Monday, May 28, 2012

TWO SIDES OF THE HAUNGPU

A gorgeous hot Saturday saw us head over the river, to the "other side".

Shanghai is divided by the Haungpu, Pu meaning river. On one side is PuDong, where I live, the other side is PuXi. So literally East and West of the river. Here in PuDong is where the financial centre of the city is located. There are lots of new buildings, and lots of wide open space. At the moment the highest building in China is located here, The SWFC which stands about 1/4 of a mile from our apartment. Next to it is being built, what will be the 2nd highest building in the world on it's completion in 2014. We are enjoying watching it grow before our eyes. It is a fast growing and modern part of the city. I love it here. 


What will be The Shanghai Tower due to open 2014




This is what we can see from the apartment window. At night when all the welding is going on, it can be like looking at a firework display as the sparks cascade down the building. It really is amazing.

SWFC Highest building in China


Five minute walk from the home and I can be at the river. A short ferry ride, costing 20p will take me across to PuXi in a couple of minutes. Another beautiful part of the city.

This is where the old town is located. In recent years a lot of developing has been going on. Lots of cool new bars, restaurants and shopping malls springing up. Old areas are being cleaned up to make way for the new lifestyle, demanded by the young wealthy Shanghaiese people and by ex pat and tourits alike. It is a hip place to be seen. But the old town also remains with markets for anything you wish to buy. The old building and tree lined streets are beautiful.

Xintandi Area of Puxi
It is so relaxing walking around the old streets, although now awash with tourists.

It is what it says
Cool Docks is full of restaurants, bars and stylish shopping.

It's strange but people who live on the PuXi side of the river seem to look down a little in the Pudong side. One lady I spoke to said she had never crossed the river. I find this really strange as both sides have much to offer. They are just different. But then I guess in London there is a north, south divide with the Thames going on.

Taken aboard the ferry

I am very happy to live  in PuDong and also enjoy the luxury of a quick, cheap ferry ride across to experience as much of the city as I can while I am here. 

Looking across to Puxi from PuDong.

Making the most of these sunny days as apparently the rainy season, which is basically June, will be here soon. Can't say I'm looking forward to that.








Wednesday, May 23, 2012

THECELTICCOOK GOES MEXICAN in SHANGHAI

MY Diploma in Mexican Cooking
Well here is the proof that whatever you decide to do, it is all here in Shanghai. A strange place to do this I agree, but I'm just taking advantage of all that is available to me.

Did I slog away for 6 long weeks, did I do an intensive class? Answer to both these questions is no!

I paid some money, about the equivalent of a nice meal out, and spent a wonderful 3 informative hours sitting on a stool watching someone prepare all the dishes, while being supplied with unlimited margaritas, stopped counting, or maybe last count after my 5th!

As each course was demonstrated we ate the results. So as well as drinks, we ate a delicious, chef prepared lunch. Angelina Ramos, the chef, was over from Mexico on a promotional visit, which I'm guessing tied into Cinquo de Mayo celebrations. She was very entertaining and showed us how it should be done. Made it all look so easy.
  
Guacamole
An appetiser of guacamole went down well, and was followed by a really delicious cold avocado and shrimp soup, which I will definitely be trying in the near future. She then prepared some chicken nachos with a green salsa and cheese. So good. A beef fajita was our final dish before dessert.

For dessert a rice pudding with orange, cinnamon and pistachio nuts was prepared. I'm not a great rice pudding fan, but tasted a spoonful and it was nice, and I know my husband would love it.

So all in all a good day was had by all. Good food, good company, a big basket of Mexican goodies, a set of chef's whites and a lot of handy tips for the next time I cook Mexican.Plus of course a diploma!
 I am thinking maybe this weekend I'll put my new found knowledge to the test in my kitchen. Only hope I can remember everything.

So I will be looking out for the next cooking event held in the Westin Hotel. Well worth the money for a very informative and entertaining afternoon.


Sunday, May 20, 2012

MY LOCAL MARKET

My local wet market
I love shopping at my local market. It is a busy noisy place and full of friendly people. On several occasions  people have come to my rescue with iphone translation apps to help me but what I want.

