What I ate in Zhangjiagang, China.

So, this post is oh, 4 months tardy? But Eliz is traveling to China soon and wanted advice on what to eat in Zhangjiagang, and I thought, well this is the perfect time, cause when else is anyone I know going to be out in rural China? The rest of you can just marvel at what I suggest she tries.

Everything.

Now, I thought about including highlights of everything I have ever eaten across China, and decided that would be too much of an undertaking, so I am going to focus on where Eliz will be. Everything I have ever had in rural China has been family style, which I adore, cause I love trying a bunch of stuff. I also have no qualms about trying new things, eating things that I do not recognize or have the slightest idea what they are, etc which I think is the best attitude one can have when eating, and especially when you are a guest in someone’s country or table. Respect!

Zhangjiagang is close to Shanghai, and previously to this trip I had only been to more Northern cities like Dongguan and Guangzhou. The food here is way more like Chinatown food than the Northern parts of China, where it is very authentic and different. It was really interesting to see the differences in the food, although for the majority of the time I ate food from one chef, which was kind of disappointing, but at the same time, it was something new and interesting, and he paid VERY close attention to what I loved or hated and customized the menu to try and woo me, which was awesome. I did however realize, that being as vocal as I am, I could get in to trouble. My Mandarin is barely passable, but my sound effects are borderless. So, by squealing with delight when presented with a tiny pumpkin bun filled with custard for the Autumn season, (and how could I not!?!)

I also fell in love with these adorable sesame and green tea cake thingies-

I evidently encouraged the chef to bring more and more each day. By the end of the week he handed me a box stuffed with them. Now, I know I can eat, and that it shows in my fat belly, but seriously, how could one person eat that many pumpkin buns?

One and I’m done! But how sweet. I must have thanked him a million times for making me such great lunches all week, and my driver back to my hotel was thrilled to get the boxes of buns and cakes to bring home to his family, so it was really a win win.

I will stick with the dishes from this chef to start…

The region’s specialty is hairy crab, and crab happens to be one of my favorite things ever, so I was totally in love with this dish.

Fried prawns…simple and good, and note the kleenex box that comes with it because of the spice level. It was explained to me – “Women need blow nose when hot, men become sweat.” Which, when I started paying attention, is so true.

Some sort of bird and mushrooms…I am not big in to eating birds, but I tasted it and it was cold, which I wasn’t expecting, but nice.

Fried corn! Its like I’m the South again! And what a lovely presentation!

Cold seaweed something? I don’t know…it was really good.

I am convinced that you just can’t get better green veggies than in China…they are so friggin delicious, and not at all oily and gross.

This is what real wonton soup looks like. SO GOOD.

More wonderful soup.

more delicious greens…soybeans!

I was told this is NOT a lychee. But it sure tasted like one.

Also some chestnut looking something that I was told is not a chestnut. Who knows. And also some yummy mushrooms and greens…SO MANY GOOD MUSHROOMS HERE!!!!

Cold prawn something…not my favorite.

Awesomely giant beans.

Rice dumplings. I have had these in Korean food before, and they are like the Asian version of gnocchi I guess, delicious, but you can only eat a couple and then you start to feel really full.

This is a layer of eggs over a soup of some sort. Very informative, I know.

And egg soup with a weird potato that I originally mistook for bitter melon.

This region of China has tomatoes, which I have never seen before in my Asia travels, and was quite excited to, and in this loverly egg drop variation they were incredible.

Such a great combination of texture and flavor.

It should also be noted that in this region, and maybe in a lot of China, I don’t know, tomatoes are treated as the fruit that they are, and are served raw with sugar. As a girl who could live on raw tomatoes covered in black pepper, I was very wary. And was pleasantly surprised that this is actually quite good.

Some of the most incredible noodle and broth soup I have ever had.

This is probably the best thing that I had. It was some sort of eggplant, from what I translated, and it was divine and I asked them to make it several times.

The second iteration looked like this and I wanted it all to myself. Does anyone know what this might be and can you make it for me ASAP?

And then one day, this thing came to the table. I am not sure exactly what it is. A pomelo? It was huge. And I didnt try it because of my citrus allergy, I was pretty sure this would kill me to death. Still crazy awesome.

Given I have little hands, but this should give you an idea of the size…

And in case you were wondering, this is what it looks like as a smile. My arm is actually quite far away from my face.

Then there were orange custard cakes that I couldn’t have but I am sure were excellent.

And there were these glorious bastards. Pumpkin cigars that are wrapped in some sort of fried sugar that tasted like toasted marshmallow crunches…

and with a bite taken out…mmmm now I can taste this all over again…

Zhangjiaghang is known as part of the “lake district” so there is some truly great and fresh fish here, I personally like to eat the cheeks first, they are the best part.

Ginger Fish.

And like I said, the food here is way closer to American food, but I was still surprised when chicken wings came to the table.

This is the Chinese equivalent of dinner rolls. Steamed buns. So good.

Sometimes they are bigger and have custardy centers. I had a version of these on my first ever trip, and my excitement at them, and earned myself the nickname Bo Lo Bau, which is what they are called, and what I am known as in Hong Kong. haha.

Mystery meat. Was sausagey tasting but the color disturbed me and my attentions were focused elsewhere, so I ate one piece and moved on…probably to some eggplant.

I guess now that I think about it, I have never really eaten red meat in Chinese food. its too fatty. This was too fatty for me but I tried it and the flavor was spot on.

Some sort of thing that is similar to bacon. Cold, pretty good, but I am not one to enjoy very fatty meats, so don’t let me be the judge.

Ham and egg spinach! How funny!

Spicy soup of goodness…and too many textures for me to be that in to…

WHEW. That was a lot of food. And that was just the resident chef at my office. Unfortunately, I did not eat much outside of work. I ate toast or a Kind bar in the mornings, or had an omelette at the bar in the lobby of the hotel…but I DID go out to dinner with my old and wonderful friend Martin and we went to the only restaurant nearby, which had a great menu. It served things such as

and

Gotta love some Engrish. (Great website also.)

Anyways, Martin and I have eaten together enough times over the years that he knows how to order for me, which is hard when there are only two people eating bc you don’t get to try enough stuff!

Crispy pork appetizer.

More hairy crab. God I love crab.

String beans.

And then finally…
These little dumplings look normal at first..

and then you go to pick it up and for once, it isn’t stuck to the paper! Why? Oh because of this paper thin carrot slice on his butt!! So cuuuute. And practical!

And then for our last night, we went to the cheesy ass revolving restaurant at the top of the hotel.

We ordered on iPads that kept forgetting our order, and started with weird spring rolls.

Coconut shrimp wrapped in pasta with lemon sauce. I could pop a bunch of these babies.

And weird seafood custard that was actually pretty damn good.

All in all it was a delicious trip, though I really wished I had gotten to have a bit more variety so I would have a better idea of what the traditional foods of this region are really like. But it was overall a great food experience that I know I am lucky to have had, and left me feeling very fulfilled, and making a face like this…

Maybe in another 4 months I will show you another city I have devoured. Until then…

XOXO

~SweaterMeat

4 thoughts on “What I ate in Zhangjiagang, China.

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