Tour of my ancestral land – Part 3 – Fuqing and Fuzhou

The only clue I had when searching for my grandfather’s hometown was my surname. As the Chinese proverb goes, that sounds like searching for a needle in the ocean bed, right? Fortunately, in the olden days, Chinese families, those with the same surname, stick closely together. An entire village would consist of families of the same descent. And so, just by searching using my surname, I managed to find two villages in Fuqing where people with the same surname as mine lived.

To be honest, i felt that my chances were pretty low on actually hitting the jackpot, but it would be good enough for me just to get a feel of the place.

The entrance to the Xiaheyang (下和洋) village. Note the cross on top of the arch. Not only is the village consisting of people of the same surname, they also profess the same faith.
School on the left, and on the right, i believe it is the grand entrance to a mansion. Poverty may have driven the people to seek for a better means of living elsewhere, but it’s obvious that there’s no lack of wealth right now. Note how clean and tidy the place is.
Centre of village. On the right, a church, in the centre, the old primary/elementary school building (which is probably the predecessor of the school in the previous photo), and a modern house on the left. Usually, a three or four storey building like this belongs to just a single family.
The first village school in the whole of Fuqing and the only one still standing today. They were the pioneers of education in Fuqing. #ProudOfMyHeritage
The double tip design is quite unique, not seen anywhere else in Fujian
The entire village is very quiet now, and it feels so tranquil
I hope they don’t tear down any more of these old houses to make way for the new ones like those in the background. It will be a tragic loss.

We met a man who was guessing we came to look for relatives, and he offered to help. He keeps a genealogy of the 高 family. Unfortunately, he had no record of my grandfather. Nevertheless, I still believe that my grandfather once lived not far from this place.

Genealogy

The villages in Fuqing felt familiar. They felt like Japan! There is a reason for this. I read from an online source that Fuqing people make up a tenth of the Chinese permanent residents in Japan! The modern houses built in Fuqing were among the most aesthetically appealing ones in the whole of Fujian, and arguably the whole of China. Even the high-rise buildings in Fuqing look better than most elsewhere in China.

No kidding, these buildings in Fuqing look really decent

Our meal in Fuqing – except for the Kompyang (光饼), there was nothing famliar on the menu. I guess over time, people’s preference change, and the ingredients available locally are also quite different, and because of this, the food that are considered classic Fuqing among Malaysian Fuqing people cannot be found in Fuqing itself.

Braised noodle (焖面) – this is now considered one of the signature dishes of Fuqing, from 港头 village specifically. It is different from the Lor Mee of Putian. This one is lighter, which is good in a way.
Oyster pancake (海蛎饼) is another famous Fuqing specialty
Authentic Kompyang (光饼). It is so tough to chew, but tastes really good. Indeed, compared to those we would have later on in Fuzhou, this one stands as the only truly original Kompyang.
Braised Tofu (豆腐焖). Starchy food is very common in Fujian and this is one of them.

Fuzhou is just a short distance from Fuqing. We made a short stop at Minjiang park. Fuzhou, the capital of Fujian, is a big city. Our agenda in Fuzhou was food.

View from Minjiang Park
Laundry art

Old Foochow is a famous restaurant in Fuzhou, and i think it’s worthwhile trying it once. The quality of the food is more than satisfactory.

Old Foochow (老福州), a modernized restaurant serving classic Fuzhou food. Note the 网咖 (Internet cafe) beside it, and Fujian people don’t really drink coffee. Do you still remember how the 网吧 (Internet bar) was all the rage two decades ago? How the times have changed.
Buddha jumps over the wall (佛跳墙) served in a cute urn
It does taste like Buddha jumps over the wall, but i really don’t know how to tell if one is better than another
Lychee pork (荔枝肉) is perhaps the most famous dish of Fuzhou. This is the premium version, and it comes with waterchestnut cake as a side
Pork ball cake (肉丸糕). It is sweetish, so is aptly called a cake.
Fried Bee Hoon. Good, but not very different from what we have in South East Asia, except maybe it has a higher proportion of vegetables and other ingredients.
Orh Nee or Yam paste (芋泥) is another Fuzhou classic

In Fuzhou, for me at least, there was only one must-go tourist attraction – Sanfang Qixiang (三坊七巷). Buildings dating back to even the Ming dynasty (before 1644). We alighted from the Taxi at the southern end, and coincidentally, there was a branch of the famous Tongli dumpling shop (同利肉燕).

