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#1 Daniel

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Posted 15 October 2011 - 07:44 PM

I am currently in Yangzhou China.. With all the work and lack of sleep, the act of documenting the trip seems like a lot of added responsibility.. But, for some reason, despite my working a 12 hour day on 3 hours sleep, it appears I have a lot of free time on my hand.. It's amazing what you can do if you just forgo the pesky problem of having to rest. Why, one could argue i have gained quiet an edge on my fellow man.

So far, my trip has been pretty smooth.. I left 11 in the morning. I flew from Newark Airport over to Shanghai where we were met by a lovely factory owner.. Firstly, my first impression of China after not having been back in 4 years but, comparing it to my first trip over 10 years ago, was things have started to change, in a good way.. No longer are you met by a group of machine gun totting soldiers who stand statue like with a cold gaze. No longer are you met by a stone faced customs agent/soldier who looks you up and down with a grimace before slamming his stamp on your visa.. Dare I say, this customs agent smiled at me and spoke in English to me. He even said, have a good day.. And by any customs agent standard, in any country, that is pretty much a welcome hug in my book.. Except perhaps in Italy where the might actually give you a welcome hug. Or at least a double kiss and a cup of cafe.

So, after 14 hours of endless movies, ranging from Guess Who's Coming to Dinner to Hot Tub Time Machine (nudity on your airplane tv set, look how far we have come) and books ranging from Catcher in the Rye to Hunger Games 3,having to deal with the heartless assholes in front of me who have no regard for the people behind them,deciding to recline like it was freaking Passover for 14 hours, or the man next to me who had no concern for his terrific gas while he sat with his knees to his chest, often facing in my direction, we touched down in good old Shanghai where were met by a very lovely couple, who at the age of 35, managed to purchase their very own factory. From there, we took a short 6 hour drive through the pouring rain to the lovely city of Yangzhou.

The city of Yangzhou, is located in the Jiangsu province.. I have been to the Jiangsu province on 4 other occasions.. I have been to places like Nanking and a few other cities but, not Yangzhou.. It's a incredible clean city in China terms, though there is lots of industry, it appears to be a pretty middle class city. There is a Wal-Mart, a few apple stores (though one does not know if they are actually real Apple Stores) there is KFC and McDonalds of course, Dairy Queens too, which happen to be expensive places by, China Standards. While one can spend 4 times less for ice cream at any stand, this seems to be a status symbol. As is McDonalds in many cases.. The fact that their are any status symbols seems to be very anti-Chinese but, this is certainly not the first discrepancy I have discovered.. Nor was the 100 dollar usa for the lycra Jeep T-shirt in my hotel lobby. I digress..

For all intensive purposes, Yangzhou is clean, perhaps, the cleanest city in China I have seen.. Perhaps, Shenzhen might take the cake but, it has been awhile since i have been there.. And with only 80k people, it's a blip on the map.. There is a lake and a Buddhist Temple which i will not get to see but, is an attraction for many Chinese Tourists. The city is known for it's poets and has a long history..Long History in China terms, meaning, i went to a 200 year old Dim Sum restaurant that didn't appear to be the oldest place on the block.. No photos of that place but, it's only 2 km from my hotel, or a 90 cent cab ride.. you get too much food for 4 dollars and when my travel companion finally wakes up this morning, i hope we can go back.

Well enough of the background, i am here, i work a lot and I try to eat outside of my hotel as much as possible.. My hotel, Metro Park something, is a nice enough hotel.. It's one of the fancier hotels in town and it is 70 bucks a night. If one tries to google the hotel, i think the rate works out to 150 bucks or something.. But, like in all of China, if you are with a Chinese Citizen, everything is so much cheaper.. For example, tonight in Wal-Mart, I need a pair of shorts to jog in. The price on the shorts clearly stated that it was going to cost 200 rmb or about 30 something dollars.. When I went up to the register with my companion, the price went down to 44 rmb or about 6 bucks.. Not a bad swing if you ask me. Some hotels in China, especially in the smaller cities i have encountered are like the center of town.. The wealthy people use the gym, the ping pong rooms, the snooker and chess rooms, the spa, they use the Karaoke or KTV Bars, they use the restaurants as their own, or often throw lavish banquets and parties at them.. Not this hotel.. We get an interesting western breakfast or an interesting Eastern Breakfast. Soggy egg rolls or soggy pancakes.. The lo mein tends to be ok.. Don't get me wrong, the hotel is clean and neat and has free wifi for g-d sakes.. i am very aware that there is a lot worse out there. Am I babbling? Perhaps I might need another 2 hour shot of sleep to recharge?

