Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Teochew (ChaoZhou) & Hakka (KeJia) Vegetarian in China

This is not a vegetarian tour and we dine in non-vegetarian restaurants which the concept of vegetarian is not that well-understood with some of the dishes cooked with onion or garlic which we generally avoid (there are only 5 vegetarians out of a group of about 60 tourmates which we are fortunately given seats at a separate table for our meals).
From my observation and I was told when I understand from the tour guide, the local regard vegetarian as vegetables and will just be different single type of vegetables simply stir-fried or boiled without mixing with other vegetables per the other 2 vegetables shown in top pictures.
Generally in tour packages, the first and last meal and accomodation would be more sumptuous and comfortable to leave one a good First & Last impression.
The above pictures are our first meal at the restaurant of JingMing Spa Resort at ChaoZhou.
Celery & Black Fungus are quite common dishes that we had in almost every meal at ChaoZhou.
So, this 2 dishes (dish of celery & black fungus and the dish of Luohanzhai alike of mushroom with vegetables and white fungus ) are considered creativity which we did not treasure as much from our first meal which is common sight in Singapore until we had a couple more other local tradition of plain vegetable dishes...

Our Buffet breakfast next morning, fried noodles, some local flour pastries (the white one tasted like those trapeziums white sweet pastry that one may still find in S'pore's coffeeshop breakfast stall). Oh, the green-tea flavoured round pastry with white sesame seeds at the side and with winter melon filling like the popular HK wife pastry was one of the better pastries tasted throughout the trip, and I would consider that as my best breakfast during the tour that I still missed.

Despite complaining the plainness (because no spiciness throughout the trip), the freshness of the ingredients made up for the taste and the oiliness and saltishness was already much cut down compared to prior China food experience.
There was only once that we found a dish with mock product, the cuttlefish with celery, which we found that we don't miss mock products at all. Love the pumpkin slices, and the abundance of Baihe (the white onion-alike peels), a beauty food:-)

In another occasion, there was the dish of fried seaweed with cashew nuts, and taupok which plain on their own, we utilised our own creativity to add them to the simple bowl of plain straw-mushroom soup, and a delicious and appetising bowl of nutritious soup appeared before us. :-)
Oh, the delicious fried beancurd slices also started to appear frequently in our later dishes.

What is shown shows later was a vegetarian feast specially prepared by the temple that we visit, and can be considered finally tasted something more local, Teochew style.

Wow, this plate of starter pastries is really delicious! From left: the water-chestnut flavour, the centre: the yam, and the right: the ngian gao alike pastries. Never tasted in Singapore! Sweet and flavourful and yet not over-whelming taste. I wish someone could advise me where to get in Singapore.

Oh, the yam pieces in Teochew are simply delicious and fresh? For someone who is not a yam lover, I could not stop at a few spoonful.

The "LingJiao" that tasted something like yam and chestnut which was not found as readily in Singapore was a dish that the elderly adored.
What's this dish? Caipo (local preserved vege) that the local likes to go with porridge was surprisely a feast dish, and well, there must be a reason, really nice, which taste different from S'pore's.
Soup of Bamboo shoot slices with ZhuSheng, just average....
Straw and Abalone Mushroom soup, average, generally their vegetarian soup are mild in taste.

Our first colorful tomato-sauced fried taupok pieces! Though the taupok did not taste as nice as expected, but the deviation from days of plain stir-fry dishes was a welcomed change to our "plainized" taste-buds.

Lastly the vegetarian feast ended with their local delights of celery and fried beancurd slices.:-)
No mock products but nice vegetarian feast that we enjoyed.
Wish we could had more such local vegetarian feasts.

Next, been in Teochew, of course we should try the famous Teochew noodles that I love in S'pore from the originating place.
However, to my surprise , the famous Teochew noodles that we know in Spore is much customised.
The local Teochew noodles does not have choice of meepok or other types of noodles. For soup version,  they only serve Kway Teow; for dry-version, just handmade noodles (la-mian) type.
It also does not have chilli paste to go with, instead satay sauce was used instead.
It does not come with bean-sprouts or any vegetables found in S'pore version but Purely meaty and it comes with a big bowl of soup with fish/pork paste products just like ngian toufu-alike.
Poor me just have a plain bowl of noodles with nothing to go with and perhaps because of restriction of cooking freely, mine was considered over-cooked in my standard though my other tour-mates who tasted the normal version praised the Q-ness of the noodles.  I wished I could have time to visit vegetarian outlets nearby which I only managed to sneak out to get some vegetarian pastries.
I still prefered the customised version in S'pore.:P but I do appreciate the kind arrangement by the kind and attentive tour-guide to assist us to try the local delicacies. 

