This is a two part series about Guilin and Yangshuo. The first part of this series focused on activities and places to visit.
The greater Guilin area (which includes the town of Yangshuo) has a lot of unique foods. They are (not surprisingly) influenced by their neighbors, including Guangdong (Cantonese) and Hunan. There's also influence from other regions in the South, including Sichuan, Jiangxi, Fujian, and Zhejiang. There was no way we could try everything in the time that we were there. However, we did seek out a lot of the famous "must haves". Furthermore, our hotel breakfast offered several of the more well known dishes from Guilin and Yangshuo. That made it easy for us to sample several local favorites.
Guilin Rice Noodles 桂林米粉
One of the most popular and commonly seen dishes in Guilin is its famous rice noodle. Rice flour noodles are typically served with a pork bone broth, peanuts, fermented radishes, garlic, and herbs. Another flavoring "sauce", called lushui 卤水，includes all the flavoring and can include bone broth plus a large number of spices that all together make up the signature flavor of that shop's particular rice noodle dish.
Usually you can customize your own, especially with the various toppings, pickles, herbs, and such. The fermented radishes definitely add a "stinky" uniqueness to these noodles. It is a common breakfast dish, but according to one of the drivers we met there, you can eat them at anytime. They make a great snack too!
青团 Qingtuan (literally, "green/clear round ball") is a seasonal holiday snack made with mugwort (艾草) that is popular during Qinming Festival. It's like a Japanese mochi (made with rice flour) but the flavor of the herb is quite distinctive. My Chinese teacher had been telling me all about it, so I was quite curious to try it once I actually saw one in China! It's definitely got a distinct herby flavor (from the mugwort) that could be polarizing. Even lots of Chinese people don't really love it. I really enjoyed it, and tried to eat one every morning (from our breakfast buffet).
This is not unique to Guilin, but it's unique to the time of the year in China.
Guilin Oil Tea 桂林油茶
This oil tea 油茶 is made by frying tea leaves in oil and then adding water. This "oil tea" is eaten with "cereal" balls (kinda like Kix!), rice crispies, and herbs. It's surprisingly flavorful and supposedly has medicinal properties. I actually really liked it! But then . . . I actually really love broth and cereal, and this sort of reminds me of sizzling rice soup (but without the sizzle)!
Yangshuo Beer Fish 漓江啤酒鱼
Yangshuo Beer Fish (漓江啤酒鱼) is made with fish from the Lijiang River. The fish is first seared in a tea-seed oil and then braised in local Guangxi beer with a bunch of other vegetables. This is all done right tableside, which makes it pretty fun to watch.
The local beer in Guilin is called Liquan 漓泉 and is often used to make beer fish.
Our pot included peppers, tomatoes, scallions, garlic, and various sauces.
I am usually not a huge fan of river fish because of its muddy flavor, but the flavorful sauce (and maybe the beer?) here really masked any river muddiness, and I thought this dish was delicious.
Yangshuo Sea Snails
Yangshuo is also known for huge, meaty river snails which grow in the local Li River (!). We had them in a spicy tofu hot pot.
Colorful rice, just for fun.
Food Cooked in Bamboo
Another signature dish in Guilin is Bamboo chicken 竹筒里. Chicken is cooked over an open fire inside mature hollowed out bamboo logs. Smaller bamboo is used to cook rice + other ingredients.
They told us only in the countryside villages can you enjoy this dish cooked over a real fire.
Such a unique presentation!
It can be quite challenging to scrape the rice from within the bamboo! Haha, it takes two!
Bamboo is the theme! These bamboo restaurants also offer fresh stir fried baby bamboo shoots, which was sooooo good.
Taro Chicken Restaurant 芋头鸡
We had an interesting experience after leaving the famous Silver Cave. We decided to look for dinner nearby. After searching a bit (online and by foot), we found this place called Taro Chicken 芋头鸡 which had pretty good reviews online.
We were in luck. This place typically serves massive bus tour groups. However, we had arrived between two waves, so the place was (temporarily) empty. We got to chat extensive with the owner, who helped recommend certain dishes and took such good care of us.
Of course we had to get their taro chicken, which is the namesake dish. It was hearty, flavorful, and super filling! And yes, you do eat the whole chicken. Can you see the chicken foot in the pot?
Chicken gizzard with chili and scallions.
My favorite dish was the addictive sesame candied taro! This dish could be eaten hot or cold. Even when it got cold, the outer candied layer was still surprisingly crispy. The sesame seeds added a lovely touch of nuttiness, and overall it was just so addictive. We saw tour bus guests find ways to stash away these taro blocks into their bags as the tour bus was leaving.
One interesting note about this place: it's a bit of a distance from the main city. We ended up having trouble booking a Didi (like Uber) back home, which was a bit disconcerting.
We walked around the Silver Cave area after dinner trying to hail a car, and realized that the whole area is DEAD after the cave closes at sundown. We eventually walked back to the restaurant. Amazingly, the owner somehow asked his sous chef whether he wanted to make some extra money and drive us back. We were so thankful that he actually agreed to take us (!). I am not sure how we would have gotten home otherwise . . . oh the adventures you meet when you are out in these parts!
Lodging: Beautiful Retreat Center with a View
We stayed at the Yangshuo Fadai Retreat Hotel (发呆休闲酒店) and it was fantastic.
Even though it wasn't located smack in the center of town, the views from the hotel were breathtaking.
The best part was this coffeeshop at the top of hill of the resort. If you didn't feel like climbing, they had a golf cart that could drive you to the top. Otherwise, it's a steep incline up the hotel's private road, but it's not too bad.
The top is also where the pool is. In fact, you can enjoy your coffee in the middle of the pool!
They also offered a delicious breakfast, including lots of local dishes (mentioned above)!
I was able to try many local dishes right at my hotel: Guilin rice noodles, mugwort mochi, oil tea, and more!