We all ate like little big fat piggies at China Sea last week. Six people at the table, twelve dishes, bucketloads of soy sauce, and bellies that had stretched past the point where popping a button or doing a quarter-pull down on a zipper just wouldn’t have cut it. If you want to eat at China Sea, arguably one of the oldest authentic Chinese restos in Dubai, then elastic’s the only way to go.
I’m not even going to bother with my usual blog pleasantries and ramblings and unrelated stories and rants…partly because I’m lazy this week, and partly because every time I look at these photos, I get that stuffed-up happy groggy feeling. The one that makes the few oiled cogs in my brain come to a slow dragging halting pace, ch-chug…ch-chug…chhhh…UGG….until they screech to a soy-seduced grinding halt…and then my eyelids droop down to my keyboard and my fingers dangle down to my toes and all of me slumps into limp unproductivity. All that’s alive and functioning is that dang cursor on the screen, angrily blinking back at my flaccid mentally-food-drugged body, blink-blink-BLINK…until my toshiba eco-power-saver kicks in and wipes the sorry face of that angry blinking cursor off my screen and lets me lie there in happy limp sleepy dangling unproductivity.
So before THAT happens, I’m going to shove out our Chinese feast in front of you. Special thanks to the fantastic five that dozed through this line-up with me: @faridaa, shebanx, @nervetoxin, Potson and Sunny D, thank you for lending me your tummies and humoring my wildly gluttonous tendencies that night.
Stack of scallion pancakes. Teenier versions than the ones I’ve eaten at other Chinese joints, and thicker too, with the same sort of crunchy flaky Indian parantha-like crust on the outside that makes scallion pancakes so irresistible. I’d have liked these with some soy sauce or maybe something like the leek chutney I had at Xiao Wei Yang, but no matter, I enjoyed mindlessly munching on them anyway. I’m sure China Sea would humor you with some sauce if you just bothered to ask them. It’s just that when there’s warm bready stuff on the table, I just instinctively transport it to my mouth. My brain may start sprouting ideas on ‘mmm, the bread would taste better with this…‘ or ‘hm, should I ask the server to heat the bread?‘ or other such somethings on how to improve the bread-munching experience. But my jaws don’t usually wait for my brain to execute the thought.
Garlicky chewy crispy fried chunks of sauced up sizzling beef with soft caramelized cloves of sauteed garlic. This is your signature Chinese dish – nothing crazy unique compared to what I’ve eaten else where, but quintessential Chinese comfort food in the absence of which my chopsticks would have felt somewhat inadequate.
So cliched, but so lickably good…sweet and sour shrimp. A pool of glistening orange shrimp half moons, crunchy in some places, mushy in others, and fat and plumpy with that deadly addictive sticky sweet and sour sauce. I don’t know why sweet and sour sauce doesn’t feature more often in my life. It really should. Maybe because it makes me super happy -> dreamy -> distracted -> lazy -> droopy -> mushy brain -> unproductive. But honestly, I think productivity is overrated. Here’s to oodles more sweet and sour sauce for all of us. And a ton of unfinished blog posts because I’m too fat and blubbery with sticky sauce to get around to doing anything useful. But at least I’d be happy. And happiness is King.
A garlicky soy heap of Mandarin chicken. This is one of those dishes that doesn’t need to make the table unless you’re really pushing for additional ways to stuff your face with the same sort of garlic-soy concoction that gets used in a bunch of other dishes. As a food blogger, it’s safe to say that I am always pushing…but for the rest of the normal dining public, this baby ain’t anything that exceptional that it’d rock your taste buds.
The token plates of veggie fried noodles and chicken fried rice. I didn’t really give them too much importance, not because they weren’t yummy, but because the Peking Duck landed on the table right after and temporarily obliterated everything else.
See those crispy glazed chocolatey brown sheets of duck skin skirting the meat…THAT is what you’re looking for. Those caramelized bits of skin on chunks of fatty duck meat are Works of Gluttonous Art. Slop them on those thin pancakes, with a few slivers of cucumber and scallion, and some thick pastey hoisin sauce. And now you know why ugly duckling had a happy ending after all.
