sweet eggplant with pork


Damage done.. mind you many plates had been cleared


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Our host called an audible as his child was in town from Singapore, home from College. Nine of us had dinner tonight at a place called, the Seafood Hotel. It is not a hotel but, a huge building with many private rooms for dining.. The lobby was filled with seafood and tons of those display dishes.

We drank perhaps 18 22 ounce beers, had dinner for 9. As it is customary, you insist on paying the last night and they let you.. Dinner was 100 bucks. 12 dollars a head.

Seafood tanks.. There was everything. Live shrimp, clams, oysters, 6 types of crab, live lobsters both maine and clawless. Tons of live fish, eels, octopus, seriously, pretty much anything that lives in the ocean. The largest fish heads i have ever seen. They must have been over a foot long.



Snake and turtle of course.


Geoducks and scallops.. Actually, at least three kinds of scallops shells.


These oysters were on a slanted shelf that had running water pass through it


Here is some of the food that made it to the end.. We had sea urchin soup, wood ear mushrooms, fried pork ribs, meat buns, live shrimp, a plate of fava beans, steamed celery, tofu with hot sauce, squid with a black bean and hoison sauce, dates, peanuts, whole fish, steak with yellow curry, some sort of duck dish, these bean curd pockets stuffed with pork, and whatever else I forgot to mention.. I don't know what day it is but, people were getting down tonight.. Lots of people puking in the restrooms, a women passed out at a nearby table.. Quiet a scene of over indulgence.


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Extracted these two dishes from another meal.. figure I can make these posts more brief and just pick out some highlights

My host is from Hunan Province. She loves spicy food.. She knows I love spicy food. She orders me this Sichuan Dish:

It is eel, pork blood and cow tripe with sprouts, slices of spam and seaweed in a spicy sauce. Pork blood cakes are a big thing with Chinese Families she was saying.. The pork blood is good for the stomach apparently, it flushes your stomach. She said, every family has pork blood at least once a month. It may sound strange but, this was honestly a fantastic dish. Eel is awesome, tripe is awesome, pork blood cakes are awesome.. It was literally loaded with peppercorns.. She told me not to eat the Spam.. I listened.. She said this was a traditional dish, you can have any sort of ingredient added as long as your have the tripe, eel and blood cakes. You could not avoid eating 3 or 4 peppercorns per bite. You could avoid the dried chiles but, not the peppercorns.

With in 5 minutes, I had ordered a 22 ounce of Beer and we went to work. The two of us finished the bowl


Then finally, steamed fish Sichuan Fish.. It was not very exciting compared to the other dish, however, we knocked that off too. No fish left behind. I said, Sherry, what happened, i thought you said only four dishes.. Apparently, in her world, dumplings are like rice, which are like a condiment, which is not really a dish.. She sounds like when Miss A does calorie math too.


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Next day's lunch

Steamed dumplings:


Spicy fried pork ribs over taro.


Finally sichuan sliced fish amounts of dried chiles.  I was sneezing off and on for a couple of hours after eating this


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Village Style meal in Zhangjiagang

So after a depressing trip down this incredibly poor alley way, we arrive at this gated community of faux Villas.

Somehow we made it down this long narrow street. people had to move their blankets selling things.. We just drove slowly honking our horn in people's faces.. there was very little to no reaction. Horns here don't mean that much. you can blow your car horn in someone's mug and they don't even look up.



Fava beans anyone?



We are led into this really pretty private room:

Here are the cold dishes:

Starting 7 o clock.. a plate of cold spicy white carrots. Littlle baby shrimp, cauliflower with bacon, 1000 year old egg in the middle, some orange thing, slice shin, cucumbers and baby crabs. The baby crabs are in this vinegar sauce and are awesome. they go well with rice wine.. Nothing goes well with rice wine.. It's singular purpose is to get you bombed.. the next day it stays hot in your belly resting somewhere on your liver. it's tough stuff and at 106 proof, yikes, look out.


One of the ladies we were dining with is from Sichuan.. She brought her homemade sichuan oil that me and the chief of police to my right were using through out the night.. Me and the chief of police should not be sitting next to each other. We are bad influences on one another.


This was the special dish of the evening.. it was blowfish.. quiet delicious.


Lots of thick skin on the blowfish


Salted pork belly in rice wine.


Pork dumplings


Frog legs with beans.. very nice


a plate of this hollow grass type vegetabel


More table shots. you can see also a whole fish among other things.


Here are those little crabs


Rice served at the end of the meal.. was delicious. a green vegetable with no english name


there were other plates but, shots went around, beers were poured.. I have lots of fuzzy photos and memories.

