Liuzhou Laowai

Random thoughts on life in Liuzhou, Guangxi, China

Old Friends and Ubud

Following on from the French Fiasco and the SE Asian Adventure, Sunday was to be my last full day in Nanning for this trip and I had a breakfast plan. 老友粉 (literally Old Friend Rice Noodles) is Nanning’s signature noodle dish. It is sold all over the city in varying quality. I was determined to taste an original, authentic version. We recruited a local who took us through winding ancient streets well away from the tourist and commercial districts and we ended up in this hole-in-the-wall place which only does four dishes – beef noodles, pork noodles, beef lǎo yǒu fěn and pork lǎo yǒu fěn. You make your choice and buy a ticket from this chap – the owner / cashier / manager, then take it to the window at the back of the shop. Until recently he only did business on the roadside, catering to his neighbours  with a makeshift stove but the authorities have moved him into more permanent premises.

Noodle man

The rice noodles are cooked to order and served with a soup containing chopped garlic, lobster sauce, sour bamboo shoots and, in my case, chopped beef. Our guide chose pork. These were better than any I’ve ever had before. The depth of flavour in the stock was remarkable and the noodles were cooked perfectly al dente. And all for ¥5 a bowl. 50 pence / $0.77 USD)

Later I was told that we had been unlucky and that our noodles weren’t cooked by the chef but by his son and so, were inferior! A good excuse to go back, methinks.

lǎo yǒu fěn

Of course, you are going to ask why the dish is called “Old Friend Noodles”. As with many Chinese dishes there is a story behind the name.  In fact, there is usually a choice of different stories. But I’ve heard this story pretty consistently. It seems that some time ago there was a man who became sick and lost his appetite. His friends and doctors urged him to eat to keep up his strength to aid his recovery, but to no avail. Finally, one of his oldest friends, a chef, prepared him a bowl of noodles. As soon as he smelled the dish, he perked up, finished the lot and went on to make a full recovery. Or so they say.

Following our breakfast we went wandering around the old part of the city and visited a large wholesale market where I bought two hats!

Somewhat revived in spirits after our lovely breakfast, we decided to give the French another try and set out to find another restaurant my friend had found mentioned on the internet. Ominously, there was no phone number listed. We jumped into a taxi. First mistake. One thing I have learned over the weekend is that Nanning taxi drivers haven’t a clue where they are or where anything is – apart from maybe the train station and airport. On several occasions we had to guide them to our destination. Anyway, this one dropped us off in what looked a half built street. Some buildings were complete, but many were decidedly still under construction. We had an address. 3rd floor, Building 15, No. 10 Blah blah street. Should be easy. However, Chinese shop, buildings etc seldom have street numbers on show. We even asked a couple of shopkeepers what number they were and they cheerfully admitted that they didn’t know their own address. The few numbers we did find seemed to be chosen at random. There was no system. Some people we asked confidently pointed along the road and told us it wasn’t far. Off we went in the suggested direction to find yet another building site. It would have been quicker to go to France. After charging up and down this road fruitlessly, we went back to plan B and decided to repeat the SE Asian theme, but this time elsewhere.

We headed for Ubud Garden Restaurant (乌布花园餐厅). No, not in the town in Indonesia’s Bali, but a Nanning restaurant named after the said town. Bali’s Ubud is a major arts and culture centre in Indonesia and the owner of this restaurant is a designer – and it shows. It is a beautiful place, with mysterious passages, a stunning traditional Indonesian garden with semi hidden tables. The weather had turned a bit cool so we sat inside. The main dining room is equally well decorated.

Ubud

We were first to arrive for the evening meal (we are greedy) and we were presented with our menus then left alone to read them. This is not the usual sort of place which hands you the menu and demands to know what you want before you have even focussed your eyes. And they didn’t stand there intimidating us.

But the menu is the restaurant’s only fault. It is a disaster of bad computer translation. Without knowing the Chinese, we would have been unable to order very much other than at random.

I give you one page, but they were all the same standard. They have spent a fortune building and decorating the place. Surely they could have had someone check the menu. I’d have done it for free. (Apologies for the photo quality – I was using my cell phone.)