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I want to discuss this amazing Hunan restaurant i went to which is from the town of Shaoshan, where Mao is from.. Despite the food being amazing, it was sort of a tribute to MAo.. Lots of posters of workers hung everywhere.. Often in China i don't know if they are trying to be Kitsch or if it comes off that way.. But, there was definitely a poster or two I would mind having in my house.

So, i guess, i am going to leave you all now without giving up the goods.. I just essentially babbled for a half hour without a single photo of this amazing food i have been eating.. I'm sorry to do it to you but, my head is pounding and if i am not going to sleep i should be working on yesterdays items

At least the ground work is laid out and i wont have to babble much more..

Thanks,

Daniel
Ason, I keep planets in orbit.

#2 Suzanne F

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Posted 15 October 2011 - 08:26 PM

If this is babbling, keep it up. :)

the people who flock to dine at the restaurant on account of its reputation/stars are getting their money's worth because what they are after is a piece of the reputation/stars and nothing else. their money is not wasted. -- mongo jones, 11/5/2014

 

notorious stickler -- NY Times
deeply annoying and nitpicking -- Molly O'Neill, One Big Table


#3 Eatmywords

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Posted 17 October 2011 - 01:50 PM

Great stuff, D, looking forward to more!

What’s up with the varying pricing (not that I’m surprised)? Did your attaché negotiate a better price or show a local id?

When we visited a few years ago, not Yangzhou but Shanghai, Beijing, and similarly named Yangshou, we bargained for everything but in dept and higher end stores the price was the price. We didn’t buy much but in hindsight maybe we got taken a couple times. Nice, to have a local on your side.

Sorry to hear about your flight mate farting in your face. What an a-hole.

#4 Daniel

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Posted 17 October 2011 - 02:43 PM

Thanks Suzanne and Eat... Yeh, this is the third attempt to write this up.. I keep erasing my posts.. But basically, i am not too sure what the story was with the discount.. All i know is, it's extremely helpful having a local.. As, nothing is even remotely familiar.. You go to Europe, things are close. But, looking at Chinese writing, well, I can't even guess what i am reading.. I am very thankful for the support I am getting. It will be a real eye opener when i head to Xian.. i have no hotel yet and really know nothing about the city besides, terracotta soldiers and lamb sandwiches.

My stay in Guangzhou is also going to be interesting.. while most people i know are staying at hotels that are Western and are paying between 4 and 5 hundred I night, i opted for a Chinese Hotel with a cost of 64 dollars a night.. All i know is breakfast and internet are included and i have my own bathroom..

My days have been long. Basically, showing up at an office and working 12 hours with a lunch break.. There is a hotel attached to the building with a really awesome restaurant though, i don't think it is considered a stand out.. Lunches are normally 150 rmb or 20 something bucks.. this includes beer and several courses for the 5 of us..

The people we are doing business with have not really spent a lot of time with Westerners so they are not aware of our food issues.. They order what they want to eat and we are along for the ride..

Here was our first days lunch..

100 or 1000 year old eggs: i think they are buried and so they can ferment?served with black vinegar

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goose sitting in a goose broth.. so delicious.

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Always lots of rice:

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Pig stomach or trip with pig blood cakes in sichuan sauce.. so amazing. this and the goose were my favorites, though the meatball was a close second or third..

