Shang Palace at Shenzhen Shangri-la Hotel

Not going to go into much detail here. Just wanted to let you all know (if you haven’t heard already) that there’s an all-you-can-eat dimsum lunch menu at Shang Palace at Shenzhen Shangri-la Hotel for only RMB 98! I think between my friend and I, for RMB 196 (Yes! RMB 98 per head and no extra service charge!) we bankrupted the restaurant.

This reminds me of the RMB 78 brunch at Lynn (琳怡中餐厅) across from Plaza 66 in Shanghai. I wonder if that deal is still around. It was fantastic.

Anyway, in particular, I want to point you to 3 dishes we thought were excellent:

  • Soup Dumplings (灌湯餃) – of course, don’t expect the same quality, size and appearance as ones you might find at Yixin Restaurant (益新), where all the soup is contained in the dumpling and you must poke it and let all the soup out … nothing like that.
  • X.O. Sauce Fried Rice Noodle Rolls (X.O. 醬炒腸粉) – I like this because I think most of the time, they fry this dish when you order them. They didn’t just pick them up from a pot full of it because its still a bit crunchy on the outside and really hot inside. The hotel-made X.O. sauce is also slightly spicy, but the dried shrimp and the conpoy help add a lot of flavour to it.
  • Steamed Beef Balls with Bean Curd Skin (山竹牛肉球) – Really soft beef balls and crunchy, although the “softness” might have something to do with soda powder, which makes this dish the one and only dish I am fine if the chef decides to use soda powder to make the beef less tender. And “crunchy” from the generous amount of chopped water chestnuts (馬蹄) and green onion adding into the beef balls.

Other dimsums were pretty decent too, but these 3 stood out from the rest.

All-you-can-eat at Shang Palace in SZ

All-you-can-eat at Shang Palace in SZ

Soup Dumplings (灌湯餃)

Soup Dumplings (灌湯餃)

Salt & Pepper Deep-fried Tofu (椒鹽豆腐)

Salt & Pepper Deep-fried Tofu (椒鹽豆腐)

X.O. Sauce Fried Rice Noodle Rolls (X.O. 醬炒腸粉)

X.O. Sauce Fried Rice Noodle Rolls (X.O. 醬炒腸粉)

Cabbage with Abalone Sauce (No Abalone)

Cabbage with Abalone Sauce (No Abalone)

Chive Dumplings (韭菜餃)

Chive Dumplings (韭菜餃)

Beef Tripe (牛柏葉)

Beef Tripe (牛柏葉)

Steamed Beef Balls with Bean Curd Skin (山竹牛肉球)

Steamed Beef Balls with Bean Curd Skin (山竹牛肉球)

Xiao Long Bao (小笼包)

Xiao Long Bao (小笼包)

(Happy) Egg Tarts

(Happy) Egg Tarts

Seriously, between the 2 of us, we had about RMB 380-400 worth of food, so the deal was definitely a great value. You’re very likely to hit the target anyway, so I recommend you stick with it.

Siu Yeh Rating: 9/10

Note: Photos taken with a BlackBerry Curve 8900.

Shangri-La Hotel
2/F., Shangri-La Hotel Shenzhen
East Side, Railway Station
1002 Jianshe Road
Shenzhen 518001, China
T: (86 755) 8233 0888
F: (86 755) 8233 9878

Tian Xiang Ge (天香阁)

After a couple days in Xi’an eating their local delicacies, it got just a little too heavy for us and we’ve opted for something a little lighter and closer to home: Cantonese cuisine in Xi’an! WOW! Adventurous.

Here’s a short excerpt from the hotel’s website: “Authentic Cantonese cuisine ranging from traditional dim sum to freshly homemade noodles. Tian Xiang Ge also serves famous dishes from other regions of China and local Xian specialities.”

On a day when I’m not feeling particularly well (no thanks to BT Wings) and when you don’t really want to give too much thought on where to eat, I know I can count on Shangri-la for decent Cantonese cuisine.

Entrance to Tian Xiang Ge at Xian Shangri-la

Entrance to Tian Xiang Ge at Xian Shangri-la

A grand entrance to a small(ish) restaurant.

