Sabor Sichuan (Taste of Szechuan) 川百味

Sabor Sichuan 川百味 (Taste of Szechuan)

Calle Gabino Jimeno 6: Usera, Madrid

 

Wanzhou Kaoyu 万州考鱼 Sabor Sichuan 川百味

Do you like Spicy Food?

Madrid is a fabulous city for eating out. For the adventurous, boundless opportunities for exciting dining exist all over the city. However, those who crave spicy food, and I mean really spicy food, are often disappointed by the dearth of options.

川北凉粉 spicy mung bean noodles Sabor Sichuan 川百味

Some Peruvian restaurants make brave attempts to keep up their spicy tradition, but most succumb to the whims of their autochthonous diners by watering down the kick. Kitchen 154, a mecca for spicy food in the market of Vallehermoso, does a pretty good job. Cruel, there own chili brand, is pretty fiery .

四川凉面,cold Sichuan noodles Sabor Sichuan 川百味

This after all is the country were the giant Tabasco Sauce company has almost given up the ghost. Sales in Spain are about its worst in Europe. Spanish tolerance of hot spice or chili is pretty low.

Sabor Sichuan 川百味

Thank heavens for Sabor Sichuan (Taste of Szechuan). This small little restaurant in the barrio of Usera , south of the River Manzanares, and  in the heart of Madrid’s China town is a godsend.

青椒皮蛋 green peppers and 1000 year old eggs Sabor Sichuan 川百味

If you have ever been to Sichuan or Chongqing and continue to crave that lip burning and tongue numbing Mala 麻辣 spice then Sabor Sichuan is Continue reading “Sabor Sichuan (Taste of Szechuan) 川百味”

Wanzhou Kaoyu 万州烤鱼: Grilled Fish from Chongqing 重庆

Wanzhou Kaoyu 万州烤鱼 the Chongqing dish that is hot in Madrid’s Chinatown

Lotos Roots; one of the usual condiments for Wanzhou Kaoyu 万州烤鱼

 A local specialty from Chongqing, China called Wanzhou Grilled Fish (Wanzhou Kaoyu 万州烤鱼 ) is now all the rage in many restaurants in Madrid’s Chinatown neighbourhood of Usera.

Wanzhou Kaoyu 万州烤鱼

What is Wanzhou Grilled Fish / Wanzhou Kaoyu 万州烤鱼

It is a grilled /roasted whole fish covered in a dry dressing of Sichuan peppercorns, dried chilies and and served in a big pan filled with a soup like sauce that is not to dissimilar to the stock used in Sichuan hot pots 火锅 (huoguo).

The dish originates from Wanzhou (formerly WanXiang) in Chongqing municipality: It’s now popular all over Mainland China.

The original way of making this dish is to first grill a freshwater fish (Carp 鲤鱼 is popular) over charcoal and then cover it with various condiments that you order from the menu.

Some of these condiments might include lotus roots, potatoes, bamboo shoots, glass noodles, edible fungus, and beansprouts.

In Madrid the fish is usually Sea Bass (Lubina in Spanish)鲈鱼.

A great place to try Wanzhou Kaoyu 万州烤鱼 is in the Sichuan restaurant Sabor Sichuan in Usera, Madrid. See our review:

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 Continue reading “Qingping Market 清平市场 Guangzhou (An Urban Legend)”

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, Continue reading “Luocheng: Is This The World’s Best Teahouse Town?”

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 Continue reading “Shaoxing 绍兴 in Beijing北京 / 风骚浙人 (Fēngsāo Zhērén Restaurant)”

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 Continue reading “Heijing:Ancient Salt Capital / 黑井:千年盐都”

Funky Wuhan 武汉好玩儿

Wuhan 武汉– September 2009

Wuhan-Museum-

Introduction

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, Continue reading “Funky Wuhan 武汉好玩儿”

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 Continue reading “Lao Fangzi Restaurant 一颗印 (Kunming昆明)”

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 ( Continue reading “Alive and Flipping:The Dalian Seafood Restaurant, Beijing.”