A relaxed morning with a table full of delicious sweet and savory treats, with trolleys passing at regular intervals offering up even more, sound like your kinda thing? Then for sure you’ll be a fan of Dian Xin, also referred to as Yum Cha.
It’s a specialty of Guangdong province and it’s not to be missed. It’s also wildly popular in Hong Kong of course, but here’s a hot tip, head to Guangdong where it’s only part the price and sometimes twice as good. I’ll suggest a few places later in the post.
This simple dish is a real favorite of mine and a staple of the Cantonese breakfast scene. Take an early morning wander along the streets anywhere from Hong Kong to way out past Guangzhou and you wont be able to miss it.
Rice noodle rolls, or zhū cháng fěn (cantonese: chee cheong fun) which translates literally to pig intestine noodle, named so only due to its looks.
Every morning the steamer, specially for making rice rolls, is parked out front of the shop and the chef goes to work producing rice rolls fresh on demand as customers grab breakfast on their way to work.
Here is something YOU SHOULD try, when your Chinese friends take you to a beef hot pot restaurant, get ready for all kinds of offal and intestine, they love the stuff. And to be honest, it’s well worth trying and with the different sauces and condiments, it’s delicious, but some bits are a tad chewy… The restaurants in the city center or malls mostly use packaged or frozen goods, but, if your lucky, you can track down the odd place that butchers on site with a carcass delivered fresh every night. Unmissable experience, but vegetable hot pots are probably still the one for me.
Carrying a few extra pounds, I’m bypassing the local dim-sum restaurant and went on the hunt for local solutions for weight loss and here’s what I come up with.
Firstly, everyone agrees, you can’t put in more than you give out, meaning, you need to burn more calories than you eat. Damn, I really do have to do exercise.
Interestingly, I’m not a big eater, had dropped bread from the diet some time ago, don’t drink soda and stuck to just one or two cups of tea or coffee each day. Where was the weight coming from?
Roast meat, Siu Mei, is a popular item in Cantonese cuisine. Stalls like this are common place in market areas, featuring roast duck, char siu pork and other styles. This shop also features Qingyuan style chicken (the yellow chickens)
a farmers market in Guangdong. Locals love fresh produce and will shop daily.
There’s not much that goes to waste around these parts, and that includes Chickens feet, not just spared out of thrift though, they’re a wildly popular snack and delicacy. You can find them at street food stalls, convenience stores, supermarkets and for a real treat, my favorite is Cantonese style chickens feet that you find at dian xin (dim sum) restaurant.
They’re not without there benefits according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, chicken claws are packed with collagen for one, rich in calcium, can apparently help soften blood vessels, along with cosmetic benefits.
Supermarkets in China can be an eye-opening experience, I remember going to buy some chicken when I first moved here and, lo and behold, there was live chickens, pulled from the cage, beheaded and plucked before your eyes, it. Talk about fresh. Walmart is fairly tame, in comparison to the more traditional supermarkets, of which I’ll add some photos up in future posts.
Walmart is popular here, perhaps due to it’s perceived US prestige, but also by delivering quality goods, hygienic environment and high service standards, it has consumers trust. The US chain has done well to tailor itself to the local market and there’s a lots of interesting stuff you probably wont find at your local US Walmart:
Claypot Noodles (罐罐面) are a popular meal in my local area, but there certainly not to be found everywhere, as I’d never really noticed them before. Just recently tried them out at a local sidewalk restaurant the other day, it’s a very popular place at lunch times and at night right through till 11 and I can see why. They serve a variety of these clay pot noodles, the one I tried was a pork bone noodle soup which tasty and a revitalizing kind of feeling, a bit like a really good chicken soup.
Sichuan (or Szechwan/Szechuan) Cuisine is wildly popular, but UNLESS, you have a real penchant for spicy food it might not be the first place to start your culinary adventures. I mean real spicy. Once you have been here a while you’ll probably grow more and more accustomed to spicy food and really start to love Sichuan Cuisine.
Sichuan Province is famous for it’s mouth numbing spicy food and liberal use of chilli and pepper. The Sichuan pepper comes in red and green varieties, most common is the red type, note that this type of pepper comes from the Prickly Ash tree common in Sichuan. Chilli is the red chilli, mostly used in dried form, and there’s lots of it. A famous dish and one that’s quite popular at the moment is Dry Hot Pot or Ganguo (干锅) which hails from the Chongqing area of Sichuan. It’s similar to the soup based hot pot, except, there’s no soup.
[translated from people.cn] Goji Berry(枸杞), also known as Wolfberry, according to traditional Chinese medicine, has tonifying the liver and kidney and nourishing blood for improving eyesight, anti-aging rejuvenation and other effects. Modern medical research found that Goji also has liver and functional in preventing fatty liver. Goji contains an active ingredient theophylline, it is effective in the treatment of liver disease. Pharmacological experiments have shown that theophylline may inhibit the deposition of fat in the liver cells and promote regeneration of liver cells.
A popular snack you’ll find at Hong Kong tea restaurants is the local version of french toast.. the middle is filled with peanut butter, coated in egg batter then fried. Goes well with milk tea, which is another local speciality featuring a strong brew of black tea with condensed milk..
They take there tea very seriously many tea houses will have there own secret recipe. Usually consisting of a blend of maybe 5-7 types of black tea leaves brewed for a little longer than normal giving it a very strong tea taste that cuts through the richness of the condensed milk.
A guide to some of the snacks and meals that are popular with the locals, and where to get them
[NOTE: this has translated from wechat and its a little imperfect, but I put here as a guide for food lovers looking for a genuine ‘local’ Hong Kong food experience.]
beef brisket noodles
Description: Brisket was tasty, not chew bad, remains refreshingly noodle road, and no lye smell, as saying that I was the most hated that lye flavor, I think it’s smelly, soup is also not a lot of the grease, eating, half the soup to drink lol!