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Though internationally Yangzhou is known for it's fried rice, they are also known for their fish head and pig head meatballs.. they are so soft and tender.. here are pig head meatballs in sweet sauce..

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Pigeon of course there is a head.. perfectly cooked with crispy skin.. there is eggplant in a dark sauce in the background,

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needless to say, this lunch, there is normally a tired period for about an hour after lunch but, then we work for several hours straight with no need to stop..
Ason, I keep planets in orbit.

#5 Daniel

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Posted 17 October 2011 - 03:07 PM

Well as it turns out. my period of being invincible has ended.. it turns out i do need sleep.. last night, i had my first bit of sleep.. i slept for 11 hours straight and woke up feeling pretty amazing... So, i will leave you with one more food experience.. Firstly, i am surprised that very few people in Yangzhou drink tea.. It seems that just plain hot water is the drink of choice.. i seem to be the only one at meetings or at meals that drinks tea.. That was surprising to me..

So here is our meal of bao during yesterdays lunch.. A worker went and picked up a few bags of dumplings.. One was chicken with bamboo in a wine sauce, the others were some green vegetable we passed on, the other was rice that soaked up this brown sauce with bits of pork in i t.. Needless to say, they were awesome..

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Next, you will get to meet Robin

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Ason, I keep planets in orbit.

#6 Chambolle

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Posted 17 October 2011 - 03:42 PM

Yeh, this is the third attempt to write this up.. I keep erasing my posts

I lost 3 long posts in the last few days. I screamed so effing loud that you may have heard me over there. Did you ?

Absolutely infuriating. I have henceforth decided never ever to compose more than a 3 line post in anything other than MS Word. I've decided that - whether I do that or not is another story. You might want to consider that too.

Otherwise, keep writing and clicking. Interesting stuff.

#7 Sneakeater

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Posted 17 October 2011 - 03:56 PM

This is just amazingly great stuff.
Bar Loser

MF Old

#8 Slapsie Maxie

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Posted 17 October 2011 - 05:33 PM

Very enjoyable to read.

It reminds me of my ten or so days in the city.

There are some great food stalls once you get off "Western Street" and, if your schedule allows, make sure you go to the main market and do a cycle ride through the Karst mountains and the peanut fields.

Have fun

Slapsie

#9 balex

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Posted 17 October 2011 - 05:48 PM

Are they those "Lion's head" dumplings or is that something different?

#10 squibble

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Posted 17 October 2011 - 06:24 PM

Daniel, I am really enjoying your stories and photos. I had a great time in Beijing and Hong Kong. I didn't expect to like the food in Beijing as much as I did. Have you encountered a peanut butter sauce that they put on a romaine type of lettuce (looks like miniature romaine?). It was really just like liquid peanut butter, but nice.

#11 Eatmywords

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Posted 17 October 2011 - 09:07 PM

Yea, this is all very cool. Pig head meatballs how did I miss you?

In Xian, the Muslim quarter is well known for hot pot and big puffy pita like bread with garlic and salt. We were taken to a place not far from the main entrance (just after a big “Welcome to Beiyuanmen Islamic St” sign you'll walk under). Ours was a few stores down on the right but theres a bunch of them all pretty much doing the same. Don't know if ours was special or a go to but it was busy and had so many offerings (and no one got sick).

Disturbing to see the hot pot offerings (many raw) showcased open air either outside or in for all diners to view/pick from (no refrigeration of any kind). Many chicken, lamb, fish, shell fish, seaweed, veggies, sausage and tofu options. Some of the meats must be salted, preserved or whatever. Go and get better pics than this:


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Another popular activity in Xian is to rent a bike and ride on top of the wall. Nice views of the city. At one time the wall surrounded the entire city but now it’s just a couple miles. You might not have time but try.

#12 Daniel

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Posted 17 October 2011 - 09:58 PM

Thanks all for reaching out.

