As Bourdain puts it at this episode’s start, “China is big. Really big.” Tony visited China many times across his various shows, but only once did he film an episode in the cold northeastern city of Harbin, the most notable city of the Dongbei Region, which translates to ‘east north’ in Chinese.
Anthony Bourdain visits Harbin to film episode 8 of season 6 of No Reservations; it’s his only on-screen visit to this Chinese city, though he does visit several other Chinese destinations throughout his television career. He visits in winter,
If you’re planning a trip to China and researching the different places Tony ate across Zhongguo, the Middle Kingdom, Harbin is a great option in conjunction with Beijing. In this post, you’ll find a complete list of all the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Harbin during his China travels. Read on and join me as we explore all the places Tony ate in this fun, boozy, and cold episode.
Tony begins this unique adventure at Fox Pub with its owner Alan Wong. Happy to be sheltered from the below-freezing temperatures, Bourdain and Wong break the ice with some Irish Whiskey. Wong owns the place, saying his patrons are mostly foreign workers yearning for a taste of Irish whiskey. Tony and Alan drink a few more glasses before heading to eat across Harbin.
Zhang Fei Pa Rou
Alan takes Tony to a cafeteria-like restaurant full of locals. He tells Tony that he’s going to try the “five layers of happiness.” A bright smile shines across Tony’s face as a large plate of pork belly slides onto the table.
“Most Westerners think it’s too fat,” Alan states, chewing a mouthful. “I’m not most Westerners,” Tony replies.
The pair also munch on some fried pork meatballs. Long strands of noodle-like tofu complement the pork. “Texturally, it’s incredible,” Bourdain says.
Zhao Ji Lao Pu
As the frigid day inches on, Tony stops here to try the imperial cuisine of the Qing dynasty. They start with some pickled cabbage, which Bourdain describes as deliciously sour. The sour flavors continue with sweet and sour pork. But this rendition is more authentic than the Western sweet and sour pork from your favorite Chinese take-out. Tony loves how the pork is more sour than sweet.
The two finish the meal with a bowl of deer blood. Yes, the restaurant serves steamed deer blood. It has a rather pudding-like consistency. Bourdain loves the dish. Tony and Alan clink their beers together, saying “Gan Bei!” which means finish your drink in Chinese.
USA Bucks Bar
Although Bourdain did not eat here, I think it’s worth mentioning the very charming USA Bucks Bar where he guzzled down more beers and whiskey. The bar mimics a stereotypical wild west saloon. The owner Jihi likes to sing songs to his guests, sporting his favorite cowboy hat.
Sun Mountain Yabuli Resort
Bourdain next took a brief trip out of Harbin city to venture toward the nearby Yabuli Ski Resort. On the slopes up, he ate some fine Iranian caviar, although I’m not sure that they actually sell this here.
Mobile Chef in Yabuli Town
Before heading back to Harbin proper, Tony decides to dine at a local motorbike restaurant. It’s an inflatable tent pulled by a single motorbike. The cook works outside in the frigid cold, barbequing different pieces. The cuisine is Chinese barbeque, often called Shao Kao. Bourdain eats a collection of skewered meats, seasoning them in his own spice mixture. Oh, and you can’t forget the grilled butterfly larvae. Can’t forget that at all.
Da Song Shui Jiao
Back in Harbin City, Alan brings Tony to a jiaozi restaurant. The dumplings are simple but expertly made and amazingly delicious. They have an array of yummy jiaozi, from beef and carrot to pork and leek. A side of the now-familiar pickled cabbage complements the meal.
Alan tells a story of how, as a child, his mother would hide a coin in one of her handmade dumplings. Whoever found the coin would have good luck for a year. “Seems like a choking hazard,” Tony says.
Around the World Restaurant
A Russian local and restaurant owner named Dimitri takes Anthony to his Russian-style restaurant. Harbin was originally built by Russians over 100 years ago, and the presence is still felt across the city.
The group eats traditional Russian pickles, fish, and caviar. “A traditional meal,” Dimitri says.
In traditional fashion, Dimitri brings out a full bottle of vodka. Tony groans at the sight but has no fear of taking shot after shot. They cheer to Russia, to China, to world peace, to romance, and to many more things. The drunken group ends the meal with some Russian sausages.
Ice Fishing on the Songhua River
Jihi, the cowboy hat-wearing owner of USA Bucks Bar, takes the group to the frozen Songhua River. He drills a hole to go ice fishing. But he fails in finding a fish to eat. Alan reveals that Jihi has never caught a fish on the river. However, he did bring a ‘stunt fish’ to throw on the mobile stovetop.
He makes fish soup on the frozen river. The dreadfully hungover Bourdain describes the soup as “good; some might say lifesaving.”
Old Liu’s Kill Pig Cuisine
The collection of characters assembles for one final meal at this grand pork restaurant. The name comes after a character from the Chinese legend Journey to the West.
“Everything is pork tonight,” Alan says. They start with a plate of chewy pig’s head. Next is munju xiao (pig’s feet), chaju ghan (liver), and bon du sit (tower of shredded pig lungs).
Bourdain delights in the pork fest. And even more porcine dishes are brought to the lazy-Susan table. Yu fe chang (stir-fried chitlins), pork shank, and a flower-shaped pork dish round out the feast.
“If only I could grow pork in my garden,” Tony says, eating one of the pork flowers.
The group finishes the meal with yet another toast, but my favorite one from the episode: “to good health, good food, and good friendship.”
Have any other questions about these places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Harbin? Let me know in the comments below!