Growing up in a coastal town meant that my parents and, hence, I fostered an unnatural and unquenchable love of seafood. Some of the greatest memories of my recent trip to China involve being taken out each night and sampling the weird and wonderful sea creatures displayed in the restaurant tanks.
|They don't even need fancy signs to attract customers. Their food says it all.|
One of my fondest (and only) memory of growing up in Fuzhou was when my dad scoured the markets buying up the city's entire supply of crabs for my poppa's birthday! Yes, we take our seafood very seriously.
It was quite lucky that when we did immigrate, we chose a place equally close to the sea, although I would frequently hear my parents complain about the lack of variety and the local's apparent aversion to shellfish -"You mean they use clams for fishing and not for eating?!" I would often hear them say.
Frankly, I have to agree with them. I often find myself craving a nice plate of clams or whelks so I was pretty excited when my parents informed us that we were going to Live Fish Da Pai Dong -the country's only Chinese alfresco seafood dining experience. It is modeled on Hong Kong's "Da Pai Dong," a type of open air food stall, and one doesn't bother looking at the menu because all the prices are based on the season and the day's catch. As per Chinese tradition, everything is priced by the pound and a waitress takes us to different tanks where we can choose our food along with how we want them cooked.
|My father, deciding what to order|
|It's as big as my arm!|
The kitchen is open till very late (2am late) to suit the hardcore seafood fans while its dining area is furnished with plastic tables and chairs only -because, after all, they're not a furniture store, they do food! And boy do they do it well!
Their kitchen is so open that it's basically in the ordering area so one can inspect the chef's skills -and by inspect, I mean stare and drool from afar. It took everything in me not to leap across the bench and start digging in.
|...To this: Diamond shell clams -$12/lb|
Luckily for me, I did not have to wait long for our food to arrive. I've decided that's the beauty with Chinese cuisine -almost everything is stir fried so one's food arrives without having to wait hours for an oven! We started off with some diamond shell clams in a black bean and chilli sauce. The sauce provides some welcomed heat without overpowering the taste of the clams which were very fresh.
|And this is how you eat one|
|Steamed crab -$25/lb|
|Surf clams -$8 each|
|Steamed wrasse -$48/lb|
Despite my love of seafood, I have to admit that I'm not really a fish person. I'm just deeply in love with shellfish -perhaps it was the fact that my parents fed me a whole fish everyday when I was a child? Or maybe it's because we've just had fish for dinner every day for about a week? Or maybe none of the fish I've had compare to this particular dish of steamed wrasse?
This was probably the best steamed fish I've had in Auckland. The flesh was incredibly soft and flaky and quite oily without being sickly. Steamed fish at Chinese restaurants are generally done the same way, with some oil, soy sauce and a large heap of ginger and spring onions so it's really the fish that decides the calibre of the dish -the fresher, the better.
|Stir-fried rice noodles with beef -$22|
|Sizzling venison -$28|
|"Liang Ban" Whelk with cucumber -$15/lb|
|Marquees -the benefit of being outside, but with the comfort of being inside|
View Larger Map