This skin is made of meat and sweet potato starch. It is so chewy! Suprisingly delicious texture.
Tongli dumpling 同利肉燕
This Macdonald’s pretty much marks the beginning of the Sanfang Qixiang area. Probably every western food retailer wants to do something ‘cool’ like this.
Shops with wooden facade lining the main street Nanhoujie (南后街)
Parents waiting outside a kindergarten. What a cool venue for a kindergarten.
Close up of the elaborately decorated pillar flanking entrances
The Tongli dumpling shop (同利肉燕) can be found along Nanhoujie as well, but it’s better if you had it earlier, so you have the room to check out its two equally famous neighbours.
Yonghe fishball (永和鱼丸) and Mujin meatball (木金肉丸) are side by side
I’m not a fishball person, but this one is really awesome. The fishball texture is heavy and chewy, not the light and bouncy ones which i don’t like.
Panfried dumplings (生煎包) with an interesting shape
The pork meatball (bottom) is more of a dessert, and you can’t taste the pork at all
Not to be outdone.. coffee is expensive in Fujian

I had in mind to also try the noodles in sauce (拌面) that is popular in Fuzhou. I’m inferring that it is this particular noodle dish that is the predecessor of the Kampua and Kolo Mee of Sarawak, since there are many Fuzhou descendents especially in Sibu, Sarawak. Well, turns out that this noodle dish is not even half as good as the noodles from Sarawak. It is still worth a try of course.

It is not actually a Fuzhou dish itself actually, but from Shaxian (沙县), west of Fuzhou, and one will notice that there are eateries called 沙县小吃 everywhere, even in Guangdong.

Anyway, based on reviews, we went to 张氏 to try this noodles, but when i arrived, i noticed that the shop billboard is altered, and the word 张 is removed. As i was lazy to go further, i decided to just give it a try. Bad mistake. I should have gone to 玲记 which isn’t too far away from here.

Soggy noodles, with overpowering peanut sauce
For consolation, we had this for afternoon tea. The triangular fritters is called horse’s ear (马耳) and it’s actually made of glutinous rice flour, as with the sesame ball next to it.

I did manage to try the noodles proper again the next day, from the city-wide chain Chunbaiwei (淳百味), and it is much better.

Chewy noodles and no overpowering peanut sauce, at 4 Yuan (S$0.82)
Came across this opera 唱戏 that uses a high tech LED screen

For dinner, based on reviews, i chose this restaurant that is said to serve food within 10 minutes of ordering. It was indeed the case. A satisfying and fairly priced meal here.

Wangda’s (旺达小吃店) name and shop front betrays its actual size
双脆 – a signature dish consisting of stir fried crispy items such as pork kidney, jelly fish and fried bread. Not my cup of tea, though i had to try it just for trying sake
Sweet, sour and spicy soup, and we chose fish maw as the main ingredient. Classic Fuzhou dish that is also common in South East Asia
Kompyang that seems to be fried rather than baked. A lot softer than the baked version, but not as good, and kind of defeats the purpose
Mantis prawns (called 虾婆). Probably cheaper in Fujian than anywhere else.
The most tender Kangkung (Kale 空心菜) i have ever tasted
Yam paste with crispy bits
Came across this distribution centre of sf express (顺风) that just received an incoming truck. I guess the incredible delivery speed stems from their 24 hours of operation.
Supper – 醉得意 is a chain that sells pork ribs at 8 Yuan
Mostly potato, and ribs that is more bone than meat. What do you expect for 8 Yuan (S$1.64)? It tastes quite similar to Lychee pork and it’s not bad

We’re not really into shopping, and there’s no need to since you can pick up just about anything from Taobao. We did go to Carrefour to check out the foodstuff. The local specialties that you might want to pick up are dried seafood, olives, and perhaps Jasmine tea.

