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Mutianyu Fishing Village, Beijing

My trip to the Great Wall couldn’t have been more fantastic without a stop at Mutianyu Fish Restaurant.

This was an open-air eatery with a cemented pond full of freshwater fish. Very local crowd (many of whom showed up shirtless). No English menu. No English speaking waiters. My taxi driver, who could barely speak the language, kept repeating the word “fish” to me. And there I was on international call to my best friend in Thailand, who happened to be a bloody amazing interpreter, pleading her to order me dishes from the menu she had never seen over the phone. The Chinese hostess was patient and helpful (unlike ones in London’s Chinatown) and a moment later my meal was sorted.

I was having fish..

The hostess waved me to follow her. The Other Bib was trailing behind, intimidated by this assertive Chinese woman. And she handed me over a net (!?!!!?!!!!). That’s it. What my dearest friend failed to tell me was that at this restaurant diners catch fish themselves.

Right!

There were carps and sturgeons. I aimed for the smallest and slowest thing that moved. Ended up with a fish I knew not what gaping exasperatingly for execution.

Back at table and whilst the fish was being prepared, my parade of Chinese dishes arrived. Omelet with spring onions was expertly done, spongy and super-scrumptious. Braised pork belly with chestnuts was wonderfully caramelised in sweet soy sauce and rice wine. Pungent aroma, unctuous fat and chalky chestnuts – just what I loved!! Nice crunches and minimalist freshness from wild mushrooms stir-fried with sweet peppers.

The fish?

My fish was done two ways. The first was this braised fillets in dark soy sauce and rice wine and toppled with celery leaves. It boast the uber-freshness as if life had not yet been drained out of this fish. The flavour was, however, slightly underwhelming. Too rich the sauce that marred the delicateness of the fillet. The second serving was a lot more of success. Fish fillets were heavily rubbed with soy sauce, chilli and fennel seeds and finished on the charcoal grill. PERFECT!! The marinate seeped into the molecules of the fish, pleasantly surprised by intense smoky-ness. I couldn’t have asked for anything better.

Mutianyu Fish Restaurant was.. just sublime. Easy, comforting, exciting, hygienic. Anything you could have asked for at a restaurant in a foreign land. And above all else the bill for two with rice, beer and water came to less than £20.

I am definitely returning..

And I would love to squeeze my friend really tightly. She does know what I like eating!!

Enough said,

My head rating says, “9 out of 10″.

My heart rating says, “8 out of 10″.

MUTIANYU FISHING VILLAGE

Right hand side, on the road up to Mutianyu Great Wall
Beijing
China

www.mutianyugreatwall.net 

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Guo Li Zhuang Penis Restaurant, Beijing

Not in a million years would I imagine cock-eating an art form…

Big & hard, or at times, sloppy & grisly.. down yer throat and that’s it. A moment of pleasurable suffocation. So, when I came across Guo Li Zhuang Penis Restaurant in Beijing, I thought a weirdo’s gimmick, a myth of virility. What’s more could this be?

Still.. the little voice in me knew myself better. I am a bit of a weirdo and like (to test) gimmicks, though I am yet to experience a myth of virility. Off I went scrambling my way around Dongsishitiao for this. One restaurant that appeared a Chinene medicine shop. I couldn’t see tables, chairs, waiters from the outside, but I did smell the perfume of dry roots and crackling barks being simmered for hours. Not aromatically enticing.

 

Walked in. I was led into this a dimly lit hallway, and then, a starkly white room. There were about 5-6 of them. An old humming air-con. A table for four. One door. No window. One brightly coloured menu with calligraphic illustrations of erect mountains, Napoleon and Genghis Khan. No Queen Elizabeth. No Kate. The Chinese waiters so casually dressed I couldn’t tell they were actually at work blocked the door. No escape. I gestured for the hot pot and a lavish array of members. £80 approx.

They left.. I was locked in.

Maybe.

I couldn’t tell…

And for the first time I felt … well… fucked … at a penis restaurant.

A moment later the cocks arrived. Three or four waiters took turns telling me which was which in broken English. Each seemed able to memorize no more than three English words. It was too late at night to ring my lovely personal translator. So, cum .. come what may.

THIS.. the Asian dream? A circumcised, 8-or-so incher stood erect on a landscape of mutilated penises with bushes of parsley barely covered the well carved, bright red testis. You couldn’t really say no to this spectacle!

I took time examining the raw cocks. Thoroughly cleaned. No sperm. No Spunk. Smelled fresh. There were five kinds, namely yak, donkey, sheep, dog and deer. The latter came in slices and in chunks. The donkey’s appeared pre-cooked. The meat came from the shafts. No gland. No corona. No urethra…..

