Eating in Rural China, Part II

IN THE LAST SEGMENT… “I ate this bug.  Who knows what bug it is, what food the bug ate, I ate it.  It could be living in the mines for all I know.”

What a bad intro.

It was my second and last day in Foshan, China.  After a long sightseeing adventure, it was time to eat again.  I thought that there were no surprises, no harm, no foul.  We were going to go to an excellent restaurant.

But nonetheless, I had my doubts.  This time, we were in the middle of farmland.  As we all know, the farmland is not really that of a clean place.  Especially in China, where there are serious health concerns.

After a while of driving on the freeway, we exited and came to a large, hotel-like building.  It was situated adjacent to the farmland and stretch of roads.  It didn’t seem like a good place to eat at all.  Along with that, it was a rather strange building.  Walking in, we saw fish tanks full of exotic fish and two huge, prize motorcycles.

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My friends and I went up the elevator, and a long hallway exposed itself.  We walked some ways, deeper into the extensive hallway, feeling apprehensive about where we were heading.

And then we entered into this room.

Looks like an APEC Conference

Welcome to the APEC Conference

We honestly did not expect to enter a dining room the size of a hotel lobby.  We paid so little, yet were invited to eat at a dining room for the royals!  What kind of world had I entered?

The dining table alone could seat 20-30 people, and it even boasted a never seen before, mini water fountain.

I don't think you can find this in the White House

I don’t think you can find this in the White House

One can literally put this dining table in an art museum.  As shown, the water park is crafted with extraordinary detail, and it even spews out water often.  There is one problem though, we’re at a restaurant, not at an amusement park.

Along with that, we ate some delicious food.  We were fed the traditional Cantonese dished familiar to Hong Kong and the Chinese eateries back in LA.

Typical roasted duck

Typical roasted duck

Typical roasted pork

Typical roasted pork

For dessert, we had an authentic pudding, which I had never seen before.  It was quite unique, considering that we had a choice of numerous syrups to apply onto the pudding.

Candle at bottom of each pitcher

Candle at bottom of each pitcher

My pudding with syrup

My pudding with syrup

Not long after, we found ourselves on the crowded highway again, heading back to the bustling city scene.  We were all confounded by the encounters of what seemed like an arid countryside.  There may be more lights, more city scenes and tourist attractions in the city, and the rural setting might not be worth a visit for many.  Nonetheless, my expedition has not gone to waste.

Some city folk like I may like guided tours and Ritz-Carlton hotels, but eating bugs for dinner and having your dining room look like an APEC Conference never felt so exhilarating.

 

 

 

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Eating in Rural China, Part I

At the end of the long, exhausting work months, I decided to take a trip to an unlikely location: Foshan, China. Foshan technically is a big city in China, however being in the middle of a vast countryside.  Many cities in the US countryside are not quite developed enough to be centers of business, unlike Foshan. DSC_0742

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It’s a Starbucks!

I thought these downtown areas would provide the perfect place to eat.  Nonetheless, my friends and I were due to eat at the outskirts of town.  The feat seemed adventurous, yet risky. As we headed out of the city center, we gradually encountered the poorer rural areas of town.  I had my doubts that I would be healthy and well by the end of this excursion. After an hour’s drive, we eventually ended up at a restaurant called “水乡人家” (there is no alternate English name, pinyin: shui xiang ren jia).  It was situated in the middle of a suburban area (which was fortunately not too run down).

The entrance

The entrance

We were supposed to eat very traditional Cantonese food.  But in my mind, we were only eating dirty, unwashed morsels of poison. And this restaurant surprised me.  We actually ate really scrumptious, homemade dishes that were not dirty at all. Here’s some of the dishes you absolutely will not find elsewhere: DSC_0756Above is the traditional Chinese method of roasting pig.  However, there is the other method, which makes the pig have crunchy skin.  The second method is much better, nonetheless, the taste is overall the same.  They do provide you with hoisin sauce as well. The bad thing is that some pieces of pig in this dish have a lot of fat in them.  Overall, it was delicious.

The flower in the middle hides the disgusting part

This is beyond pizza.  This is tenth-folds worse than pizza.  It is scrambled egg…with steamed worms!  You can’t really see them though, so you could pretend it is pizza.  But don’t.  This was not a good dish at all, though, it could be delicious to some people, especially people in rural China. Rural Chinese are too creative.

