A friend recently invited me to Zhuhai in Guangdong, where he said there was an excellent illusionist whose performance I should not miss.
I obliged, but since the show wouldn’t be on until dinner time, we spent a good part of the day downtown.
Our brunch at Zhanji Chinese restaurant at Nanhai Oil (Zhuhai) Hotel was impressive. Though not a posh joint, it served the finest food.
I heard the hotel owner had made some good fortune from his business in Macau. And as the Chinese saying goes, a man will turn virtuous once he becomes wealthy.
The guy’s virtues are truly reflected in this place and the food we were served.
I was told the meat we were having came from hogs and chickens raised in the owner’s hometown in Zhanjiang.
Every other day they would slaughter a pig, which is the reason why their steamed pork belly was quite fresh and tasty.
Only in this eatery did I dare to place an order of pig blood curd with Chinese chives.
Zhanjiang chicken and duck, steamed and sliced, were above average, and I made a mental note to place a take-away order of chicken before I went back to Hong Kong.
In the evening, we headed to Zhanxing Restaurant, where the 50-year-old magician was holding court.
When we arrived, he was making a coin disappear from the table and appear again.
Then, using a 100 yuan note, he sliced a chopstick in half.
Some of the diners were incredulous and handed him their own banknotes for him to demonstrate his trick again – and again and again.
Before the night was through, I bet he’d be able to pocket a few thousand yuan just by performing this trick.
The show made us hungry again, and so we ordered a dish of peanut worms with ginger, scallions and Chinese parsley. It was surprisingly good.
In this traditional Zhanjiang gourmet food, the fishy smell of the worms was effectively removed by the green herbs.
As we looked around, almost every table had a dish of roasted pork, and so we followed suit.
The skin was very crispy and you could tell from the quality of the meat that it came from a freshly slaughtered pig.
Paddle weed omelette was a must try, especially if you consider that seagrass is not available in Hong Kong.
The crispy tea leaves with the fried shrimps were mind-blowing: I never imagined leaves could be like crisps.
Lastly, we were served glutinous rice flour dumplings of sweet and salty options.
Wrapped in leaves and steamed, they gained a unique character and taste.
I should say the entire dinner was magical.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Aug. 19.
Translation by Darlie Yiu
[Chinese version 中文版]
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