Guangzhou City Guide
If you are heading to China to eat, you could hardly do better than Guangzhou. The capital of Guangdong province, this is basically the birthplace of Cantonese cuisine, and thus the birthplace of what most non-Chinese people call ‘Chinese food’.
I’m going to be honest and admit that I expected Guangzhou to be a cheaper and less sleek version of Hong Kong, but boy, was I wrong. The food is some of the best I’ve ever tasted, and in most ways, totally different from Hong Kong’s.
Planning a trip to China can feel like deciding how best to tackle a giant. It’s huge, obviously, and what looks like a short distance on a map can prove to be a much longer journey in reality. Sussing out options for food and drink can often be intimidating, not least because of the sheer volume of options.
So, to give you a little boost in your search, here are my Guangzhou highlights:
Bing Sheng Restaurant 炳胜品味
1-2/F Shi Pai Hotel, 168 Tianhe East Road, Tianhe District
Open daily 11am – 4am
The kitchens of the two-storey Bing Sheng restaurant send out serving after serving of classic Canton (Guangdong) food, but if you’re hoping for something delicate and light, you’re in the wrong place. The extensive menu contains dishes with a ton of flavour – and probably, a fair bit of oil and salt – whether it’s crispy char siu, braised goose, or stewed pork.
A recurring theme on our trip was over-ordering, and this meal was no different. It’s totally worth it, though, because this was some of the best Chinese food I’ve had. Ever. The wobbly, tender steamed egg with minced pork is a must-order, as is the aubergine with meat sauce. Their famous pigeon managed to be crispy AND juicy, while the special fried rice, in its ceramic claypot, was practically exploding with wok hei.
The atmosphere is loud and raucous, with every table polishing large bottles of beer. You may have to fight (not literally) to get the attention of the waitstaff, but hey, welcome to China.
Long Xi Hotpot 隴熙火锅
392 Tianhe North Road (Qiao Yi Yuan building, next to Tianhe North Road Bus Stop)
Open daily 11am – 3am
You see that Barbie doll dressed in meat up at the top? This is where it came from. And while I’m tempted to say that it’s almost worth it to visit this new-ish hotpot restaurant just to see the Beef Barbie up close, I don’t have to. The food is more than enough reason to go.
Ma La (spicy and tingly) hotpot has taken off around the world in recent years, not least among my friends – we eat it a lot. A LOT. The reason I mention that is because the Ma La hotpot here at Long Xi is the spiciest, punchiest, tingliest, numbing-est, and basically the Ma La-iest I’ve ever tasted.
At Long Xi, they don’t mess around with broth in their Ma La base. This baby is 100% spiced chilli oil. That means that anything you cook in it comes out tasting of Ma La.
I think of myself as a chilli queen, but we ordered the lowest heat level (小辣) and it nearly proved too much. Thankfully, Long Xi serves other types of broth in a two-flavour pot, and trust me, you’re going to want to order one to put out the fire.
Di Yi Mian Wonton Noodles 第一面
Branches across Guangzhou, but we visited:
2 Beijing Road (near Nan Guan Cinema)
Wonton noodles are one of those things that just doesn’t taste the same outside Hong Kong and Guangdong. Di Yi Mian is a chain with branches all over the city, which (lucky for you!) means that you can get your wonton fix almost anywhere.
The noodles are bouncy, toothsome and perfect, and the wonton? Well, the wonton are amazing little dumplings, with a thin skin wrapped around succulent prawns and crab roe.
I ordered a dry tossed noodle with prawn roe, and it was heavenly, with the umami of the dried roe coating the noodles. The soup that comes with the noodles is usually my least favourite part of a wonton meal, but at Di Yi Mian, even that was outstanding. To round out your meal, the poached green vegetables are perfectly blanched, and the beef balls are pretty damn good as well.