Month: April 2017

Spring Trip to JiaXing

Hi!!! It’s officially spring now!!!! In China, there is a tradition of going on 春游, or spring vacation when the weather gets nice and flowers bloom. Sunday was bright, sunny and free so we decided to go on a 春游.

We were going to take a quick train to SuZhou, but earlier that week, my mom and a couple of her friends went to JiaXing.

 

They were WeChatting for days about the beauty and the delicious food. Plus, she came home with some VERY DELICIOUS pumpkin steam buns, salted vegetable stuffed glutinous rice dumplings and 粽子stick rice packets. So, I couldn’t have been more excited when my mom offered to take me there instead.

JiaXing

JiaXing is a fairly small town about 1.5 hrs outside of Shanghai. It’s a pretty big deal in China because it is where Mao and his comrades established the communist party after being chased out of Shanghai by the Nationalists

I love history, but I didn’t come to JiaXing for educational purposes. JiaXing is also, if not more, famous for it’s South Lake and old town. As one poet put it, JiaXing has “one lake, two rivers and three streets” (it sounds a lot nicer in Chinese). Both were BEAUTIFUL

We took a very scenic walk around the lake.

 

That was all we needed to stoke our appetites before hitting old town (well, one of the 3 famed streets). We meandered among old cobblestone alleyways and “old wood” buildings repurposed as modern pubs.

 

They were beautiful, but by that time, we were all pretty hungry. After a few pictures, we beelined for the food. Boy did we find some!

Marinated Meats

Right as we turned the corner, we ran into this:

Old shop marinades are no joke. These recipes are often family treasures. We were not disappointed. We got some offal, tofu and chicken feet; honestly, those were some of the most delicious things I’ve ever put into my mouth. They were perfectly rich, flavorful and tender. I was very tempted to get the pork knuckle, but that thing had to be at least 2 lbs. I couldn’t afford squandering my stomach space

Side note: When making Chinese style marinades, preserve and reuse old liquid. The used liquid absorbs a lot of flavour, collagen or fat from the previous use, making the next one much tastier

Glutinous Rice Dumplings

Carbs are usually my last priority when it comes to sampling, but I LOVE glutinous rice dumplings. My mom brought some back last time and they were AMAZING! Luckily for us, the dumpling place was right next to the marinade shop.

The shop offered a fairly wide selection of glutinous rice delicacies from flower “cake” to rice balls filled with meat. They even had maltose candy- literally wheat that’s been pounded and heated until maltose is released and forms strings.

Again, I’m not a carb person. I headed straight for the rice dumplings. In April, there’s a special kind of glutinous rice dumpling called 青团. It’s basically a normal dumpling, but with a kind of leaf mixed in so it’s green.

I got a salted veggie and bamboo shoot one. AMAZING. They also have bean paste filled ones and pumpkin ones that are also filled with bean paste.

Sticky Rice Packets

While marinades and glutinous rice dumplings are good, JiaXing is really famous for its sticky rice packets. They’re so important, that there’s actually a museum dedicated to them.

Sticky rice packets, which originated during the Spring and Autumn period (nearly 4,000 years ago), are traditionally eaten during Dragon Boat festival. They’re pretty much glutinous rice filled with meat, veggies or even bean paste and chesnuts, then wrapped in lotus or bamboo leaves. They usually look like this:

but I saw some pretty interesting regional variations

By the time we left the museum, it was about three, and we were very satisfied, but tired. Our one regret is that we only visited one old town street. I had a blast and will definitely be back for more of the delicious food and beautiful sights.

 

 

 

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The Cook buffet at the Kerry

Hi!!! I know this post is late but I’ve been busy. On Sunday, I participated in the International History Bee and Bowl China regionals. I didn’t really prepare, so I wasn’t expecting much, but I actually made it into the finals seeded second. Unfortunately, the Final was filled with US and ancient history questions, so I finished in an unspectacular 4th. Nevertheless, My mom decided it was occasion to celebrate and let me go the The Cook buffet.

The Cook

The Cook is one of the three restaurants owned by the Kerry. (There’s the Meat- a crazy expensive steakhouse/event space, and the Brew- exactly what it sounds like). The Cook has an al la carte menu, but it’s limited, expensive and terrible. The buffet, although far from cheap, is a much better choice. Just be sure to come VERY hungry.

