Some twelve months ago this December I embarked on contributing to Swansea’s only dedicated food and drink magazine, Taste Swansea. Now I have just completed my eighth article for the magazine and I am starting my blog by re-producing all the articles from Taste Swansea magazine with kind permission from the owners. Of course over time and when time permits, I will be adding new and fresh articles. We hope you enjoy reading the blog, and if you have any burning questions, then I’d be pleased to answer them in future posts. Gigi.
Blog #01 – Chinese Food – The Chinese Way
One restaurant in particular that has been flying the flag for China in Swansea since it opened in 2012 is The Favourite Authentic Chinese. After a change of hands last year, the friendly little café is now run by a passionate foodie called Gigi, who is eager for the diners of Swansea to taste the real China.
All of us will have tried the kind of Chinese food on offer at a takeaway – lemon chicken, egg fried rice and prawn toast. It does the job, but it’s pretty uninspiring. Which is something Gigi is out to combat. ‘Chinese food doesn’t have a great image in Britain,’ she says. ‘It’s usually the same old dishes with too much MSG.’ ‘In a real Chinese dish, you have to have good colour, aroma and delicious taste,’ she added. ‘When I met my boyfriend he complained that the Chinese food he had tried in Britain was totally different to what he eats in China. His strong feelings inspired my ambition to introduce proper, authentic Chinese food to Britain.’
So, when the opportunity to take over the Favourite arose, Gigi gave up her ambition of being a solicitor to focus on the world of food. Her first task was finding a new Chinese chef, Robert Ma, who has more than 20 years of culinary experience, and worked with her to redevelop the menu.
The Favourite now offers a huge menu, full of authentic treats – Kung Pao tofu, spicy fishballs, squid in pork mince, red bean sweet dumplings, and their delicious Beijing meat pasties. However you can still find well known classics like sweet and sour chicken, and spare ribs. However they are made in the traditional Chinese way – with no flavour enhancers like MSG.
As we talked about the different areas of her country, she explained that generally Chinese food is eaten with rice in the south of China, while noodles are favoured more in the north. Gigi – who was born in the city of Yangquan, in the northern Shanxi province of China – is particularly proud of her homemade noodles, which are made with organic flour then hand rolled on the premises.
In China, Yangquan is famous for its noodles and it was her home city that inspired Gigi to pay extra attention when choosing which style of noodles to serve. Aside from noodles, her favourite dish on the menu is the boiled catfish in chill oil with vegetables, while she’s also very keen on dishes made with tofu. I like the tofu options myself (especially if you ask them to fry it well), but my go-to dish at the Favourite is always the Kung Pao chicken – which isn’t as spicy as the red chilli garnish suggests, although there’s a good kick and plenty of savoury flavour.
As our chat came to an end Gigi emphasised that it’s pointless having good food without good hospitality. She said that she always tries to make people feel happy, especially when it comes to special occasions. ‘We are popular for birthday parties, because I try to make the birthday boy or girl feel good – we play a traditional Chinese birthday song and give a Chinese card and present. It’s the little things that make the difference.’ She added, ‘I certainly believe that although Swansea is a small city, this beautiful place deserves something unique and the people deserve something different. So we as restaurateurs from overseas need to do something special.’