If you did a search, you will not find many restaurants that claim to sell traditional Fuzhou food. Thankfully, i did still manage to find one – Shanyuan 膳园.

A very nice display at the entrance lobby
The food ordering area is at the back
Fried Mee Suah. As with Fried Bee Hoon, nothing very special actually.
Lychee pork. Different from the previous ones we had, nicely executed
Oyster pancake again and it’s pretty good
Fried eel. A little bland, but still worth trying
Fat and juicy clams, and the sauce/garnish is very good

榕城古街 is a pedestrian street with shops built in the style of Ming and Qing dynasty architecture. It was rejuvenated in 1990, but has seen decline since then. The shops are struggling, and it feels sad. It reminds me of the global trend where brick and mortar retail shops are just dying. Worth 5 minutes of your time on your way to Dongbai (东百) shopping mall and Minjiang river bank.

No shoppers in sight. Shops selling cheap knick-knacks.
Nice feel, but this does nothing to attract visitors to this area

I chose Honor (荣誉大酒楼) for dinner, but they were packed. In fact, there were three or four wedding dinners being held concurrently! An eye opener as I’ve never ever seen a restaurant that had such capacity! Instead, we went to Wugejia (武哥家), which turned out to be a pleasant surprise.

Pork soup served in a funky mug
Quanzhou carrot rice (泉州萝卜饭), their signature dish
Bitter gourd with fried eggs (苦瓜煎蛋). Tastes the same as what we have in our part of the world.
Stewed beancurd (炖豆腐) with an interesting burnt taste
Fried pork (炸腊肉)
Glutinous rice with yam paste (芋泥八宝饭)

Minjiang river bank is a nice place for a stroll after dinner.

It amazes me that they lit up the entire facade of the skyscrapers
You can take a tour on the river, but it didn’t seem worthwhile to me. Note the domes and tower on the left – a huge complex built in European style. Looks really out of place, and i postulate that some day it will be torn down, when they realize (or they may have already realized) what a bad mistake it was.

Someone mentioned that one is not considered to have visited Fuzhou if one didn’t try Guobianhu (锅边糊), made of cooking rice batter on the sides of a pot. We gave it a go for breakfast.

Guobianhu (锅边糊) – somewhat like very rice noodles, easy to slurp down
We also went to the street side stalls where locals got their breakfast
Noodles in sauce (拌面) for a third time. The preserved vegetables worked well.
Literally translated, this is called meat slices (肉片), but there’s hardly any meat in it. It’s more of puffed up starch with tiny bits of minced meat.
Onion biscuits (葱饼) are an improvisation on the Kompyang, Baked in the furnace seen in the lower right.
The crust is very thin and is much easier for chewing than the original Kompyang

The trip wraps up with a final meal at the outskirts of Quanzhou (泉州) near the expressway toll booth. It was an awesome meal at Yuanhua (远华饭店), sampling their signature Jiangmu duck (姜母鸭) and beef soup (牛杂汤).

The ginger taste blends in with the duck so well that you don’t notice it so much. The kids loved this!
I don’t normally eat offal in any form, but the gentle herbal mix used in this soup made it all edible to me!
Super juicy clams again, going to miss these
Super tender asparagus
The Ngoh Hiang in Fujian tends to be softer in texture than the ones we have in South East Asia, and it’s good in a way, because it’s easier to chew
Braised fried yellow fish (红烧黄鱼), in sweet and sour sauce, which is decidedly Fujian style
The aftermath
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