made in guangzhou

written by jun

guangzhou, our birth city. we were pleasantly surprised to discover that we were both born there. what’s more interesting is that our families might have been neighbors at one time. it’s not our first trip to guangzhou, but it is the first time for us going together. guangzhou is a haven for food lovers. anything you want to eat, you can probably find it… even dog meat. i don’t know what it is, the food just tastes better there… the veggies are sweeter and the chicken is, um, chicken-ier. we had many great meals in guangzhou, too many to write in one post. but we’ll share the ones that stood out the most.

the first meal we had was at my cousin’s house. everyone was there, about 20 people. family gathering is one of the main reasons why i like coming back to guangzhou. the endless mountain of food, the roaring laughter, and the free-flowing hennessy are just the few things that i enjoy about dining at home. we counted 15 different plates on the table… steamed fish, shrimp, roast goose, stir-fry gourd, scrambled eggs with chive flowers, pig intestines, i can go on. let’s just say that i ate so much it hurt. it probably didn’t help that i also drank half a bottle of cognac.

dining at home with family

dining at home with family

not only is food in guangzhou tastier, but it’s also cheaper. we noticed a dumpling stall as we were taking a stroll down Dade Rd one afternoon. have you ever walked past a restaurant where the food seems to call out to you? as if it’s saying “come eat me now!” well, those handmade dumplings in the store front were summoning us. we didn’t care that we just had a full lunch an hour ago, the freshly wrapped dumplings were just asking for it. we ordered 8 pork and fennel dumplings, and another 8 pork and chive dumplings, a total of 16… all for 14 rmb! what’s funny is that we met a lady who ate there everyday! she swears by those dumplings, and you know what, we would probably eat there everyday too if we lived in guangzhou.

handmade dumplings

handmade dumplings

so good and so cheap

so good and so cheap

sometimes the best meals aren’t found inside a restaurant. it’s created with good company, engaging conversations, and a bottle of vodka. priscilla’s cousins took us to this unsuspecting alley for “siu yeh”, also known as late night snack, very common in china. we sat down at one of the four folding tables with yellow plastic lawn chairs. it’s ran by a husband and wife dual… you tell the husband what skewers you want and the wife will work her magic on the grill. having ordered a table full of food, we began sipping on our 7-11 slurpee cups of vodka… no chaser, on the rocks, that’s how we roll. that’s when things started to fade slowly into the afterthought. i don’t remember much about what we ate or talked that night. but what i do know is that we had lots of laughs and i ended up peeing in front of a truck… also very common in china. and yes, we polished that bottle of vodka, down to the very last drop.

late night snack in an alley

late night snack in an alley

priscilla wanted to take me to this hotpot place one night with her grandma. i thought to myself “what’s so special about hotpot, we have it all the time in hong kong.” she insisted that i try it because of the unusual soup base. instead of the traditional chicken or pork stock, the soup is made of rice congee. it comes out as a large bowl of pure white liquid. the rice is broken down so fine that it you won’t get little chunks in your spoon. it’s definitely thicker and more viscous in nature, so constant stirring is required to prevent sticking to the bottom of the pot. but what you get is a sponge-like effect from the congee that absorbs all the flavors of the meat and veggies cooking inside the cauldron.

hotpot with congee soup

hotpot with congee soup

guangzhou has its moments. it won’t make it on the list of china’s cleanest cities anytime soon (if there will ever be such a list), but there are a few spots that are nice to chill and relax. one of them is shamian island. i didn’t realize this about shamian island, but it’s a default destination for taking wedding photos. there were no shortage of soon-to-be newly weds posing to be what i considered awkward and unnatural positions. as you can see below, we managed to capture a small side street with 3 couples smiling as if it’s the happiest day of their lives. this scene is repeated throughout the whole island.

shamian island

a small side street of shamian island

shamian island does have its charm. stepping onto the island is like traveling back in time during the european colonial days. the main street is adorned with huge 2-story western-style homes, complete with large verandas and groomed gardens. most of them seem abandoned, but a few were converted into hotels, restaurants, and of course, a starbucks. it’s actually a very spacious and uncrowded starbucks. we decided to rest our tired feet and have a sip of coffee. for that brief 30 minutes, we almost forgot that we were in china… until a loud chinese lady started screaming into her cell phone next to us.

taking a quick coffee break

taking a quiet coffee break

in addition to guangzhou, we made a quick trip to foshan, which is just an hour train ride away. foshan is the home of martial arts. the most famous martial artist from there is wong fei hung. when we think of foshan, thoughts of people kicking ass on the streets and huge martial arts temples come to mind. but when we walked out of the subway exit, we were utterly disappointed. foshan is just another chinese city… busy, smoggy, and semi-chaotic. we don’t know what is is, maybe china is bad at preserving its history and culture, or maybe we watched one too many ip man movies. but whatever it is, foshan is not a place we deem worthy of a visit.

oh yeah, they have this place called “expat town.” it’s basically an area with mostly western restaurants. the place is still under construction as half the buildings are still empty. i think they’re trying too hard to attract more visitors or make foreigners feel like home. what this expat town needs is definitely more work. plus, a huge sculpture of a pair of gigantic breasts is not exactly the most politically correct piece of art to display, if you can call it that.

what chinese people think of westerners, not very politically correct as you can tell, in expat town

what chinese people think of westerners, not very politically correct as you can tell, in expat town

this definitely won’t be our last time in guangzhou. we’ll visit again soon since my cousin’s daughter will be getting married in january. we’ll continue to stumble around the city in search of good eats. and for sure we’ll visit a few of our old favorites, like the dumpling place.

here are a few more pictures that we didn’t write about, but are still worth sharing.

pretty darn good korean food

pretty darn good korean food

another late night snack, sichuan spicy fish

another late night snack, sichuan spicy fish

dessert... taro, mango, and tapioca

dessert… taro, mango, and tapioca

wonton noodles, famous in foshan

wonton noodles, famous in foshan

beef rice roll

beef rice roll… priscilla’s fav!

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