Shenyang bleg

by on June 11, 2017 at 3:17 pm in Food and Drink, Travel | Permalink

Not too long from now, I’ll be in Shenyang, formerly known as Mukden, and largest city of Liaoning province.  It is also the largest city in China’s Northeast.  What should I do there, and what/where should I eat?  What else do I need to know?  I believe Lang Lang is from this city, and the famous nine-hour documentary Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks is set in Shenyang.  Note that “Due to the popularity enjoyed by many Shenyang-based comedians, the city is nationally recognized as a stronghold of Chinese comedy.”

I can hardly believe my good fortune at being able to visit Shenyang.

I thank you in advance for your assistance.

1 rayward June 11, 2017 at 3:24 pm

For some reason (?), this line by Sergeant Horvath comes to mind: “Captain, if your mother saw you do that, she’d be very upset.”

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2 The other jim June 11, 2017 at 4:56 pm

Obligatory:

I thought you were Tyler’s mother.

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3 Curtis Melvin June 11, 2017 at 3:29 pm

Large ethnic Korean community. Large North Korean presence (Chilbosan Hotel used to be controlled by Kim Jong-un’s deceased uncle, Jang Song-thaek). You can try dinner there, or one of the other North Korean restaurants. Your guide/handler will also know some interesting facts about how the province is economically connected to North Korea.

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4 bandw June 11, 2017 at 3:51 pm

China’s rust belt. If you want to believe China is going to collapse Shenyang is the good place to start.

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5 Z Feng June 11, 2017 at 4:36 pm

If you like Chinese dumpling, then try Laobian Dumpling Restaurant, 208 Middle St Rd, ZhongJie ShangQuan, Shenhe Qu, Shenyang Shi, Liaoning Sheng, China

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6 Stephanie June 11, 2017 at 7:29 pm

I grew up there, but I left in 2008 and haven’t really been back since then, which means, my “intel” may be a bit dated.

Xi Ta area (loosely translated to “west tower”) is considered Korea Town, and you can get lots of good Korean food there. Korean BBQ is always a good choice, and there are lots of karaoke restaurants as well. You can try dog if you’d like at many of the korean restaurants. I don’t enjoy it, but I tried it once to try it. And, if you’ve never been to a Korean spa, or have been to one and want to go again, they have quite a few of them in that area as well. Although, full nudity is required in parts of the spa.

Wu Ai street is also a lot of fun to visit. If I remember correctly, it’s one of the largest outdoor markets in China. It’s only open until 2-3pm, but you can get pretty much everything there, and the prices are wholesale prices. Another good shopping area is Zhong Jie. It’s a little more upscale, but there are lots of street vendors in that area and you can get good street food.

The only imperial palace outside of Beijing is also in Shenyang. It’s worth visiting. This is near Zhong Jie and you can easily combine the two in one visit.

You’ll often find lots of locals gathered around city “squares” and parks dancing, playing cards/ chess, and hanging out with their friends. One of the major ones is Zhong Shan Square. But there are lots and lots of little ones. Definitely wander around once the sun start setting and find a park/ square and enjoy people watching/ interacting with the locals.

And, Shenyang was the first place the Japanese attached during WWII, so there’s a 9.18 museum commemorating the incident that started WWII on September 18th. I’ve never been, but I’ve heard it’s a good museum and worth visiting.

I enjoyed getting out of the city and going to Beiling Park. It’s the burial site of one of the old emperor’s if I remember correctly. And, while this is entirely unhelpful, the best Indian restaurant I’ve ever been to was near this part of town. Unfortunately, I don’t know the name. All I know is that it was being run by two students at one of the local medical universities. It may be worth asking around a bit, but it was very much a hole in the wall and I’m not sure if it’s still around.

And, Ben Xi is an easy day trip from Shenyang. They have water caves there, and last time I went, there was a guy who barbecued fish right outside the caves. It was the best fish I think I’ve ever had: seasoned with cumin, chili powder, etc. Very very delicious!