Food

The Cook has a fairly large selection of Asian and Western dishes. There’s roasts, stir fries, salad, noodle bar, meats, seafood/sushi etc.

 

 

Although the selection is not the biggest, the diversity can get quite overwhelming. I stuck to my favorites:

The char-grilled fish (The ones on skewers) were amazing. The guy actually grills it in front of you and he uses real coals. Some came out a bit too  burnt, but most of them were perfectly charred. The fish grill also does salmon, but the meat was dry. I was surprised that the offered the head. Salmon head irritates my stomach, but it’s irresistible.

   

I had been to The Cook a few times before, but they added a few , VERY DELICIOUS, items. They added a small Tai section. It had curry, roti, which I don’t like. Among those dishes was chicken tika- amazingly charred, perfectly spiced and tender chicken pieces. Next to the tai section, was a small corner with 3 dishes. There, I discovered stewed cow skin. Sounds gross? It’s not. It has the gelatinous, collagen texture of pork trotters, but far thicker and WAY less fatty. The dish was rich, slightly spicy and sweet. AMAZING.

 (My most disappointing plate)

Unfortunately, not everything was so rosy. The western section was quite lacking. I got what I thought was a perfectly cooked steak. While perfectly cooked, it was cold and bland. The roasts, with exception of the chicken, were also soft and greasy. I think the problem wasn’t so much the quality, but the fact that it had been left out- one of the downsides of buffets.

Service/ Atmosphere

Buffets don’t really have service per say, but the servers were quick about removing used plates. I would suggest going a bit earlier. That way, you can avoid cold, sub par food. The restaurant usually pretty empty, but the bright lights and music keep it lively

On a side note, the buffet is expensive, a bit excessively so. It’s 298RMB/ person plus a 50RMB service charge.

Overall Impression

Overall, the food, atmosphere, and service make The Cook a great place for a celebration or special event. I’ll definitely come back again and see if they have anything new next time.

 

 

Review: Pure and Whole

It’s the week after Spring Break and everyone’s about back into “study mode”. Actually teachers are kicking into high gear in preparation for AP exams. However, that didn’t stop us from going out to eat.

Normally, we’d go to Thumb Plaza, but my mom agreed to take me to the Kerry. There’s a chic vegetarian restaurant I’ve always wanted to go to. Yesterday was the perfect chance. Pure and Whole for the win!!!

 ( the lighting was a bit off)

We arrived at around 6:20, but the restaurant was pretty empty. I was pretty worried until I saw the pile of orders on the counter. Apparently, they have a pretty booming delivery service.

Food

The menu was small but extremely varied. There were appetizers, soups, seasonal salads, pasta, curry, burgers and dessert- all vegan for the most part. Unlike most restaurants in China, Pure and Whole published it’s menu on it’s website (click here). As much as we would like to have sampled the fresh and beautifully plated appetizers and salads, it was only the two of us, so we stuck to entrees.

My eyes immediately fell on the mushroom burger

( sorry, took picture after I took a few bites)

I must say I was a bit disappointed. The bun was disproportionally thick;  the “patty” was a bit bland and small. There was also a strange creamy spread that I didn’t like. However, I must say  that everything was amazingly fresh and well cooked. The actual star of the show was the little cup of pickled vegetables- perfectly vinegary and crunchy.

My mom was smarter, she got the quinoa bowl

 (sorry, terrible photo)

This dish is honestly one of the healthiest, but still delicious dinners ever. It’s basically a mix of a bit of quinoa, pumpkin, broccoli, carrots, beans and avocado. It came with a sauce on the side, but that was way too salty. The portion was also quite generous, almost enough for 2 people.

Side note: The food was quite expensive, 68rmb for my burger and 72rmb for the quinoa bowl.

Service

The food was good, but the service was a bit lacking. Our food came slowly and I felt ignored by the servers. On several occasions, I noticed dishes ready and servers free, but a delay in bringing the dishes out. On a positive note, their attitude was very good and they gave me a free serving of that amazing pickled cabbage.

Overall Impression

Overall, Pure & Whole is a great place for fresh, healthy, vegetarian food- a jewel in China’s often  pork and oil obsessed dining scene. I would love to try some  other items, especially the vegetable masala, spring rolls and black bean burger.

Anyways, have a great week!