Maybe it's my fish & chip shop fetish, that makes me add a sprinkle of salt to just about anything I eat and stash jars of picked onions and gherkins into my suitcase each time I return from the UK.
Therefore I was pretty intrigued by the northwestern style cuisine from the Shaanxi Province, as it is traditionally known for noodles, salty, pickled meat and vegetable dishes.
We visited Shaanxi Restaurant situated in the People's Government of Shaanxi Province Guangzhou Office, Shaanxo building, 109 Danan road. The Manager and Chief Chef Wu Shaoli greeted us; he was extremely knowledgeable about the history of the province and had prepared a feast literally fit for an emperor.
I was eager to tuck in to the mouth-watering selection of cold dishes and began with a bowl of brown wheat noodles, drizzled in a spicy chili and garlic sauce with additional vinegar.if heaven was a place on earth it was within that bowl of noodles. With my taste buds initiated I couldn't wait to get my chopsticks around the nest dish.
I tried peppery beef slices, which complimented the local beer we were drinking, Northwest Wolf, which has a dry and refreshing taste. We were also guinea pigs for two new creations, the first was tailored toward Cantonese taste and combined pickled lettuce, egg and tomato, topped with mind-blowing gherkins, definitely for the gherkin-loving palate! The second was a mix of fried potatoes, peppers, onion and celery mixed with egg.
The other 'small' food dishes included tofu, picked carrot and for the first time I had a dish customary to the province, glutinous pigs trotters! A second product is also made from the fat extracted from the boiled trotters, it becomes an oily sauce which is cooled and sets to something resembling and tasting like pork-pie jelly, you either love it or you hate it, and I loved it. I was told that these two glutinous dishes are good at reducing winkles, but I am not so sure they will reduce your waistline!
Feet seemed to be the theme for the meal as the next dish was camel tendon soup. Apparently at the time of the Tang dynasty this would have been served only to the emperor himself, maybe because camels were hard to come across or their tendons don't stretch very far. Anyhow, it was surprisingly delicious.
This meal was only just beginning and I was starting to regret bingeing on the 'small' food, plates were filling the table quicker than we could eat, and it looked more like a work of art, as the food was very well presented.
A specially prepared fish, with the bones removed and the skin skillfully molded to look like the chrysanthemum flower was very impressive. Wu shaoli presented us with Chinese hamburgers make with pitta bread and lamb, which liked and tasted like baby kebabs, and then we had the lambs feet, personally I prefer the leg, eating a hoof isn't very easy for an amateur.
The other dishes included mini spring rolls filled with pork and vegetables, fried mutton with pancakes and spring onion, served similar to Peking duck. One particular favorite of mine was tail, which was tender and tasted like braised beef.
Shaanxi Restaurant certainly have all the right ingredients to make an authentic and fulfilling dining experience, if you haven't got time to make it to the north-west of China then I highly recommend visiting this restaurant. I left feeling as full and a happy as an emperor.
(Southcn.com December 19, 2002)