Sharks fin soup with shredded sea cucumber, abalone and fish maw

Sharks fin soup with shredded sea cucumber, abalone and fish maw

Kailan pan fried with Chinese wine and ginger

Kailan pan fried with Chinese wine and ginger

Efu noodles braised with crab meat

Efu noodles braised with crab meat

Lamb brisket braised with dried bean curd in clay pot

Lamb brisket braised with dried bean curd in clay pot

How much I write here is probably a reflection of how I was feeling at that moment.

All the dishes were pretty standard … nothing to go crazy over (to be fair, except for the lamb pot, everything else is pretty light), but definitely not bad. I just wish I could’ve enjoyed it a little more … damn wings!

Bill came up to about RMB 400 (including tea & 10% service charge).

Xian Shangri-la

Xian Shangri-la

I love the architecture though.

Siu Yeh Rating: 7/10

Note: Photos taken with Ricoh GR Digital

Xi’an Shangri-la
38B Keji Road
Xian, China 710075
Tel: +86 29 8875 8888
Fax: +86 29 8875 9999

BT Wings (BT 翅) Harms Your Health

So I was in Xi’an again recently and some locals told me about this new(ish) concept called “BT 翅” or “BT Wings”. I’m not sure if this only applies to Xi’an, or whether BT is present throughout China. Whatever it is, its marketing ploy worked because I was on the next cab to find out about this place.

What “BT” stands for is “Bian Tai” (变态), which basically means [more than just] abnormal … almost to the level where it becomes “sick”. The term is usually reserved, I think, for pedophiles, serial killers, people with strange fetishes; basically people with some sort of perversion.

BT Wings

BT Wings

And so here I was, standing in front of the sign, wondering which one I should go for. The “halloween” fonts they used for the “BT” wasn’t going to scare me off and I didn’t come all the way here to have honey wings. I’m going to go all the way! “2 skewers of honey wings and 2 skewers of BT wings” please. (4 skewers for RMB 14)

I should probably add that if you manage to have 10 skewers of BT wings, its free … but you know, I wanted to test the water a little.

Grilling the Wings

Grilling the Wings

So while they’re grilling those wings … I was wondering what all the fuzz was about. Is it in the sauce, like Nuk’em Wings? Apparently not. After they’re done with the wings, they would take the wings behind the counter (away from customers’ sight) and they probably jabbed the skewers into a bucket-load of spice & pepper (see below).

Guess Which One is BT?

Guess Which One is BT?

Interesting.

At this point, I thought maybe this wasn’t such a good idea afterall, but I can’t let YOU down. I strategically used only my teeth to tear a bit of the wings off and chewed, while being extremely careful not to let my lips get in the way. Initially, its not bad at all. I thought maybe this whole thing was a little exaggerated. By the time I had actually felt a tinge of tickle on my throat, I was done with the first skewer.

BT People

BT People

I went on to finish the second skewer of BT chicken wings, and in retrospect, I honestly don’t know why I had done that because I was now sweating a bit, my eyes watery and nose runny. Then I realized, the spice was in the finish! My lips were screaming and my tongue was dead. I stood up and felt a little lightheaded and my instinct told me to walk next door to buy a very cold drink. Luckily, they were serving some mango slush (ice shaves) which cost about RMB 7 (I would’ve paid RMB 70 for that).

Mango Ice Shaves

Mango Ice Shaves

I was getting a bit dizzy by now, but the mango slush really helped … temporarily. When I was done with the drink, I was still feeling those burning sensation in my mouth. That same feeling was to conveniently migrate to the other side the next day as the wings left my system. No, it really isn’t funny.

During the next day or so, my stomach was feeling really bloated and uncomfortable. Dinner at Shangri-la that same night could’ve been a pleasant experience if it weren’t for these BT wings. 真他妈的变态 dude. Nuk’em-level wings is weaker (I wouldn’t say weak) compared to this. This stuff is potent.

These wings are a serious health threat. I wouldn’t recommend any sane person to do this … unless you can really take it.