Ubud menu - sample page

Once you decipher it, the menu turns out to contain a selection of Cantonese dishes as well as Indonesian and Thai dishes. This, I think, is rather a cunning move on the restaurant owner’s part. Keep everyone happy.

We mainly stick with the SE Asian end of the menu.

Before we begin we are presented with a complimentary half orange.

Orange

Next up was “Baked egg with goose liver and caviar“. Individual servings of just set egg were topped with small cubes of fried goose liver and black crab roe. A nice clean starter.

Baked egg with goose liver and caviar

Then on to the serious stuff. Next was “Thai Mango and Fried Beef“. This was extremely good. Served in the mango skin, melt in the mouth chunks of tender beef were perfectly complimented by ‘just cooked enough’ pieces of mango. A light touch with the nam plah (น้ำปลา – fish sauce) prevented the dish from being too sweet. I could happily have had another serving, but we had already ordered eight dishes between two of us.

Thai Mango and Fried Beef

After our failure the previous night with the red curry, we opt this time for a “Thai Green Curry Chicken“. This is better. The real deal. Not over-spiced and full of authentic tastes of lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and creamy coconut.

Thai green curry chicken

Of course, we need a bit of rice to accompany all these riches and we go for “Goose Liver Fried Rice“. It is what it says, with generous pieces of goose liver throughout.

Goose Liver Fried Rice

No meal is complete without gnawing on some bones, so we have ordered a couple of roast pigeons. They too, are done to perfection, the meat just losing the last of its pinkness.

Roast pigeon

In a sop to healthiness, we go for some greenery – “Thai Stir Fried Broccoli“. I have no idea what is Thai about it. It’s just stir fried broccoli – and nothing wrong with that.

Thai Stir Fried Broccoli

But that is enough healthiness. We continue with “Lemongrass Chicken“. This is de-boned chicken thighs speared with lemongrass shoots and grilled. They were meaty and infused with that vague lemon flavour from the grass.

Lemongrass Chicken

Finally, we rounded off an excellent meal with some “Thai Crab Spring Rolls” which were delightfully crunchy and refreshing.

Thai Crab Spring Rolls

Between the two of us, we almost managed to devour all eight dishes, although the curry was only half eaten and taken home for my companion’s lunch next day. And of course you are all waiting to see the picture of my companion. Here she is.

Company

Ubud is open from 10:00 am to 01:00 am and is set in parkland at: 凤岭南路1号金汇如意. Tel: 0771-2351250. Below is their card. Copy it and show it to your taxi driver. It won’t help at all, but you can amuse yourself by watching to see if they hold it the right way up. Instead tell them to take you to the restaurant and shopping complex opposite the gates to 青秀山公园, a popular local park.

Where?

3½ hours after we arrived at the restaurant, we went for a walk, full of food. Soon, we found ourselves in the district where we had the Vietnamese snacks the previous night, so we returned. They had come over all typical Chinese since our last visit 24 hours earlier. Everything we asked for we got “没有” or “Don’t have!”

After two great meals we were full of feel good factor and so couldn’t even be bothered to get annoyed, so just left.

It is hard to say which was the best meal, but it was certainly one of these two – one cost ¥10 for two; the other ¥370 so it’s difficult to compare. They were both great in their own ways.

And so my gastronomic adventure ends. I returned to Liuzhou on Monday morning. Normal service will now be resumed.

(Or perhaps not. I’m off to the healthy banquet tomorrow evening.)

UPDATE – May 2016

UBUD (Chinese 乌布) have now opened two restaurants in Liuzhou. One is on the 6th floor of the Bubugao shopping mall. The second is in Dream Island (梦之岛店) near the Radisson Hotel.

UBUD Bubugao, Liuzhou

UBUD Bubugao, Liuzhou

UBUD Bubugao, Liuzhou

UBUD Bubugao, Liuzhou

The menu has been re-translated and is now readable, if not perfect. It is also illustrated.

Tags: , , , , , , . This entry was posted on Thursday, May 26th, 2011 at 9:37 pm and is filed under Food and Drink, My Dinners, Restaurants, Travel. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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