Bamboo shoots, the local specialty was simply cooked but tasted good and crunchy. However, it is really as per the old sayings: avoid eating too much as it is a special dish that will bring out old or hidden sickness of one and glutton me should had heeded the advice...:-(
Another must try is the Teochew Fried Kway Teow on my list and again it is discovered to be much customised.
The Teochew version is per above picture much towards fried HK mee style, the main ingredients is the brown mee alike bamboo shoots and not the Kway Teow above which is the white thicher Ipoh type of Kway Teow. I again voted for the S'porean style of sweet sauced Kway Teow.
Customisation is good, but I wonder how the 2 delicious Teochew dishes get customised into the S'pore style which is already quite different in taste and ingredients except with the name: "Teochew" in it. :-0

Next we move on to a taste of some Hakka version of vegetarian dishes.
We were looking forward to try the famous Hakka Preserved vegetables (Meicai) but they only have the concept of Meicai with Fatty meat so we were not served just the vegetable version.
Instead we had the local wild vegetables served to us, really unique that even someone like me who love to try weird dishes or my Hakka clan tour-mate who also first encountered the vegetables could not appreciate it as well as the locals.  :P
The white ball of slices of bamboo shoot or winter melon alike taste dish with spring onions sprinkled on it was presentable but plain in taste .
Something nicer & more local, the Hakka beancurd cooked in fresh tomato sauce, Nicest beancurd tasted so far fron the trip...a welcomed change in the style of cooking and the smoothness of the beancurd.

Ok, lets move back to last few memorable dishes at Teochew,
Huai Shan with black fungus, Crunchy, love the way it was done, Stir-fry in China :-)
Unique soup of seaweed with white fungus
Love this, Fried corn flour sugar bites, sweet!

Greatly appreciate the kind arrangement of vegetarian meals in the less vegetarian-friendly environment by our tour guides, always concerning that the vegetarians get our fair share of enjoyment as best as they could.
Thank you !!!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Xiang Ji Chu Pastry in China 香積廚

Travelled to China Swatow (Shantou 汕头) just before the Mid Autumn Festival, unike the Singapore commercialised mooncakes with brown pastry skin and just lotus paste ingredients, their mooncakes (which I bought from a vegetarian pastry shop which is just below their local Shantou Buddhist Association at Guo Ping Road) uses the traditional Teochew pastry skin with unique ingredients such as the nuts (cashew, melon, walnut), beans (red, yellow, green), maltose, and melon sweet slices according to the label. It even have strange flavours such as Seaweed & Mushroom. I bought 4 flavours for trial: the Mushroom, Seaweed, Green bean paste & Five nuts. I had only tried the Mushroom flavour, which I find it unique with the chewy melon sweet slices and nut pastes which is more like eating the local Five nuts flavour but more refreshing though I hardly find any traces of mushroom. The other 3 flavours were given away with no comments received yet but I certainly like the Mushroom flavour that I tried, and it costs cheap, less than RMB10 per piece which is about S$2 only. (Cant recall the exact price I think it costed only abt RMB5). Comparing the unique taste & price, certainly value for money.
The top picture  is their Black sesame paste pastry which is nice too. (The traditional found in S'pore is yellow in color and green bean paste flavoured.)
This is not a Buddhist pilgrim package tour so my past 1 week of tour gave me the impression that Buddhism & Vegetarian was not flourishing in this part of China. So accidentally chancing upon this Guo Ping Road (国平路) that houses 汕头佛教协会 (Shantou Buddhist Association) and 2 or 3 vegetarian restaurants and bakeries there is comforting.
All my meals were from non vegetarian restaurants and vegetarian culture was not that developed yet for non vegetarian eateries there. However, according to a few tourmates who managed to visit the local vegetarian restaurants, gave praise to the dishes, too bad they don't have the habit of take pictures of food to share...