Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Shanghai Trip - Day 3

Day 3 started, like most days, with breakfast down at La Seine. Afterwards we headed to a small village about an hour and half outside of Shanghai called ZhouZhang, which is a historical landmark and more or less looks like the way it did 900 years ago, minus the tourist stores. There are families still living there, whose ancestors lived there generations and generations before. Anyway, it's a very popular place to visit.

Since the village hasn't been modernized and who knew what the bathroom sitch would be in the actual village, our very first stop was at the restrooms. I've included a pic only b/c I found it interesting (and frankly horrifying) that the only toilet that wasn't one of those sink hole toilets (the ones that are just in the ground and you have to squat over them - I don't even know which way you're supposed to face when trying to squat over them - I luckily managed to avoid having to use them the entire trip) was in the handicapped stall. That of course, was the toilet that everyone in my family used.

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Our second stop was at a big restaurant just slightly outside of the village. Our driver had advised us to eat there. He explained that there would be restaurants inside the village, but the food would be cooked by the local farmers and fishermen, and the cleanliness of their kitchens would be questionable. We of course, took his advice. When we first walked in to this restaurant, we were shown immediately to a private room. We thought there was some mistake and that we would be charged extra for a private room, but the waitstaff explained that the entire restaurant was made up of private rooms. There was a large sign that said that there was no extra charge for the room and no extra charge for air conditioning. Apparently, most restaurants charge for AIR CONDITIONING. Good lord. Our room came with two young waitresses who stayed by our table for the enitre meal. The strange thing is, although they provided wonderful service, they were not allowed to accept a tip. In China, you don't pay tax or tip for your meals. My mom tried to give them each 10 yuans (a lot of money to them, but just $1.25 US) and they were terrified and immediately made her put it away.

Here we are, in our private room:

Me, Aunt June, Grandma and Grandpa Posted by Picasa

My mom was quite obsessed with taking pictures of the food we had in Shanghai. She said since she didn't get to eat this stuff in the states, she at least wanted pics of what she did get to eat in Shanghai. The good thing is that this often became a conversation filler when things got quiet at dinner table with the relatives we had never met before (Great Aunt, 14 lbs, among others). As soon as a new dish was set down, someone would shout, "Get your camera out!!!", followed by a chorus of "Oh yes, you should take a picture of this!", "You don't get to eat this in U.S. do you?" and "Have you tried this before?" and then my mom would gleefully fish her camera out of her purse and she would comment on how beautiful the food looked and I would add "Oh I can't wait to eat this!." This would be repeated each time a new dish was set down (usually at least a good 10-15 minutes apart) and seemed to help the conversation along.

And the food was good, but TERRIBLE for your health. Shanghainese cuisine is very very oily and very very salty. At the same time, whenever the Shanghainese use soy sauce (which is very often), they will also put in a lot of sugar to balance out the soy sauce. Consequently, nearly every one of my grandma's siblings had/have heart disease, and two of her sisters developed diabetes.

Lotus Root stuffed with sweet sticky rice in a sugar glaze Posted by Picasa

Rump Roast? in sweet soy sauce Posted by Picasa

Apparently ZhouZhang is famous for this rump roast (?) entree. The whole outer village is filled with these little stores that only sell rump roasts. I probably saw more than a thousand rump roasts that day.

Tiny river shrimp in soy sauce Posted by Picasa

Ah, this dish was a bitch. My tongue was already all cut up from eating crabs the day before (you're supposed to crack the crabs with your teeth so needless to say, the shells were very sharp)and it was near impossible to peel these tiny river shrimps with your fingers, so you just had to sort of eat them whole, and try to fish out the shell with your tongue. If you can tie a knot in a cherry stem in your mouth, you would be good at eating these shrimp. I cannot.

Chinese Bacon cooked with Dried Bean Curd Posted by Picasa

This is a classic example of the unhealthiness of Shanghainese cuinsine. Made of chinese bacon it's super fatty and super salty. But - it was good.

Grandpa eating Shark's Fin Soup Posted by Picasa

Grandpa eating Shark's Fin Soup. Exactly what is sounds like. It's a delicacy, and normally very expensive but surprising inexpensive at Zhouzhang. I think our entire meal came out to around $25 US.

Grandma with a pic of Lovely Ladies in our private room Posted by Picasa

My Grandma will deny it, but she LOVES having her picture taken. All my mom said was, "Hey, I'll take a picture of you with those lovely ladies in the background" and she was all smiles.

After lunch we headed towards the village. Just outside it, we started to see the stores selling rump roasts. You could buy them fresh and vaccum packed.

There's a white blur on the righthand side of the pic. That's me. My mom was afraid she'd get yelled at for taking pics of people's store fronts, so we pretended she was taking a pic of me.

A store selling rump roasts Posted by Picasa

Some pics of ZhouZhang, which has a river running through it. Sort of like Venice, where you can take a gondola ride through the village. The women gondoliers sing old Chinese songs, while taking you down the river, but the men don't. I guess that's the tradition.

900 year old foot bridge Posted by Picasa

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Ends of the tiles on the roofs Posted by Picasa

The writing on the ends of these tiles have characters reprenting good fortune, wealth, etc.

The river running through ZhouZhang Posted by Picasa

ZhouZhang Village Posted by Picasa

Gondolas Posted by Picasa

The following is why I desperately hoped that the Tiny River Shrimp in Soy Sauce did not come from this particular river...

Woman doing laundry in the river Posted by Picasa

Conversation preceding the following pic:

Mom: Hey, go pretend you're knocking on that door!
Me: No, Mom. I don't want to...
Mom: DO IT.

Knocking on a old village door Posted by Picasa

The driver had told us we wouldn't be able to spend more than around 45 mins in Zhouzhang. We managed to spend nearly three hours, just taking pics, browsing and buying touristy junk. He was so worried that he actually called us, thinking we had gotten lost!

That night we went to dinner at one of the finer restaurants in Shanghai, called Jade Garden. The restaurant is very nicely decorated and the food is quite good. They have one in Hong Kong as well, where it's quite pricey, but in Shanghai, it's not, so this meal was on me.

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The two smaller dishes in the center are little snack appetizers, sort of like peanuts you get at the bar. Soy beans in one dish I think, and shredded marinated radish in the other one (the yellow stuff). In the bottom part of the pic is a sort of cured meat/ham with "ham jello" (that's the only way I can explain it, sorry) and on the left is ....I don't remember. I can't tell from the pic.

One my grandpa and my favorites - lightly stir fried shrimp Posted by Picasa

Bamboo shoot lining (delicacy) with chinese ham Posted by Picasa

Roasted duck. You make a mini sandwich with the white buns laying on the side of the plate. Posted by Picasa

Chinese Matzo Ball Soup Posted by Picasa

The following is known as:

The dish that did me in. Posted by Picasa

It was my first encounter with something called "Hai Fun." In English, in means "Crab Powder" but it's really sort of just minced crab meat with the crab "go." In this particular dish, the "Hai Fun" is mixed with pork to make gigantic greasy meatballs. This and all subsequent encounters with "Hai Fun" were met with the same result for me - very bad poop. My terrible joke of the day: "Hai Fun makes my Poop Run!"

I also like, "Eat Hai Fun, and to the Bathroom You'll Run!"

Anyway, that was Day 3.


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