So we landed in the spanking new JieYang Airport last Wednesday with an open mind. The airport turned out to be impressively clean and efficient, with hourly buses running to different parts of Shantou City. Unfortunately, we missed the Airport Express bus by a whisker and didn't want to wait for the next one as the sun was setting really quickly. After some haggling (in Teochew no less), the taxi fare to Golden Gulf Hotel in the city cost us RMB250 (around S$50). Incidentally, the Express bus ride is only RMB10 per person!
We made the right decision to stay at the Golden Gulf Hotel. The hotel is grand, clean and comfortable. The best thing is, we could walk to the nearby mall (Walmart and Parksons are in there), many food places and attractions like Zhong San Park and to the ferry terminal to board a ferry to Que Shi Island.
Being surrounded by Teochew speaking people, I felt quite at home in Shantou. The whole reason why I picked Shantou was because my grandparents were from there. They endured a long, dangerous and torturous journey by sea to Singapore some 100 years ago and I was curious to see where they came from. Only when I was in Shantou then I realise that I had no clue which province or village they were from. It's a big place afterall.
The food scene is also quite eye opening. In Singapore, Teochew food is associated with steamed fish, rice porridge and orh nee. During the 4 days we were there, we did not eat any of that. We managed to eat some familiar Teochew favourites though, like oyster omelette, carrot cake and kuey chap.
Caramalised sweet potato and yam is something I grew up eating frequently, so I was glad to find it here.
One cold night, we ordered claypot crab porridge for dinner. This was perhaps the best dish we ate during the trip. The dark soy sauce chicken with chestnut was another winner. I didn't take any photos of that dish.
On most days, we ate oodles of noodles for breakfast. This is China afterall. We had noodles spilling out of our ears and I'm not such a big fan of carbs.
The rice noodles was on the sweet side. Teochews are known to have a sweet tooth and they happily add sugar to everything and on anything at every opportunity.
There was a shop operated by Muslim Chinese near our hotel. We were intrigued by the flat fluffy scallion pancakes and ended up there for breakfast one morning. The pancake was rather bland.
We also ordered the hand-cut noodles topped with a mysterious gravy and minced dried radish. It turned out to be a disappointment.
The Teochews are fond of using salted radish (top photo, left dish) in their food. These were served with the claypot crab porridge.
Salted minced radish is also featured in this street food - panfried tofu topped with spring onions, chilli powder and radish.
Kway chap sheets (made with rice flour) before being cut into smaller pieces.
One of the more memorable dishes we had was at a dumpling shop near our hotel. The minced meat and chopped chives filling made the dumplings very tasty.
They were cooked and served with fish and meat balls.
We saw several Teochew piah shops in Shantou.
When we tried the tau sar piah at this little shop, we couldn't stop thinking about it and made our way back on the last day to buy some home.
The mung bean filling was so silky smooth, I couldn't help but ask if lard was used. The owner said they only use vegetable oil. I have never tasted anything that good in Singapore.
The shop also produces other traditional Teochew cakes. This mould looks like something my granny had back in those days.
I was tempted to buy some kong tng (brittle nut candy) too but had no room in my luggage.
This trip proved to be quite a culinary treat for us. We were constantly on the lookout for interesting food places. When we saw a beancurd shop, we knew we had to try some.
I ended up choosing beancurd topped with sweet green bean and red beans. If I were to let CH choose the topping, we might end up with something bizarre like 'smelly tofu'. He is not a Teochew you see.