amw (amw) wrote,

hot day tong sui

There are a few things i love to hate. That is, things that i don't particularly care for, but i thoroughly enjoy dissing.

One of those things is Cantonese food. Yes, pork buns are pretty great. Yes, there are plenty of fried noodle dishes and dim sum plates that are just fine. I live in Guangdong, guys, of course i like Cantonese food. But in the context of Chinese food inside mainland China, Cantonese cuisine does stand out as being uniquely bland. And they put meat in everything, even the vegetable dishes.

But there is one indisputably wonderful aspect of Cantonese cuisine, and that is 糖水 (táng shuǐ), which in Cantonese is pronounced tong sui. It literally means "sugar water", but it's used to mean pretty much any kind of sweet soup or jelly. Before i came to China i had come across a few of these at dim sum places. Most notably coconut milk with pearl sago. The other one that's pretty big in Taiwan is douhua, which is sort of a tofu pudding.

Here in Guangdong it's next level, though. You can go to a tong sui shop and they serve 100+ different varieties of sweet, refreshing goodies. There are heavier soups that are usually served warm and feel similar to congee - red bean soup and black sesame soup. But i really like the cold soups, which are usually just "various stuff" in a base of simple syrup, coconut milk or cow milk.

It's the "various stuff" that makes it great. You get all the same things that bubble tea shops have - pearl sago, tapioca pearls, grass jelly, custard, nata de coco, raisins, peanuts, passion fruit and so on. But you also have things that don't fit through a straw like water melon and lychee and mango and coconut and sweet potato and tangyuan (glutinous rice balls) and other strange things i don't know what they are.

One of the strange things i didn't know what it was was 海底椰, which literally translated means "sea bed coconut". I thought it might be some kind of weird seaweed, but it turns out it is something that grows in a palm tree. In English they call it a sea coconut.

Today i biked into work to sign another piece of paper. It is very sunny and oppressively humid. I am well burnt, but i don't fucking care. I am enjoying it before the storms come.

The storms are coming real soon now.

I biked back along the unfinished riverwalk/greenway. It's a bit frustrating because there are parts that are finished but theoretically closed to the public. Then there are parts that were finished but now are being torn up and built again because China. Then there are parts that aren't finished. So you end up zigging and zagging across the river and through construction sites. It will be great when it's done, but for now i will stick with the route along the Keyuan Rd sidewalk.

Anyway, at a certain point i couldn't bike any further without going the wrong way up a busy freeway, so i parked the bike and waited for a bus instead. I was hot and hungry and delirious so got on the wrong bus and jumped out just south of Honghua Ridge (i live on the north side). I decided to walk up and get nibbles all the way home.

I stopped at a 沙县小吃 for noodles and tofu. Then i got tong sui. I decided to try the sea coconut in coconut milk and grass jelly. Lordy it was delicious. Sea coconut is the best. It's not too sweet and has a pleasantly meaty texture. Then at the fruit stand i picked up a fruit salad of honeydew melon, dragonfruit, mango and guava. I have honey oolong too.

I am spoiling myself because it is my little holiday. I may not even make it out of the Pearl River Delta at this rate, since i am once again in the situation where i need to remain available to show my face (and passport) at the local government offices on a moment's notice. So perhaps i will be stuck in Shenzhen, but at least here we have tong sui. Hooray.

Tags: china, food

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