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Chinese Breakfasts

Well, I think that I’ve used the school-work excuse way too many times now that it’s probably becoming apparent that the lack of updates is more due to my personal laziness and affinity for procrastination than uncontrollable academic factors. The good thing (for me) though, is that since this is my blog, everyone has to put up with it! =P

So, I would like to break this month-long hiatus with a post about breakfast. Typical breakfasts in of a common Guangzhou-er, to be exact, and which, contrary to prevailing beliefs in the West, does not consist solely of dainty dim sum items everyday. In fact, I think that the real, authentic early weekday morning food culture here is something that’s severely under-appreciated and over-looked by outsiders.

During the weekdays, breakfast is a very quick, on-the-go affair for most people. Walk into any Chinese city on a busy weekday morning and you’re bound to see loads of people hurrying along holding some form of bread-based product in one hand and a soy or milk drink in the other. People here usually buy breakfast rather than take the hassle to cook something at home. Only in the weekends do most people go out for dim sum (which is more brunch than breakfast).

Breakfast is sold everywhere. There are restaurants that set up steaming stations at their fronts, small food stalls that specialize on breakfast foods, and green food carts that only appear during the breakfast hours and disappear thereafter. These vendors all carter to the fast-paced Guangzhou life by being fast and strategically stationed (those food carts, for instance, are always found at major intersections).

So what sort of breakfast fare is typically available? I think that by far the most popular are Chinese baked breads. You know, the pineapple bun, red bean bun, pork floss bun…that sort of stuff. In my opinion, though, these breads shouldn’t be styled “Western” because they are in a whole category of their own. They all have that same characteristic soft, spongy texture, lack texture variable, and have pretty much the same sweet taste with some extra ingredients thrown in. They’re nice once in a while, but I find that they get boring pretty quickly.

Even though those Western-style Chinese breads are pretty popular, those items are usually only available from bakeries or those green food carts. Restaurants and food stalls, on the other hand, sell more Chinese items such as steamed buns, youtiao, congee, and Northern-style panfried breads. These items are on average a lot cheaper than those “Western” styled breads and thus they consist of a large bulk of a workman’s diet. I find that these Chinese items have more variety and are a lot more interesting than those pineapple buns. Take the steamer stalls, for instance, which sell not only white steamed buns but also glutinuous rice siu mai, corn on a cob, fried Chinese dough sticks, congee, tea eggs, soy bean milk, etc. And these items are all extremely cheap as well, with each costing about 1-2RMB. Although the quality may not be on par with fluffy + sugary restaurant steamed buns, the cheapness still equals bang for buck.

Sorry for the lack of good photos in this post; I’m always a little edgy about taking photos of random things.

Next up:
Hopefully I’ll eventually come back to those unfinished Singapore posts

February 21, 2010 Posted by | Breakfast, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Dim Sum at Hai Yun Xuan

Hai Yun Xuan
Address: Long Kou Xi Lu, just south of Tian He Bei Lu


Happy Chinese National Holidays! Yesterday was the PRC’s big 60th anniversary celebration, so we decided to join in the fray by having dim sum at a new restaurant.

Hai Yun Xuan had only recently opened this week. There used to be another restaurant in its place some time ago, and upon entering the main dining hall one can see that they didn’t really change the design of the old establishment. Everything was quite neat and brightly lighted and the morning crowd wasn’t that large.

Like most dim sum restaurants these days, Hai Yun Xuan doesn’t have carts. Instead you have to order from a menu, which is fine with me since my Chinese is getting better!

The first item that came was the Three Colours Bean Cake. It was basically a Chinese water chestnut-cake with the water chestnuts replaced with three different legumes: azuki beans, millet, and something else that I can’t remember. Apart from the aesthetic appeal this dish really wasn’t much; the beans, unlike water chestnuts, provided no texture contrast. I think I would take the traditional water chestnut version over this any day.

The boiled greens served with sweet soy sauce were standard but good.

My parents’ orders, steamed pork offal and steamed beef ribs. My dad said that the beef ribs weren’t good, though he didn’t elaborate.

The shrimp dumplings tasted strange. I don’t think that the shrimp that they used was very fresh…and the stuffing was overly oily. It wasn’t very enjoyable…

Deep-fried shrimp rolls. I didn’t try these as I don’t like the thought of eating deep-fried foods.

So far, the meal hasn’t been going that well, and unfortunately it gets worse.

When the beancurd rolls came, we thought that they tasted strange. The flavours were there, but there was something wrong with the texture…at the end of our meal, when I tried another bite, we realized that the pork inside was RAW. RAW PORK. My goodness. Certainly not good publicity during a swine flu scare. I felt pretty nauseated after realizing that…it was probably just a mental thing and I don’t think I’ll be getting sick but still…RAW pork??!

However, the last item that came, the sweet buns, were quite decent. They had a flaky crust on the top and some form of gooey, sweet stuff as filling. I couldn’t figure out what it was, probably just sugar syrup or something common, but it accompanied the soft bun quite well, even though it got a bit too sweet at the end.