… what I’d go through for this blog is beyond my comprehension.

Note: Photos taken with Ricoh GR Digital

Siu Yeh Rating: 7/10
(I mean it taste good and stuff … the spice is a little too much to handle)

Jia Jia Tang Bao (佳家汤包)

I voted on the Miele Guide a month or 2 ago and I’m really happy to see Jia Jia Tang Bao (佳家汤包) on the list! And then I realized I’ve been meaning to write about the restaurant since June last year (yes, 10 months ago) … and I still haven’t gotten around to doing it. I will do so right now.

Let’s just say no food blog would ever be complete if Shanghai was the subject and Jia Jia Tang Bao wasn’t mentioned. And that’s saying quite a bit about the restaurant already. If you think Din Tai Fung is good (well, it is), Jia Jia Tang Bao is better – by quite a bit … but DTF is still pretty good (notice I’m being very cautious not to aggravate the Din Tai Fung camp here). And if I were to ever put together a “Top 10 Best Culinary Experience I’ve Had”, this restaurant would also be up there on my list. Wow. Along with Xiao Yang Sheng Jian (小杨生煎馆), which I’ll briefly mention later.

Anyway, given how good this place is, I think it deserves a little story-telling about how I (or rather, my very good friend Vince) found out about the restaurant:

It was in late 2005 when both Vince and I were working as consultants in Shanghai and let’s be honest – what else is there to do then, other than watch pirated DVD’s, eat and clubbing? I think he grew sick of always dining at fancy restaurants (he stayed at the Marriott serviced apartments for 9 months, paid for by the client, of course) and so he went on a mission to scout out good local hideouts. Jia Jia Tang Bao was relatively unknown at the time and he found out about it by asking a taxi driver where he goes for xiao long bao, and you can’t really go wrong with that! Btw, I really think the restaurant should write Vince a cheque and cut him a piece of their profit for spreading the word back in the day … but we’ll have our legal department do that later.

And that was the original Jia Jia Tang Bao, which was located on Henan Nan Lu near Zhong Hua Lu Wen Miao Lu (Thanks for the correction there V). It was literally, a hole-in-wall restaurant with really dirty floor, tables, chopsticks, etc. You can probably fit about 10 customers inside the restaurant and another 10 outside. Opening hours are usually from 11:30AM to about 5-6PM; and that’s because they have limited food supplies every day. Once they’re done selling all their xiao long bao, they’re closed for the day. And just like Din Tai Fung, all of their xiao long bao’s are made fresh every minute.

Because of Huangpu District’s plan to expand Henan Nan Road, that original store had to make way for the district government. If you try to visit that same location today, you’d be standing in the middle of a very busy road. But the owner had strategically opened a newer (and cleaner) branch on Huanghe Road near Nanjing Road (north of People’s Square). This location has been around for close to 3 years now and continues to be frequented by a lot of tourists (mostly from HK), expats working in Shanghai and some locals as well.

Here are some pictures from the Huanghe Road restaurant and their fooooood:

Menu at Jia Jia Tang Bao in Shanghai

Menu at Jia Jia Tang Bao in Shanghai

If you try to visit the restaurant from 11:30AM to about 2:30PM (or maybe even 3PM), expect to wait in line for about 20-30 minutes. Either you go really early, like before 11:30AM, or you go after the lunch rush, which is around 3:30, but if you go any later than say 4:30PM – 5PM, you’ll risk missing out on some of the dumplings since they only make so much each day and if they’re sold out, then they don’t bother making any more!

Jia Jia Tang Bao at 4PM

Jia Jia Tang Bao at 4PM

See, no holes in the wall!

Here’s a Seaweed and Egg Soup (紫菜蛋皮汤), which cost RMB 2 and is absolutely tasteless and MSG-filled. I don’t know why I get this every time – I guess I like the seaweed, but I think its a good way to warm up for what’s coming next.

Seaweed and Egg Soup (紫菜蛋皮汤)

Seaweed and Egg Soup (紫菜蛋皮汤)

The Pork Dumplings. This can be quite salty sometimes, but it really brings out the flavour from the fatty pork, which is basically what the juice / soup is inside the thin layer of skin. I really like my xiao long bao skin thin, and while this might not be quite as thin as the ones from Din Tai Fung, the ones here are really damn close.

