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In China and eating


jokhm
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OK... Finallly made it out of  HK.. and WITH some money. Not that it matters anymore. IT's SO cheap. Even where I am now in  Shenzhen. I had all these  ideas in my head that things  would still be pricy this  close to  HK.. but no - not at all. I will only be spending a day here before moving to  Guangzhou; any  places of interest  to check out food-wise??

Hi Joel, I wish I were young enough and free enough to be your sidekick!

I have never been to Guangzhou, but there are a couple of things that would be foremost in my mind. First, I am quite interested in how Chinese food morphs as it migrates, so I would pay attention to how "Cantonese" food in Guangzhou compares to, or differs from, "Cantonese" food in Hong Kong and in North America. The Chinese food you encounter in TO and Vancouver these days have definite HK roots, for example, whereas the Cantonese food in San Francisco (and MTL, for that matter) has roots in rural Guangdong, and there are definite differences between the two that go beyond simple localization.

Secondly, and probably obvious to a documentary film maker, would be to look for exotic foods. I'd search for a famous snake soup place in Guangzhou I have heard about, for example (snake soup is quite tasty, I've had it in Shanghai). A few years ago National Geographic has a photo of a Cantonese "charcuterie" in Guangzhou which looked very much like the ones you see in San Francisco, New York and MTL, but hanging alongside the BBQ'd ducks and chickens were big fat roasted rats, heads, feet and tails all intact. Although I'd heard about rats in Cantonese cuisine, seeing them in such a familar milieu was quite startling.

An of course, this time of year, I'd be looking out for moon cakes and moon cake culture.

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Incidentally, I stumbled across another "glossary" of food terms in Chinese here.

Click the bulleted side links to continue the list.

I'ts from the website of an agency that places Chinese chefs overseas, so it has some interesting items:

corn flakes 玉蜀黍片

Just in case, :laugh: !

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Hey jokhm, wish you'd posted a query before heading to Pai. I've never gotten sick travelling outside of Bangkok. And in fact in Pai we had several truly spectacular Isaan and northern Thai meals in Feb., at two small storefronts off the main backpacker street. The Isaan place closed early, at 4 or so, but the owner offered to do a special dinner for us on request, using whatever unusual herbs and veggies we brought back from the little afternoon market.

It was amazing really --- these places were literally 1/2 block from the area you're referring to .... and absolutely absent of farang, and packed with Thais (and Chinese Thais who'd come down from the KMT village for lunch). We requested a jungle curry "spicy" and I didn't have to ask twice. In fact it almost killed me.

I would gladly return to Pai just to spend a little more time at these places (we only had 3 days, that trip).

Keep up the postings from China!!

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Because I normally did not have time to allow my stomach to acclimatize to the local strains of intestinal flora and fauna, nor time to be sick while travelling Asia on work assignments, I had to keep the rules that jokhm itemized and more...

---never drink the tap water (I even brush my teeth with bottled water)

---never use ice cubes

---always peel your own fruit with your own knife

---Always eat things right out of the pot, ie: hot

---always carry handi-wipes/tissues

---always eat at the busier places

---never eat at the da pai dongs without a good water supply

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Hello

Pai... yeah, only spent 3 days myself. Most of it on a motorbike in the countryside which was often beautiful and interesting and occasionally depressing as we were inundated with little kids offering us all forms of opiates. I did have a good experience there, both with the fantastic guesthouse and some of the people I met, but unfortunately I wasn't with the right crowd for eating good food. I was with the types that wanted something in their mouths simply out of need for removing that slight hunger feeling. Too bad, I had heard of some of the things you mentioned just off the beaten....main block. But - next time. It's a funny place, pai. After I spent time there I went straight to Nan and had what is likely my best time in Thailand. My friend and I spent a few days doing about 500km+ on motorbikes through the bordering mountains next to Laos, going from village to village. Fantastic. No tourists in sight and great food everywhere we looked. posting now because I don't trust this computer

Edited by jokhm (log)
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So I received a call from a close friend from Montreal who was just making it to beijing when he called.. and as a result I've changed my plans for the 1309480293th time and will be training over there (24 hours) within the next hour. Guangdong will be left for last, which is probably fine considering its proximity to HK which is where I'm flying home from.

