Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Zhuhai: Authentic Northern Chinese Cuisine

Generally when I'm in China, I don't take much pictures of where I go to eat since I can't really take pictures during business lunches/dinners and I don't really want to venture out by myself, unless it is Beijing, Shenzheng, or Shanghai, ie big cities. However, when I was in Zhuhai, one of my conversation with one of their sales got to cameras, I started to show him what I took during this trip to the Far East, and during lunch, he even encouraged me to take pictures, which I gladly did! Of course it was still a little odd for me to do that so for each of the below I just took a picture as fast as I could.

In 珠海 Zhuhai, there's a restaurant called 天香園 Tian Xiang Yuan, which is an extremely popular restaurant focusing on Northeast Chinese Cuisine (東北菜) and it is AWESOME. I've actually had it once before when I went to China for training and posted a few pics on Facebook awhile back but this time I actually got the chance to take some good pictures rather than secretly taking it. For Northeast cuisine, many dishes are sweet and there is a bigger focus on 主食 staple foods, such as bread, bing, buns, or rice.

天香園 Tian Xiang Yuan
中国廣東省, 珠海市, 寿丰路
Zhuhai City, Shou Feng Road
Guangdong Province, China

So where's 珠海 Zhuhai? It is essentially right across from Hong Kong, with the South China Sea in between. Generally, people will take ferries that takes only about an hour to get to Zhuhai. If by road, it'll take more than 3-4 hours since you must head towards Shengzheng from HK, head north then southwest until you get to Zhuhai.

tian xiang yuan
Wet napkins showing the logo and name of the place, 天香園 Tian Xiang Yuan. I don't really know the names of the following dishes so I'll just translate and describe it to the best of my abilities :P

firm tofu
大豆腐 Soy sauce tofu. This is one of my favorite dishes at this restaurant. Huge piece of homemade firm tofu, drizzled with a soy sauce dressing mixed with aromatics. It's really simple but just flavored so well.

texture of tofu
From the texture, you can see it is firm tofu.

酸白菜 cabbage in vinegar dressing. This dish may look spicy as hell, but it's really not. The chilies are mostly for show. A little different from the Szechuan version of cabbage, it's a lot lighter and much more refreshing. I love the minced garlic in there.

freshwater fish
燒全魚 Brasied whole fish. I really don't know what kind of fish it is, but it is tender, juicy, and fresh. When you drizzle that sauce over it... heavenly.

dry rub pork ribs
乾排骨 Pork ribs. It is quickly fried so that it has a crispy "dry" outside. Generous spice rub all over with cumin dominating most of your palate. Good dish to share.

wok dried intestine
乾炒大腸 Wok-fried big intestine. I heart intestine so I was really excited for this dish. Again, the chilies are mostly for colors. Wok-fried essentially means it is stir-fried over really REALLY big flames with little oil which results in food that's not overly greasy or oily. I love the texture of the intestine, being crunchy on the outside.

stir fry mushrooms
炒什錦菇 Stir fry mushrooms. Lots of different mushrooms in this great sauce. I don't know what it is, but it's good, trust. The fried shallots completes this dish.

sweet corn
甜玉米 Boiled Sweet Maize. Boiled, then lightly salted to enhance the natural sweetness. This corn is similar to the Indian maize Korean markets often sell. It has a really chewy, almost sticky kernel and when I was a kid I called these mochi corn haha.

chives bing
Of course, Northeast cuisine is also known for dumplings and buns, and they certainly did this 韭菜盒子 chive calzone justice.

sweet & sour refried pork
鍋巴肉 Refried sweet pork. First it is stir-fried, then they batter it and fried once again. Awesome crunch from the batter and chewy texture from the pork. The sweet & sour sauce is as legit as you can get. None of that pink... orange sauce... BS like Panda Express!

red bean fried eggwhite mochi balls
This is the most amazing thing, at least, for me, at Tian Xiang Yuan: 炸紅豆蛋白球 fried eggwhite mochi with red bean. Ok, yes, I know it's a weird name but I don't really know what to call it! It's pretty much a mochi made with egg whites, fried, then filled with semi-sweet red bean. The thing that makes it so good is the texture on the outside. Since it is mixed with egg white, it has a really soft, chewy, and airy texture. It's not as sticky as your typical mochi but it provides me of a bite.

red bean
Sorta like a sesame ball from dim sum, but.... BETTER!

To be honest, I'm really grateful to them for waiting while I take the shots of the dishes served at this meal since I could only take pictures of half eaten food last time. It really is one of the best Chinese food I've had anywhere, and it's when I visit places like this and eat great food that I am reminded that there is still a lot for me to see and taste concerning my own heritage.