Tuesday, May 7, 2013

foodie trail:Mainland China; Shenzhen

Bring on the drumroll, coz the foodie trail goes across the border to China this season.This all encompassing quote is painted in the Bombay airport, and marked the beginning of our Journey. Visiting a single place in China and saying that I know all about Chinese food, is like visiting a single place in India and doing the same.If Indian food is varied then Chinese food is many times so.This was my first visit to China, but having tasted 'chinese food' in so many Indian restaurants, I felt no stranger to chinese cuisine, or so I thought...

Having travelled from Mumbai, to HongKong, and then ferrying across to Mainland  China into Shenzhen, we were ravenous when we got there, lucky for us the comforting double boiled soup awaited us.

Shenzhen,is in the Guangdong province,where the double boiling is an indigineous form of making soup.A large ceramic pot is filled with the contents of the soup along with medicinal herbs and slow cooked for hours to infuse the soup with goodness.I was informed by the executive chef of the Futian Shangrila that different types of double boiled soups have different therapeutic properties, and some soup (made of frog ovaries)help women conceive. Here in China Chicken soup is not only for the soul, but for all other parts of the body as well :)

Sushi, a distinctive Japanese dish, but I just loved the colourful detailing in  these  dishes.Shenzhen was a fishing village,untill 30 years back.And the enormous number of sea food both raw and cooked were mind boggling.

pink ginger slivers

When we decided on going to China, I hadmade up my mind of eating,or atleast attempting to eat a snake.Shenzhen  incidentally had many a snake market to boast of , but they were all closed for the two days that we were visiting. I settled on the next best exotic food item I could find- Sea weeds! If you dont think of them as sea weeds they could pass of as some kind of fishy smelling spinach, served up with sliced octopus tentacles if you please.

The chinese are immensely fond of their steamed dumplings. They can be found on pavements  to  five star  buffets.They are served for breakfast ,lunch and dinner.

The chinese noodle soup.I am a huge fan of the noodle soup, be it the Thukpa, or Thai Khao  Sui or Laksa, or plan old Maggi noodle soups, so having the oppotunity to have an authentic chinese noodle soup IN China itself was super exciting.There was one catch though, the chef knew not a word of english! I mimed my way to what I hoped was an edible rendition. You see there were 5 types of broth to choose from, I am guessing they were chicken/beef/pork/prawn... but I couldnt be sure,so I pointed at the one which looked appetising. Then there were many types of meat balls and vegetables, not to mention at least ten types of noodles to choose from. I pointed at random, and the chef kept dropping them in the broth, and to my great relief- the soupy noodles was FANTASTIC. 

No matter what part of the world you travel, sugar speaks a universal language. This Yin and Yang dessert spoke the language of chocolate,my favourite kind of language. 

Chinese handicrafts of stuffed baby dragons in colourful colours.

A picture from a moving vehicle, of the chinese flag against a backdrop of high rises. Shenzhen was a small fishing village, just 30 years back,when the Chinese government decided to make it a port of importance and today it has an economy better than the neighboring Hong Kong. It boasts of expensive malls,multinational companies, and a tourism hotspot.All in just 3 decades. Its phenomenal.

Shenzhen provides jobs to millions of immigrant chinese people who come here for work, and thus this makes of  a rich cultural melting pot.China loves its red and gold, which is depicted in it's flag as well. A colour so synonymous to china that even the Chinese restaurants in India bear these colours.

Splendid China

Chinese are known to be masters of duplication. In shenzhen, they have repliucated  every  single chinese monument of  importance in this Garden called Splendid China

Miniature china in Splendid China

Note the bonsaii trees along the miniature GREAT WALL OF CHINA, at Splendid China , Shenzhen.

Road side eats

A jaggery and peanut pancake is beaten into thin slivers by wooden hammers, to make a sweet . The name of this interesting sweet is unknown to me but it tasted like the Indian 'chikki'

The chinese peanut 'chikkis'
OCT, Shenzhen

Road side eateries. No one knows english and all the hoardings are in chinese. If you wish to eat, just point at  the illustrated menu.

windows of the world.If there is just one place to visit in Shenzhen , then this is it! This is where you get to see how good the Chinese can replicate original things. They have replicated every wonder of the world, and a perfect replica of the Eiffel tower with its own lift which take you to the top. In this Eiffel tower, instead of a view of Paris, you can see the Pyramids to your left, and mount rushmore and the niagara falls to your right, and the Taj mahal and the Colosseum in the distance. 

The flags of the countries represented in the Window of the world.

Chinese Fast food, interesting tastes , more interesting names.

The fast food joint outside Windows of the world, The chinese version of a Mac Donald.

a fantastic wonton soup at the fast food place outside Windows of the world. We had no idea what to order.We decided to order what the rest of the Chinese customers in the shop were having and our gamble paid of.

The night show at the Windows of the World is a must see , with dances depicted from various countries. A large part of the Dances were Russian though, in loving memory of the chinese comrades.

Breakfast in China is a mind boggling experience,simply because a lot of the lunch and dinner items show up at breakfast too, like rice.Lucky for me the inflight magazine on my flight into Hongkong had adviced me to try the Congee.Congee is a rice porridge, which has many avatars of it across the globe, but I guess its only in China that you can dress your porridge up in bits of ham,dried fish,chicken and peanuts.

My quintessential chinese breakfast of Mandarin sweet oranges, congee with fried  dough  fritters, and a pot of jasmine tea

Jasmine tea

These Mandarin sweet oranges were the absolute find of the trip. I could easily hold  three to four oranges in my palm, they were so tiny,and each bite was deliciously sweet. We couldnt get over them, and even when the banquet boasted 50 types of food preparations, the bowl of mandarin oranges were the first to finish.

All the assorted things to accessorise your congee with. The Congee itself were of three types. The plain, the salted  pumpkin, and the egg congee.

Youtiao, or fried dough, best had dipped in a bowl of congee.

Mathew ,the Executive Chef of the Zen at Futian Shangrila, was an immense help, and provided the Americans take on  Chinese cuisine.

A glimpse of China in my two day visit to China, and it leaves me wanting to know more about this land of rich culinary history, the varied flavours of the unique cuisine, but above all it shows the respect that the Chinese have of their age old traditions, and a love of simple comfort food, be it in the medicinal double boiled soup, the various steamed dumplings, or the wholesome congee. 


  1. What about cockroach, rat, insects etc what we hear about Chinese? How the authenticity of our chinese preparation in say main land China inn aundh?

  2. The Chinese cuisine in most well known Chinese restaurants in India are quite authentic. The fried rice and noodles and lemon coriander soup I had in China were the same as served in Aundh:) the dimsum were also bang on. In fact the only Indian restaurant in shenzhen called Bollywood was authentic paneer and gulab jamum

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