Gary upon reading your last few posts I got this crazy desire to see chinese food that looked 'similar' to what I eat at home... and walking through the streets of Shenzhen yielded restaurants that at least LOOK the same! We had a fantastic meal at one seafood place last night that was teeming with people everywhere. Quite exciting. Picking from a list of completely foreign dish names is fun! Once I even pulled out my computer with wenlin and went through everything with the waitress... just for.. I don't know. But it was interesting. I can recognize a few characters now that help... but I suppose it is more or less hopeless, which would be a problem in a country filled with bad food... this is not the case here.

what got me to enjoy myself a lot more than I previously would have imagined was the simple fact that people speak putonghua here and I can understand it! I had this idea in my head that in most parts of guangdong I would still be traveling 'dark'. So this got me excited and I stayed two nights instead of one. I'll be back.

next time in beijing... finally.

edit due to lack of trust for these computers. Losing posts as a result of shoddy hardware makes me hit things, and then I get escorted out.

Edited by jokhm (log)
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what got me to enjoy myself a lot more than I previously would have imagined was the simple fact that people speak putonghua here and I can understand it! I had this idea in my head that in most parts of guangdong I would still be traveling 'dark'. So this got me excited and I stayed two nights instead of one. I'll be back.

I guess you can thank Chairman Mao and the "liberation" for that :laugh:

In San Franciso Chinatown my Shanghainese wife doesn't have any problem communicating, as pretty much every mainland Chinese under 60 has at least a smattering of putonghua because it's been a mandatory language for education and the media since 1957(?). Our biggest communication problem to date was in a restuarant in Toronto where the HK-bred servers knew neither English nor Putongha, and neither of us knows much Cantonese. Point-and-shoot was what worked with the menu, since my wife could at least READ it.

Hey, in MTL Chinatown we found restaurants with staff conversant in Cantonese, Mandarin, English AND French.

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so I would pay attention to how "Cantonese" food in Guangzhou compares to, or differs from, "Cantonese" food in Hong Kong and in North America. The Chinese food you encounter in TO and Vancouver these days have definite HK roots, for example, whereas the Cantonese food in San Francisco (and MTL, for that matter) has roots in rural Guangdong, and there are definite differences between the two that go beyond simple localization.

I would expect Cantonese food in Guangzhou and Hong Kong to be about the same. If anything, Cantonese food in Guangzhou may be slightly more varied with more variety in animals.

But I would expect there to be enough interchange between staff in restaurants in Hong Kong and Guangzhou (in terms of changing jobs, conversations about cooking, etc.) that they should be very much the same.

Or at least that's what I'd expect. I'd be happy to be edumicated otherwise, though.

Of course, I have noted Gary's comment about differences between Cantonese food in San Francisco & Montreal vs. in Toronto and Vancouver and this also contrasts with what I would expect. I'd also be happy to learn more.

Herb aka "herbacidal"

Tom is not my friend.

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Ah Nan. Coincidence --- we went there after Pai as well (with a couple months in between). Incredibly beautiful and wonderful pple. We'll be back next yr for sure. Killer Isaan food in an alley off the main street (written up in the LP guide, actually). Fish laab with crackly fish skin....

Now back to Chinese food....

As for Guangdong ... you might search out some "authentic" versions of the old tried-and-true "Cantonese" dishes you'll get in Chinese restaurants in the west. I had an ethereal sweet and sour pork in Guangzhou about 15 yrs ago. One taste and I thought "Could this actually be the same dish that is a sweet, gloppy, sticky pile of mess when served at Chinese restaurants in the States?"

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On my first trip to Guangzhou, I was a bit worried about being in the south and what I would eat when a friend recommended a dongbei (northeast) restaurant to me. I was very skeptical, but took his advise and was extremely glad I did. It is part of a chain throughout Guangzhou (and Shenzhen I think) that was opened by real Dongbei ren and all the waitstaff are real dongbei ren (there is no faking their dongbei hua). It is a fun place which captures the (stereotypical) Dongbei home, complete with kangs and occassionally the staff breaks out into song using Dongbei hua. The restaurant is aptly named "Dongbei Ren." The food was on par with any Dongbei restaurant in Harbin or Shenyang.

It may seem atypical to go to Guangzhou and eat this sort of food, but since a stop in the northeast doesn't seem to be part of your itinerary, it may be worth checking out for one meal.

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It may seem atypical to go to Guangzhou and eat this sort of food, but since a stop in the northeast doesn't seem to be part of your itinerary, it may be worth checking out for one meal.

Guangzhou is the capital of Cantonese cuisine. It would seem to me that one should take the opportunity to taste what the best Cantonese cuisine has to offer. So why look for northern style eateries while in Guangzhou? It would be rather like eating steaks while in New England and lobsters while in Dallas.

There is an old Chinese saying: 食在广州, which means when it comes to good food, you need to eat in Guangzhou. Obviously Cantonese cuisine ranks among the tops in regional Chinese cuisines.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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Nan as well? !!!@# That issan area was fantastic.. Beautiful place. They wouldn't stop offering me lychees everywhere I went.