The Chinese probably tried to hide the disgusting part by also mixing the worms in with scrambled eggs, a dish which most people like.  For the sake of your well-being, refrain from eating this dish.

Sino-Mex?  Ok...that was a bad joke

Sino-Mex? Ok…that was a bad joke

Anyone like contrasting tastes?  This dish is basically a piece of fish lodged inside a not-too-spicy green bell pepper.  It was actually very good.  Another good thing was that the fish had no bones in it. I also doubt that the people in rural China know what Mexican food is. Who said that Chinese food was all wontons and noodles…

This next food is what you see on those Discovery food shows.  Well, okay…you do see the above worm dish as well, but the dish next is even more horrendous.

See the bugs?

See the worms?

No, please do not criticize China’s food safety system.  I’m not dead yet.  Anyways…

Picture of the Day

Picture of the Day

I ate this bug.  Who knows what bug it is, what food the bug ate, I ate it.  It could be living in the mines for all I know. This is scrambled egg with fried worm.  There is a difference between this dish and the other worm dish prior.  Besides the fact that you could actually see the worms now, the other worm dish was steamed worm.  Not too good of a dish either. People were complaining that there were not enough bugs.  Complainers, please, you’re embarrassing yourselves.  It’s like saying, “I’m not eating enough poop.  I want more!”   I was about to hurl.  I had eaten both worm dishes…

In the end, I was enlightened.  The foods made me realize how efficient people living in countrysides were, they would eat anything in sight.

. . .

On another note, I had to wipe down every dish and cup in the pictures with alcohol.  The restaurant even encouraged my friends and I to clean their dishes.  I was startled.

As my friends and I drove back to the hotel, I thought about how China was such a unique and fun country.  I couldn’t wait for the next day’s surprises.

Café Bizou

4/5 PickyRatings

We’ve gone through most of the Chinese eateries in the Los Angeles area, but in this post I travel to Pasadena, CA.  Home of the iconic Rose Parade, it is home to many gourmet restaurants and sophisticated cuisine.  Café Bizou is just one of the restaurants around the block in Old Town Pasadena, which offers standard Americanized “French” food.

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So let’s get right into reviewing.

I ordered multiple things for my appetizer.  The escargots are deserving of mention.

The liquid surrounding the snail shells is made entirely of butter.

The liquid surrounding the snail shells is made entirely of butter.  So unhealthy!  Well…that’s just Western cuisine…

These escargots are made with the traditional recipe.  As usual, they are tender and not too salty.  But as you can see, they are quite difficult to grasp using a mere fork and spoon, so use the clasp they provide for you to eat them.

They also have a special deal where you can add a soup to your entree for only one dollar.  To take advantage of this, I ordered the soup of the day which was the tomato bisque.

Looks like lobster bisque

Looks like lobster bisque.  The plate is spotted if you look closely

I was expecting more of a balance between sweetness and tomato flavor, but this soup tasted more like tomato sauce to me.  In fact, it was pretty sour.  I do understand that my expectations are pretty high, but I would still say that the soup was not too good.  It’s still refreshing for your taste buds though.

Before I review my entree (which was the lamb rack, my second post with this entree), I’d like to say that aside from the lamb rack I had, this restaurant also has daily specials along with plenty of Italian, French, and American classics.  The daily specials can vary from chilean sea bass to beef tenderloin.

Looks like a kids' meal

Looks like an oversized kids’ meal

I personally like how they really took the time to cut up all those lamb pieces into neat, bite sizes.  Overall, this lamb was really good, being not too salty nor gamey.  The meat was cooked to a nice medium rare, just the way I like it.  The lamb was also very soft and easy to chew.  As I savored my dish, I encountered little to no fat…take that Masons!

Undoubtedly the best lamb I’ve had so far (emphasis on so far).

The most anticipated part of the meal is dessert, except for diabetics.

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Chocolate cake with tiramisu at background

As you can see, I ordered the flourless dark chocolate cake.  When you bite into the cake, a rich chocolate taste fills your mouth, and it is extremely tasty and sweet.  It goes along perfectly with the whipped cream at the side of the plate.  Warning diabetic people, if you eat both the chocolate cake and whipped cream, your blood glucose will skyrocket.  It would be nice if they made the cake with Splenda.

