Sunday, January 31, 2010

Fu Hing Seafood Restaurant

Lot's of restaurants claim authenticity and who are we to know any better? Even the most well-travelled among us haven't experienced enough of the world to be an expert on all flavors of cuisine. Even within a particular country or region the variation can range from subtle to immense such that something entirely new and unfamiliar can be the predominant style of an area close to another that you are intimately familiar with.

However, it is fair to call into question the authenticity of most fast food places with a foreign theme. Sure, the owners and workers at that Chinese restaurant you love so much are actually from China but what you are eating is actually an American born meal.

But, of course, there are the exceptions. This, my dear readers, is one of those legendary exceptions. One good look at the menu and you will have no doubt.

fu hing daikon

What you'll see before you looks like a regular "Chinese restaurant" menu. Same font, same colors, same layout, same dragons, et cetera, et cetera, ad infinitum. You know there should be General Tso's chicken there and some sweet and sour pork over there somewhere. Oh, and over here I think is the house special fried rice. Right? You practically don't even need to read a menu like this. But please, take another look; a very close look.

Right there, right where it's supposed to say General Tso's chicken it actually reads "Goose Intestine w. Black Bean Sauce". How odd, let's look a few lines down for the Mu Shu Pork. No, there must be some mistake in the translation here because it says "Pork Blood w. Ginger and Scallion".

Jellyfish, frogs, turtles, fish head, fish belly, intestines, livers, stomach, blood, and tongue. These are but a few of the delicacies / oddities you can find at Fu Hing Seafood Restaurant. There are some quite appetizing sounding seafood dishes which, in typical Chinese restaurant fashion, are so plentiful in variation that picking one can give even the most decisive person a stress headache. As for the standard fare, due to popular demand they've added some Westernized Chinese dishes to a special supplementary menu but good luck ordering it. They don't understand English very well nor do they know what General Tso's chicken is (what is it anyway?) so you probably won't get what you're looking for.

fu hing tongue tendon ear

Who wants to order that anyway? But if you're going the whole hog (literally or figuratively), be prepared wait. The authentic food takes a while. Sometimes forever.

fu hing dumplings

Being among a few less adventurous types and some genuine Chinese people, I got a taste of both worlds. For starters I munched on some beef tongue, tendon, and pig ear. The beef tongue was absolutely delicious. I'm a fan of tongue's strong, "gamey" flavor and this was well cooked. The tendon was nicely sautéed with a teriyaki-ish sauce and has a texture I actually quite like. The pig ear, on the other hand, while not bad, definitely suffered from that dirty taste typical of pig skin. Still, quite a delicious and entirely unique appetizer.

While I waited for my fish (I was told it was going to be a whole fish; eyes, tail, and everything in between), I ate a bit of the fish head soup my Chinese friends ordered. As can be expected, it tasted quite fishy. It's common to find fish mixed with sour tasting spices in Asian countries, something that doesn't quite agree with the Western palate and I can't say I really enjoyed the soup all that much because of this. Sour fish, to my mind, screams bad fish. The soup also contained another lovely surprise: a thousand year egg. Now, it's not actually a thousand years old, but a thousand year egg is… well, let's take this one directly from Wikipedia:

Century egg, also known as preserved egg, hundred-year egg, thousand-year egg, and thousand-year-old egg, is a Chinese cuisine ingredient made by preserving duck, chicken or quail eggs in a mixture of clay, ash, salt, lime, and rice hull for several weeks to several months, depending on the method of processing. After the process is completed, the yolk becomes a dark green, cream-like substance with a strong odor of sulphur and ammonia, while the white becomes a dark brown, transparent jelly with little flavor or taste.

Sounds delicious, right? Dump that thing in some sour fish soup and you have the perfect recipe for a mighty retch. The texture was very gelatinous, akin to the tendon from earlier, entirely unlike an egg ought to be.

fu hing fish head soup

After the soup I got some bad news. My fish wasn't coming out, something had gone wrong and it wasn't salvageable. This was almost two hours after I ordered it so, rather than wait another couple hours, I decided to clean up the chicken and broccoli my wife ordered, have another spoon full of sour fish soup, and a bite of the amazing lamb stew that was now steaming on the table. Very good stew, indeed. Despite the disappointment of not getting my food, it was still a good experience overall and I'm itching to go back again to try some more of the odd items on offer.

Just a word of caution: if you can, bring a translator. Seriously. We had one and it would have been nearly impossible without one. But if you want to try authentic Cantonese food in Jacksonville, you really only have one option.

PS. My sincerest apologies about the sub-par photographs. I left my camera at home and had to resort to using my iPhone for the pictures.

I did grab a copy of the menu while there, however, and have scanned it in for your viewing plesure:

menu outside
menu inside

Fu Hing Seafood Restaurant
10586 Old Saint Augustine Rd

Jacksonville, FL 32257
(904) 268-1953

Fu Hing Seafood Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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