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 using a lot of spice, which is why it is sometimes a little bland for the taste buds of the residents of Western China. If you are like them, just ask the waiter to add a bit of la 辣 (hot spice).
With China’s increasingly improved transport links, refrigeration technology and the use of huge water tanks, residents of far-flung places like Xining can now enjoy recently caught or farmed seafood and fish on their plates, as fresh as it would be in Wenzhou. If Wenzhou style is not for you, Daxin Jie is also home to a few Shandong style seafood restaurants that do a roaring trade in spicy squid kebabs. Other restaurants feed hungry customers with Shaguo, an iron soup bowl filled with a wide choice of ingredients.
Prices are reasonable. 100 Yuan will get a decent meal for 2 or 3 with beer.