The service makes you forget that you’re in a gourmet restaurant.  Rather, you feel like you are at a diner.  Let’s not go into details…

Overall, I hope you enjoyed my first post of Western cuisine in the US.  (You must be thinking, that’s ridiculous).  It is quite ridiculous, since I posted mostly Chinese food in the US earlier.  Wait…no…please don’t press that unfollow button!

In conclusion, Café Bizou is a quiet, comfortable location in Old Town Pasadena for business interviews or just casual family outings.  If you want a decent, basic meal when you are visiting the impressive town of Pasadena, CA, you should come here…just do not expect traditional gourmet French cooking.

Embassy Kitchen

5/5 PickyRatings

Welcome to San Gabriel in the Los Angeles County, a place heavily influenced by Chinese culture.  Just head east of Downtown L.A., and you’ll go into this vast suburb of LA.  You’ll be culture-shocked.  After all, LA is quite diverse.

Embassy Kitchen is a rather “high class” version of Chinese restaurant.  So far, this place is our favorite.  L.A. is big, so if you’re a tourist living in Downtown who wants to eat here, it’s going to take you approximately 30 minutes to get here.

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Inside

Inside

Here they specialize in Hong Kong style Cantonese cuisine.

Some things you should try:

Bean curd skin with luffa

Bean curd skin with luffa

The bean curd skin with luffa has a unique taste to it.  The bean curd is very soft and the luffa (the green vegetables) are not too crunchy.  It is perfect when you mix it in with rice as well.

Braised bean curd in foreground with imperial pork in background.

Braised bean curd in foreground with imperial pork in background.

The braised bean curd is a good light dish, except that the tofu isn’t too tasty, even though it looks like it’s covered in sauce.  When you bite into the soft tofu, a bland taste fills your mouth, and you might want to add soy sauce to enhance the flavor.  The imperial pork is very sweet and tender, (and the sauce is a perfect addition to your rice).  However, just be careful, you might have a hard time spotting the bones.  It’s still a excellent meat dish though.

A whole fish put out for you to eat

The catch of the day; a whole cod put out for you to eat

The live steamed daily catch is also a pretty good seafood dish.  You need to know that they haven’t removed any of the bones from the fish, so you have to be careful of where you pluck your meat.  The back (excluding the parts where you have the fins) and the tail are the parts where you will find the least bones.  Trust me.  Swallowing a fish bone is like swallowing a toothpick.  On the other hand, the meat is usually very tender and appetizing to the tongue.

Glutinous rice balls

Glutinous rice balls sprinkled with peanut crumbs, sesame paste inside

I really recommend the glutinous rice balls for dessert.  Aside from the free red bean syrup soup (this sounds strange, you’ll know what I mean when you go there) that they provide after the meal, this is another good dessert which is better (but not free).  The glutinous rice balls are very squishy and soft, but don’t squish the balls too hard for the main part of it, the sesame paste, will flow out and burn your tongue.  I can’t even describe how good the taste is.  One more word of caution: don’t breathe in the powder at the top of the balls.

You’ll enjoy this restaurant, no matter if you are a tourist or a local.  Maybe it will become your new cafeteria, just like this restaurant is ours.

Address: 218 S San Gabriel Blvd San Gabriel, CA 91776

Masons

5/5 PickyRatings

This is an excellent place to eat Western food whether you’re a tourist who misses food back home or if you’re just a Singapore local who wants to take a break from all the satays and things like that.  It’s quite hard to find though.  Located right in the middle of the Gillman Barracks (which is hidden by tall buildings and large trees), you might need to perform a Google search to find this restaurant.  When we drove inside, we really didn’t think that a restaurant would be inside this former military quarters.

Gillman Barracks

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Here it is!

You might not think there is anything special about this place.  However, you’ll be surprised.  The restaurant has a nice, cozy environment.  It made me feel like I was home in the US again.

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Nice little “tuxedo” right there. Map at bottom

Wait until you start eating.  You will feel fortunate that you found this restaurant.

. . .

I started off with a lobster bisque.  It was really sweet, which was unusual (lobster bisque should be full of flavor).  That is how I like lobster bisque, but if you like lobster bisque with a lot of lobster flavor, then you shouldn’t order it.  But try it anyways!