.. meaning if you had not been informed they were members, it was not likely you would have made it out yourselves.

The real stunner was, however, the hot pot. Once the lid was lifted up, I smelled this influx of sweet aroma permeating the room. Looking down, however, was an experience I was not sure I wanted to reprise..

.. there was this milk-coloured soup wherein a turtle swam.

To be precise, the turtle had already been dissected. Guts removed. Just the shell, the part which was strongly and most frequently associated with Chinese medicine, the legs and.. the head. The soup, apart from the turtle, was an infusion of a rather mild stock with dried longans, goji berries, Chinese dates and Chinese ginseng shavings. Light and bordering on being fruity. I was not sure what contributed the milky colour. I was also served smoky chilli relish, ginger-infused soy sauce, and soy bean sauce to go with my penises.

And rice.

ALL THIS

Cooking.

Eating cocks was more complicated than what I was used to. I was not allowed to touch the cocks. My waiters did it all for me. The yak’s went in first. Just poached for a few minutes. Crunchy gelatinous texture, similar to that of big, but not brilliant quality, sea cucumbers. A hint of beefy taste. Not robust. Delicious! The sheep’s was the second in. Limp but long. Lightly gashed to fan out when cooked. Required longer cooking time. Soft, cartilage-like texture. Tasted million times better than the deep-fried ones at Dong Hua Men Night Market. It wasn’t my favourite.

The deer’s and the donkey’s were thrown in almost at the same time. The sliced deer’s members had a springy, jellyfish-like texture. Tasted wonderfully like venison. Visibly, the most well-hung, the donkey’s, as it’d been pre-cooked, was merely re-heated in the hot pot. Meatiest and very fragrance. Unlike donkey meat, the penis boast delectable fat content. Both taste and texture worked. It really put a big smile on my face. This was followed by the deer’s cock chunk. Improved texture compared to the sliced ones. There was chewable firmness and tenderness. As it was a bigger piece, the game-y aroma was more pronounced.

The dog’s was saved for last. Slimy and gummy looking. Took 10+ minutes to cook. It seemed to love hot bath and puffed up in excitement. Sweet and distinctly strong flavour. A surprise contrast to its spongy and light texture. This was rounded up with turtle’s feet. Gelatinous. Imagine chicken skin texture but more dense and rather bone-y.

 

Between these five penis tasting, I was also served many mini bowls of soup from the hot pot. The flavour metamorphosed from fruity sweetness, to steeply intense meaty-ness at the end. I mopped up all the bits left, finished my rice.. and utterly fell for the animals’ members.

Was I into bestiality?

Hope not..

That was about it.

One unforgettable meal. The menu (which I asked my friend to roughly translate) spoke highly of medicinal benefits of eating penises. Good skin, good blood circulation, good erection. Whether all that worked was private ;-)

All I knew was I opened my eyes and mouth wide enough to take up five penises. This was my ultimate eating experience yet. I would miss this room, this sweet ginseng perfume, and the “members”…

I will be back.. maybe. Who knows?

 

Enough said,

My head rating says, “9 out of 10″.

My heart rating says, “9 out of 10″.

GUO LI ZHUANG PENIS RESTAURANT

34B Dongsishitiao
Dongcheng District
Beijing
China

Tel. +86 8411 6666

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Shun Yi Fu Dumplings Restaurant, Beijing

I rarely venture into a department store restaurant when I am on holiday. And the setting of Shun Yi Fu Dumplings Restaurant – in a bustlingly westernised APM mall in the heart of Wang Fu Jing shopping street – can easily write itself off from my gourmand map.

I was wrong..

Again The Other Bib (who has been to Beijing 5 times) pointed me this. A rather laissez-faire dumpling eatery. White washed walls. Box standard Chinese restaurant look.. with the finishing touch of its waiters in a waistcoat. The price tag was so low it pained me to look at. The menu was short of being complicated. Dumplings, called Jiaozi, are the restaurant’s specialities. The menu featured 10+ filling variations for them Beijing dumplings. You can either have them boiled or pan-fried (just like at Jen’s Cafe in London’s Chinatown).

Cold Slices of Donkey Meat to nibble. Very lean but as it was served cold, it bordered on being a little too tough. It had, however, a wonderful fragrance of star anise and a natural sweetness to it. I opted for Donkey and Scallions Dumplings, a very generous portion of 15 decently filled pieces. Delectably tender and mellow texture. A little crunch of freshness from finely chopped scallions. Light elasticity from the casing. My other plate of Pork and Chinese Cabbage was also pleasant, boasting finely minced and well seasoned pork. I drizzled them with little chilli oil and soy vinegar.. yummmmm!

