*Entries in this series are going to be photo-heavy…
My recent trip to Guangzhou wasn’t the first time I’ve wandered to this part of China, but I’d come back in a heartbeat because it’s a good place to be. Though not as metropolitan as Beijing or Shanghai, Guangzhou has its own level of hustle and bustle that is comparable to Cebu: Lively, but not so hectic.
The first few times I went to China, the weather was chilly. We had 17-20°C, which was already too cold for my sensitive-skinned mother and grandmother. This time, though, it was pretty much only 1-2°C lower than Manila. It was hot! And the only redeeming value was that it wasn’t humid, so I didn’t have to suffer through sticky sweat. I had to wonder why a lot of the folks there wore jackets and long sleeves.
We arrived late at night and rode a bus from the airport to a sort of town square that was a 5-minute taxi ride to our hotel. After getting settled in, we were ready for a decent meal. (For “dinner”, I simply had a cheese roll and some mineral water on the plane. There was no time to get food at the airport, since we were running late already.) There was a choice between 24-hour McDonald’s and a modern-design Chinese restaurant that closed late.
Of course, the Chinese restaurant won. They had so many items on the menu, it made my head spin. We ended up ordering congee (granny), noodles (parents), and black pepper steak with rice (my favorite!). However, photos aren’t available because, believe it or not, the restaurant does not allow it.
After the meal, it was a walk back to the hotel and some well-deserved sleep.
Can I just say that I love the modern interiors at the Grand Continental. The windows are huge, and we had a view of the Pearl River off to the side. It was also very nice that they had a microwave oven and induction cooker. But they didn’t have any cookware stored in the room. Maybe you have to rent it?
We pretty much slept in and had to rush downstairs to make it to breakfast before the buffet closed. Did I mention how fabulous the interior design is?
I must admit that we have this embarrassing travel habit of making the most of the breakfast buffet. It gets us through all the way to lunch, and the energy-boost is much needed when there’s a lot of walking involved.
As you can see, I literally have a full plate. Pancakes, chicken nuggets, lamb barbecue (more on that later), a slice of ham, a roll of fried toast with yam filling and sesame seed coating, chocolate cereals, some tea, and a glass of milk. The milk and the tea were later mixed to form a poorly-made milk tea.
Then there came the 2nd plate, with its sausage and “banana fritters”. The latter is a cute and banana-shaped snack. It’s breaded outside, but the inside is a gooey, yellow, banana-flavored tikoy (glutinous rice cake). I can imagine this being sold warm and in skewers. Yummy.
One hearty breakfast and a window shopping session later, I found my favorite snack turo-turo stand. It’s a simple booth where different forms of noodles and rice bowls are sold until noon, and then replaced with stockpots of desserts and snacks priced at RMB3+ (Php21.00) by early afternoon. The nice lady (the one on the left of the photo below) was amused by my snapping photos of the soups and her scooping. Touristy me…
My old discovery was the warm black sesame soup. I can only describe the roasted, crushed seeds as sweet and addictive. I always have to have that. And this stall makes such a delicious bowl. I have bought the powdered instant versions of this soup from groceries so that I could hoard it back home, but it’s just not the same.
Grandma preferred to have what we call lay-yah bok-nee in Fukien. It’s snow fungus stewed with pears. The flavor was mild and reminded me of a tonic, rather than syrupy like what the restaurants here in Manila serve. Also, the usual bok-nee I get to try contain red dates and goji berries, so this was a departure.
Mother had the Guilinggao (turtle jelly). This dessert dates dates waaaay back to the time when those who prepared this had to get some powdered shell of turtle. These days though, most vendors have backed off of using actual turtle product. At first glance, it is easy to mistake this for grass jelly in syrup. But the flavor is a little on the bitter side, offset by the sweetness of the syrup. That particular bowl wasn’t too bitter for me, as I’ve eaten more potent mixtures when I was younger. And to think I was steeling myself for the ocean of bitter…
I get nostalgic for these things. It’s a shame that we don’t really get to prepare any of it at home, save for the bok-nee, which has to be special-requested from our old cook who, luckily, indulges my little whims. It is my goal to learn how to make these, if only to fuel my nostalgic trips down memory lane.
To Be Continued…