Most kids get pretty cool presents for Christmas like bikes and video games. Others get more generic gifts like diaries and bath gels. What did I get? I got a wisdom tooth out. With only local anesthetic. And a bruise on my bottom jaw to remind me of the experience. At least it only cost me 100RMB! Hooray for dental work in China!
|The Galaxy Garden Hotel|
Tonight we are invited out to dinner by my aunt and uncle. Unfortunately, my recent dental work means that I'm too scared to eat anything that will go anywhere near the right side of my mouth because, in my mind, it will hurt like hell!
|Hallway to the private booths -it was like a maze|
At least this new ordering system will keep me entertained! Instead of picking dishes from vague sounding (and sometimes misleading) Chinese titles, many restaurants in China now have a section dedicated to little models of their dishes and tanks for their seafood. Words? Bah!
|It's just like playing house!|
Even with the models, I found it hard to decide what I wanted to eat -mainly because I wanted to eat everything so I let my uncle do the ordering while I went wild with my camera.
As with most Chinese restaurants, it is very common to start off with some small cold dishes as guests wait for their main dishes to arrive. These pickled turnips are the best I've ever had -I'm not even exaggerating. In addition to the usual pickled flavour, the turnips had a light sprinkling of chili powder which gave it a really light kick. I forgot about my missing tooth immediately.
|Marinated Bamboo Shoots|
|Plum Scented Peanuts|
This was the first time I've had bamboo shoots in their natural form. The outer skin is very tough and chewy so we had to peel them away to reveal the tender and moist centers. They were lightly salted and then steamed allowing us to savour their natural taste. The plum scented peanuts were also delightful. The peanuts were soft and still managed to retain their natural flavour while having a hint of plum.
|Mixed grain soy milk (五谷杂粮 5 cereals)|
Chinese people love to drink a beer or two or three with their dinner (I say this because my father and his friends do.. I'm not actually speaking about ALL Chinese people..) and I usually have an orange juice while I'm with them. Apparently orange juice is out and everyone has become more health conscious so my uncle orders everyone a few jugs of freshly made soy milk. It smells delicious. It makes me feel toasty warm. I love it. But at 116RMB per jug, I'm not sure I'd order it myself..
|2 different types of whelk|
Fuzhou is big on its seafood. Being close to the ocean means that it always has an abundant supply. As a result, most of what we have tonight is from the sea. Sweet. Lucky I love seafood!
The first dish to arrive is chilled, marinated jellyfish. I have to say that fresh jellyfish is infinitely better than the stuff you get from packets -each piece was nice and crunchy and went very well with the sweet and vinegary sauce that came with it. After that was came two types of whelk which are basically a type of sea snail (don't knock it before you try it!). To eat it, you take a toothpick, pierce the meat and pull it out of its shell -I like to dip mine in vinegar before eating it. These were cooked for the right amount of time so the meat was chewy but not tough. If you've had these before you'll know how amazing they taste, and if you haven't you really should try some. I don't really know how to explain it. It tastes like seafood.
|大九节虾 - aka really expensive prawns|
An extensive Wiki and Google search tells me that these are Tiger Prawns (also "Nine Nodes Shrimp", "Penaeus Japonicus" and "Kuruma Prawn") and having eaten many types of prawns in my life I have come to the conclusion that they all taste fine as long as you don't over cook them. These weren't. They weren't worth the 218RMB though.
|Steamed 大闸蟹 - "Da Zha Xie" or Chinese Mitten Crab|
The Chinese Mitten Crab is a kind of hairy crab found only in the Yangcheng Lake and normally consumed in winter. There are many like it but these ones are ours. The blue and yellow tags you can see in the picture certify that they are actually from Yangcheng Lake (apparently there are a lot of crabs claiming to be the real kind). I didn't actually have any because I didn't want to exert my jaw.. But I'm sure they tasted crab-like..
|Poached Abalone with Bok Choy|
I like expensive seafood. I really like abalone. The ones in China are like teeny tiny baby versions of the Paua we get in New Zealand. So Cute! The clear soup was wonderfully flavoured with the natural taste of the abalone and the baby bok choy was very sweet.
|Razor Clam Soup|
Because it was sold to us as a razor clam soup, I was quite disappointed with the lack of razor clam in the bowl. I managed to two or three. Despite this, the soup was one of my favourites -it had tomatoes, bok choy and pork belly.. oh and some razor clams. It had this amazingly full and rich flavour but tasted more like a pork soup rather than of the sea. They should probably just drop the clams all together and call it a yummy pork soup. I still feel cheated out of my razor clams..
|Conch and Fennel Broth|
This soup was the complete opposite to the razor clam soup. It was very clear, uncomplicated and really brought out the natural flavour of the conch. Each slice of conch was very tasty and chewy while the fennel added a slight sweetness to the broth.
|Steamed Turnip with Goji Berries|
This was a nice change to all the seafood that we had been eating throughout the night. The turnips were soft, very sweet and juicy. Note to self: must order these again. And perhaps again after that. The only problem I had was trying to pick up the massive pieces with my tiny chopsticks.
|五谷杂粮 in non soy milk form -sweet corn, purple kumara, peanuts, pumpkin and golden kumara|
|Gailan -Chinese Broccoli with Oyster Sauce|
This basket full of steamed grains and root veggies was a very lovely change to our usual accompaniment of rice. All the vegetables were soft, but not mushy and nice and sweet. The colours were also pretty cool.
|Warm Papaya with Xue Ha-Warm Papaya, by the way, is delicious!|
My first thought upon seeing dessert was "warm papaya? I don't even like normal papaya!" Then my second thought was "what the hell is that weird see through stuff floating in my WARM PAPAYA?!" I then calmed down and asked -something about an amphibian and some sort of mucus that it excretes. Cool. This is Xue Ha..
|Xue Ha Cream -I found this on the internet. I really hope what I ate was just cream.|
Another quick search on the internet tells me that even Chinese people on forums don't really know what it is except that it should be taken in moderation and it's really good for your skin (but guys shouldn't eat it because it boots estrogen). Posts of people thinking that it was frog fats, frog vomit and even frog sperm -I'm not actually sure which is worse. And I ate it. It wasn't actually bad (keep in mind that, at the time, I had no idea what it was..) At least my skin will be nice.
The upside to all this is that I now love papaya! But only if it's warm. I found that the heat got rid of the weird acidic after taste of the fruit which I so disliked. I shall now be eating it more often.. But perhaps without Xue Ha.
The Fujian Galaxy Garden Hotel can be found at 243, Wusi Street, Fuzhou 350003, China. You know, if you're ever there. And it's still there.