Greetings from Shenyang again. Shenyang is this city in Northeast China (the old Manchuria) with a population of over 9 million people and an expanding and interesting food scene. The jewel in the crown of that growing list of great restaurants is the restaurant I mentioned yesterday, Chun Xia Qiu Dong (Spring Summer Fall Winter), a Nouvelle Sichuan place. The place is always bustling, serving well over 1,000 guest a night and set to open its second restaurant in Shenyang in late July, just in time to welcome all the Olympic soccer fans who will descend on Shenyang for many of the Olympic soccer matches (Shenyang will play host to the semi-finals for Olympic soccer).
Well, tonight I want to steer slightly away from Sichuan cuisine which the restaurant does spectacularly well, with its coterie of around 50 Sichuan chefs. My other two favorite dishes at the restaurant, besides Kung Pao Chicken and Shui Ju Xia, are the barbecue ribs and the delectable grilled eggplant. I will post pictures of both dishes below. Being from Chicago, I am a big ribs fan, with a clear preference for the meaty, saucy ribs that many of Chicago's best rib places do. The ribs here are a bit on the dry side, that would ordinarily in my book be a strike against, but the chef manages to achieve a delicious rib nevertheless. The ribs are cooked with a healthy dose of green tea leaves baked into the ribs and a light but very tasty, though not spicy, sauce. The result is a soft meat that almost falls off the bone and melts in your mouth and tantalizes the senses with a mixture of barbecue sauce and green tea flavor. This is truly a remarkable rib, and with the green tea leaves one of the most unusual ways to cook ribs that I have come across. Is it any wonder Shenyang is Chicago's sister city, with ribs like these.
The other dish tonight is the grilled eggplant, a dish that is ubiquitous in China and is probably made more ways than any other dish across this vast country. I like the eggplant here because of the grilling on a thick black skillet that is brough to the table, so the eggplant is kept piping hot. But that is only the beginning of this feast. Stuffed inside each chunck of sliced eggplant is a healthy dose of pork meat (the meat of choice of China. Did you know there are over 500 million pigs in Sichuan province alone and that China is the only country in the world to have a strategic pork reserve. Boy, these people are serious about their pork). On top of the eggplant is a soft, thick sweet sauce sprinkled with some sliced onions and this dish literally is something you hate to swallow, because the flavors it generates in your mouth are so tremendous, you just want it to sit there for awhile and enjoy the moment. Well, there are plenty of more delicious dishes at this great restaurant, and I have only touched on some of my favorites. Suffice it to say, if you are planning a trip to Beijing anytime soon, and you want to try some really great Sichuan food, you really must take a detour up to Shenyang (only one hour flight from Beijing, almost straight North), and make the trek to Chun Xia Qiu Donng. The Chinese have a saying Sheng you Tiantan, Xia you SuHang (Above is Heaven, below is Suzhou and Hangzhou, two great and beatiful chinese cities). My saying is Above is Heaven and below is Chun Xia Qiu Dong.
Tomorrow, I'll write about some other favorite dishes up in the Northeast, including dumplings, steamed buns and saurkraut (I bet you didn't know that was a favorite staple of Northeast Chinese cuisine) and Dalian seafood (Dalian is really the best city in China, no other city even comes close to what this city has achieved). Also, I will describe some of my favorite Chinese beers and then later this week talk about that great Chinese drink, white lightening, or Bai Jiu. Cheers!