26 March 2019
The crispy char siu is a bit too fatty, but the dark char siu is succulent. Photo: HKEJ
The crispy char siu is a bit too fatty, but the dark char siu is succulent. Photo: HKEJ

Blowing a thousand dollars for a taste of char siu in Guangzhou

“Let’s take a day off to go to Guangzhou and try their char siu (Cantonese barbecued pork),” my friend suggested.

Immediately I tried to calculate the costs in my mind – HK$400 something for the train tickets, another HK$200 for the taxi fare, HK$500 or more for char siu and other dishes … and, last but not the least, the cost of taking a half-day off.

Since I figured the entire thing wasn’t going to cost me an arm and a leg, I said yes.

There are good reasons for me to think twice or even thrice before agreeing to my dear friend’s propositions.

Well, at least, heading to Guangzhou for good food is probably the most affordable among his many crazy, spur-of-the-moment ideas.

One day last month, he got so bored he took a business-class flight to Tokyo and spent an hour on a bullet train to get to a remote eatery in Shizuoka Prefecture. For what purpose? To eat sushi and melon.

When he sensed I didn’t believe him, he showed me his single-ride train ticket which cost him over 8,000 Japanese yen (US$78).

Was it worth it? It all depends on who’s having the experience, he said.

Anyway, as I was about to spend over a thousand dollars on char siu, I demanded to know a little about where we were going to eat.

Bingsheng Restaurant, on Tianhe East Road, is very near the Guangzhou East Railway Station. The taxi brought us there without a tick on its meter, thanks to the smooth traffic.

We were told that the two must-try dishes are “dark char siu” and “crispy char siu”. The former looked like burnt pork tenderloin while the latter was like deep-fried pork lard.

The crispy char siu was a bit overrated. It was too much, really. I couldn’t take in more than three bites.

On the other hand, the dark char siu was surprisingly good. Although it made use of no pork shoulder but pork belly, the alternate layers of fat and meat were in perfect balance, yielding a crunchy and crispy texture.

The dark color came from the dark soy sauce, which spiced up the flavor of the meat.

Now it’s his turn to ask: Was it worth it? Every penny of it, I answered, and burped.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 29.

Translation by Darlie Yiu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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