As I am a frequent visitor the stall holders now know me and are extremely helpful, even helping me with what little Chinese I have picked up so far. There are always smiling faces welcoming me.

The produce is fresh and plentiful, and full of stuff I have never seen before, or certainly never used. So I am enhancing my cooking skills trying out new things. One thing is that the produce doesn't stay fresh too long, but for me that means it's not full of artificial things helping it to last for ever, which can't be a bad thing.

 Also I like shopping on a daily basis choosing what's fresh that day and working my meals around it. This is how people used to shop. Luckily I have the time to do this and I appreciate this is not an option for everyone, but I am enjoying it while I can.
My fruit seller
Shopping here lets me see a bit of local life in China, away from the ex pat bubble that one can often find themselves in. Although we do some of the ex pat stuff we also love to see how the local people live and often find ourselves wandering down alleys and backstreets. It always feels safe, we have never felt threatened, and we are careful. People do stare, not too many blondes wandering around these areas, but they are always polite, and usually more than willing to let me take photographs, and on more than one occasion have had my photograph taken by them.

Lunch time at the market.
Selection of fish on sale
So as you can probably tell I am having a lot of fun shopping here. I even get free stuff! I now have so much ginger in my freezer I don't know that I'll ever use it all up. Can you believe when I went on Saturday to buy chillies, quite a bag of them they wouldn't charge me anything. Can't ever see that happening at home. I will repay them will treats from my kitchen, not sure how that will go down, but I will try. Little jars of chilli sauce perhaps.

So combined with the supermarkets here, I couldn't do all my shopping in the market, I am able to find almost everything I want. Buying anything brought in from outside of China is very expensive, but we do need a little bit of "home" from time to time so if a box of weetabix in the cupboard satisfies that need then the cost doesn't really matter.




Thursday, May 17, 2012

SHANGHAI LIFE SO FAR..................

Can't believe it was only 7 weeks ago today I left UK behind and headed East. Thankfully I am able to report that all is going well, and I am really enjoying Shanghai living.

I walk this way a couple of times a week.

I have been spending myself getting acquainted with this vast city of 23,000,000, yes it is a lot of people, with it's food markets, supermarkets, fabric markets, shoe markets, china markets, flower and bird markets and just about any kind of market you can possibly imagine. So as you see I have been keeping pretty busy.

Jason Atherton's Venture in Shanghai

On top of that, there are restaurants to try out, bars to find and a host of new friends ready to be found. No time to stand still and catch a breath.

Brits Club has been a way of making first contacts, and thanks to a couple of coffee mornings, a breakfast club and Friday drinks, slowly I am gathering a nice circle of people who I'm sure will enhance my life here even more.

 Monday sees me heading to a Mexican Cooking class, yes I know it seems a bit weird coming to China and taking Mexican cooking classes, but it is just a stop gap until the Chinese Cooking class begins.

Although I have to say with the help of a couple of books, I have been making a good attempt at being self taught.

 There's also a book group I've joined and in time I will join some charity organisation to help give back a little. I always try to do something like this when living in a place. I know it's not much, but I do feel it also helps keep me grounded and remember how very lucky I am. So if I can do even a little, to fundraise, cook or help with English classes I will be more than happy to do so. Every little helps.

The other side of Shanghai life
So what, given the vast population, do you think of our chances of bumping into a Scottish couple in a supermarket? Well very good as it happens. A couple of weekends ago we were extending our ever increasing circle of place we could walk to when we found a new food market and  decided to go in for a look. Luckily we did, as we were soon accosted by two Scots who had heard our accents, and in true Scottish style an invitation of a cuppa the following afternoon was issued.

Couldn't believe that they were living about 1/4 of a mile away, could be handy for the day when the cuppa becomes something a little stronger lol. Looks like we will have some fun with them. I had a shopping trip with "New Found Scottish Friend" this week, and we just have so much in common, loving shopping only the tip of the iceberg. We both love crafts, entertaining, cooking and more besides, although I don't ever think I'll share her love of cycling in Shanghai. I'm still learning to cross the roads safely, never mind cycle on them. 