Not going to the north-east? heh. I just stepped off the 24 hour train to Beijing. Definitely a random decision, since two days ago I was trying to determine where to eat in Guangzhou. No problem. It is too hot in that area anyhow! :). I'll come back around in a few months and catch Guangdong properly before I head home. Now I've just got to locate my friend here while he keeps his phone turned off and then explore Beijing. Beijing duck being the first priority.. ahh duck.

Joel

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that thread from Mr. Li's family restaurant has thankfully popped up right to the top at a perfect time. I'll see if I can round up enough people to eat something that costs 4 nights of our hotel prices. Looks.... good..!! And quen ju de restaurant also sounds like a must too.

wow

funfun

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Guangzhou is the capital of Cantonese cuisine. It would seem to me that one should take the opportunity to taste what the best Cantonese cuisine has to offer. So why look for northern style eateries while in Guangzhou? It would be rather like eating steaks while in New England and lobsters while in Dallas.

My suggestion was made obviously dependant on time...If he was going to be there for a number of days, its a good place to go to try something that he wouldn't be able to get elsewhere. It would be a good break from all the Cantonese food to have a hearty dongbei meal. Though jokhm did comment he was going to be in Beijing, that isn't a part of the traditional Northeast/Machuria region of Heilongjiang, Jilin, and Liaoning. This restaurant was an excellent example of good dongbei food and was honestly one of the best I've been to outside of the actual Northeast, plus it was a fun place.

I ate here twice during my short stay in Guangzhou, but perhaps that is because I have too much of the common Chinese thinking of fear of a different regions cuisine...

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OK, few things to update with..

About heading up north.. I'm close now, I'm probably doing it, but I don't have a clue when. And What are you getting at with the being afraid of other regions' food? Is this type of concern widespread?? Seems that every cuisine (especially sichuan) is everywhere; or at least fragments of each.

So I am still in Beijing.. having quite a time settling into everyday life and the general thoughts surrounding NOT moving anywhere for a number of weeks.. The longest I've stopped in one place was 9 days in Chiang Mai, 9 in Hanoi and around the same in bangkok. Otherwise the average is 4 nights! I need a rest. And I've made Beijing that place. I've met some great students roaming around Tiananmen over the weekend and now have one of them teaching me an hour a day, 5 times a week. All is well, though I'd love any additional input on how to learn quicker.

Food-wise... I'm generally semi-impressed with what I order.. and obviously always happy when I am with Chinese people. In either case we have found some nice places to eat, and had some excellent duck. They definitely do the duck thing in a most interesting way.. Beijing duck is fantastic.

We'll hopefully be heading to Mr. Li's at some point next week.. though i'm not staying at the type of hotel that would have the appropriate info for getting there. How else can I find his place - this city is ...BIG ! ?

Time for dinner.

Joel

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Have a great time in Beijing! Eat a jian bing for me!!

The Quan Ju De (on the West side of Tiananmen Square?) is as good for people-watching as it is for the duck. It's where I saw a woman-of-a-certain-age wearing a dark mink stole over a dark mink full-length coat........*inside* the restaurant. And what was most shocking about her expression of wealth was her advanced pregnancy............back during the heyday of the one-child policy.

See if you can find Uigurville for fantastic bread and roasted mutton with cumin! (And waiters with green eyes!) It's in the neighborhood of the Beijing Normal College (teacher's college).

I'm a canning clean freak because there's no sorry large enough to cover the, "Oops! I gave you botulism" regrets.

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About heading up north.. I'm close now, I'm probably doing it, but I don't have a clue when.  And What are you getting at with the being afraid of other regions' food? Is this type of concern widespread?? Seems that every cuisine (especially sichuan) is everywhere; or at least fragments of each.

your best bet in getting comprehensive restaurant listings would be to grab a copy of "Thats Magazine" or some of the other expat publications that are ubiquitous in nicer hotels or Starbucks. It sounds like you aren't staying in one of the "nicer" hotels, but you can use your foreigner status to walk into just about any hotel and grab a copy...Alternatively, they can be found online at www.thatsbeijing.com

It is true that you can find almost every cuisine everywhere, but this just doesn't disprove my point. There are Chinese from all over the country in Beijing, a Sichuan person would hope that they will be able to go out and have Sichuanese food. Though at times, a Sichuanese in Beijing, say, going to a Sichuan restaurant in Beijing will be disappointed with food that lacks the real taste they expect (this is frighteningly similar to the experience of any Chinese going to a Chinese restaruant in the US). Some of what I was saying goes to history, too, travel for Chinese people in China has really only existed for 10 years. Before that, one of the most common responses as to why somebody wouldn't want to go somewhere is the idea of not being accustomed to that place (bu xiguan), especially its food and language. It still exists, to a lesser extent today, and of coruse it is more common among the older generations. Then again, the consistency of food poisoning stories in the news (or stories about "fake" foods) has led many Chinese to be extremely careful, to the extent that one of my friend's parents only feel comfortable about eating at KFC and McDonalds or the higher end restaurants when they eat out (and these aren't overseas Chinese).

