One of my favorite things to do in China is to point out buildings and businesses that are not ADA compliant. It so happens that one of these establishments turned out to be one of my favorite restaurants during my trip to China.
Related: Check out another post about our trip to China – How Mobile Technology is Changing How We Eat and Pay
My cousin Bonnie took us to a floating restaurant that specializes in seafood.
I can’t tell you what this restaurant is called. I don’t have an address for it. I’m not sure if I could ever find it again
Let’s dive into my homage of this unique, “hole in the water” eatery.
The restaurant is in Kuichong, a beach-town destination about an hour’s drive from the heart of urban Shenzhen. It’s an up-and-coming district thanks to its coastlines and beautiful peninsula. We imagine that as Chinese people get wealthier, they will begin purchasing secondary vacation homes in this area.
When we first arrived at the dock, we discovered there was a dozen of these floating restaurants. A group of chirpy women stood around holding numbered placards. When we identified our intended destination was placard #6, the Hakka hostess called on her fellow restaurant server to haul his boat towards us. We embarked on this little motor boat and sailed to our restaurant.
What we didn’t realize was that the restaurant is a floating platform in the middle of the sea. The seafood included live fish, shrimp, and shellfish that live in nets attached to the platform.
We ordered 5 dishes:
- Steamed scallops with chopped garlic topped with vermicelli
- Deep-fried mantis shrimp with garlic, green onions, and chili sauce (called “peeing shrimp” in Cantonese [side note: check out the Oatmeal’s comic on the Mantis Shrimp])
- Deep-fried squid rings with fried garlic and chili peppers
- Stir-fried baby choy sum with garlic and ginger
- Fish soup with tofu, gai choi, and a lot of thinly sliced ginger
The food was simple. In fact, everything was cooked the same way: with deep-fried garlic, ginger, and chili peppers. But every dish tasted delicious because of how fresh the seafood was.
The soup was a bit hard for Alex to consume because it was littered with tiny bones from the small fish. You have to grow up with master fish-bone detection skills to deal with fish soup. And even then, the masters still get foiled. Last year, my dad went to the hospital in Shenzhen when he couldn’t cough up or swallow a fish bone stuck in his throat.
After I came home, I kept remembering this floating seafood restaurant.
What made this meal so memorable?
The experience was unique. No doubt. The location was one-of-a-kind.
The people stood out because they were so kind and generous. The fishermen lived a tough life out there. When I peeked over at the waitress who taken our order and served us, she was nodding off in the corner table. The restaurant was empty. We were the only patrons. It must be a tough business during the off-season when the weather is grey and gloomy.
And partly my vivid memory could have been imprinted by my heightened emotions when Alex reminded me that if there were a fire on the floating platform, we would be screwed.
After we paid, my cousin asked the boat driver to give us an extra tour of the oyster, shrimp, and fish farms surrounding the restaurants. He sped us all the way back to shore after a thrilling joy ride.
The meal was a great reminder of two things:
- Living standards in China have increased. Even in this sleepy town, the fishermen have a boat with a motor running on gasoline.
- These people didn’t have much. The food wasn’t fancy. But it doesn’t take much to make a dish shine when the core ingredients are fresh and shining. A few aromatics like garlic, green onions, and ginger make a big difference. Just as a warm smile and an extra boat ride do too.
Big thank you to my cousin Bonnie for taking us to the floating seafood restaurant and buying us lunch. <3 <3 <3