Still it was a fascinating trip to a bird and flower market, one that I will be visiting again, not for birds, maybe for flowers, but for all the craft, glassware and China stalls. Think this must be where TK Maxx comes to shop! (TJ Maxx for my American friends).

As my hubby had expressed a desire for fish, and not for supper, I bought him a surprise gift which he will get on his return home this afternoon. The plant was my idea, and the fish is gorgeous.


So as you can see I haven't been letting the grass grow under my feet, I've put myself out there, and we are enjoying reaping the benefits. Looks like Shanghai is everything I hoped for and so much more. Wonder what the coming weeks will bring. So much to do and see, so many people meet and fun to be had.

                            Have a great weekend everyone.










Tuesday, May 15, 2012

DRAGON FRUIT UPDATE

I know recently I blogged about how the beautiful Dragon Fruit not delivering on taste. However, after reading this today I may have to start developing a taste for it.


Hope you can read this.
The Chinese take their food, and their health giving benefits very seriously, with certain foods eaten at certain times of the year.

So if a the beautiful Dragon Fruit has the ability to delay the ageing process then I'm going to grow old loving it!



The other benefits weren't quite as attractive to me lol.

It article also stated that pineapple, watermelon and kiwi are good fruits which will help with the heat of summer. Fruit salads on the menu as from today. Anything which will help with the heat effects on the body I'm willing to believe.

I'm off now for my glass of watermelon juice.





Sunday, May 13, 2012

WATERMELON JUICE

Since arriving in Shanghai six weeks ago it has been hot. Hotter than I had expected for this time of year. I know in mid summer it will be 40c which will cause me to spend time indoors enjoying the luxury of the A/C.

But these temperatures I don't mind, it has been constantly around mid to higher 20's with occasional hikes into the 30's. One day it hit 36c, that was hot, especially for my fair celtic skin. Still I can just about cope with the heat, and I know all my friends back in UK will have no sympathy for me given the weather over there in the last few month, but it is the humidity which I find harder to tolerate.

Today is a prime example, overcast, high 20's with a 90% humidity, YUK! 32c forecast for later in the week, and still overcast.

One thing I have realised is I have to take in lots of liquids otherwise I can feel my energy draining away. I now never leave home without a bottle of water in my bag.



However when at home one of my favourite thirst quenchers is water melon juice. I had drunk it several time in cafes and restaurants and found it the perfect drink to quench that thirst. It's not too sweet, and full of goodness. Simple to make just a case of juicing the melon flesh. I have a juicing attachment on my liquidiser but I'm thinking you could probably just blend it and strain it .


Yesterday I decided to buy a whole one instead of my usual half melon. I was a different market from usual, a real local place located down an alley close to the apartment, and a very recent find. It was cheaper here than usual so I was very happy. But you can imagine my surprise when I cut into it and there was no nice juicy red fruit but instead  a nice juicy looking yellow flesh. I had never seen this. It tasted the same, only the colour was different.

So now I am enjoying my yellow watermelon juice, just as delicious but I am wondering if the nutrients are the same as I am always aware of red fruits being better for you. Anyway I don't really mind it is quite nice to enjoy the variety of drinks, and you know what they say, "variety is the spice of life"


As I look at the photos of the juice a thought has come to mind! With a splash of vodka, a squeeze of lime juice and a handful of crushed ice these could be a delicious summer cocktail to serve. Mmm!
Looks like I know what I'm going to be serving my friends throughout the summer. Cheers!



VIETNAMESE PHO

Trying out lots of new eating places here, and the one food which is really appealing to me is Vietnamese. I love the sweet, sour, spicy flavours, and in particular the PHO. It is a delicious soup like dish with the addition of slices of marinaded beef. It really has become one of my favourites.
 So I set about finding a recipe to make it at home.


With my 2 cookbooks, all I could carry with me, but both Asian cooking I felt sure I would find something. Once again Bill Granger didn't disappoint. Every recipe I have ever made from any of his books has always pleased.

