Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Shanghai Trip - Day 4

I'm pretty sure Day 4 started with breakfast at La Seine. We did go to some other breakfast places, but those came later in my trip.

After breakfast, my grandparents went to visit more relatives, while my mom, Aunt June and I headed out for some shopping down one of the busiest streets in the city. I don't think I've mentioned it here yet, but the traffic in Shanghai is by far the worst of any city I've EVER been to. No one follows any rules, and people are horribly impatient. If it's a two lane street, you can be sure that somewhere along the road, you'll find a point where there are four cars driving side by side. On top of that, there are tons and tons of bicylists and scooter-riders, who behave as if they are both cars and pedestrians - whichever is more convenient. And speaking of pedestrians - good luck trying to cross the street!!! No one ever yields to pedestrians, so everyone time we crossed a street, I seriously thought I'd die. Our driver, on average, NEARLY hit 5 cars/pedestrians/bikes/scooters PER DAY.

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People are so rude there, and such aggressive non-law-abiding drivers/pedestrians that there's a campaign going on asking everyone to be polite Shanghainese people when it comes to dealing with pedestrians. Here's a sign that basically says that:

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Major street we were shopping on Posted by Picasa

Me & Mom making a quick stop from shopping to pose for a pic Posted by Picasa

After some shopping, we started to look for a rather hidden but very good noodle shop my grandpa recommended. He told us it was across from a Watson's (drugstore) and down an alley. Well, we spotted about 4 Watson's, and after peering down every shady alley on the street, we finally gave up and settled for Japense noodles instead. They were very good.

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We continued with our shopping, pausing occasionally to check out local food. At one point, we stopped for some grilled calamari. There's a bit of story behind the picture below, which is not a good pic of me, but what the hell.. As soon as we bought the calamari, Mom wanted to take a picture of it so she made me pose with the calamari. While she was searching through her big purse for her camera, and then trying to find the best camera angle, no less than three leering men had descended upon us. See, in Mexico, young children gather around tourists and ask, "Chiclets? Chiclets?" while shoving boxes of gum to them. In Shanghai, grown men and women gather around tourists and ask "Purses? Watches?" while shoving them pictures of fake Louis Vuitton bags and fake Rolexes. With my mom trying to find her camera, and me posing with calamari, it was like we were standing under a big bright sign saying TOURISTS!!! At the point this pic was finally taken, I was scolding my mom to hurry up, as one of them had figured out I spoke English (perhaps it was the "MOM!!! YOU HAVE TO HURRY UP!!!) and was trying his best English on me - "hey bootiful! bootiful girl!" I may be the only woman whose been hit on while posing with squid on a stick.

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After some more shopping, we were ready for a break. We found a little donut shop that also sold what are best described as Chinese Snow Cones. They're basically big mounds of shaved ice, topped with different things. This one was flavored with lime syrup, topped with sweet red beans, with a scoop of vanilla icecream on top, and condensed milk drizzled all over it. It doesn't sound like it'd be good, but this was super yummy.

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We were finally done shopping late in the afternoon. As we started to head back, I saw this place and just had to pose in front of it. It's one of actually a chain of breakfast places (we went to one later in the week) but the thing that caught my eye was the it's the Chinese Colonel!

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We met up with the Grandparents and Great Aunt for dinner at what I thought was the best Shanghainese restaurant, a place called Xinjitsi, I think. It's in an area called XinTianDi, which is this upscale bar and restaurant area, that serves mainly non-chinese food. It's a popular spot for tourists and the local non-chinese people who live in Shanghai. It's a small street of what used to be some of the most expensive homes in Shanghai. They've been preserved and restored on the outside, but have all been turned in to restaurants. Unfortunately, it was dark every time we went there, so we don't have many pics. But here's the restaurant.

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As I had mentioned Great Aunt has diabetes, and was unable to eat most of the dishes. It was during this meal that I realized how often sugar is used in Shanghainese cuisine. We ended up having to order her a bowl of noodles.

