I once puzzled over a friend’s Wechat food pictures. He had posted some snapshots of oven baked chicken at Don Chicken in Xinbei, but that wasn’t what attracted my attention. Actually, it was something on the periphery — bisected by the edge of the photo. It looked like pizza, and and it looked like it was crammed with toppings. So, I asked, and my friend simply replied, “Korean Pizza.”
So, any time the word “Pizza” is mentioned to me, my brain goes into spastic overdrive with all the question words of “Who, What, Where, Why, When, and How.” I blame New Jersey for this mental imbalance where the word “Pizza” is concerned. I have eaten at Don Chicken before and found their food quite good. So, I opted to try. And?
And, I didn’t like it. At all. First of all, its just a doughy pancake fried in oil. The menu listed two options: kimchee and green onion with seafood. I opted for the seafood. All that entailed was a few tiny shrimp mixed into fried green onion shoots. Omelette style egg took the place of cheese as a topping — if you are to follow through with the pizza comparison. And the result? A profound meh!
I didn’t hate it, but I found no reason to order it again. Don Chicken does so much better with its signature chicken dishes. This “Green Onion and Seafood Pancake” is just downright not worth the time as a singular lunch item. I say this as somebody who enjoys Don Chicken. However, this particular menu item is rather mediocre and easy to live without.
Being a vegetarian or a vegan in China poses unique challenges. For all you know, a delicious broadbean or bok choy dish could have been simmered in pork broth. Once a person with particular dietary needs settles into a city like Changzhou, the hunt for potentially friendly eateries begins. There is one place, however, that can be a consistent convenience.
HiDiLao 海底捞 has a name that is kind of misleading. It makes it sound like a seafood hotpot. While you can order fish, it also just resembles a normal hotpot with ingredients like sliced mutton and beef. The last time I went there, the seafood options also seemed a little less prominent than my first visit. For example, there were no scallops available. Still, they offered the standard fish balls, as well as crab sticks and white-fleshed fish chunks. Like all other hot pots, there are also plenty of vegetables available.
However, there is another thing to consider. A diner can select what broth they can use. This has not been the case with every hot pot I have eaten at. The other great thing is that a patron can easily select non spicy soups. At my last visit, a friend and I had two options. One was a light water, ginger, and rice soup. The other was made from tomato. So, this is unlike the risk of ordering veggies and then seeing them served in meat juice.
The other thing to consider is the convenience. HaiDiLao is a chain, and there are locations all over Changzhou and even in other cities. In many aspects, it’s a friendly resturant when you are in a city you may not know all that well.