And lastly, when it comes to food, I highly recommend being involved with the ordering process. At most Chinese restaurants, you’re able to pick the fish you want to eat out of tank they keep on premises, and you can point to the food you like as well. It’s a very interactive experience and quite a bit of fun.

Oh and a few more things food-wise, if you’ve never had a “chuar” (Chinese version of kebobs), get some. They’re considered street food, and you’ll find them at most night markets. And, I also love having “jianbing” for breakfast. They’re a Chinese version of a crepe with egg, crispy fried things, and sauce. And, another good breakfast option is “you tiao” (fried dough) that you eat with sweetened soy milk. I tear the fried dough up and put it in a bowl, and top the bowl with soy milk, kinda like cereal. But, many people also eat it by dunking the dough in the soy milk and drinking the milk along with the bread. And, I liked candied hawthorne berries (usually only found in the winters unfortunately) called “tang hu lu.”

And, keep in mind that this far north, most people don’t eat as much rice. The meals are centered much more around noodles and/or “man tou” (steamed bread).

Best of luck! I hope you have a great time.

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7 rayward June 11, 2017 at 7:51 pm

This past Friday was a travel day, and as I often do on travel days, I listened to NPR. On this Friday, it was a repeat of the story of Sarah, the 11 year old who became pen pals with Manuel Noriega of Panama. I don’t remember the story at the time, but Sarah not only became pen pals but visited Noriega and Panama at the invitation of Noriega. And Sarah, an 11 year old, was vilified by the media for it, Noriega having been accused of killing over 100 Panamanian dissidents and been a drug dealer. Of course, the Saudis have killed and maimed tens of thousands of Americans, on 9/11 and in Iraq. Yet, no American has been vilified quite as much as little Sarah. As for the Chinese, Trump has claimed that the Chinese are real bad actors. Let’s hope (there’s that word) that our friend Cowen isn’t vilified like the 11 year old Sarah for visiting China.

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8 Dan Lavatan-Jeltz June 11, 2017 at 7:55 pm

Peaches.

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9 Scott Sumner June 11, 2017 at 8:58 pm

I’ve never been there, but if I was stuck there I’d consider a day trip to Dalian (very quick by high speed rail), which is supposed to be a much nicer city. The Korean border area might also be of some interest.

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10 Some Guy June 11, 2017 at 10:27 pm

With a population of 8.1 million, the city of Shenyang rivals some European countries (8.6 million Austria, 5.7 million Denmark, 5.3 million Norway).

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11 Jonathan Pine June 11, 2017 at 10:53 pm

If anyone would know it would be Stephen Codrington, an Australian geographer. You can contact him via his website at http://www.stephencodrington.com.

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12 Cjones1 June 12, 2017 at 12:15 am

Go to a working man’s breakfast joint where they serve steam or fried dumplings served with a hot and sour soup. Good eating for sure! The fried dough and sweetened soy milk is good.. Last September, in Henan province,
I ate something I can only describe as a horse meat hot pocket or calzone. It was actually good! The Korean barbecues sound tasty. If they have a good hot pot restaurant, go there for dinner or lunch, you won’t be disappointed.
Don’t forget to say thank you…pronounced something like shea shea.
I would like is pronounced something like Wo szhang yao.

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13 Big Boots Buddha June 12, 2017 at 4:51 am

Skip Laobian Jiaozi. Overpriced junk.

There are a few goods places to eat such as 好妈王 Hao Ma Wang which is also a Jiaozi restaurant. Get the fried dumplings, plus 锅包肉 Guo bao rou which is the best NE style sweet and sour pork dish. I would also recommend Fried Eggplant 烧茄子 which uses the light green eggplant not the mushy purple eggplant.

The Korean area is 西塔 Xita and youd be crazy not to go there and get a huge selection of beef and fry it with a lot of kimchi style dishes. You can get fried kimchi with fatty pork.

I lived in Shenyang for a decade. The food is incredible. Best in China. I sadly live in another area the food is garbage compared to Shenyang. Truly a gem of Chinese food. I don’t like spicy though.

