I don’t know if there is any interest in reading a food blog that didn’t have any pictures. Anyone? Hello, are you out there?!

I’ve been having trouble uploading photos for a few weeks now but to keep with my self-imposed writing schedule I’ll put up photos later.

Our family embarked on an epic China trip this Christmas and we barely survived. Epic since we had 13 relatives in our group; two little munchkins under the age of six who were constantly competing for attention; one elderly control-freak dad and several drivers that nearly got us in deadly collisions. It all ended with us bowing three times around our ancestral home in Kaiping, with incense in hand. That’s very Gilgamesh-esque if you ask me.

It’s hard to have a strong impression of some of the cities we visited in China. We went on a very brief tour to Beijing, Hangzhou and Shanghai. I don’t think you can feel the pulse of a city when being herded by a tour guide and tour bus.

Beijing had a lot of character, but food in general seems a lot more greasy than what I’m used to; street food seems to be limited to things on skewers, brushed over with a salty marinade. Shanghai street food was a lot more fun and varied. We had fried soft shell crab on a stick, giant shao long baos that required a straw for sucking out the soup and roasted baby birds on sticks.

Hong Kong, a haven for food and shopping, was my favorite stop. This is also the food up I grew up with, so eating wontons, rice porridge, milk tea and noodles everyday was much-needed comfort food after over a week of living out of a suitcase.

After going in and out of passport control several times in the course of four days, we ended back in Kaiping, which is where both sides of my family are originally from and where we could hear the local Toisan dialect. I could tell by the big smile my dad had the entire time there that he felt like a lost son who had come home. I had one of the best meals in this town, where we had the most delicious bbq spareribs I have ever tasted anywhere. They also served  dog meat, a local specialty, which I would have tried if it hadn’t been sitting out in a plastic bag for several hours in my parents’ hotel room. Looked and smelled like lamb but probably a lot cuter when alive. Our driver, the only person who ate it, said we were stupid for not eating it.

Before heading to the airport, we went to see my dad’s house, where he lived until he moved to Hong Kong in his teens. It was bare now, except for a few pieces of antique furniture, including the hand-carved chairs that was a part of my great-great-great grandmother’s dowry. We had to bow to the house gods (or someone, or something) in different rooms to keep our house blessed.

On our drive back to Guangzhou, we saw lots of random European and Arab-influenced buildings throughout the countryside, which was influenced by 19th-century locals who had traveled outside of China and recreated a mishmash of what they saw into their local architecture. A handful of these buildings are now on the UNESCO World Heritage List.