Guangji Bridge (广济桥)
We were in the Teochew area of China recently, with stopovers at both Shantou (汕头) (“Swatow” in Teochew) and Chaozhou (潮州) (“Teochew” in Teochew). One of the things we learnt was that Teochew is not only a dialect but the name of the city itself. We had always thought that Swatow was the heart of Teochew territory, but it turns out that Teochew the city has the longer history and more scenic places. We will share a few gratuitous pictures of the city before we show you the food.
Ancient City (潮州古城)
We ate at a number of places. Many of the restaurants served food that was not much different from typical Chinese restaurants. It was at some smaller places and on special request that we got to try the uniquely Teochew items. Here are some of them.
Orr Luak (Oyster Omelette). The Orh Luak here is very heavy, maybe a function of the type of flour used and the large oysters. We still prefer the ones at Chui Huay Lim.
Ah Bo Lin or Ah Baling – the Teochew dessert here is light and refreshing. The standard of this is consistently high – both in restaurants and roadside stalls.
Oysters are very popular here. They are cooked in many ways, not just in Or Luak. Here the large oysters were grilled but it was the extra condiments that made them outstanding.
The humble cockle is also widely eaten here. Again it was the extra condiments of garlic, spring onions, sauces and other unknown ingredients that elevated the cockle to a very delicious dish.
Kow Luck (chestnuts). Such a quintessential home cooked Teochew dish. The braised chest nuts were very tasty. Chestnuts here are consistently of good quality and had the powdery or mealy texture (“tsung” in Teochew).
Crabs are also a common dish, but they are small locally caught ones. Compared to the large meaty ones from Sri Lanka which we are used to in Singapore, these Teochew crabs have very low ROE (return on effort).
Tua Tow (mussels) – the tua tow here are not so ‘tua’ – in fact they are small and sweet. I can eat a whole pot of this!
Koo Chye Kueh (chive dumplings). Here they are expertly made into very elaborate dumplings and pan-fried. The chive content in the dumplings was very generous,. They looked like they were bursting, as compared to those in Singapore which are usually skinny. Yummy!
Muah Chee (sweet sticky dough and peanut crumbs). This is a very common dessert here. The quality here varies. The ones shown below were the best – light, not so sticky so it is easily eaten.
Chui Chia Pow (Crystal dumplings) – so translucent and beautiful!
Poon Kueh and Chi Kak Kueh. The poon kueh (rice filled kueh) was served in the natural colour. We believe the pinkish version we see here are made only for special occasions (they are the same except for the addition of food dye for the skin colour).
Chui Kueh (rice cake with preserved vegetable toppings). We only came across this once at a road side stall. The chai poh part looks similar to what we are used to in Singapore but the rice cakes are smaller and have a depression. We must admit we did not try the chui kueh as the environment did not seem very inviting. We still prefer the Tiong Bahru chui kueh.
It was quite an experience to try Teochew food in the heart of Chaozhou territory in China. On the whole, the food is very good. At the same time, we think the Teochew food we find here in Singapore compares quite favourably with those back in Chaozhou. One area where they have a distinct advantage is the abundance and freshness of their ingredients. We will certainly want to visit again.