HAPPY MONK BURGER
- 8oz. Australian beef patty
- Cheddar cheese
- Bacon jam
- Sweet bread and butter pickles
Welcome to the Guangzhou Grub segment in which The Bon Vivant will take you where the spotlight shines and darkness reigns in the alleys of the Canton region, or what is known as Guangzhou – the third largest city and culinary capital in the People’s Republic of China tucked in its southeasternmost corner just a stone’s throw away from Honk Kong. Not only is the food in this region known for its freshness and exoticism, but the people of Guangzhou are famous for eating anything that flies, crawls, swims or walks, and the more I explore the more I find myself in agreement with this saying.
But enough with the juicy foreshadowing. I’ll start this series with, well, a burger. Not surprising, I know. But… a burger in China?
Before I left the States for China I was well aware that my days of craft beer and scrumptious burgers would be temporary over, but I did not expect to find an excellent burger so soon. For most expats who find themselves in the heart of Guangzhou’s downtown area, The Happy Monk wine and cocktail bar is a well known locale and watering hole with a surprisingly authentic European vibe. Here you can sit down, relax, sink your cigarette in an ashtray filled with coffee grounds, and.. well… sink beer after beer while stuffing your face with a mix of peanuts and popcorn. The time to visit this friendly Western oasis is between 5PM and 7:30PM when The Happy Monk’s Happy Hour reigns supreme with a Buy 1, Get One Free deal on any and all draft beers, mixed drinks and cocktails. Super close to the Taojin subway station, this is a great place to start a bar crawl at especially if you’re sick and tired of Tsingtao Brewery Tsingtao American Adjunct Lager [4.80% ABV] (actually pinyinized correctly as Qingdao, pronounced CHING-dow) or Asia Pacific Brewery Tiger Beer American Adjunct Lager [5.00% ABV], and you will be. I swear. Besides, 2 large (500mL) Carlsberg Danmark Carlsberg Beer German Pilsener [5.00% ABV] on draft for 35RMB is about as cheap as it gets to drink in downtown Guangzhou. Or you can just go all out and order a 3L”pitcher” of it and dispense your indiscriminate Reinheitsgebot justice. We call it “The Globe”. See what I have to work with?
At least the food situation is better..
82RMB with cheese – I will always be on my quest to find glorious burgers, so it comes to no surprise that I ordered the Happy Monk Burger to satisfy my curiosity and need for bovine genocide in my mouth. I was suspicious, but let me throw you a bone as a spoiler: This was a damn fine burger and I recommend it wholeheartedly. The HMB epitomizes Guangzhou cuisine in its entirety which may be a bold statement since we’re talking about burger here after all. There are no over-the-top spices, flavors or condiments here and nothing to mask the flavors – no spicy heat and none of the aioli or housemade sauces that are so prevalent in the West. Instead, the Happy Monk Burger happily delights with its simplicity and selection of fresh ingredients. I know I usually like to drool over the cheeses and the beef, but I’ll throw you a curve ball here, folks.THAT TOMATO SLICE. It makes such a difference. I’m so used to eating lesser tomatoes back in the States that only get added to burgers as part of the usual tomato-onion-lettuce texture combo. Here, however, the tomato is for flavor and it manages to shine even through the deliciousness of the cheddar cheese stuffed Australian beef patty or the ever so slightly toasted bun. Go ahead. Try it. Tell me I’m wrong, I dare you. Add the red pepper sweetness and kick of the pickles and the bacon jam‘s onion medley and you get a fantastic burger that is as quintessentially professional as it is authentic in its core.
The fries that go with it are also amazing and very filling without being greasy or overly salty at all. Actually, none of the food I’ve had in Guangzhou has been too salty so far. In addition, the burger and fries are served with two dipping sauces – what seems to be a sweet ketchup with some extra red pepper in it, and Japanese style mayonnaise with a hint of horseradish. Both are delicious and mild and I just used them to dip my fries in and I recommend you do the same.
So, if you find yourself in seriously good and seriously ole Guangzhou and you are craving a burger, stop here.
The burger quest, however, goes on.
The Happy Monk (Taojin Location)
Units 107-110, Ground Floor, Peace World Apartments, 29 Jianshe 5 Road, Guangzhou, 510610, PRC