Shanghainese meals often begin with several cold appetizers. Here's an example of one:

Pickled fresh cucumber skin rolled up Posted by Picasa

The waiter brought out a large pitcher of cucumber juice, which was squeezed from the cucumbers used to make the above dish. I was not particularly fond of the juice, but I suppose it was okay. Here's a pic of a popular hot appetizer, which I liked a lot but was very filling:

Red dates stuffed with sticky rice in a sweet glaze Posted by Picasa

Here's a pic of the table. Starting in front of my grandpa, going clockwise, there's the 1.) Red dates 2.) Pot of Marinated Sweet Soy Sauce Ribs 3.) Soy Sauce fried Bean Curd type thing, and 4.) much to the chagrin of my tongue - Tiny Battered River Shrimp. I gave up on trying to fish out the shell with my mouth and opted for eating them with the shells-on, minus the heads.

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Sweet & Sour Deep Fried Whole Carp? Posted by Picasa

The above was one of my favorite dishes. It's a whole fried fish, but the chef took special efforts to slice the fish so that there's sort of "pineapple" effect when fried.

The below is one of my LEAST favorite dishes. It's a paste made of the beans from bean sprouts and had a very strange vomit-ish taste, in my opinion. I could only get through half a spoon. I felt bad, especially after I overheard my grandma whisper to my Great Aunt, "the American girl can't take it!" but felt better when I learned after the meal that neither my mom nor my aunt june could stand it and that in fact, as far my mom could recall, our family has never ordered that dish in her entire life, which made me suspect that perhaps neither my Grandma or Grandpa are actually that fond of it themselves.

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I don't have a pic of this, but speaking of food I don't like, I also had the misfortune of bravely trying something called "Stinky Tofu." The smell was pretty bad, but I gave it a try anyway, and the second it hit my mouth, the only thing I could think of was "BARNYARD!!!" It's very popular but good lord, it tastes as stinky as it smells. I believe it's made from moldy fermented tofu.

Anyway, back to the meal on hand. This kind of veggie is actually Chicken Feathers Veggie, as the plant leaves are shaped like chicken feathers before they're cooked.

Veggies with sliced Bean Curd Posted by Picasa

The following pic is actually from the meal at Jade Garden, but I forgot to put it in, and we actually had Chinese ham at this meal as well so here it is. The ham is very popular and somewhat of a delicacy. You make mini-sandwiches with it as well, with little white buns. The closest I've had to it here is the Cracker Barrel Country Ham.

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The below are two pics of my most FAVORITE Shanghainese dish. It happens to be a dessert. At this restaurant, it's steamed in a pumpkin, so there's a slight pumpkin taste to it. It's sweet sticky rice with eight types of fruits and nuts. Sort of like a Chinese fruit cake in spirit, but definitely tastes much better than fruit cake.

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Our hotel is right next to XinTianDi so after dinner, we headed back home.

And that was Day 4.


Blogger kate g said...

i love that you show us all the foods, i'm intrigued by the descriptions of some, having never thought to put condensed milk on shaved ice for one thing, and so the pictures help :) it's cool that you do that because if it were me going on a cool trip like this, i would totally do it too!
hope you're feeling better. enjoying the stories. did mrs. lai's son ever call you? :)

4:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

makes me realy hungry!

9:45 AM  
Blogger Sareet said...

kate g - glad you're enjoying the stories :) mrs. lai's son hasn't called yet, but i'm sure he will. even if he doesn't, like all chinese moms, she's going to bug him until he does!

melissa - yeah, i'm getting hungry too. i could really go for that chinese fruit cake rice thing.

11:16 AM  
Blogger Plumb said...

I heart the Chinese Colonel.

11:23 AM  
Blogger Thode said...

This is so fun! You should really host a food network show.

I love how the bean is considered a dessert food.

Your grandparents and mom are cute and your hair looks really good too.

12:39 PM  
Blogger Sareet said...

You guys are so sweet and encouraging - thanks!

2:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

stinky soybean thing is natto, huh? like the japanese stuff. i was originally extra psyched to find out there was more vegetarian asian food. natto is one that i wish remained cloaked in mystery.

10:37 AM  
Blogger Sareet said...

I don't know what natto is, but if it's anything like Stinky Tofu, I don't want to try it!

3:17 PM  

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