Farm-to-Plate Culture Rising in Shenzhen
It’s funny that when you are preparing for your first trip to China, you fall under a lot of comments from many people who have never been to China warning you about the food, water, etc. Sometimes they are right but many times its based on preconceived ideas possibly gained by hearing it from somewhere else or seeing a tv show.
I know personally when I got to China, I migrated to the fast food chains which I would never go to in the US just out of self-defense because I was certain the food here would make me sick or worse.
That was far from the truth. Sure there are street food vendors and restaurants doing very bad practices (we will be reporting on fake alcohol, fake rice, fake eggs, etc on our video channels) but that happens also in the US more then we care to admit.
One thing I came to a conclusion on after living here for three years is that China has a great farm-to-plate culture and many restaurants that you find here are ran by families who farm their own vegetables, raise their own cattle or even make their own vinegar and wines.
I am always really appreciative of establishments who don’t mind showing you where their cattle are raised and how they are taken care of because that’s definitely not the kind of information you will see in the states when your eating in a restaurant in most cases.
莲香西域 DISHES OUT AMAZING MEATS
This was something that stood out to me when I went to 莲香西域 (Lotus Fragrant Western Regions).
I was actually walking home from Raffle City Starbucks and was passing by this restaurant to see a video of their free-range lamb in the mountains and was intrigued enough to step in and speak to the manager for a bit and come to find out, he is from the North-West region which is very Kazakstan where the lamb is raised and hand picked to be flown into the restaurant. I won’t go into all the details, but they carefully pick their lambs from free-range fields and make sure that they are no more than 20KG when they are picked so that the meat that they serve is from a lamb that is not too mature nor too young.
HOME COOKINH XINJIANG STYLE
The food here was very homely and seemed like more of a comfort food. When we were seated we were given a mix of nuts to snack on while we waited to order. The mix included pistachios, walnuts, dried grapes and some other nuts I am not sure about. There was also a salad and some yogurt that was served prior to the first dish.
the first dish (Da Pan Ji) is the most famous dish served in this province of China. Its made from what seems to be a stir fried mixture of stewed potatoes chicken, chili, scallions, onions and bell peppers. This seemed to be a popular dish in China as my local friends were going crazy over it. I know that the process is long on the potatoes alone being fried first and then stewed prior before being mixed into the other ingredients. That said, there seems to be a lot of love and attention that goes into this dish and the flavors of it were great. Once I return here, this will most likely be the dish that I purchase again.
Another comfort food dish that resembled something I’ve had in the states was a dish called ding ding fried noodles. The noodles in this dish resemble a chopped up spaghetti. How this dish is made is a dough consisting of wheat flour and eggs are rolled five different ways with a 20 min rest between each roll. Once this is done. the dough is stretched into spaghetti sized strings, chopped into small pieces, and boiled. Once they are boiled they are mixed with fried vegetables, tomato sauce and chilis sauce that are made in-house. Lamb soup is also added to this dish during cooking and then a Sichuan style peppered flour is added to give it a thickness. This dish was a unique saucy spaghetti dish to me, I felt like I was eating a hearty spaghetti with chopped up noodles.
If you are here strictly to try their lamb, I would recommend the BBQ (shaokao style). There are two versions that you can get: The first version comes on skewers made from the tips of shrubs grown in Xin Jian which are extremely hard to break. These are larger pieces of lamb which are curred before being seasoned with 10-12 spices (very different then he shaokao I’ve had) and grilled Kazak style. This had an amazing taste that went way past the usual cumin and salt shaokao I’ve had. If you love the cumin and salt flavors of traditional shaokao, this is also offered here at a more discounted price.
Although 莲香西域 specializes in lamb dishes, they also do a great job with beef. I tried their Ximengtear beef tips and really loved how it tasted. Taking to the chef, there is a lot of time put into this dish. First, it is flash fried for 20 seconds and then braised for one hour in a beef broth that includes a ton of Chinese herbs and spices.
The locals of this type of food understand it well and typically will come late at night to enjoy the meats with drinks. Because of this, Zhang Bing (manager) keeps the restaurant open very late and do not close until the last person leaves. Zhang Bing is very used to this being from Xinjiang as a chef there for ten years prior to coming to Shenzhen. This works out for night owls like me who typically eat dinner around 10-11PM.
When I was getting used to the food in Shenzhen, I was under the impression that the diet here was mainly grains (rice to be exact) and veggies. That said, food in Xinjiang quickly became one of my favorite types of Chinese foods since they are not afraid to load you up with good meats that have been carefully coked and cared for.