Food tours to the Pearl River Delta region have become a hot segment for the travel industry, drawing in various players and stoking competition among the tour operators.
The challenges for the tour organizers are many, as I discovered during one such trip recently.
For three days, tour members had to be served up with all sorts of delightful experiences. And hotel accommodations needed to be decent.
On our trip, Park Hyatt Guangzhou, a 5-star luxury hotel, was a natural choice for us.
The five restaurants we were visiting were all in line with our theme: traditional rural cuisine.
In Day 1, we started with a snake feast lunch at a seafood restaurant in the Leliu sub-district of Shunde district and sizzling claypot offerings from Huishijia at town center in the evening.
The next day we went to Yaoji restaurant, a hidden gem for authentic dishes of rural cuisine, and by Day 3, we had a chicken feast at the Sunflower Garden in Nansha.
They were all excellent choices for good food, but not exactly unheard of. That said, only the following place truly offered us surprises: Grand Hyatt Guangzhou.
I met Chef Bill Feng, the executive sous chef at the hotel, during an event around a year ago. Having learnt that I would lead a food tour some time later in the city, Chef Feng had asked me for the itinerary half a year in advance so that he could come up with a perfect menu for us.
Jiangnan-style cold appetizer of the surfclam sashimi and floral salad was actually a fusion dish of Japanese, Western and Chinese cuisines.
And our chef specifically ordered some capons from rural farms for the steamed boneless chicken with shallot. The meat was so tender with an exquisite flavor of the poultry.
The suckling pig was classic and delicious. It was a delightful scene to witness the dissection of a roasted crispy piglet.
The softshell turtle soup also won my heart: it was freshly sweet, while the steamed sand goby with ginger and shallot gave it a pleasant umami flavor.
The salt-baked lamb used a cut from the belly. Its tempting fragrance was so strong that it could escape from the aluminum foil and reach everyone’s nostrils during roasting and baking.
On top of traditional dishes mentioned above, new delights included noodles with abalone and fresh green pepper, tomato soup with buckwheat and kidney beans, and Taishan-style savory glutinous rice ball in soup.
The last item was surprisingly similar to the Hakkanese version with added wine and seafood essence.
Chef Feng really impressed us with his excellent culinary skills and creativity. It is no exaggeration when I say that he is truly the No. 1 chef of Guangzhou.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov. 26
Translation by Darlie Yiu
[Chinese version 中文版]
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