Entries Tagged as 'Food & Drink'

Qingping Market 清平市场 Guangzhou (An Urban Legend)

Qingping Market 清平市场

Guangzhou 广州 1991 & 2013


QingPing Market

The Urban Legend

Guangzhou Youth Hostel, March 1991, Shamian Island


Qingping Market

The rumor going round the hostel was about an American tourist who had fled China in tears after only 2 days into her 1 month trip.

The Legend
The unfortunate young girl had passed through Guangzhou’s notorious Qingping Market (清平市场) and seen two kittens kept in a tiny cage. The kittens were destined for the tables of Guangzhou’s restaurants. Thinking she would do the kittens a good turn, she negotiated a price for them. Expecting to save the kittens, she hadn’t counted on what would happen next. The store holder took the kittens out of the cage snapped their necks and handed their lifeless bodies over to her.  She freaked out and was on the next express train back to Hong Kong.

Whether this is just an urban legend or a true story any visitor to Qingping Market in 1991 could believe it. The variety of animals waiting to be butchered made it feel like a zoo rather than a normal meat market. I remember Monkeys, Pangolins, giant salamanders, snakes, deer, dogs and even owls. The orangey color of dog meat roasting on spits was a common sight as were the restaurants with cages outside full of exotic fauna that made eating out a bit like dinning in a slaughter house.

However, we could never be certain that the cat story was true. Maybe it was just an urban legend.

Qingping Market Today

Fish Stomachs

Today Qingping Market is a far [

Luocheng: Is This The World’s Best Teahouse Town?

Luocheng ( the ultimate teahouse town)

Location: Sichuan Province, China, in the vicinity of Leshan (2-3 hours)

Luocheng Teahouse town famous for its boathouse architecture

The ancient town of Luocheng is a gem for those looking for traditional teahouse culture. Luocheng is renowned for its boat architecture: the two sides of its main street narrow down at both ends and widen gradually towards the middle, thus creating the oval shape of a boat.

Luocheng Teahouse Town

Straddling the street and forming, as it were, the prow to complete the boat- like appearance of the town, stands a beautifully restored theatre. It is covered in traditional grey tiles and flamboyantly decorated with historic scenes and smiling Buddhas.

Tea drinkers in Luocheng

However, the absolute highlight of Luocheng is the swell of teahouses lining the main street, sheltered by the overhanging wooden porticos of the buildings. Overlooking this sea of bamboo tables and chairs, occupied by querulous old men in faded Mao jackets, arguing over heated games of cards or Mah-jong, while smoking small stubby pipes carved out of roots, visitors can truly imagine themselves in a time warp.

Teahouse Luocheng

Joining the regulars over a cup of tea, you can really get an impression of what village life must have been like in the old days. The whole place still oozes authenticity and atmosphere; two elements that are often lacking in many of China’s more popular historical places. In fact, [Read more →]

Shaoxing 绍兴 in Beijing北京 / 风骚浙人 (Fēngsāo Zhērén Restaurant)

风骚浙人 Fēngsāo Zhērén Restaurant (Beijing)


Black Bean Fish

 Located in Beijing’s Chaoyang district, the风骚浙人 fēngsāo zhērén, or sometimes  known as Zhejiang Ren Zai Beijing (The Zhejiang People in Beijing Restaurant, 浙江人在北京) is a rather special eatery.  From the outside, you’d never guess that the modest façade conceals an ancient courtyard and some of the best Chinese food in Beijing.

The Place

The Patio

Enter through a rather non-descript doorway and find yourself in a traditional Qing dynasty courtyard house with simple, but tasteful, dining rooms and a tree-shaded patio. As the weather was perfect, we chose to eat in the atmospheric patio. The clientele seemed to be well-heeled locals who were expecting nothing but the best.

The Service

Waiter in the Fengsao Zheren

The waiter was attentive and friendly without being overbearing. He took pride in suggesting the best dishes, but without being pushy.