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14 dadapunk June 12, 2017 at 5:14 am

If you really have some time to kill, check out a local pharmacy or two. They tend to be messes of western medicine mixed with more traditionally-based remedies, and if you’re really lucky, you’ll find worms and snakes and such.

There is also an avenue that is home to an unexpected collection of luxury goods shops (Chanel and the like)… Not that this is much to see, but rather note, as you drive through block upon grey block of rather uninspiring high-rises.

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15 Stephen June 12, 2017 at 9:56 am

Tyler: The tips on the palace (much more Manchu, intimate and interesting than the Forbidden City in Beijing),guobaorou 锅包肉(sweet friedpork) , dumplings, noodles, and Korean food are spot on, although the most famous dish from the area is probably xunrou dabing 熏肉大饼 — a kind of smoked pork sandwich. The sauce, however, is far from sweet so don’t mistake it with American barbecue. And there’s better Korean food elsewhere in the Northeast, and the North Korean run restaurants are more spectacle than anything else. Another favorite local dish is disanxian 地三鲜 , friend potatoes, eggplant and green pepper. Even though laobianjiaozi 老边饺子 is over-priced, the quality is quite good and it’s right in the heart of things (although they have branches if you want a less noisy setting). Haomawang is okay, but there are lots of options — so ask your handlers, who will still want ot show you the banquet style. I prefer the boiled to the fried, which is really the best way to test the flavor, though LaoBian has a famous dumpling where they friy the insides before the skins, and it is quite good. There was a new hole-in-the-wall fish restaurant down an alley between the Hyatt and the fake Marriott (long story) but not sure how to find if it’s still there except by asking the concierge at the former. Stay away from the latter, although they had a good Japanese restaurant bar.

I left in 2010, and the pace of change was terrifying. I’m guessing not much of what we longtime China hands call “old” is gone, and the truly local establishments have probably been razed or changed hands.

The high-speed rail to Dalian was being started at break-neck speed as I left town, so if you have time, shoot down to the coast. The hidden gem is the museum in Lushunkou (旅顺口区)– the old Port Arthur — which used to be closed to foreigners but should be open now. It was built by the Russians and Japanese and protected by the Army during the Cultural Revolution. The choice selection of Chinese art has not been moved and can be viewed in a short time. There are other historic sites featuring the Russo-Japanese War. You can take a tour bus or a cab if it is open.

And you’re three hours by car from the North Korean entry-point of Dandong. It is a truly bizarre place that has also undergone rapid change. If you go, see how many of the apartment blocks are empty. The Benxi caves are closer, and you might want to gander at what used to be the most polluted city in the world. The steel mill has cleaned up a lot of its act under South Korean tutelage.

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16 Jule June 12, 2017 at 2:40 pm

I was there in May 1998. I was struck by the fact the sun rose so early (4 AM, because China is one time zone and Shenyang is so far east) and how the local basketball courts were full by 5 AM. If I went back I would go watch the basketball on the public courts.

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17 Yijing June 12, 2017 at 5:26 pm

Hi Tyler,
My name is Yijing, one of the students of Professor Jay Edelman at CCNY, and I grew up in Shenyang. I happen to love authentic ethnic food and have heard a lot about you from Jay, lol. I wouldn’t say I’m very familiar with the new restaurants in Shenyang opened in recent years, but I think the classic dishes that’s worth to try are still popular in most local restaurants.