Lobster bisque

Lobster bisque

You should definitely order the lamb rack for your main course though.  Even though it was really fatty, the meat tastes as good as the ones back in the US (and they are the best ones).  Always order it medium rare.  The tender, juicy lamb meat mixed in with the savory sauce will make your mouth want more.  Trust me.  You’ll like this lamb.

Lamb rack (Where's the meat)?

Lamb rack (50% fat) with “green” mashed potatoes at bottom

It is certainly a great new addition to Western cuisine in this small city-state.  Just don’t eat the fat when you’re there.

Disclaimer: Don’t forget folks, I am a lamb fanatic.

. . .

I hope you people enjoy my latest post (even though it’s really short).  You’ve been waiting for a post in all these months (or you maybe forgot about me).  Things have been really busy these days and I apologize for being out of the blogging world.

Does Water Really Have to Be “High Class?”

When people see you holding a bottle of Fiji Water, people mostly think you’re rich.  Not because the bottle looks good, it’s probably because Fiji Water is really expensive and “high class.”  It’s just water though.  Just because the bottle looks good and it is really expensive doesn’t mean that it is high class.  If this were true, that means I could redesign an Arrowhead water bottle and make it super expensive, and it would be “high class.”  Let’s talk about Fiji Water, which is a big example of “high class water.”

DSC_0679

 

It costs about $1.27 USD, which is already really expensive for a bottle of water.  It also comes from Fiji.  It probably costs so much because they have to process the water and then ship it to distant locations…

But again, it’s just water.  Nothing special.  However, Fiji believes its brand is so high class, here’s how far they exaggerate the brand.

Let’s take a look at their website.

Screen Shot 2013-12-08 at 3.29.38 PM

On the right, you’ll see a thing that says “Earth’s Finest City Guide…” blah blah blah.  It actually is a guide to Dubai, telling you where to eat and stuff.  That doesn’t even make sense that they put it there, considering that it is a website for a water bottle.

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You can even get silver sleeves.  Add some style to your bottle.  Waste tons of money.

Oh yay.  30% off.  It still costs $30 USD.

Oh yay.  It still costs $30 USD.  Ridiculous.

Here’s some other trash you can buy.

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I suggest you read the description of the “FIJI Straw.”

 

No wonder why Fiji Water is one of the major money-making water brands in the US.  People waste all their money on these rubbish.

 

 

 

 

The Connoisseur Concerto

4/5 PickyRatings

No…we’re not talking about an orchestra…people these days…

The Connoisseur Concerto is a very large and prominent restaurant chain in the small but dynamic city-state of Singapore.  Even though they have limited choices on the menu, each meal will still fill you up.  The restaurants also have very creative drinks.  They taste pretty good.

When you go inside, you get the impression that it is a nice, contemporary coffee shop.  Basically, this place is equivalent to Starbucks, but instead they offer more food than Starbucks.

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I started off with a Zesty Pumpkin and Pear Soup.  It was actually pretty sweet and good.  It tasted nothing like pumpkin, but that’s what I liked about it.

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After that, I ate the Pan-Seared Fish with Lemongrass Scented Sauce.  I didn’t really like the “fish” though.  The reason why I said “fish” was because it wasn’t fish.  It tasted more like plastic to me.

Doesn't look like plastic...

Doesn’t look like plastic…

Try the other things I haven’t listed and or ranted about yet.  Besides, they do have a wide variety of drinks.  It’ll be a nice place to get one.

Website: http://www.theconnoisseurconcerto.com

(FYI: The By the Bay restaurant isn’t where I went).

 

 

Straits Kitchen

4/5 PickyRatings

This restaurant is located in the Grand Hyatt Singapore on the famous Scotts Road.  I just found out that the dress code is smart casual, but I don’t think it matters.

Entrance

Entrance

This buffet, even though it is rated 4 PickyRatings, is actually really good.  It is my dad’s favorite.  You can eat many types of Asian food there, and every dish you eat will be good.  In this post, I’ll point out the good things I ate.

Wonton/ chicken noodle soup: The reason why I called it that was because they literally put wonton, noodles, and chicken broth (not cannned) together to make this soup.  It is so good.  It has a very authentic chicken broth flavor, the noodles are soft and round, and the wontons are delicious.  If you love wonton and chicken noodle soup, you should definitely try this!

