Saturday, January 22, 2011

Cantonese Food in Beijing

I came back from conducting field research in China earlier this month.  Because of the sub-zero temperatures and being sick with respiratory infection, I spent my leisure time eating instead of sightseeing.  My wonderful hostess in Beijing is originally from Guangzhou.  She often reminisces about the amazing Cantonese food in her hometown, and the recent Cantonese food craze in Beijing has made it convenient for her to get a taste of home.  But frankly, Cantonese restaurants (First Chinese BBQ) in Austin serves dishes that are made with higher quality ingredients and with less grease and heavy-handed seasoning!  You can really taste the difference in the BBQ dishes like cha siu, roasted pork belly, and soy chicken. 

Cha Siu, Roasted Pork Belly, and Soy Chicken with mustard, sweet & sour sauce, and minced garlic and green onion in oil

Check out the grease in the stir-fried beef and flat broad noodles (which aren't wide enough) and the corn starch in the stir-fried asparagus!

Stir-fried Beef with Flat Broad Noodles

Stir-fried Asparagus

However, there are some positives about Cantonese restaurants in Beijing.  You can order dishes with ingredients, such as bamboo fungus, that are hard to come by at Cantonese restaurants in the U.S.

Spinach with garlic, Goji berries, and bamboo fungus

I was very happy to have tried this preparation of si gua (luffa).  This was so addictive and seems easy enough to make at home.

Steamed Si Gua with minced garlic and dried shrimp

We also tried out a dim sum restaurant in a residential neighborhood one lazy weekend, which turned out pretty good.  The turnip cakes were particularly exceptional because they used more daikon than rice powder, making the cakes more translucent than the ones in the U.S.  I was super happy to see that they also served a spicy XO sauce version!

Turnip Cakes

Spicy XO Sauce Turnip Cakes

Beef Chang Fen

Custard Tarts

Coconut Buns with a custardy coconut milk filling

Unfortunately, this restaurant managed to screw up 3 dim sum standards: shu mai, steamed pork ribs with black beans, and har gau.  You really shouldn't open a dim sum restaurant if your chefs can't make decent versions of these standards.  C'mon Beijing!

Blech! Sickly-looking Shu Mai

Instead of Pork Ribs, we got chunks of pale fat

Unimpressive Har Gau

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