Qingdao is located on the Shandong Peninsula, serves as a major seaport and naval base, and historically was a fishing village. Needless to say when going to Qingdao you can expect an abundance of seafood. I knew this when I went to Qingdao and despite having spent my entire life having to explain to people that I DON’T like seafood, ANY seafood, – I figured it would be okay and I would figure out what to eat when I got there. I also always say I am willing to try anything (well… most things) at least once, even if I’m absolutely certain I won’t like it.
After getting up early to get to the airport, flying to Qingdao, taking a bus to our hotel and checking in, the four of us girls were hungry! A nice girl who lives in Qingdao sat next to us on the bus from the airport and the Chinese girls managed to get an abundant amount of information from her on where to go, what to see, how to get places, etc. She recommended a little place right up the street from our hotel to get lunch. It was a little alley way filled with lots of vendors and teeny restaurants serving a variety of local foods, mostly seafood, but a few other things as well.
Fish, fish, squid...
All sorts of sea creatures to eat!
Don't like seafood? That's okay, we have beetles and scorpions!
I gave stinky tofu a second chance, and this time I have to say – it wasn’t so bad!! Not nearly as strong of a flavor as the first time I had it, and not as strong of a stench either. I only sampled the other girls, as I had treated myself to deep fried bananas at the same location.
Stinky Tofu gets a second chance
The girls also had some BBQed squid on a stick, and Amanda had some shells with something chopped up inside of them. I tried both, the squid I didn’t care for and it was far too chewy/tough, the stuff in the shells just tasted of the fresh garlic that was diced up with it, a taste that lasts ALL afternoon.
BBQ squid for May!
Stuff in shells
Something in a shell.... tastes like garlic!
We also had some bread and soup, the soup was 1.5rmb and the bread 0.7rmb (about $0.24 and $0.1 respectively). We did not go broke over lunch – that is for sure!
That evening we went to a restaurant on Beer Street – mentioned in my Beer in Qingdao blog. It was mostly seafood and I said I would try it but definitely needed one non-seafood dish. We ended up ordering a beef dish, a shellfish dish, a soup with meatballs made of fish, some edamame and rice.
This is basically the menu for the restaurant. Prices are listed. Our shellfish, 18rmb for a big plate full of them - that is less than 3 dollars!
Shellfish and chilis - amazingly good!
I wasn’t very fond of the soup, but to my wonder and surprise those little shellfish were quite good!! I didn’t want to go overboard on them as they still weirded me out a bit and I didn’t know how my body would react if suddenly after 20-some odd years I started chowing down on shellfish. But I did eat quite a few. (Everyone who knows me should be very proud right about now!)
Julia's first time trying the little creatures! (Pitcher of beer is nearby in case it doesn't taste so good...)
The edamame, beef dish and the rice were also delicious. 🙂
On Tuesday, our second day in Qingdao, our lunch and dinner were also experiences in themselves. We stopped for lunch in a teeny little village on Laoshan (Mt. Lao) after our morning bus ride about 1.5 hrs outside of the city of Qingdao and after exploring some of the sites. We had just finished a bit of a walk (30 min or so) up a hill, and right there at the top of the path we ran into a road and a restaurant. I wasn’t very hungry but the other girls were so we stopped and I said “order whatever”.
The "menu" - sticks of dead stuff on the table, the live stuff in buckets at the end. This picture shows about half of the length of the restaurant.
We ended up with a soup made of “local, organic, Laoshan mushrooms and chicken” and more shellfish. The shellfish didn’t look as appetizing to me, it could have been the atmosphere of the little village restaurant, or it could have been the tentacles sticking out of them, or maybe just my lack of appetite.
I think my face accurately describes my feelings
So I refrained… The soup was… not my favorite and after finding a bug and a black hair in it, I only managed a few bites before resorting to my rice. The thought of organic local mushrooms made me think only of the garden I had just seen directly down the hill from the disgusting public restroom I had just used, the restroom without running water and I’m willing to bet shady plumbing.
The mushroom and chicken soup
Dinner on Tuesday was fabulous! The afternoon beer, coffee & a lot more walking had restored my appetite. As I mentioned in my previous post, our cab driver had recommended a location to us. It was a Shandong restaurant as we were in Shandong province and figured we should eat some (more) of the local food.
The cabbie had mentioned a couple dishes the area is known for and we also consulted with the very friendly and helpful wait staff to make our decisions. We ended up with another shellfish dish with chicken and chilis, a ginseng vegetable dish (apparently you can eat fresh ginseng as a vegetable!), a soup with “meatballs” (the menu did not clarify what type of meat), a traditional pork dish from the area, rice, two types of local bread and a local iced tea.
The pork dish - doesn't look like much but it is AMAZING, and tender enough to melt in your mouth!
Yes, this is quite the common dish in Qingdao!
Everything was exceptional!! Okay, so I wasn’t fond of the soup again because the “meat” in the meat balls was (at least partially) fish and tasted too fishy for me. The typical shellfish & red chili dish that seems to be the most common dish in Qingdao was fantastic! Even for the one who “doesn’t like seafood”. The ginseng was chopped and sautéed with ginger and celery, also delightful. The pork dish was AMAZING, granted it was very fatty as many pork dishes in China are, but we devoured it. Even Amanda who normally does not like eating the fatty parts of pork thought it was exceptional. The breads were fresh, moist and full of flavor, even the rice was cooked perfectly. I think all of us would highly recommend a visit to Lao Zhuan Cun Shangdong Restaurant on Minjiang Road if you are ever in Qingdao and looking for a meal. The price tag: about 50rmb/person or about $7.70.
Birthday coffee at Starbucks!
On Wednesday, we just had food at a food court in a shopping center for lunch. Nothing to exciting, and then cake and coffee as it was Amanda’s birthday and we needed to celebrate! Dinner was overpriced airport food, I had a microwaved hamburger at a coffee shop (yea… it was about as good as it sounds) and the other girls feasted on instant noodles.
Ever wonder how to eat starfish? Apparently you break off the legs, like this.
Throw the legs on the grill (they are up at the top) - and then, I'm assuming, suck out the meat from the inside.