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Seeing the shredded Tofu Noodles and the Yangzhou Fried Rice can mean only one thing, we are back in Yangzhou.

tarted with cucumbers in like a hoison type sauce.. Was more like fermented bean like than hoison, or maybe just a really good sauce.


I know I am in Yangzhou when I am served this.. These strands of tofu.. So good. I have seen them in bags in China town USA but, they ones from Yangzhou, are famous all over China.. It's a perfect texture, soft and firm. In the USA, they are hard, ridged and dried out. Almost like eating plastic..


These baby shrimp with scallions:


Rice Cakes:


Topped with a subtle white sauce and vegetables. The rice cake get a little soft but, still say crunchy. Awesome.


Green vegetables:


Fried Corn and scallion cakes. Super crunchy. Very delicious. Corn remained super fresh and bright though it was encrusted in that corn starch layer.


Pork Lion head meatball in broth: As good as it gets. Everyone gets their own, of course.


Yangzhou fried. Another corner stone of their cuisine.


Super full, I hit the showroom and start eating these sunflower seeds almost immediately.. Does anyone who reads Chinese know the flavor of these sunflower seeds. i get them every time I am in China. If I had to guess, i would anise, or five spice, or bbq duck.


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We started with deep fried fava or broad beans with peanuts in this cherry and vinegar sauce.. Almost tasted like a Saba. It was thick and sweet but, finished with the vinegar.


Next out were this shrimp in this breading that had dried chiles, fermented tiny black beans and sichuan peppercorns. Really interesting.


Next out was this super creamy tofu on this very thin tin foil, disposable sheet. It was over a candle. crab roe and meat.


Perfectly roasted chestnuts and beans in a sweet glaze. I liked this a lot better than I would have assumed


This was called, Mother Style Pork.. Fried bacon with some sort of crust. Topped with some chiles and sichuan peppercorns. Do I need to even say how good this was?


Then comes the star of the show: Fish head steamed and then served in this chile oil with lots of fried hot peppers.


Done diddit.


Finally some local greens with fava beans.


Just a beautiful meal. Really, I couldn't have been happier. As close to a perfect meal as have had.

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How does 45 days add up to a year? I make that a month and a half. Approx.

This is all, so far, hotel restaurant food - not usually the best any country has to offer. Including China.

Yes, I've had great dishes in such settings, but a lot more elsewhere.

Did you get out and down to some local small places where the real local people eat? I bet it's better. Or even better, home cooking.

Still, the beans on toast look good.

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.


The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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Ahh, you don't understand how this adds up to a year. Perhaps, look at the title a different way. I am posting about three trips, so, that would be "my" year of a eating in China. You know, Jan, May, October. Three seasons. I did not mean 365 days. sorry if my title was or could be misinterpreted. One of the dangers of communication. I am sure though, with some thought, one could have figured out the title's logic. i am there for work. My hotel meals as you point out, are my lunches. You can see from such things as me eating at a 500 year old Dim Sum place, all of the local dinners, or the local lunches I have posted about, that in fact, the Hotel meals are very limited to lunches with one particular customer. So, when you say, "this is ALL so far hotel meals" you are in fact, not speaking correctly.

All of the restaurant meals, I have gone with life long residents of these places and was invited into the restaurant and local places they gather with friends and family.. Perhaps you are in not familiar with Yangzhou or Zhangjiagang and their cuisine. Either way, i assure you, the places I visited are all local places and the hotel meals, were limited to my lunches.

I don't know if your intention is to be adversarial but, a more sensitive person might think so. Perhaps you just skimmed the photos and noticed a salad or two and thought all the meals I posted about was hotel food But that is clearly not the case and I would invite you to read the threads. I was hoping for positive input from you and I still hope to.

Edited by basquecook (log)
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“I saw that my life was a vast glowing empty page and I could do anything I wanted" JK

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Oh dear. i didn't mean to offend.

I will say, however. local as they may be, they took you there because they thought that would impress you more. I would bet my last yuan that they don't eat there normally.

I am very familiar with Yangzhou and the local cuisine, thank you.

I'm also willing to bet that the 500 year old restaurant was built in the 1980s - like the Great Wall.

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...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.


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I have been doing business and traveling to China and these places for 12 or 14 years. I am sorry but, all of the assumptions you are making are incorrect. That's really the only way i can respond to your last post. Everything you are assuming is incorrect.

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I think your topic title says it clearly: A year of DINING...

I am envious and want to work at YOUR kind of business, basquecook!

Loved all the dinners you posted. Really gives me another perspective of the China I left as a toddler.

More, please, Sir?



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Oh basquecook, I shouldn't have read this without having some sort of breakfast.

I'm drooling over all of these dishes.

I would love to try the shredded tofu some day. Looks right up my alley.

Keep the pictures coming, I can't wait to see more!

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