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You can also see them make your soup.  They used all natural ingredients, so don’t worry.

The chefs making my wonton soup

The chef making my wonton soup

Satays:  Not surprisingly, they also make good satays (Singapore is heavily influenced by Malaysia).  Add some satay sauce to your satay.  It’ll make it spicy, but without the spice (or the sauce), it is lacking in flavor.  The beef satay and the pork satay are my favorites.  The chicken satay wasn’t good- who wants to dip chicken in satay sauce anyways?

A beef satay not dipped in sauce yet

A beef satay not dipped in sauce yet

Soy sauce chicken: Speaking of chicken, you should try some soy sauce chicken if you want to try the Chinese food there.  It is very rich in flavor, although the meat is a little mushy (I think that’s how you cook it though).

My soy sauce chicken nearly enshrouded by rice

My soy sauce chicken nearly enshrouded by rice

Sadly (and strangely too), you can’t find any common ice cream flavors there at the ice cream booth (I mean strawberry, chocolate etc.).  They only have exotic flavors such as durian, and papaya.  But that’s what makes this place special.  I got some type of lemon sherbet.  It had a really tangy lemon flavor.

What a short spoon inside the bowl...

What a short spoon inside the bowl…

My pictures look so good…wait, what?  Oh yeah, I was writing a post…let’s get back to it…

ahem…

So come try out this place.  For people who like Southeast Asian cuisine, it will be a meal to remember.

Website: http://www.singapore.grand.hyattrestaurants.com/straitskitchen/

Grand Hyatt Singapore website: http://singapore.grand.hyatt.com/en/hotel/home.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gobstoppers=Lifestoppers

Here we go again.  Another post with me ranting in it.  Don’t worry, I’m going to review Straits Kitchen next.  That’s all I’m going to tell you, for I can’t give too much away…

Gobstoppers.  They are hard candy.  They are also a potential choking hazard.

Gobstoppers.  They look like Skittles!  Image from aurorasabsurd.wordpress.com

Gobstoppers. They look like Skittles! Image from aurorasabsurd.wordpress.com

You’ve probably heard of people choking on them.  I sure did when I looked up “gobstopper choking” on Google…

Screen Shot 2013-11-05 at 7.15.12 PMI even might have almost choked on one.  I play tennis, and I was about to serve the tennis ball with a Gobstopper in my mouth.  Good thing it didn’t become a Wind Pipe Stopper, for luckily, I spit it out.

Besides, why would people even make candies like Gobstoppers?  Haven’t you ever thought of that?  Since they know that Gobstoppers kill, they should really stop making them.  Instead, use them as BB gun bullets.

Have I also mentioned how weird they taste?  At first they taste like an orange, then it starts to taste like a piece of Chinese candy…then it tastes like oranges again…maybe because IT’S BROWN IN THE INSIDE.

So join the Relay to Ban Gobstoppers!  Just kidding.

The world these days…

Is it Plastic or is it Real?

“What are you talking about?” you may ask.  I’m talking about boba.

From fr.123rf.com

From fr.123rf.com

There is such thing as plastic boba.  It’s mostly made in China and Taiwan.  So, therefore, plastic boba is found in boba places in China.  My mom drank some boba once in Hong Kong, and somehow, she said it tasted like plastic.

My mom is somehow really smart.

There’s also plastic boba in the US as well, especially in LA.  I love boba, so I won’t be discouraged by some poisonous boba!  So here are the boba places I do trust:

Major chains.  I’m talking about Quickly (everyone should know what that is, it’s a worldwide chain), Lollicup (located in the US and Chengdu, China), Tea Station (okay, that’s a local LA chain 🙂 ), etc.  These places are most reliable because they must have real tapioca balls since if they have fake ones, they’ll go bankrupt.

A Quickly boba tea store in New York City.  Image from boweryboogie.com.

A Quickly boba tea store in New York City. Image from boweryboogie.com.

Lollicup logo.  Image from clubxb.com.

Lollicup logo. Image from clubxb.com.

Image from yelp.com.

Image from yelp.com.

 

 

That’s about it.

I don’t trust small local stores.  They probably buy their boba from the market, which might sell POISONOUS PLASTIC TAPIOCA BALLS :O !

So drink at your own risk folks.  Don’t choke on plastic boba.