Actually, Robin can wait a little bit.. i will show you another days lunch at this restaurant.. Again, it's in a little non descript Hotel.. I asked our host how much a room in this hotel would cost.. She told me around 30 dollars an evening. We are paying more than double that for our hotel room.. i would stay there next time however, it is way too close to our place of business... As I sit here typing away at 6 in the morning, i can hear fire works out of my window.. Fireworks are constantly going off at all hours.. There is no rhyme or reason of it.. In fact, I questioned our host on what the story was. I don't even think it registered.. I said something like, "how come there is fire works going off at all hours" She responded, "people are allowed to light fireworks after certain hours" I said, "no, like how come there are fireworks going off at 4 am, 3 am, 6 am, 5 pm and so forth" She nodded and said" yes, many people like fireworks" And there is your answer.. People like it...

Here is another lunch all laid out...

Around you have starting at 7ish, a very soft tofu in a spicy red sauce.. Could be Mapo but, seemed a little less hot.. Another pig head meatball sitting in a vegetable broth, a little green to cut the richness.. Then there is a tomato soup which i opted against, there seems to be another speciality of the area.. This is shredded tofu that look like noodles.. It was sitting in a yellowish sauce but, there was no real flavor.. However, the shredded bean curd consistency is fantastic.. The first day at dim sum we had this sitting in a hot sauce.. Which was wonderful.. Then there is sliced cure beef of some sort.. Rather dry which comes with an accompanying sauce.. then there is a bowl of white rice, twice cooked pork belly with peppers and onions, and finally shredded potatoes with vinegar sauce and jalapenos.. Lots of dishes i have had the potatoes before at Grand Sichuans around the city..

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What you don't think that is enough food for 4 people? Me neither.. Let's add the fish head with peppers and a fistful of garlic...

Sorry about the yellowness.. i am trying to work on my white balance.

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Ason, I keep planets in orbit.

#13 Daniel

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Posted 17 October 2011 - 10:19 PM

So Mao is from the Province of Hunan and further more a little farming village called Shaoshan.. Besides farms and the birthplace of Mao, there is not much doing... So, some enterprising person decided to Capitalize on the popularity of the place and opened a chain of places featuring the cuisine of Hunan and the name of Mao.. Though, i am not for certain that the place we went to was that chain, there was plenty of references to Mao and lots of fun posters around... Fun for me, perhaps inspirational and terrifying for others..

This meal was spectacular chain or not,i think the two have different connotations.. Plus, i don't know how well a crappy restaurant would fare carrying such a significant name in it's title..

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Feeling inspired yet?

To start comes out Wood Ear mushrooms in a spicy sauce served cold with lotus root i believe?

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Believe it or not.. this might have been the single best thing i have eaten so far.. Perfectly cooked cauliflower in a spicy vinegary rich sauce with little slices of twice cooked pork.. Wow this was good..

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Fish head with two types of peppers..

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Fried little pieces of pigs feat... Another amazing dish.

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Shrimp in tea leaves... Now, my Chinese companions can expertly pop one of these suckers in their mouths and deshell the suckers with a few moves on the mouth... I clumsily toss them in my mouth and eat the whole thing shell and all.. I love the heads and have yet to draw attention to myself..

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I have been told on many occasions to not eat the green vegetables.. this was on day two or three so I have kept away from certain things.. as of yesterday, i am eating everything.. Little pieces of ham, little pieces of 1000 year old egg.

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This was super surprising... This is phylo dough with honey and sugar.. Which goes to show you at some point there was a meeting of cultures..

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Ason, I keep planets in orbit.

#14 Daniel

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Posted 17 October 2011 - 10:22 PM

Off to the gym.. Have a good evening all!
Ason, I keep planets in orbit.

#15 Orik

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Posted 17 October 2011 - 10:27 PM

That looks great, I'm still trying to imagine those pig head balls.

Btw, I don't know if you remember, but when Grand Sichuan opened on St. Mark's Place, they had a Mao/Hunan theme as well - Mao pics on the walls, waiters in uniforms... didn't take long until people told them it may be cool in China, but not in nyc. Posted Image

sandwiches that are large and filling and do not contain tuna or prawns