I also barely tasted any MSG.

Steamed and Fried Buns were exactly how I envisioned my happy meal to end. Densely silky buns were a little sweet and salted. Precisely cut and sensually greased with oil. The fried ones were perfectly golden brown and crisp on the outside. I dipped them into this mini bowl of condensed milk. Tasty.. the sort of dish that brought out the kid in me ^_^

What I got from Shun Yi Fu was an easy meal, inconspicuously delicious. Yes, the bill was agonising. We paid an approximate amount of £10 between us (and we couldn’t eat up all dishes). This was pretty much traditional Chinese “fast food” where decent quality ingredients met skillful cooking.

And I must admit that I like it.. quite a bit.

Enough said,

My head rating says, “8 out of 10″.

My heart rating says, “7 out of 10″.

SHUN YI FU DUMPLINGS RESTAURANT

5flr Beijing APM
138 Wang Fu Jing Da Jie/Avenue
Dong Cheng District
Beijing
China

Tel. +86 651 39558

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Pyongyang Hae Dang Hwa Restaurant, Beijing

Despite Pyongyang Hae Dang Hwa’s being on the other side of the globe, I had the opportunities to dine there four times in the last two years.

The Other Bib stumbled across it.. a North Korean restaurant (now with four branches in Beijing) rumoured to cater high-profile NK officials and affluent businessmen in China. A “very expensive restaurant” according to a few Beijingians who we know but have never been. Inside there are many private rooms traditionally laid. The main dining room is warm and cosy – all decorated with wood and exuding a rather retro-perfect vision of life unspoilt by the materialistic world. Tearfully beautiful NK waiters floundered in traditional dresses and professsional female-only performers hopped from room to room with musical instruments. No photography is allowed. No phone ( my Other Bib claimed). And, of course, no English is spoken.

First (second, third and fourth) time.. we were blown away, fell instantaneously in love with everything about this restaurant, from the ambiance, the very helpful and friendly service (we used hand gesture a lot as we can’t speak Mandarin!), and THE FOOD!! Very traditional North Korean cooking with a “pomp” factor. Prime ingredients, many of which were unheard of, being flown in fresh from their motherland and traditionally prepared with utmost thoughts, precision and care. All arrived with a spectacular display.

“Very expensive”?!?

NO.. our banquet for two at Hae Dang Hwa never soared above £50 per person. And the price per dish varies from around £3 to £80.

These were what we had from our last trips. Sneaky shots…

Kimchi, pickled in house, was freshest and crunchiest. Not exaggeratingly powerful as the one we are accustomed to in the West. The vinegar was not too sharp or the chilli too robust. Korean traditional rice cakes were these little discs of scrumptiousness. Very similar to the Kuzu bread I had at Mugaritz (and surely a rival to Mugaritz’s perfection) but with a lot more sweetness. Shellfish Soup arrived as a medley of prawns, clams, abalone, scallops, cloud ears and shitake mushroons half poached in a gigantic shell. The delicate broth was to be poured into the shell at table. Steamed Egg with Sea Urchin was one of my most favourites at HDH. Silky egg custard (similar to Japanese chawanmushi) was rightly seasoned and steamed to perfection. Underneath was this very distinct layer of sea urchin, adding pleasurable roughness and sea-fresh aroma to the dish.

More goodies? Raw Beef with Korean Pear was equally stunning. It came as this artistically shaped ball with a firm yolk resting on top. I couldn’t snap a shot before it was mixed up. Clarity from the juicy pear batons to match with very tender strips of beef, pine nuts and sesame oil. Glass Noodle Vermicelli with Flying Fish Roe boast a playful heat from dried chilli sautee with onions. Barbecue Beef Tenderloin was well marinated and served on heated, sesame oil-lubed stone to keep the temperature and generate appetising aroma. Very tender. Mt Kumgang Pine Tree Mushroom was a foraged item and one of the most expensive on the menu – about £40. Here it was just flash grilled and coated (at table) in traditional salted oil. Nearly raw texture. Subtle in flavours. Very notable, pine-like aroma as if I dashed through a very high mountain after a bite.

The actual highlights..

