Found in 1880, this 140 years old Cantonese restaurant at the original location is a tourist attraction. However they have not slacken with that fame and have since expanded to many locations in Guangzhou (and other cities in China).
There’s a popular saying 「食在廣州」”Eating in Guangzhou” , you can see how important Guangzhou is as the culinary heart and soul of Cantonese cuisine. Cantonese cuisine is something we grew up with – almost all the restaurants around the world are Cantonese. Because of the civil war and subsequent Communist takeover, most of the Guangzhou restaurants have moved to Hong Kong, with many chefs followed.
But recently, as the economy of Guangzhou leapfrogged that of Hong Kong, the restaurants are back and doing roaring business. So the Traditional like Taotao Ju faced new competition from Diandude and has to innovate or face elimination by these newcomers.
The Breakfast of Champions
Welcome to the origins of the dimsum culture. It all started in 西關 (Xiguan), Guangzhou, where the rich and famous of the post imperial China lived and thrived due to trading with the outside world through Hong Kong ports. And the lifestyle of these rich bosses included a leisure morning tea 早茶 that would come with a couple of dim sums which the locals affectionally referred to as 「一盅兩件」 “one cup, two pieces”. And these “two pieces” can be 蝦餃、燒賣 (shrimp dumpling and pork siumai) or 鳳爪、排骨 (chicken feet and pork spare ribs) or all of the above.
The quintessential yardstick to any dimsum restaurant is their classics「兩件」– 蝦餃、燒賣 (shrimp dumpling and pork siumai) or 鳳爪、排骨 (chicken feet and pork spare ribs). Taotao has improved the standard classics with premium ingredients, like a whole tiger prawn in each dumpling, black caviar for the siumai, a special, not so sweet sauce for the chicken feet. The only thing they left untouched was the steamed spare ribs with yam and plum-garlic sauce – this recipe has been passed down for years.
The Marching Orders
Next up, you would order the carbohydrates. These may come in various forms, like congees (which we order a classic 狀元及第粥 Scholar’s Porridge”, which is pig’s offals in congee), rice rolls called 腸粉 (represented by a shrimp rice rolls and a rice roll with cow’s trips and beef shank) or other flour related stuff like steamed buns 包, Chinese cakes 糕 or the must-have dough fritters 油炸鬼 (literally “deep fried ghost”) for the porridge.
The legend has it that a really bad mandarin in Southern Song dynasty called Qin Hui秦檜 (1091-1155) caused the death of Yue Fei 岳飛 (1103-1142), a loyal general that was fighting the invasions of the Mongols. The people hated Qin so much that they made these dough fritters and called them 油炸鬼 (the word for “ghost” and Hui sounded similar in Cantonese). These days they are also referred to as 油條.
And at this point, you are still hungry, Taotao has some classic Cantonese fare that would satisfy you tremendously. First up, the wanton from Phoenix City 鳳城雲吞 – Phoenix City was the elegant nickname of Guangzhou, and the wantons from Guangzhou are famous throughout the world because of Hong Kong. Every foreigner in Hong Kong would have been introduced to these ping pong ball sized dumplings with minced pork and shrimp as filling, boiled and served in an anchovy stock. And where else buy XIguan to have the best of the best.
Also, how can you miss the roast goose and braised pigeons?
While this is not the original store, the environment was way better than the former – proper air-conditioning in a modern and clean setting. Service was better in the former, these branches were usually manned by staff from outside Guangzhou who came to the city to seek a better life. It’s the beginning of the day, let’s not be too petty, folks!
Tel : 020-38373301/2
Date Visited : Jul 2016
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