Several signature dishes that’re unique in Shenyang or northeastern part of China but not other regions are: 1. Spring wrap (春饼, pronounced as ‘chun bing’) (Chinese version of tortila, really good, one of my favorite Chinese dishes.) 2. All kinds of Meat or vegetable stew. (example: 乱炖luan dun, which is a mixed stew of vegies; or 坛肉 tan rou, which is pork belly slow cooked in casseroles, really good, or the most common one, 炖排骨stewed pork ribs); 3. A special type of green beans called 豆角(dou jiao), with a meaty flavor and texture that’s really similar to Romano beans/runner beans commonly consumed in Europe. You can have it either stewed or sauted, both good. 4. A precious type of wild mushroom that’s rarely known by non-local people, called 榛磨(pronounced as zhen mo). It is somehow similar to porcini mushroom in flavor and smell, but you know every precious type of mushroom has its very unique flavor, which is the most fascinating part about them. You can order this dish in restaurant as 小鸡炖蘑菇(chicken stewed with 榛蘑, please make sure that the restaurant is using this specific type of mushroom not shitake mushroom ( 香菇) before ordering) 5. Seafood bbq at night. Dining out for bbq with cold beer at summer night are popular to local people. You can easily find Chinese lamb skewer bbq with better quality meat in NYC or even in Boston, but the seafood bbq are hard to find in the US. You can try the following signature bbq items: 扇贝small live scallop in shells, 生蚝grilled oysters on half shell. 6. Wild nuts. nuts in China are very different in sizes compared to those in the US. They are much smaller and much more flavor intense. Northeastern China has the best wild nuts in the country. I recommend trying hazelnuts, try to avoid the packaged ones in supermarkets, and try to purchase them in specialized stores that only sell nuts. There’s also a food wholesale place called 南二(nan er) with all the dry mushroom, dates, and wild nuts, etc. You would need a local guide to find the place and shop there. It’s just easier to find a local specialized store if you are not buying in bulk. 7. Local short-grain rice. I’m not sure why Stephanie up there said that Northern Chinese people don’t eat rice that often. In fact, northeastern China has the best soil for short-grain rice. All local people I know consume rice as starch daily for at least 1-2 meals, if not all three. Rice here are considered to be the highest quality rice in China. Some restaurant won’t use the best ones, but they should still be pretty good, lol. 8. As for the signature dishes mentioned above in precious posts, eg 锅包肉, 地三鲜,korean bbq, you can find authentic ones in Flushing or Manhattan, NYC or maybe also in Boston or DC, but they’re really delicious and also worth to try. 9. Street food. You can explore some northern street food. There’re absolutely unlimited choices. In the morning, you can try a typical Chinese breakfast with 豆浆soymilk, 油条fried crispy dough in long shape, 包子like momo in Tibetan food, porridge with cornmeal or rice. During lunch, you can try a famous hand-pulled noodle chain store called 老四季抻面. For formal dinner, a reliable recommendation for the signature dishes I mentioned above would be 天下春, whose main store is located in Tie Xi Qu(铁西区).

For places to visit, the old historical area is a must, which include the Imperial Palace, several tombs of ancient Empires etc. The 9.18 museum is also mentioned in previous posts. The newly constructed subway lines are also worth a trip on. Tripadvisor give good examples or the places to visit.

Please feel free to contact me if you need more information about the city! I’ll try my best to answer them. Wish you a wonderful journey in Shenyang.

Best,
Yijing

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18 spandrell June 13, 2017 at 3:46 pm

Nobody recommends the huge Mao statue? Do you guys have no respect?
There’s an old colonial style hotel in that square too. Very nice.

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19 Brian L Frye June 17, 2017 at 8:48 pm

I just returned from teaching in Changchun & Shenyang! I would recommend the Luyuan Antique market in Shenyang, where I bought a big stack of very interesting 10″ records from the 50s & 60s. Strongly agree with the barbeque recommendations, the preferred local spice mixture is fantastic, heavy on cumin &c. There’s also a nice local snack consisting of a chicken carcass tossed with condiments. The North Korean restaurants are a trip, worth a visit. And the local baijiu is quite good & reasonably priced. FWIW, there is also a US consulate in Shenyang & they love to host American academics. I would be happy to make a connection with them, if you are interested. Have a great trip!

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20 Steve June 18, 2017 at 10:44 pm

IIUC, this place lists 榛磨(pronounced as zhen mo) as one of its dishes. Though if they are wild mushrooms, they are probably seasonal:

http://www.dianping.com/shop/6159058

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