About two weeks (or so) ago, I was invited out with a colleague-turned-friend from work. As most know, this is my first visit to China and don’t know where all the places TRULY worth going. So when she invited me to tag along for her friend’s visit to the city, there was no way I was going to pass it up. Since I had mentioned to her I so far had only been to Confucius Temple and Xinjiekou( direct translation = New Street Mouth… or opening, take your pick), she decided to take us to Lao Mendong. According to her, and others, it is a far more authentic location than the Confucius Temple area.
Lao Mendong really isn’t far from Confucius Temple (it’s about a 15 minute or so walk from the popular tourist attraction). I wasn’t sure what to expect. All I knew and confident about was that the authenticity of the place would be far higher than those of Confucius’s. Now before I go into details of the experience, I want to clarify on a point: I’m not trying to say that Confucius Temple isn’t a place worth visiting. It is still a place I’d recommend seeing at least once if you’re ever in Nanjing. Anyways, now that we’ve got that cleared up, through the power of words and photography, here’s what went down:
The overall atmosphere of Lao Mendong is much calmer than that of Confucius Temple’s. It probably has to do with the fact that there are less people roaming it’s area therefore giving it a more relaxed feel, perfect for a stroll after your evening meal.
No matter one’s age, there seems to be something to attract people of all stages of life. Plenty of families were out enjoying each other’s company along with couples and various other groups of people too. It was nice because it wasn’t as packed as Confucius tends to be all day nor was it as noisy. It was like walking through a neighborhood rather than like walking down a street of any city’s downtown area.
After walking down and making our way through the street, my friend took us to go by some pre-dinner snacks (yes, PRE-dinner, as if we weren’t going to eat enough).
So before dinner my friend, the wonderful Eva, took us to a little shop that sold Sao bing. Sao bing is a type of Chinese baked pastry that can come in either a savory or a sweet flavor, depending on which one(s) you choose. You can have it stuffed with meat, veggies, or have it just like a flatbread, unleavened and layered up. It’s signature look seems to be a flacky outer-texture with black or white sesame seeds showered all over it’s top. According to her, this particular shop’s Sao bing would normally have people waiting in an ever growing-never-ending-line; that’s how good it apparently is. However on THAT particular day there was hardly anyone and we were able to order without much of a wait (score).
Not sure if it was because I was hungry or the fact that I am not hard to please/am not much of a picky eater but it was pretty decent. I think one thing to keep in mind with anything that is baked is that it always comes with some sort of negative factors. For the Sao bing was the fact that it felt quite oily and it’s flacky texture that can leave quite a crumb;y mess on your face you’re not careful. But I guest with great texture comes a balance of flacky,crunch, and smooth satisfaction.
After scarfing down my piece of the purchase (yes scarf) and kindly declining her insistence on me eating another, Eva led us to one of the restaurants that she had been to before and quite liked.
The restaurant (which I have no name for because, well, didn’t know it’s name and was too embarrassed to ask!) had a very tradition Chinese appeal to it’s setting, both interior and exterior. This might be surprising but it was really nothing I had experience. Growing up in the states, while I was indeed spoiled by my oh-so-gifted family of cooks, finding an Asian place to eat that felt authentic enough was often quite hard. Perhaps it was because of my family’s highly “trained” taste bud or something else, all I know is once dad X-ed a place off his “list” we usually never went back. Anyways, I said all this just to say that this place truly felt authentic. Everything from the food, setting, service, and more really captured and made you feel and realize that you truly are in the land of the Chinese.
Eva ordered plenty to go around and have leftovers so without further ado here is what we had (keep in mind that because I didn’t really know the “official” menu names for each, most of these I just named according to what I recall each being made up of).
(Duck Blood Vermicelli soup; VERDICT: YUM!)
(Chicken and Tofu Gan; VERDICT: Also good, think it was a bit more on the salty side than sweet).
(Cold Bean Mix?; VERDICT: Good but not MY favorite)
(Egg and Spinach soup; VERDICT: Reminded me of home and mom)
Overall it was a cool experience to go to a place more tradition and in touch with the Nanjing heritage. While Eva and her friend were chatting up a storm and her friend’s brother was busy with his phone, I was busy being fascinated with the Guqin (ancient stringed instrument that is pretty much what would be the offspring of a piano and a violin, least to me) performer and enjoyed watching her pluck away during each song.
It was nice to go out and truly see authenticity still alive and well. Definitely will be going back to Lao Mendong atleast a couple more times before it’s time to leave! Overall it was an evening well spent of great sites, people, and of course food.(Special thanks to Ms. Eva over here for being an awesome pal of a Host)
Thanks for reading! Hopefully will be doing more posts of other things on the mind and going here so far!