Oldie but Goodie is a monthly column where we feature noteworthy restaurants, cafes or bars that have been open at least six months and are worth a try.
Of Guangzhou’s many proud culinary traditions, few are more widely loved or approachable than the city’s world-famous sweets and desserts. Just as in the West, comfort food is one category of cuisine that seems to unite generations and few memories are more lasting than the flavors of youth.
One dessert shop on Tongfu Dong Lu in Haizhu District, is an exemplar of this flavorful legacy. Saunter up to Fenfang Tianpin on any evening and you will witness Cantoners of all stripes united in their love of sugar and oil. The restaurant, established in 1982, has long since spilled out from the confines of its humble founding storefront and now occupies a half-dozen doorways up and down the block. Branches exist throughout the city but there’s nothing like the original.
Within, a giddy, treat-night atmosphere prevails (this was indulgent fast-food before the first KFC opened shop on Chinese shores) and bossed-up versions of Guangzhou staples grace the vast menu.
Imagine a gloriously glutinous tangyuan, stuffed to the gills with richly sweet bean paste, then basted lovingly in a caramel-y sauce and sprinkled with a combination of chopped peanuts, grated coconut and sesame seeds.
On the savory side, fried dumplings with pork and corn are a popular pick. Even changfen, one of Guangzhou’s more inscrutable snacks, with a texture likened by one of the city's premier food critics as akin to a “flaccid dolphin penis,” gets a decadent comfort-food makeover. We heartily endorse the scallion oil and shrimp version, wherein the usually still-glutinous skin achieves a crispy outer layer through pan frying, concealing the untold savory delights that lie within.
With many cold desserts also on offer, in as many combinations as the mind can conjure and often containing the shop's signature mango ice-cream, it's small wonder why Fenfang will likely remain a Mecca for the late-sleeping, sugar-hungry snack-prowlers of the city for many generations to come.
Click here for more Oldie but Goodie.