Whats even more important than thin skin, is how tough it is. I don’t think I’ve ever had a soup-breakage accident here unless the tang bao’s been sitting in the steam basket for much longer than it should’ve. You know that feeling when you think you have a good grip of the xiao long bao with your chopsticks, only to have the pork ball and soup fall out, leaving you with only the skin? Yeh, non-existent at Jia Jia Tang Bao. Its almost like they had a team research on the skin in a science lab.

Pork Tang Bao (纯鲜肉汤包)

Pork Tang Bao (纯鲜肉汤包)

Btw, if you want to try all of the different flavours, you must work your way up (i.e. have the “simpler” dumplings first … and then proceed to the more “complex” dumplings). Using the price of the dumpling to tell is generally a good gauge, but make sure you tell the lady at the counter that’s how you want it. During the lunch rush, they might just throw whatever is ready at you … which could potentially ruin your culinary experience there.

Here, we made sure the flow was:

  1. Pork Tang Bao (纯鲜肉汤包) – ¥7.5
  2. Crab Roe & Pork Dumplings (蟹粉鲜肉汤包) – ¥19.5
  3. Pure Crab Roe Dumplings (纯蟹粉汤包) – ¥81
Crab Roe & Pork Dumplings (蟹粉鲜肉汤包)

Crab Roe & Pork Dumplings (蟹粉鲜肉汤包)

Next up was the Crab Roe & Pork Dumplings (蟹粉鲜肉汤包) (above), which is a mix between what we just had and what we’re about to have. But I would say its still 80% pork and 20% crab roe. The strong and sharp flavours from the crab roe is unmistakenly there, but it was still pretty much a pork dumpling mixed with small orange oil drops from the crab roe.

Pure Crab Roe Dumplings (纯蟹粉汤包)

Pure Crab Roe Dumplings (纯蟹粉汤包)

All of their dumplings come in a dozen in a steam basket, but the pure crab roe dumplings come in 6 per baskets and they give you 2 baskets. At RMB 81, this is definitely not cheap by Shanghai standards, but what they give you is, as the name suggests … PURE crab roe, crab meat and crab roe oil / essence. Til this day, I have yet to find anything close to the quality / quantity of roe they give you in these pockets of culinary orgasm. Each piece of this dumpling is like eating a mouthful of the best part of a hairy crab – only without all the effort. Enough said.

What remains a mystery to me is that the hairy crab season is between late September to December of each year. So how are they able to serve this dish throughout the year? And how is it that the quality remains the same (assuming they have folks taking out the crab roe and meat from hairy crabs during the fall / winter season every year and put the stuff in the freezer).

Well, that’s not something I should dwell on anyway.

What I should really be concerned about is what a dozen of these pure crab roe dumplings would do to my cholesterol level after every visit. I swear, this or sea urchin will kill me one day.

Pure Crab Roe Dumplings (纯蟹粉汤包) - Close Up

Pure Crab Roe Dumplings (纯蟹粉汤包) - Close Up

Just look at that!!!

The Essence!

The Essence!

Our battle trophies.

One of the most satisfying meals you'll likely have

One of the most satisfying meals you'll likely have

This place continues to be one of my gratifying culinary experiences ever … but to those 2 ladies below … it was just another day at Jia Jia Tang Bao. Such simplicity and zero-pretentiousness = Shanghai’s most underrated restaurant.

Taking a break from the lunch rush

Taking a break from the lunch rush

Two items were sold out already as we were leaving …

If you're late, you might miss out!

If you're late, you might miss out!

Jia Jia Tang Bao  (佳家汤包)
Huanghe Lu (near Nanjing Road West)

Oh and if you’re still not full (although I’m pretty sure you will be stuffed) … look across the street and you’re find the equally famous Xiao Yang Sheng Jian, but that definitely deserves its own little post. Here’s a glimpse of the Huanghe Lu branch (not Wujiang Lu branches).

