Pearl River Delta Delicacies
From legendary pigeon to ocean treasures, Zhongshan is worth saving your appetite for.
The flourishing food trade here makes it no surprise that the standard of eateries and local offerings are simply outstanding
Perhaps one of the less-explored cities in the Pearl River Delta region, the in predominantly dustrial city of Zhongshan is a mere hour-long ferry ride from Hong Kong. Its close proximity, coupled with an array of distinct manufacturing specialities contribute to the economy. The flourishing food trade here makes it no surprise that the standard of eateries and local offerings are simply outstanding.
One of Zhongshan’s best-loved signature dishes is the renowned Shiqi pigeon (石岐乳鸽) – a 20 to 25-day old bird, which is salted and baked. Plump, aromatic and mild in flavour, the pigeon is also believed to possess health benefits for the liver, kidney and lungs. The tender meat and mouth-watering brisket are popular amongst locals and visitors. While it can be simmered, deep-fried or stir-fried, roasting is the most succulent means of preparation.
Another must-try is Shaxi braised pork (沙溪扣肉), a classic dish first created in the Qing Dynasty. Successful execution depends heavily on the type of bacon, which should be neither too fat nor too lean. After steaming, the meat is braised with an array of condiments, sliced and simmered for another hour with preserved vegetables, for an aromatic result.
Seafood lovers are in for a treat with Dongsheng town’s specialty of crispy grass carp, praised for its firm flesh and quality fish maw, or swim bladder, a prime source of collagen. Due to its versatile texture, Dongsheng grass carp can be stir-fried in slices, steamed in rolls or the head of the fish can be used as stock for flavourful stews.
The coastline of Dalian, a city in Zhongshan, thrives with marine life and boasts an abundance of fresh seafood.. One of the best restaurants for this is Tian Tian Yu Gang (天天渔港), a local chain which specialising in stir-fried prawns with ginger and spring onion and sea bream steamed with mushroom, ham and bamboo shoots. Also highly recommended are the lantern-shaped abalone steamed with shallot and ginger, and scallops served atop egg white and vegetables.
Another popular eatery specialising in local delicacies is Shiqi Lao (石岐佬). Don't be fooled by its gaudy décor, dedicated gourmands from across the border have been known to travel for three hours by bus to sample the juicy roast squab, seafood fried rice, tofu with minced pork and stir-fried noodles. Desserts are a must, particularly the pineapple and snowball bun-shaped puffs filled with red bean paste.
Those with heartier appetites should sample Dongbei’s northeastern fare (东北菜), revered for its robust flavours and generous portions. The signature braised pork is cooked with potato, mushroom, vermicelli and vegetables, perfect comfort fodder for the winter months. Da Di Chun (大地春饼店) is famous for speedy service and their claim to fame are thin, meat and vegetable-filled pancakes.