The Cuisine

Chou Dofu (Smelly Tofu) & Rice Cakes with Crab Roe

The restaurant’s cuisine comes from Shanghai and the province of Zhejiang, a coastal province just south of Shanghai, and a further emphasis is placed on Zhejiang’s Hangzhou and Shaoxing绍兴 regions. That means great fish, crab, smelly tofu and [Read more →]

Heijing:Ancient Salt Capital / 黑井:千年盐都

Heijing: Ancient Salt Capital /黑井: 千年盐都

Old photo of Heijing and the salt trade

Location: Heijing

China, Yunnan, just over 100 kilometers Northwest of Kunming.

Imagine being the only guests in a Ming dynasty courtyard mansion in which little has changed since the days of its previous owners, several generations of a wealthy salt merchant’s family, the last unfortunate member of which – Wu Weiyang – was executed by the communists in 1949…

Wu Family in happier days in the Wujia Courtyard

Imaging strolling back to this mansion after dining on some of the world’s most delicious and expensive mushrooms in an atmospheric open-air restaurant where Chinese day-trippers squat down under the shady trees for the serious task of selecting  and cleaning their own choice of ‘edible fungus’…  Imagine being woken from your siesta by local residents singing traditional opera and performing folk dances to celebrate the 70th birthday of one of their neighbours…

Wu Family Courtyard Hotel

This is exactly what it was like when we visited Heijing / Black Well Town, one of China’s ancient salt capitals. A mere [Read more →]

Funky Wuhan 武汉好玩儿

Wuhan 武汉– September 2009



We first visited Wuhan on a grey, wet December day in 1990. Yet, despite the weather, the city’s colonial architecture, lively streets and abundant markets left quite a favourable impression. Unfortunately, at the time we were far too obsessed with our search (unsuccessful) for Chinese-price boat tickets to Chongqing, to have a proper look around.

Foreigner Price Ticket Wuhan to Chongqing 1990

However, from our chance meeting with two American teachers who were absolutely desperate for any Westerners to communicate with in English, we gathered that it was hardly a cultural hot spot.

This time, on our second visit, we noticed many changes: the city had become huge and, in parts, totally modern. Just like Chongqing. Yet, while we hadn’t really liked revisiting Chongqing, we thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Wuhan.  This was mostly thanks to the attractive, [Read more →]

Lao Fangzi Restaurant 一颗印 (Kunming昆明)

Lao Fangzi Restaurant 一颗印

By 6.00 o’clock the restaurant is packed and queues are beginning to line up in the waiting area.  A palpable sense of expectation hovers in the air as customers mull over the huge menu, occasionally lifting their heads to glance at their fellow diners and nodding in approval as a dish is selected. The waiters stand around patiently, sometimes suggesting dishes to speed the indecisive along. As orders are taken to the kitchen, the  carriers -whose job it is only to carry food to the tables on large trays – begin scurrying backwards and forwards between kitchen and dining area, delivering large plates of unfamiliar, yet delicious looking food. A veritable army of waiting staff in traditional uniforms then take the dishes from the trays and serve them to the suitably impressed diners. The noise level begins to rise as beer bottles are opened, or Chinese rice wine is tossed down gulping throats to the shouts of Ganbei/ Cheers!

This is Lao Fangzi in central Kunming where food doesn’t come much better and the ambience puts the icing on the cake. One of the few – maybe the last- remaining genuine old houses in central Kunming, Lao Fangzi (the Old House) is one of the city’s best dining spots. How it has escaped the guide books is a mystery.

The Place:

The 150-year-old building is an old grey stone, two- storey court- yard residence of the type known locally as ‘stamp houses’, due to their [Read more →]

Alive and Flipping:The Dalian Seafood Restaurant, Beijing.

The Dalian Seafood Restaurant, Beijing.

It was only a Wednesday night, but the place was heaving. The smartly-uniformed waitress told us we were 4th on the waiting list. My friend David, who has been working in Beijing for several years, said that it was worth the wait and that, anyway, tables moved fast here. He was right on both counts; 10 minutes later we were assigned a table and told to go and choose our meal from the magnificent displays and amazing fish tanks.