Now here’s a first for me, a plate of duck bones left over from the Peking Duck.
Crispy crunchy, charred brown in those bone crevices, with little bits of duck meat still clinging to the edges if you nibble closely enough. You gotta love the Chinese for maxing out on every part of the duck. If I behaved like a dog at the table, that plate of duck bones was the reason why.
I feel proud that we ordered a healthy veggie dish for the table – asparagus with oyster sauce. Super fresh, very lightly cooked tender stalks of asparagus. Mommy would be so proud of me, leafy green brownie points. YAAAY TO US.
…aaaaaand back to the real macho carnivorous baddies on the table…look at this monster.
Fried fresh crab, basking under fake Hawaiinesque palm trees with carrot leaves and grape tops. [out-of-place?/ charming?/ disturbing?/ shut it and feed me the crab will ya?]. They’ll give you the option of fresh or frozen, but fresh is the only way to go. This beauty was cooked up in a salty black bean sauce, with soft gooey crab meat falling off the shell. Even the tiny black beans had sucked up the juices and become little salty juicy pellets of soy sauced flavor.
These gelatinous chunks of ridged cuttlefish were another first for me. Exceedingly fishy at first smell, the salty chunks of sauce-drenched cuttlefish with red chili flakes and crunchy peanuts quickly grew on me. I didn’t know how a cuttlefish looked in pre-hacked and cooked state…until right this very sentence when I got temporarily sidetracked and googled cuttlefish. They’re dead fugly. Thank you Google Images for massacring the cute cuddly cuttlefish fantasy for me.
Dessert time. My true fryingpan colors came flying to the fore…gotta love deep fried Chinese desserts. I got super excited when I read about fried cream buns on the menu. Images of thick thick THICK cream impossibly battered up and deep fried into crunchy balls that you’d crack open and out gushes…CREAM…yeah, that image was throbbing in my mind. Until we got…these…
Tiny little cutsie shaped buns. Maybe they’d break apart and explode like a hot volcano of cream. Maybe they’d have this thick fat cream center that wouldn’t gush out, but that you’d slowly sink your teeth into, blooop blooop blooooop. Maybe there’d be teasing streaks of cream swirled inside, so that you’d have to go hunting between the layers of bun dough to discover the creamy streams of goodness within. Or maybe…
…maybe they’d just not have any cream in them at all.
These cute but anticlimactic freshly made buns had to be torn apart and dipped into a skimpy saucer of condensed milk. No cream gushing, no pumping, no streaming, no exploding. It was all very subdued.
But what was pretty over the top and will change the way I think about comforting breakfast food altogether were these deep fried bread and jam sandwiches.
As we circled the plate around the lazy Susan in the middle of the table, each of us picking off a baby sandwich, every voice just muted itself out one by one. God this was good. Bread and jam will never be the same for me again. Never. Not after I’ve tasted these sandwiches – crunchy panko fried crust on the outside, gooey jam within, crunchy peanut halves popping out every few bites in and this unmistakable aroma of cardamom [which others on the table argued about, it was cardamom, not cardamom, something else familiar. But it’s MY blog so cardamom it’ll be.] The Chinese have taught us yet another lesson: the best thing since sliced bread is deep fried sliced bread.
I was under the mistaken notion that cups of green tea could actually save me after I’d noshed through everything that strutted out to our table. How cute of me to think so. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, could save me. I was drowning in sticky sweet deep-fried food coma. I could barely think or walk, I had been reduced to a plumpy waddle. Just thinking about that dinner is dragging me down into that over-fooded giddiness all over again…that feeling where I’m just drifting belly-up like an overstuffed pampered whale with glazed watery sleepy eyes in a smooth saucey sea [with deep fried peanuts bobbing about too]…bliss…droopy…whale belly folds fluttering in the wind…
…[blogger passed out and snoozing on keyboard].
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