Yangs Fry Dumplings (小杨生煎馆) on Huanghe Lu

Yangs Fry Dumplings (小杨生煎馆) on Huanghe Lu

If you want to do it the Shanghai way, try visiting the restaurant in your PJ’s, just like that gentleman you see in the middle. It was like 4PM!

Waiting for the next batch of Sheng Jian Baos

Waiting for the next batch of Sheng Jian Baos

If you’ve never seen how real shen jian dumplings are made, have a look … it always amazes me how they’re able to handle a burning metal plate with ripped cardboards as grips.

Menu at 小扬生煎馆

Menu at 小扬生煎馆

These 2 are must-try restaurants in Shanghai. And yes, you can quote Siuyeh. You won’t regret it … but be warned. If you’re having more than 4 shen jian bao’s from 小扬生煎馆 for lunch, you can pretty much forget about dinner.

Shenzhen Laurel Restaurant (深圳丹桂軒飲食集團)

This is definitely one of my favorite restaurant in Shenzhen.

Apparently, they’re also 1 of 10 best restaurant groups in China for many years consecutively. The group has about 5-6 restaurants in Shenzhen, 1 in Macau’s StarWorld Galaxy and a few others in Southern China. The one that I usually go to (the only location I keep going to) is located on the second floor of the Shenzhen Century Plaza Hotel (深圳新都酒店). Its clean and the restaurant is separated by a smoking and non-smoking section the entire length of the hotel lobby (lol). The staff is attentive and most importantly, their food is of extremely high standards (for reasonable prices … well, compared to Hong Kong anyway).

So what kind of Chinese food do they serve? I would say a mixture of Chinese ethnic cuisine, but with an emphasis on Southern China cuisine. But you can still get  Kao Ya (烤鴨) or what we Cantonese call Peen Pei Aap (片皮鴨), which if I’m not mistaken, originated from Beijing?

An added bonus to why I love Laurel Restaurant so much is their emphasis on wine pairing. Obviously, they still serve a range of other Chinese liquor, but for a local Chinese restaurant to be so serious about wine is a quite refreshing concept to me. No really, they have decent, more-than-drinkable wine (not some RMB 30 bottle) everywhere in the restaurant and a pretty nice wine cellar. It looks like wine really is picking up in the mainland!

Beef Cubes with Onions (铁板牛柳)

Beef Cubes with Onions (铁板牛柳)

First up was beef steak chopped into cubes, served medium on a piping hot metal plate … so its still cooking right in front of you. The dish is nothing new, but its cooked very well … the beef is really juicy and extremely flavourful and not too chewy; all of which are signs that the beef is fresh, and wasn’t drenched in soda powder / baking soda and water (something you might find in the HK$ 48 lunch set at Steak Expert!).

Crabs with Vermicelli (粉丝蟹锅)

Crabs with Vermicelli (粉丝蟹锅)

Next was a Vermicelli Crab Pot. Whenever I order this dish, I’m not really ordering for the crabs. Its the vermicelli I want … because it had absorbed the flavours from the crab, plus generous amounts of garlic, spice and sauce. You’ll see its a pretty “dry” pot, but that’s because all the essence has gone into the vermicelli. Yum. Unfortunately, when I had this dish, the crab wasn’t as fresh as I’d hope for … the meat felt a little loose, which probably means it wasn’t as fresh as it should’ve been. Minus points here.

Roast Duck (烤鸭)

Roast Duck (烤鸭)

This is really good. But its not quite the same as Beijing’s Quanjude (北京全聚德) … but I can’t quite point my finger on why. I’m guessing the ducks from Quanjude is fatter and roast differently than the ones from Laurel Restaurant. In fact, the roast duck here at Laurel are pretty “lean” but Kao Ya standards haha … the layer of fat between the meat and the skin is really quite thin.

Anyway, the chef would come out, show you the roasted duck and ask whether you want “thin cut” or “thick cut”. Usually the latter includes a bit of meat on it as well … but I usually get the thin cut, which is literally just the roasted skin of the duck.