Lobster!! Steamed, lightly sauteed in oil and served on a bed of cloud-shaped omelette. A very minimalist approach to highlight its supreme quality. The head and the legs were later taken away to be re-created another dish, a sauteed head in white pepper. Divine. I hyperventilated very much when seeing this massive tray-sized plate of Seacucumber and East Sea Abalones. The plump, gelatinous seacucumber was stuffed with soft chicken paste and carefully braised in oyster sauce based gravy. There was a distinct sweetness from goji berries, setting it apart from the more salty and savoury Chinese version. Nicely cooked abalones and crunchy, finely sliced asparagus-like stems, too. This sea cucumber dish cost around £40. A ridiculously low price as a similar but half as big offering at Hakkasan would cost more than £100 or even more when I crossed over to Hong Kong’s three-Michelin-starred Lung King Heen!

For more adventurous offerings, I reprised this Dog Meat Hot Pot. Braised roulade of dog’s legs toppled with some ground nuts, spring onions and an infusion of tomato and chilli sauce. The meat was fragrant. Not that robustly game-y sort of smell but more delicate. It also fell apart nicely. The skin that held the roulade, however, was not pleasant. Quite gelatinous and tasted as if it could slither. We also had Snapping Turtle Soup with Gingeng, which was basically a turtle dissected, re-assembled with its shell intact and served in a soup-y pot as if it was still swimming. The Other Bib detested the look but I was in love with the pungent ginseng note and the bone-y turtle claws. An ideal dish for winter (when we had it).

And the meal concluded with this. A simple bowl of North Korean Cold Noodle, a NK speciality hardly found in any South Korean restaurants. The dish comprised of glass noodle, chilli-pickled radish, chilli paste, beef slices, fresh Daikon and shredded omelette in chilled, crystal clear consomme. It was a dish of paradox that shook my taste bud with vinegar-y acidity and chilli but also appeased it with cooling broth and perceptibly sweet pinenut aftertaste.

That’s it.. my two meals conflated into one post. There are (still) dishes I have not mentioned. A little of our “privacy”. But, very briefly, the cooking at Hae Dang Hwa, I believe, can trace back to some centuries-old Korean tradition. There was craft, finesse, balance, comfort and memorable theatricality. And, above all else, it was so innocent and pure. The sort of food that has not yet been polluted by the artful gastronomy of the “outside” world. This is, perhaps, a glimpse of what this much vilified nation might be like, if not now, many decades ago.

Picking up the restaurant’s tri-lingual booklet on my way out, I found out there is a Hae Dang Hwa recently unveiled in Amsterdam. Cannot wait to check this out!

Enough said,

My head rating says, “10 out of 10″.

My heart rating says, “10 out of 10″.

Beijing Pyongyang Hae Dang Hwa Restaurant

2nd Flr, Wangshibaili
No.12 Kuntai Building
Chaowai Street
Choyang District
Beijing
China

Tel. +86 010 85612926 or +86 010 85613109

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Duck of Quanjude

This is just a ‘sharing’ post and I won’t attempt at reviewing the restaurant. You might probably have heard of Quanjude as THE PLACE for its most seductive, most authentic Peking duck, and if you are a keen traveller to the Far East, you might probably have known that Quanjude has branched out to many locations of Beijing. And, this was the place I visited last year…

What’s so special?

The ducks of Quanjude are roasted in a massive open fire oven and they are also numbered. The server – or rather the chef – who comes to each table to fillet the duck will inform you which number of duck you are having. The highlight of this Peking duck lies in its extremely light and crispy skin, its juicy fat and the tender meat. The serving focuses on the crispy skin, served wrapped in pancakes with sliced cucumber, spring onion and Hoi Sin sauce, and the discard of the actual meat. You can opt to have that discarded meat prepared as a main dish. So, what’s the difference between Quanjude’s duck pancakes and the Aromatic ones in the UK? Say, here in the UK, diners opt for the meat, usually a leg roasted, deep-fried and flaked to form the main part of the pancake filling. Personally, I find the skin-only eating more appealing and not too heavy for an appetiser dish.

Other dishes?

The dishes at Quanjude are traditional to its core. There are some rare Chinese treats that I couldn’t just help ordering loads, such as (1) Turtle Shell in Garlic Sauce and (2) Aromatic Camel Hump. The turtle shell has this soft but slightly springy jellyfish-like texture and very clear, fresh and mild flavour. The sauce is oyster-sauce-based with the bulby garlics adding aroma and sweetness. The camel hump is my favourite and quite similar to Crispy Mongolian Lamb. Very spiced and with a hint of chilli, the meat is very thinly sliced and cooked to ultimate dry crispiness. No foul, gamy smell remains.

QUANJUDE

32 N.3rd Ring Road West
Haidian
Beijing
China

Tel. +86 10 6219 9099

www.quanjude.com.cn