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Have a great time in Beijing!  Eat a jian bing for me!!

The Quan Ju De (on the West side of Tiananmen Square?)

See if you can find Uigurville for fantastic bread and roasted mutton with cumin!  (And waiters with green eyes!)  It's in the neighborhood of the Beijing Normal College (teacher's college).

Must remember that QuanJuDe has 3 different dining experiences...take out, eating your duck on plastic without the pomp and presentation (for which you need to get in line early), and the restaurant with its regular dining (for whic you must make reservations long in advance but is best avoidable). It is near the southeast corner of Tiananmen Square.

Uigurville is long gone, though you can sample this kind of food throughout the city. My favorite place would be one of the many places around Xinjiekou or Gu Lou, but that is only because of convience for me (close to where I live). There is also the very commercial, Afunti, which has decent prices for a higher end place (probably about 75 RMB a person) and is a lot of fun (a Xinjiang performance and then dancing on the tables), though the food is only mediocre (it is all very good, but for the prices you pay, i would expect a bit more)...

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chengb02, I was told by a reporter from one of the expat magazines that some of the expat publications had trouble writing bad reviews when such were merited, because of their dependence on advertising from the places they review. Do you know anything about that?

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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chengb02, I was told by a reporter from one of the expat magazines that some of the expat publications had trouble writing bad reviews when such were merited, because of their dependence on advertising from the places they review.

There are a couple issues here...First, I think this is a constant dilemma for magazines that are foucsed on specific locations. I think that the statement you heard is true to some extent, but also a bit overstated. These magazines typically only have 1 or 2 restaurant reviews a mont (plus some info on 2 or 3 new restaurants). Most of the places that advertise in these magazines are already very established and well known among the expat community (and the amount of ad space that goes to restaurants is small as it is). One of the biggest problems is that most of the expat mags are staffed (in the loosest sense of the word) with 1 or 2 people who have been in the game for many years and a lot of young just out of college types or students in BJ. The number of "contributing writers" and "freelancers" for some is unbelievably high. From experience I can attest to the fact that a lot of bad reviews are given for 1 of 2 reasons: 1. overpromotion in a previous good review and so an attempt is made to balance things out, 2. a writer who is settling a score and then laziness on the part of the editor. I think there is also a bit of a Chinese face issue here, restaurants will often spend a little more on their advertising in these magazines in hopes of almost buying off a good review. I'm not sure how things are right now, but in the past there was much demand for ad space, losing one restaurant wouldn't strike fear in the hearts of the magazine, but it may cause some fear among restaurants who might choose to advertise with that magazine.

Sorry for this extremely rambling post...but for these reasons (and others), I would advise that checking out these expat mags can be beneficial about finding information (in the very basic sense: names, addresses, and phone numbers) on different restaurants in the city, but don't pay too much attention to anything they say about the places...

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for these reasons (and others), I would advise that checking out these expat mags can be beneficial about finding information (in the very basic sense: names, addresses, and phone numbers) on different restaurants in the city, but don't pay too much attention to anything they say about the places...

That sounds a lot like many New Yorkers' attitudes toward Zagat.

Thanks for your input.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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jokhm -- consider Dalian. Not much touristed but an interesting up-and-coming coastal city with a fair bit of architectural history still standing (for the time being, anyway). Dalian-ers are very friendly. And the food is great ... excellent and cheap seafood (oh those crabs!), delicious dumplings and noodles, corncakes. Dalian ren love garlic ... dipping sauce for dumplings is a slug of black vinegar with lots and lots of very roughly chopped garlic.

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Wow.. lot to chew on here. I will have to definitely look into the breads with cumin and mutton. That sounds too good to miss. About quanjude.. they have multiple locations and I wasn't aware that they had the quick and dirty dinning experience available to people like me.. so which location offers this? or do they all? mm duck

heh zagat.. Ever read American Psycho? The attention and importance that the characters place on Zagat for revealing all necessary restaurant suggestions is too funny; the outcome of a whole upper-class listening to the same rag telling them where they must eat in order to flaunt their money.... great stuff. So yes, these things are worth a lot if you are looking for a name and address.. but..

I find magazine.

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