Our driver eventually figured out where he parked the bus and he drove us to our hotel. It felt like VIP service, since we were the only ones who were picked up. On our way to our hotel, we witnessed some typical China driving. It was only a teaser though.
Just before we pulled into the hotel, we saw a Muslim restaurant that was packed with customers. The restaurant actually had a line out the door. I wasn’t sure if this was a tourist trap or not.
We pulled into the Ramada hotel, checked in and then took a stroll outside. It was sometime after 8 pm and when we left the hotel. We weren’t very hungry at that point, but how could you land in a new foreign city and not have food? Exactly.
We walked by the Muslim Restaurant (I'm sure the name was different in Chinese) and noticed that there was someone who was grilling skewers of lamb meat, chicken, and a variety of innards. The air was filled with a fragrant smell of fat being grilled. Dad really wanted to try the lamb. He said that he really liked the lamb skewers back in Singapore. There was a large garbage can full of empty skewers. That must be a good sign, right? I wonder how much they grill in a day.
After waiting for a table, we sat down and slowly read over our options. Like I mentioned before, we weren’t hungry but we were intrigued with the large photos of the dishes. The restaurant was definitely made for tourists. The menu is a dead giveaway – that and the fact that it was around the corner from a Ramada hotel.
First up, China beer. It was nice and cold; watery, but cold.
Mom chose the braised beef tendons with french beans (58 RMB). This was really spicy and had a good flavour, so I was told. Since I was just discharged from the hospital less than 24 hours ago, everyone told me that I should avoid eating too spicy, too greasy, too much, etc.
This was the roast hand pilaf (49 RMB). The platter came with slices of shawarma-like lamb, dry skewers of chicken and beef, pickled veggies, flavourful pilaf, and some roasted peppers and tomatoes.
We got a plate of lamajun (42 RMB). The thin flat bread was topped with a zesty and flavourful mix of red and green peppers, tomatoes, and a bunch of spices. A squeeze of lemon juice made them easier to eat, cause they were a bit dry.
Everyone was looking forward to the charcoal grilled lamb shashkik (3 RMB for 3 skewers). The gentleman who was grilling the skewers brought them in personally. Marinated in a cumin salt rub, the lamb was really tender and juicy. There were pieces of fat skewered in between the lamb pieces to keep them moist and flavourful. Dad said that these didn’t have a gamey taste at all and that these were skillfully made.
Near the middle of the meal, I noticed that we were lacking some neutral tasting carb. We ordered this flatbread, which came with a curry and some cooling yoghurt. Everyone had pink cheeks from the spiciness of the dishes. Even though I avoided the braised tendon dish and kept munching on the lamajun and pilaf platter, I had tiny beads of sweat along the bridge of my nose. The spiciness of all the dishes got worse the more you ate.
Even though we weren’t hungry when we sat down at the restaurant, we finished everything that we ordered. Okay, not exactly everything. We took out some of the peppers. Afterwards, we walked off our dinner/night snack and checked out the vendors selling goods on the streets.
I wanted to pick up some drinks to make sure I was properly hydrated during our tour the next day. We went into the Family Mart and checked out the drink selection. I looked through all the shelves but couldn’t find any winter melon drinks. I guess it’s a Taiwanese thing. I left with some honey jasmine tea.
When I was in Taiwan, I didn’t have time to thoroughly enjoy the corner stores. I couldn’t show you the hot drink selections of milk tea, soy milk, and coffee. Nor could I show you the tea eggs and steamed buns. I did get to take a picture of some salads and rice dishes in a refrigerated shelf. I know, it’s not very exciting. A lot of things sold out. It was sometime after 10 pm when we finished dinner after all.
We slowly walked back to our hotel for the night. While back in our rooms, I took another look at our itinerary. We were going to be driving to a different city every afternoon; Wuxi, Nanjing, Suzhou, Hangzhou, and then back to Shanghai. There was only one more night of sleep before the Shanghai tour!
More links from the Tea in Asia 2011 trip:
- Arriving in HK: Hello from Hong Kong!
- Day Trip to Macau: Window Shopping in Macau
- Arriving in Guilin, China: Breakfast and Tea Tasting
- Arriving in Taiwan: Seafood Dinner