Eat in Qingdao

Eat in Qingdao

egg plant dish

Qingdao cuisine is the Chinese northern cooking (Shandong) which is very different from the Cantonese cooking I used to.  In Cantonese cuisine the ingredients are well balanced and not greasy. Apart from that, Cantonese dishes use less spice or herbs, more subtle in favour, often stream, and stir-fry. Qingdao is well known its excellent seafood dishes and delicious soup most dishes are usually deep-fried, braised, roasted or stewed with a strong emphasis on soy sauce, shallots, garlic and chili they are more hearty and spicier than Cantonese dishes.

One day, I was out with a native of Qingdao and went to a local restaurant in the old town area. The restaurant is a simple neighborhood restaurant with three tables inside and two outside with tanks of live fishes and seafood display outside.

My new friend he is a vegetarian so we ordered four vegetarian dishes and I was told they are all Shandong dishes.  First came a huge bowl of tomato and egg white soup. Then follow with fried egg plant, stir fry squid with mixed vegetable and fish. The fish was one of the live ones from the tank outside.  Although I am not a fan of egg plant but the deep fried egg plant dish was delicious and I couldn’t stop myself eating it. The sauces were stronger and darker with more oil than the Cantonese dishes but all the dishes are all excellent and very fresh,

fish dishstir fry squid

I ate more than I should and but when I thought I couldn’t eat another bite my new friend suggested we order a free soup! Turn out he is friend with this little restaurant and he knew they make a soup with the left over fish bone and offer it with no charge.

left over fish soup

It was the best fish soup I ever had. A great soup to end this wonderful meal which the  total cost was less than $15!

John Lennon Dumplings

 chinese donuts

Qingdao is full of inexpensive eateries.  Michael and I discovered this one from our visit to the city hospital. It is just steps away from the back entrance of the hospital: a dumpling place which has most the kitchen on the sidewalk. One side on the right near the door, it has a deep fryer frying up fresh Youtiao, (a deep fried long dough stick often called the Chinese Donuts usually eat with the rice soup for breakfast) On the left it has hot streamers with streaming hot Jiaozi (stream buns)

This place doesn’t have a name and with a sign simply called dumpling but it attached to an interesting western style pub next door.

 Dumpling is run by a group of older women and most looked are about retirement age. One needs to pay for the dumplings from the woman behind the streamer before enter the place. She would place the dumplings on a bamboo platter which lined with a plastic bag (no cleaning needed). Inside it has about six booths but with almost no decorations, on the wall there are few strings of garlic and with hand written menu on the white wall.

The menu consist of two type of dumpling (Jiaozi), one with meat and other is vegetarian which make with chopped vegetable with scrambled egg .they are 12 yuan for one order of four. It also offers two soup, rice soup (congee) or soy milk both serve hot.

One day, I noticed some white ceramic cups with John Lennon’s self portrait on the counter. At first I thought it must had came from the pub next door but later I look up and discovered there was a large mural above the sign of the same image. Since then, I  called it John Lennon dumplings.

After our third visit, we must consider the regulars; one of the ladies even came to our booth and asked if we satisfy with our meal. She was all smiles after we told her it was very good. She returned minute later, without say a word and placed two clove of raw garlic in front of our rice soup.

john lennon cup

Pan fried dumplings

pan fried dummplings

Eating is the most important part of Chinese daily life. There a Chinese saying “eating is the sky” which means the sky is vast and eating is most important.

One morning when I visit Michael at the hospital he was excited and told me he knew a good place to get some pan-fried dumplings. He befriended a nurse and she told him a restaurant across the street which sells excellent dumplings.

It was my afternoon task to bring back some of those delicious pan-fried dumplings for him. Qingdao is fills with hole in a wall eating places with delicious and inexpensive food. It was not hard to find the restaurant but I surprised with how fancy this restaurant was and somehow apprehensive to entered it.

 As I enter this restaurant lobby area on the left is a reception desk and I ask the young woman:  well actually I showed her my paper with the written word of this special dumpling. I asked if they are still available since lunch time was over and there was not a single customer in sight.

She pick up a phone and inquired to the kitchen if they able to make it and then answer yes. She then asked me to be seat in a waiting area and brought me a boiling hot cup of water in a white porcelain cup.

I waited and waited for more than half an hour but still no sign of the dumplings. I was getting rather impatient and also worry about the cost. On the little round table in front of me was a drink menu which listed the price of juices and tea and they were very expensive range from 38yuan to 100 yuan. I had to check and make sure if I had brought enough money to pay for them.

During this time other young women appear all wearing different but elegant uniforms some dressed silk in fancy long Chinese dress.

Finally, another person brought out a big clear plastic bag and inside was three white containers. Could this be my order of dumplings?

The first young woman came to me and directs me to the cashier to pay for my order which I thought she said 300 yuan but she then gave me back 200 and with more changes.

The total cost of my order was only 38 yuan, about $6 about the price of a large Starbucks coffee!

After I got back to the hospital and open the containers, there were 9 large pan-fired dumplings in the three boxes.