Thursday, December 29, 2011

Seafood Banquet and Breathtaking Sights in Guilin, China



Breakfast started with a bowl of spicy noodle soup, steamed BBQ pork buns, and some luo han guo tea.



There were more dumplings and stir-fried noodles too.



Instead of sweet potatoes we had the previous day, there were taro fingerlings. There was also glutinous rice with corn and red beans wrapped in banana leaves.

Everyone enjoyed our breakfast at the hotel. Although it wasn’t the best food, it hit the spot.

Our tour group gathered together on the bus and we were told that we’d be going up to the mountains. I didn’t find out what was going on until our tour bus pulled into the parking lot though. It sucks not being able to understand and/or speak in Cantonese.


We took a sketchy-looking chair lift up to the top. For some reason, we weren’t allowed to ride in the safer-looking cable car. The chair lift brought us over three or four mountains. When we got off, the tour guide told us that the lookout was famous. As I walked through the snaking barriers, I peered over to my right. My jaw dropped and my eyes shrunk with happiness. What? I have Chinese eyes.


I could’ve spent the whole day just overlooking the mountains, let alone capturing it all on camera. The weather wasn’t the best though. We were pushed around by the chilly gusts of wind and peppered with raindrops. (Click the photo to see a larger version on Flickr)

We walked to the back of the lookout and walked along a wall of art pieces depicting all the animals in the Chinese calendar.



Our tour guides rushed us back to ride the chair lift back down. Being a tourist destination and all, we had to walk through a small store that sold all kinds of things just to get back to the chair lift. This is where they get the tourists who spend their money easily.


In front of the parking lot, a lady was selling fresh persimmons, sweet potatoes, and a few other fruits. I was so tempted to buy the persimmons, but I just snapped a few photos instead. I regret not trying some.


For lunch, we were served fresh and finger-licking seafood. We were lead to a private room that was brightly lit by a giant window. There was Li Jiang beer, Sprite, pickled veggies, salted peanuts, and some marinated bean curds.


Our giant Lazy Susan had two spots for hot pot. Pretty cool!



The steamed fish with green onions, ginger, and soy sauce was super fresh, tender and sweet. There wasn’t a hint of fishiness or muddiness. There was a plate of lotus root chips, sausages, slices of pork, and more salted peanuts.



The dishes during our meal were beautifully presented. They fried some small fishes, skewered and hung them over a bed of stir-fried shrimps. Again, the shrimp and fishes were sweet.


We had a little breather courtesy of a bowl of chicken soup. The clear soup was light and helped clean our palates. Onto the second round of dishes!





Crabs were stir-fried until fragrant with garlic and hints of ginger, stir-fried plate of veggies with wood ear mushrooms, and lightly battered corn, chickpeas, beans and red peppers with thin wrappers.

The crabs were meaty and sweet, but they were really greasy. The veggies still had a slight crunch and freshness that wasn’t cooked out. As for the wraps, I really tried to like this dish but I couldn’t get over how hard the battered corns, beans, and other stuff were. I’m not quite sure what all the battered stuff was, but it was tough to chew.

We would’ve all been happy with the dishes we were eating, but there were even more dishes! Round three… ding!





The only thing I remember about this dish was the super fresh and super soft tofu. I couldn’t get enough of this stuff. The tofu was deep fried and then stir-fried with squid, green peppers, carrots, onions and oyster sauce. The molten hot tofu innards barely held together. The silky tofu reminded me of a dish our family had at the House of Gourmet a while ago.

I found the banana with shrimp fritters a bit weird. The flavours didn’t compliment the other. In fact, the ripe bananas overpowered the shrimp. It wasn’t that bad, only cause I thought of it as a dessert.

The scallops on the half shell were beautifully presented, although it was glistening with oil. Topped with minced garlic, peppers, and green onions, the scallop sat on top of a bit of noodles. We only discovered a thin slice of scallop hiding on top of the noodles. I found it funny that they sliced the scallops so thinly. Crafty mofos!

The star of the meal came near the end. I don’t know what to call it. Let’s just say it was braised shark fin with mushrooms.


Everyone in the tour group was given one of these bowls. Each of the bowls were heated underneath by tea candles. Like I mentioned before, I don’t really care for shark fin. I was more intrigued with the thick orange soup.

While enjoying the brightly coloured soup, I tried to find words to describe the flavour. But I couldn’t. It was like tomato soup, but not really. I couldn’t really pick any specific flavours out. In the end, I gave up and finished a bowl and a half of the soup with some leftover wrappers – without the filling, I might add.

Lunch was definitely the best meal in Guilin. I had a hard time imagining another meal better than that. Oh, and we were given more food…


Green onion pancakes? Overkill much? I didn’t get how the pancakes fit in with the seafood banquet.


Dessert consisted of slices of oranges and watermelon. I wish we could’ve gotten more oranges. Lunch was pretty greasy and heavy.

We all waddled back to the bus and drove to a place called Guilin Ideal World Scenic Spot. Our tour group boarded another boat and went on another boat tour. This time, we were guided down the Swallow Lake and through the Swallow Cave.


There were a few lotus ponds along the way. Pretty cool. These are the same lotus leaves that people use to wrap glutinous rice with a variety of fillings (aka zhongzi).


Here’s a view of one of the buildings by the Swallow Lake. I miss seeing these moutains. This is my current desktop.

Once the tour at the Guilin Ideal World Scenic Spot was over, we drove back for dinner.


Super light Chinese beer with Sprite anyone?

Dinner was pretty forgettable.





Out of all the dishes that night, our group really liked the battered taro chips in a sweet and sour sauce, egg, bean curd with chives, and the bean, carrot and pork stir fry.





The other dishes: pork with squash, steamed daikon with minced meat, steamed fish, and stir fried chicken with green peppers and onions. Our meal ended with sliced watermelons.

We spent a lot of time traveling in the bus, but it was well worth the sights. For me, this was definitely the most memorable day in Guilin, China. If you only have a few days in Guilin, you must go up to the mountains and go visit the Guilin Ideal World Scenic Spot. It's worth it.

Breakfast and Tea Tasting: First Day in Guilin

Last Day in Guilin

More links from the Tea in Asia 2011 trip:

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