Place the skin in the wrap (sort of like a Pita, but very thin and less dry), add sweet sauce, cucumber, spring onion … and there you have it!

What left is a perfectly good skinned duck and they’ll ask you how you want it cooked. They dice the meat up and fry it together with anything you want. In this particular case, we had it with bitter melon (苦瓜), which I’ve conveniently forgotten to snap a photo of. I know … I’m not usually a fan of bitter melon, but its actually not bad. Not too bitter for a start.

Spring Onion Chicken

Spring Onion Chicken

This dish also made an impression on me. The way the chef prepared it was steam the chicken until its about 70% cooked, all the while being extremely careful not to let the juice out. Then he’ll fry the chicken on high heat (or flame) in a wok with a generous amount of garlic, shallots, onions, spring onion, ginger and parsley. Take the chicken out of the wok, chop and place neatly on dish before pouring all the remaining contents from the wok on the chicken. Its so good.

Pepper & Salt Frog Legs :)

Pepper & Salt Frog Legs 🙂

One of Laurel Restaurant’s many specialty dishes and also one of my favorite at the restaurant is the Pepper & Salt Frog Legs (椒鹽田雞腿). I order it every time and quality has been pretty consistent throughout. They’re deep-fried just right with the outside slightly crunchy and the insides cooked, but not overcooked (i.e. its still very juicy inside) … hmm … not to mention, its not too salty and there’s a good balance between the pepper and salt.

We had this other chicken soup too, but I forgot to take a photo of it … sorry! Their soup (both chicken and fish soup) is quite popular because they comes with a heavy dose of Chinese herbs (a mix of ginseng, dongguai, tongsum, red dates and kei chi / wolfberries); Not-quite-your-ordinary Chinese soup. I’m sure its different for everyone, but for me, it was one of those hearty soup that sits really well in your stomach and you feel warm all over … yeh, probably best for winter.

We Won RMB 500!!!

We Won RMB 500!!!

The bill came out to be about RMB 980 for a group of 5, which is neither cheap or too expensive (I’d say its a little skewing the higher-end, especially in China standards … but I’m comparing prices along the Bund in Shanghai, etc.). BUT, as we were doing our little “scratchy” thing on the fa piao’s (发票), we got RMB 500!!! You can’t really see it clearly though … I was using my iPhone … I wish I had my D60 so I get a good close-up of the unmistakable 伍佰元 . How crazy is that? I’ve gotten RMB 20 before, but winning RMB 500 is like … winning second or third prize to the Mark Six Lottery in Hong Kong … or so I was told. Apparently, there’s also RMB 1,000, 5,000 and even 10,000 but that’s exponentially harder to get … obviously.

So we basically got a 50% discount for the meal 🙂

Siu Yeh Rating: 9/10!

Note: Photos taken with an iPhone.

Shenzhen Laurel Restaurant (深圳丹桂軒飲食集團)
Shenzhen Century Plaza Hotel (深圳新都酒店)
深圳市建设路
Shenzhen, China

Lafite Rothschild Genuinely Made in China

WOW! x 571904371483147143

Rothschild Lafite Enters the China Market

Rothschild Lafite Enters the China Market

This appeared in yesterday’s Apple Daily … in a nutshell:

  • Domaines Barons de Rothschild and CITIC East China (Group) Corp. Ltd. (中信華東(集團)有限公司) will set up a joint venture to establish a winery in Penglai city, Shandong province (山東省蓬萊市)
  • The proposed vineyard will cover an area of over 25,000 square metres
  • Given the similarity in climate between Shandong province and Bordeaux, this JV may very well produce a “Grand Cru” that is made in China
  • The investment estimated to be going into this JV will be in the region of RMB 100 million!

This is crazy. GO CHINA!!!

Yan’an Highway in 3.5 Minutes & Smoking Toddler!

I’m addicted to Youku.com … again, credits to Steven Lin for all the crazy stuff happening in China.

Smoking Baby in Sichuan
SLR + Turbo Top Speed on Yan’an Highway

Nuts. What’s even crazier is the way the kid’s smoking doesn’t seem like a first time for him. Irresponsible parenting.