The Dalian Seafood Restaurant in the Chaoyang district, almost directly opposite the huge Landao Shopping Centre, must be one of the great restaurants of Beijing. It has certainly made it onto our list of favourites. If you are a lover of fresh seafood and fish, as we are, then this has to be one of the best bargains in Beijing. Everything looks and smells as if it has just been plucked straight from the sea. Strangely enough it is actually a Muslim run enterprise but alcohol flows freely.

The restaurant’s centre-piece is a rectangular area of fish tanks, filled with all kinds of fish and sea creatures. In front of the fish tanks, there are countless trays of ( [Read more →]

Seafood in Xining: Daxin Jie

Imagine pigging out on prawns, clams, razor fish and other weird and wonderful critters lying around in buckets in Xining, the capital of remote and landlocked Qinghai province. Well, that is exactly what thousands of Xining’s residents do every night. Xining may seem an unlikely place to enjoy a delicious fresh seafood meal, but Daxin Jie in the city centre is home to a host of restaurants, specialising in Wenzhou style seafood.

Wenzhou, in the eastern coastal province of Zhejiang, is renowned for its fabulous fresh seafood and fish. In Madrid where we live, about 90% of the Chinese come from Wenzhou and nearby Qingtian. Over the years, many of these homesick immigrants have abandoned the typical spring roll and fried rice restaurants, adapted to the local Spanish taste, and inaugurated some amazingly authentic Wenzhou style restaurants instead, catering for the burgeoning Chinese community. So it was with a sense of recognition, but a large degree of  incredulity as  well, that we saw that nearly half the restaurants in Daxin Jie announced themselves as Wenzhou Haixian Fandian 温州海鲜饭店 (Wenzhou Seafood Restaurant).

The Wenzhou style of cooking places emphasis on the taste of the product, rather than on [Read more →]

Shaoxing绍兴 the City of Wine黄酒 and Chou Doufu 臭豆腐 (Smelly Doufu)

A few years ago we posted an article about Shaoxing on HolaChina: Your Gateway to China.

I have just found this rather nice video about Shaoxing, its wine and smelly tofu, on Youtube. They film it in the same restaurant we describe in our 2001 visit. However, it seems that the place has been somewhat sanitised since we were there.  But it is great to see that the wooden benches and tables are still there.

The Video is in Chinese with English Subtitles. Click below and enjoy it..

Qiezi Bing茄子饼

Yum, what a smell! Just a few doors down from our regular hotel in Beijing’s Shatan Houjie in the heart of the hutongs near the Forbidden City, there is a Chinese style bakery. Business is always brisk. Sesame cakes, flat onion pancakes, and freshly made noodles are snatched from the serving tray as soon as they are done, whisked away by the impatient customers queuing outside.
Beijing has some great street food, but for me nothing can beat a Qiezi bing 茄子饼, or aubergine pancake. The pancakes are simple, round flour cakes stuffed with beautifully cooked aubergine. The flavour of the aubergine and its gravy seeps into the dough of the pancake, culminating in a texture that is slightly crisp on the outside and soft and mushy inside. Apart from aubergine, there are many other, tasty fillings, such as white cabbage (baicai白菜), leeks with egg (jiecai jidan芥菜鸡蛋), or pork (zhurou猪肉).

I usually have Qiezi bing for breakfast, nipping out of our little hotel to pick up about 6 of them, while Margie prepares the instant coffee in the room. The pancakes usually cost 5 mao each, though they may try and charge you a whole Yuan (an outrageous 12 cents…), if they think they can get away with it.

The best places to look out for these bakeries, and other street food-stalls, are the hutongs. Though sadly, due to so much recent demolition, there are fewer and fewer of these traditional eateries around. Fortunately, ‘our’ Shatan Houjie still has an excellent selection and is therefore a great place to get you started.