Thursday, March 17, 2011

Travel - Taishan 台山 (China) - Day 1 (Feb 2011)

Student Cafeteria

8am on a Saturday morning, after a mere 4 hours of sleep nap, I was on my way to Taishan 台山 (China) on a not so comfortable coach! I take my word back because it turned out the road trip required a change of coach ride once we passed Hong Kong customs near the boarder and at that very point I  truly missed the not so comfortable coach. Why I was on this trip is not of great importance, the fact was that I was on my way to Taishan, a 3 hours or so bus ride west / southwest of Hong Kong. It was famed as the birthplace of Volleyball in China but I was not here for that purpose, I was here for a short weekend trip which involved visit to a local high school and the filming set of Let The Bullet Fly 讓子彈飛. Of course it involved tasting of some local dishes.


I seriously have not been on a long bus ride for such a long time, the only thing I felt like doing was to continue to nap until we reach the destination. By the time I got up, I looked around and we were driving in to a little hut, okay it was a single story building, situated in the middle of nowhere or more precisely, right next to a random exit off the highway. I was sure what was happening but it turned out to be our first stop for lunch. Seriously, it was a restaurant in the middle of the highway and basically you come here to eat and with no other purpose because there was nothing surrounding it! Anyhow, we were seated accordingly and there were actually quite a number of random diners eating there with their cars parked outside, which means people drive all the way to here just for a meal! We started the meal off with some simple radish, stewed so soft and with surprisingly sweet flavors, sweetness from its own freshness to be exactly. That was the highlight of the afternoon, the rest went downhill, very steep hill that was.

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The soup was chicken feet and pork, fairly standard and boring. Oh yes, it was a set menu like many tours and I forgot the name of this place, I think it was called Taishan Number One Eel Rice Restaurant. Not that it matters seriously.

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Marinated Roast Goose. Meaty but that was it.

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Chicken, very salty.

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Some sort of stir-fried pork but I thought I was chewing on rubber, it was that hard and chewy. I am mean you say? I am being quite generous to be honest.


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Stir-fired prawns with tea leaves. I think it should have been called Tea Leaves with prawns since the ratio of tea leaves and prawns was quite off and not to mention the prawns being quite dry. Perhaps that was the way it was done? Not my cup of tea unfortunately.

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The star of the show was this Yellow Eel Fried Rice. It is a famed item in Taishan and to be honest, fairly decent but lacked the eel flavors. It was hard for me to say how good or bad it was because it was the first time I tried it. Without much comparison I cannot be very certain. As I said, I only wished there were more flavors to it. I heard someone mentioned that in the old days, the way to make this pot of rice is to boil the rice over big fire and then put a live eel in there while the rice is cooking and let it swim in there. The truth to that I need to find out.

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Steamed fish was unexciting as well.

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Now what surprised me so what was the next dish, a steamed meat balls with lotus. While I enjoyed the diced crunchy lotus used together with the meat, I don't like the excessive amount of baking soda used as part of the main ingredient perhaps?

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I was quite hungry after lunch because I seriously did not eat alot, just small bites different dishes. I was quite sleepy soon after, a sign of MSG overdose! Anyhow, our next stop was the local high school. Taishan is a growing city in all aspects, its economy has been rapidly growing over the recent decade so it is undergoing constant construction including infrastructures as well as many education facilities. The one I visited was quite new and modern if you ask me, a bit beyond my initial expectation. I guess that is a good thing indeed. Check out this antique computer! They don't use it anymore, they use state of the art LCD but I do miss one of these 486? haha ... did I just reveal which generation I am from?

State of the Art?

I walked pass this public phone inside the school yard and I wonder how long it has been like this.

Hello?

While touring around the school, I soon found out we were actually going to stay in the school cafeteria for dinner! Interesting! Was I going to have student lunches as well? With these tin bowls along the wall?

Student Cafeteria

Or eat at these colourful benches?

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Do we need to following the students or teachers dining schedule so we can dine with them?

Dining Schedule?

The quick answer is no, unfortunately!!! Very disappointing to be honest.  It was a special meal prepared by the school kitchen. At least I get to try some local dishes with local ingredients. A quick tour of the kitchen I spotted huge pile of bags containing rice I suppose. We were eating those! I asked around and those were local rain, Taishan rice which carried a rather grainy texture to them.

Rice

Another interesting item spotted was a big pile DUCK! Cooked for our dinner the same evening.

Fat duck!

So how was the special meal at a school cafeteria? We started with soup which tasted just like the way it looked haha ... light!

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Next was the "8 flavors" duck from this afternoon. The meat was quite good to be honest, gamey yet not overpowering.

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Steamed Chicken was quite cold actually but rich in flavors as in chicken flavors. Other than that nothing really too special.

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The roast pork belly must have been pre-cut and leaf under the cold room temperature for a long while because the fatty layer sort of solidified!

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Apparently Taishan is quite famous for its oysters. Prepared with ginger and onion, the taste was quite interesting. That is all I can say. Personal preference once again.

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Steamed prawns, as long as they are fresh, they were quite hard to get them wrong right?

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Plenty of veggies but I honestly forgot what they were because they were mixtures of different sort of vegetables, one notable one was the huge bean sprouts.

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One of the desserts was this sticky glutinous made from some sort of herbs, picked then powdered into the dough mixture. I quite enjoyed this local treats and had almsot half a dozen. :)

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Second dessert was the familiar White Sugar Sponge Cake. One can find in many places in Hong Kong or in the Peral River Delta Region, often as light snacks from street vendors or small shops. It is a very traditional treats mainly consisted of rice flour, white sugar and baking powder. Yum!

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Oh did I mention I need to get my own rice from a big rice pot? It was quite hard to do it with such a big ... hoak!

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This marked the end of my first day in Taishan (China). We stayed at a surprising decent hotel named Taishan Gaoye Hotel 台山高業大酒店. Seriously, I am quite picky or for a lack of a better word "anal" about hotels and this one has my humble approval especially for a hotel in Taishan, a developing a county-level city under the jurisdiction of prefecture-level city, Jiangmen. The establishment of such hotel (due to demand of course) shows the development progress of a particular city in my humble opinion.

On Day 2, I got to visit the filming set of Let the Bullet Fly 讓子彈飛.


1 comment:

sophia said...

What a refreshing change after all the fancy restaurant meals. Your honest and detailed writing makes me feel like I was there. (Didn't even know where it was except that in NA Chinatowns of yester-years, that is all the dialect they spoke). Do people still speak like that there? Cant wait to hear your hotel review - a pleasant hotel makes it up after a long day of grim and dust.

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