Number 1: Chengdu
I will never forget Chengdu, my first food experience there was the famous spicy hotpot, my mouth and lips were on fire from the red soup of chiller and peppers! In 2010, Chengdu was designated the “Capital of the World’s Gourmet Food” by UNESCO, and renowned for hot pot cooking, spicy bean curd and Kung Pao chicken.
Number 2: Guangzhou
Cantonese cuisine has become one of my favorites, in particular Dian Xin which is such a popular breakfast outing. Also popular is Wonton, noodles and dumplings along with braised meats and just about any animal you could imagine (a part that’s maybe not so interesting to me)
Here’s a quick guide to some of the popular local snacks foods you’ll see on your travels around China (excuse the translations, will get to correcting the dish names):
Lijiang: delicacies include spiral dumpling, buckwheat cake, walnut meatball, champion cake, Naxi Bowl Tsai cake, millet meatloaf, spiral cake, pineapple rice pudding, purple meters Baba, fried water dragonfly, Naxi la ribs, fried egg series, jelly, beef omelet, roast breast fan.
Hangzhou Snacks: Cypress, 2 bits, 3 1 onion package butter cake, Wu Dun, 6 prawns and eel West Lake West Lake Lotus root starch, Mei Niang the snow cat ears, Hangzhou Xiao long.
At first I was a little reluctant, I am sure you understand, but as I watched everyone else sticking there toothpicks into the platter of crunchy bugs, I thought, well, when in Rome.
And I glad I did, they are delicious in their own way. Apparently they are also high in protein, low in fat, and low in carbohydrates according to a story on National Geographic here which also includes a bunch of recipes. And, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine they also have a variety of health benefits. So, lets eat!
Here’s a rough guide to fruits you are likely to come across in your travels around China.
Chinese Pear (Táng lí-唐梨)
Passion fruit (Bǎixiāng guǒ-百香果/熱情果)
Common Fig (Wúhuāguǒ-無花果)
Season: July and September
Season: September to December.
Star Fruit (Yangtao – 楊桃)
Season: September to April
Chinese plum (Li zi – 李子)
Season: April to May
Green Plum (Oume – 青梅)
Season: April to May
China has nearly 900 species of wild mushroom, more than 50 of which are in commercial cultivation. Mushrooms are used widely in both cooking and in traditional medicine. They are sold fresh and dried.
Black Fungus or Cloud Ear Fungus (黑木耳 hui mu er)
Looks like an ear, it’s thin and a rubbery feel when cooked. It grows on trees and is also farmed, it’s always seen sold in it’s dry form. It has a neutral flavor so it merges well with other seasoning and vegetables and adds texture to a dish. According to Baidu Encyclopedia, Black fungus is extremely rich in nutrients, contains a lot of carbohydrates, protein, iron, calcium, phosphorus, carotene, vitamins and other nutrients.
One of the best things after a late night arrival into an unknown city is to wake up and find an awesome breakfast awaiting. So, when travelling what can you expect in a Chinese hotel, and how is the breakfast, well, here’s a guide.
Most hotels I have stayed in offer breakfast, which is usually included in the room rate. If you have a really super cheap deal from ctrip, or the like, you may not get it included, in which case you may find it’s only 30RMB to add breakfast back in, unless your in a 4-5 star hotel where they may charge anything from 80 to 300RMB, in which case you could gorge yourself, or just go for wander a find something to eat for less than 20…
Possibly the most important thing to experience whilst in China is their diverse food cultures and cuisines. They are quite proud of their culinary abilities, and rightly so, perhaps born from doing a lot with a little, they have mastered the use of natural ingredients, balancing tastes and bringing out amazing flavors.
This brief guide is far from comprehensive, but it will do for an intro from which to explore further should you wish. The more knowledge you have about a cuisine area, the more rewarding your experiences will surely be. There are over 20 cuisines listed here, and I am sure there are more, and each one could is probably worthy of a whole book rather than just a paragraph!
Lots of tasty things, thats what! Theres a little bakery at the bottom of the Maple Leaf Nanshan hotel which I often visit to grab some lunch, the staff are friendly and the food is tasty. Even better is how amazingly cheap it is!
All this cost about 28RMB (or yuan, if you like) which is about $4.80 Australian or $4US.
So for four bucks, that’s one small milk, one lemon juice, 2 hot dog rolls with cucumber, lettuce and mayonnaise, 2 pork rolls with tomato and cucumber and one pizza slice. In Australia I know that you could get one of the drinks at least!
Kempinski is a European luxury hotel chain and they have a hotel in Nanshan District of Shenzhen, and it’s one of the citys leading 5 star hotels. I haven’t had the pleasure of staying except to say that its in a great spot close to the new Coastal City Shopping Center which features a mix of retail shops, luxury brand retail shopping and many restaurants.
Susan and I went to the Kempinski for its very popular Dim Sum breakfast. DimSum is often referred to as Yum Cha and its a style of cooking that was founded right here in the Guandong Province, I really enjoy this stuff so I couldn’t be in a better place!
After a relaxing massage at Jiafu Fudao, Rebecca took me a great place to enjoy one of Sichuans famous dishes, the Hot Pot. While Hot Pots are available in most places across China, apparently the Chengdu Sichuan version is something unique!
Extremely unique for me as I’d never had one before! Recessed into the table you dine at is a large pot, underneath which is a burner. The pot is filled with, ummm, I dont really know, and for a westerner in China its best not to know…but it’s like a spicy boiling broth.