Thank goodness, it’s just fish!

11 Jun

So, Brandon and I had our second meal out in China and our second adventure in ordering not knowing a word of the local language.

Brandon, foodie that he is, read all about this raved-about restaurant in Guangzhou that supposedly, according to the author of our travel guide, is the best on the planet at it’s type of dish (chang fen).  We also wanted to get some cash from an ATM and try our hand at riding the subway, all in one outing.

Well, it turned out to be a wonderful evening!  We walked down to the nearest subway station, which we found this morning, and went down into it.  The subway here is brand-spanking-new, and you can tell.  It’s pristine; it makes the New York City subway seem like a thing of the past.  Luckily, the machines for buying passes to nearby locations had an English option, so we successfully planned our trip to a nearby district.

We ended up in a shopping district of sorts, and it was hopping with people.  It was around rush hour, and we had to take a few breaks to step off the main streets and into a park or a residential area to get away from the crowds.  Eventually, we found not only our restaurant, but an ATM next door (China is still a cash-mainly place).

Then we faced the hard part.  After about 10 minutes of observation, we figured out that the system of the restaurant, one whole side of which was open to the street, was a pay-first-eat-second deal.  Our victory over figuring this out, however, was very short-lived because we then discovered that there were no menus except for a list of prices on a wall, everything in Chinese characters.  We had some dish recommendations from the guidebook and tried pronouncing them at the counter.  The cashier just laughed at us, not understanding a word.  Finally, we decided that we’d made it all the way there so we’d better try SOMETHING.  Brandon pointed to two characters on the wall menu, and the cashier told us a price, which we didn’t fully understand.  We gave her a largish bill, and she gave us the correct change (luckily, the place was very cheap; the meal was about two bucks total).

Then we sat down to wait with a number card.  We had no earthly idea what we ordered; the restaurant serves many things, not just chang fen, and we had a good chance of getting chicken feat or tripe.  After a worrisome 15-20 minutes, our order came to us, and it turned out not only to be the mouth-watering chang fen we had hoped for, but some amazing, no organ-y charred pork and fish.  It was absolutely delicious.  We decided then and there that we’d come back and do the same thing until we order everything on the menu; hopefully by the time we get to the end of it, we’ll have picked up some Cantonese and can actually order without pointing!  Try looking up images of chang fen…it’s a great dish, especially if you like dumplings.

As a bonus to a victorious adventure in trying some chang fen, we saw a beautiful park on the way back home.  There was a pond full of hugh lily pads and lotus flowers; the fragrance was overwhelming.  We also saw what seems to be an evening pastime of middle-aged women (and a few men) – group dancing in the park.  There were several groups (some with numbers up to 40-50) dancing around in this plaza, looking like they were doing some quick form of tai chi to a techo-type beat.  Hilarious and wonderful, and definitely something I’m glad I didn’t miss!

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2 Responses to “Thank goodness, it’s just fish!”

  1. Karen Winn June 12, 2010 at 10:16 #

    I’m fond of the cuisine. Unfortunately, It appears I also have an ungraceful kinship to the park ladies…

  2. Constanza Fernandez June 13, 2010 at 11:54 #

    Chang fen, lily pads and lotus flowers, aw ! Yes. yes. yes.

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