At the end we spoke with the manager about the pork and they took that item off our bill. The total cost came up to 100 something RMB, which is quite cheap. But still, the thought of that raw pork plus the other fairly mediocre dishes probably won’t get me coming back again anytime soon.

Oh, and before we left the restaurant we sat back for a while watching the beginning of the huge military parade show hosted in Beijing in celebration of the 60th anniversary. President Hu Jin Tao poked his head out of his limousine shouting, “Greetings comrades! You must be tired!” to the troops and troops of soldiers lined along the two sides of ChangAn Ave. in front of Tian An Men Square. When we got home my parents sat for two hours in front of the TV watching that military parade. Lol.

October 2, 2009 Posted by | Breakfast, Guangzhou, Restaurants | , | Leave a comment

Breakfast at Pacific Coffee Company

Pacific Coffee Company
Address: Everywhere in Hong Kong
Website: http://www.pacificcoffee.com/eng/home.php


This weekend I headed down to Hong Kong again and stayed overnight. The next morning I headed down to Pacific Coffee Company for breakfast.

Pacific Coffee Company is a chain store that is just as ubiquitous in HK as Starbucks. They offer pretty much the same sort of fare: Western beverages and pastries and such. You can find them everywhere these days. As such I wasn’t expecting much quality when I walked in that morning.

For breakfast I got myself a yogurt, a hot chocolate, and a spinach and cheese quiche. The hot chocolate was TERRIBLE. It was watery and had absolutely no chocolate flavour. Don’t order it!

The spinach quiche, on the other hand, was surprisingly good. Despite the fact that it clearly wasn’t fresh, once reheated it still retained much of its flavour. There was lots of spinach, just the way I like it, and the eggy filling was savoury and flavourful. I couldn’t taste much cheese but I didn’t really mind.

But like Starbucks this place is expensive; all that costed me 60 something HKD.

September 29, 2009 Posted by | Breakfast, Restaurants | , , | Leave a comment

Dim Sum at Guangzhou Restaurant

Guangzhou Restaurant
Address: No.112, Tiyu Road (East), Tianhe District, Guangzhou


A few weeks ago we got up fairly late on a Saturday morning and decided to head to Guangzhou Restaurant in Tian He for dim sum.

Guangzhou Restaurant is one of the most famous and popular restaurants in the city. In fact, they’ve been so successful that they now have branches in other countries. As a result the place was invariably busy when we got there, even though their immense establishment stretched two whole floors of the building. However, we only had to wait for about 10 minutes before getting a table.

Dim sum at Guangzhou Restaurant is served menu-style; there are no carts wheeling the food around. That is understandable, I suppose, especially with an establishment this big. Their menu here is pretty large…to order, each table is provided with a pencil and diners have to check off the items that they want.

We ordered a total of ten items that day. It was quite a lot. Firstly came the BBQ pork buns. The buns here are very good, light and fluffy, and the filling inside has the right combination of sweet and salty. However, I have heard from somewhere that that nice glean that they have on the buns is a result of MSG brushed on top. Don’t know, but it tasted pretty good.

For such a huge and busy restaurant, service was very fast. Food started coming about 5 minutes after we placed our order. After the BBQ buns came the various beef innards with turnip. I never try this stuff anymore, though I used to as a kid. Tripe is just chewy…all the flavour really comes from the soy sauce that the ingredients are boiled it.

We also ordered steamed spareribs over taro, another dish that I don’t eat anymore. I did eat some of the taro, which was overcooked.

Whenever we go yum cha we always have to have a dish of boiled vegetables. I love boiled vegetables, but these were a tad too oily.

The panfried pork chive dumplings were decent. They weren’t amazing but certainly passable. The filling inside included pork, chives, and waterchesnuts, which provided a nice texture contrast.

I was a little fearful when ordering the xiao long bao because I’ve never had a decent xiao long bao with soup in Guangzhou! They always come around soupless and more like regular dumplings. However, these ones at Guangzhou Restaurant were different: they actually had soup inside! I was quite happy. Even though the filling wasn’t all that flavourful and the dough was a little thick, especially at the seams, the soup made up for it.

Since my favourite foods are bread and vegetables, I ordered the panfried spinach bun with pork. These were quite good; the bun was nice and fluffy with a nice sear at the top and bottom providing texture contrast, and the filling inside was quite flavourful.

The last item to come was the steamed vegetarian dumplings. These were glutinuous flour dumplings filled with peanuts, water chestnuts, and some other non-meat ingredients and then steamed on tofu skins. They were all right. The filling had flavour and contrast but the dough was way too thick and chewy…

And that concludes our dim sum meal! The price came up to 200 something RMB, which is decent for the quantity and quality. However, one overall aspect that I did not enjoy was the oiliness of all the foods; I walked out with a highly unpleasant sensation on my tongue as a result of all that oil. I guess they need to cut back on the fat.

September 27, 2009 Posted by | Breakfast, Guangzhou, Restaurants | , | Leave a comment