One of the famous dishes in Harbin is the river fish, caught straight out of the river and plonked into a MASSIVE cauldron in the middle of the table. That cauldron sits on top of a fire and the fish bubbles in the spicy soup, amidst a huge array of assorted veggies and mushrooms.
Sounds exciting, right?
So our guide brought us to this restaurant, which was in the middle of nowhere with 3-4 other similar stand-alone restaurants around it. It was a bit run-down, which is great, because it means it’s really local. There’s a small pond in the middle of the restaurant, where you catch your fish and get it weighed. Ours was 4.3kg (!!!!!) which is a whopper, but we figured it’s a run-down cheap place so decided to treat ourselves.
They asked me to order other dishes so we picked random veggies/mushrooms to chuck into the fish stew, as well as 2 more dishes. I was thinking it was a LOT of food, but since it wouldn’t be too expensive, I didn’t mind trying out their local fare.
The bill came up to…………….. almost $200. DOLLARS.
Chris paid when I was in the bathroom, and he looked a bit shell-shocked and quiet when I came back. I asked him “How much?” and thought he was joking when he told me. But nup, it was true. They charged us the price of a fine-dining meal we could’ve had anywhere in the world. Sigh. I don’t know if it was truly a rip-off though, because honestly, the amount of food that we had could’ve fed 6 people.. the portion sizes were enormous!
The 4.3kg fish alone could’ve filled us ;) It was a huge beast of a thing, simmered in the cauldron until the meat was incredibly soft and tasty. Since it’s a river fish and caught in freezing waters, the skin was thick and fatty, and the meat itself was so different to regular fish! Really tender, soft and moist.. with a mild flavour. Ohhh it was luscious. One of the best fish I’ve ever eaten, if not the very best. It came with plates and plates of veggies and mushrooms that we cooked inside the big cauldron, but we barely touched it.. since we had so much food.
We also had a chicken and mushroom dish, which sounds fairly normal but was excellent. A traditional home-cooked-style dish of Harbin’s, it’s chopped chicken pieces, a tumble of mushrooms, all stewed in a luscious, rich gravy. It’s served piping hot and is oh-so-tasty! Was a very large portion though, 1 dish could’ve filled both of us entirely for a meal.
Then, the pickled cabbage and blood dish, which we would never have ordered if we’d understood what it was :P But they said it all in Chinese so we just nodded our heads, oblivious! Actually though, the stewed pickled cabbage was wonderful. It wasn’t salty at all, but very mild – shredded cabbage in a thick gravy. Didn’t touch the blood though – which was like jelly chunks. Definitely too weird for me! Again, that dish alone could’ve filled both of us for a meal.
I just wish the waiter had told us 1) we’d ordered enough food for 6 people and 2) the prices of the food. They were giant sized AND expensive! Sighhh. Well, live and learn.
Catching our fish… which we found out later was over $100 bucks. Ouch..
The meal that cost us about $200. DOLLARS. YEOWCH!!!