Our stay in Shenzhen, on this particular work trip, was very brief. Literally sleep, breakfast, an hour of dvd shopping and then a taxi to the airport. Yiwu, here we come! For those of you that don’t know, Yiwu is located 300 km from Shanghai and is the largest market of petty commodity wholesalers in the world.
The four days we spent here consisted of 9 hours of walking the congested corridors of the sprawling Yiwu International Trade City, comprising of four interconnected buildings. Each four-level building is about a kilometre long and contains thousands of wholesale merchants selling things from jewellery to stationary to picture frames.
It’s exhausting stuff and requires a lot of stamina and patience so it was no wonder Miss B and I had dinner at the hotel buffet every night. There were no restaurants around the hotel other than a KFC down the road and we were too exhausted to go searching for food.
Breakfast was just breakfast: Western options like cereal and eggs and Asian options like congee and preserved eggs. This is where I tried my first preserved egg. The strong flavour and smell of the black yolk was not for me, and for those that don’t know, it’s a bit like sulphur and ammonia. Truly an acquired taste.
At dinner the buffet was quite an impressive mix of Chinese, Japanese and some Western. All you can eat and all the local beer you can drink for 118RMB. Nice one. Sadly I was asked to stop taking photos of the individual dishes on the buffet so all I can show is what I plated up for myself. Nevermind!
Each night the food options changed a little so there was always something different to try. One of my favourites came from the grill – skewered marinated meats that are cooked to order. The mutton skewers were tender and strong in cumin and the chicken ones were a nice mix of meat and crunchy cartilage. Juicy and chilli-hot. The delicious slow cooked duck (bottom left) was quite popular with diners as it was constantly replenished and the fried chicken neck in chilli (top right) went down well with me; happily munching the small amount of meat on the fiddly bones.
I instantly fell in love with the sweet lotus (top left) that was nestled in amongst the salad bar. The soft flesh of the lotus was soaked with the most delicious and sweet syrup flavoured with cinnamon. A plate of sliced cooked goose liver and cucumber was calling out to be tried as did the tasty pork cubes cooked with chopped cucumber and peanuts. Very nice.
Fresh seafood was also on offer, sitting on beds of crushed ice, for us to choose and have cooked by the grill chef. Prawns, yabbies, scallops, fish, octopus, just about anything. I quite liked the sweet yabbies grilled in chilli oil.
One night we had fried crab and year cake and an unusual blood sausage and egg cake. The latter being more like a frittata or quiche. I think I was the only person in the restaurant eating this as nobody else touched it all night. Oh well, more for me.
I really like the hot and sour taro – small bundles of taro noodles artfully tied into an intricate knot, cooked and cooled and dressed in vinegar, chilli and a bit of sugar. And I couldn’t help but try the pork ear jelly – boiled pigs ears layered in a terrine and left to set. It didn’t rate high with me as there was little flavour and I was put-off by the crunch of the cartilage. Another one for the acquired palate.
On one side of the buffet was a cluster of small bamboo steamers filled with various buns and dumplings and sticky black rice. Next to them were these un-named spring roll-looking things. I thought they were savoury until I crunched through the web of thin pastry and got a taste of the soft and spongy purple cake-like pastry. It was heavenly-sweet and tasted of uncooked vanilla cake batter with a small splodge of syrupy condensed milk in the centre. Absolutely divine. If anyone recognizes them please let me know what they are!
When it came to the dessert buffet I thought the selection was pretty ordinary and uninspiring. There were many fluffy sponge cakes smothered inside and out with dreadful mock cream, bad tiramisu and fruit danishes. A couple of peculiar things I noticed was that most of the desserts were garnished with curly parsley and one of the cakes was called “Cake Shop System.” In fact I noticed a lot of humorous “Chinglish” signage in the hotel such as the “Slippy” sign in my shower, in the hotel compendium and a rather oddly-named deserted restaurant near the hotel.
The hotel buffet wasn’t all we ate in Yiwu so keep posted for more on the food at Trade City and even some delicious street food.