This recipe is simple, fast and delicious, what more could I have asked for.

1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp fish sauce
2 sirloin steaks, about 300g each
375g rice noodles
1 litre chicken stock
5 slices of ginger
2 Tbsp lime juice
1 cinnamon stick
2 tsp sugar
3 star anise
1 Tbsp light soy sauce
1 bunch bok choy, cut into long strips
1 red chilli sliced
1 handful of Thai basil. (I couldn't get this so opted for coriander)

Put soy sauce, honey, half the fish sauce and a pinch of salt into a shallow dish. Stir. Add the steak, cover and leave for 5 mins.

Meanwhile, Place noodles in a large bowl and cover with boiling water and leave to soak according to packet instructions. Drain and refresh under cold running water.

Place stock, 500 mls water,  ginger, lime juice, the remaining fish sauce, cinnamon stick, sugar and star anise into a pan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Heat large frying pan over medium - high heat for 2 minutes. Add oil and sear steaks for 2 minutes each side. Then allow them to  rest for 2 minutes.

Divide noodles and bok choy between 4 serving bowls. Ladle hot soup into bowls and top with sliced steak, basil and red chilli slices.

I squeezed a little more lime juice into the bowls and served lime quarters, sliced chilli and spring onions alongside. This gave people the opportunity for a little more heat or sourness depending on their taste.

I also made some Vietnamese spring rolls with mango and shrimp to serve with the pho.






I know it looks like a lot of ingredients, most of which you will probably have in the pantry, but once they are measured out it really doesn't take long to put it all together.

Thanks again to Bill Granger, my go to guy for Asian cooking.






Tuesday, May 8, 2012

SIMPLY EGGS

I cannot believe how small eggs are here in China. This one was however the smallest I've come across so far. There doesn't seen to be any standardising of the sizes. So just pot luck really. Will be a challenge when baking. To produce an omelette for two people I am using 6 or 7 eggs!
I was amazed to see pigeon and pheasant eggs on sale and think one of the pigeon eggs must have slipped through the net. They also sell salted duck eggs which I am told are delicious, so one day I will have to give them a go. There doesn't seem any reason not to eat other eggs apart from the ones we are familiar with, and I do wonder what we feed our chickens back in UK to produce such large eggs!
One thing they sell here, and I saw being sold for the first time this week, is 14 day old fertilised eggs. The chicks were just beginning to peck their way out of the shell. I had heard of this, they are usually sold as street food, and this is where we saw them for sale. When I had first heard of this practice I had though it was interesting as a blog post. But I have to say my horror at seeing this left me unable to even think about photographing them. And in case you are interested the Chinese just eat them uncooked, as is, feathers, bones and beaks. Actually made me feel quite ill at the thought. This is the first time since I've been here that any food has illicited this kind of reaction from me. I hope never to com across it again. Thankfully it seems to be dying out as a practice. I do hope so.

Friday, May 4, 2012

FRUIT BOWL

How different my fruit bowl is looking here. There are still bananas, apples oranges etc but there are a few new editions. Mangosteens and dragon fruit this week. I love the creamy sweetness of the mangosteen, but I have to say can't see that I'll be buying dragon fruit again any time soon. It's totally tasteless. Beautiful yes, but the favour does not fulfill the promise of how it looks. A perfect case of style over substance. ..
I have yet to pluck up the courage to buy a durian fruit, I think the smell of them in the shops is enough to put me off. One day soon I'll be brave and buy one and see if beneath that horrible stench lies anything which is palatable. I doubt it. However I may be proved wrong as many people here love it. Watch this space.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Apologies if you have read this on my other blog but just feel it's a blog worth the encore.
Just had the worst Indian food of my life, but the experience did make us laugh, so all was not lost.

As soon as we saw the menu we should have done the sensible thing and run............ However the staff were so friendly and welcoming we felt we should perhaps give them the benefit of the doubt. Wrong.

We were brought water, choice of hot or cold, strangely here they drink hot water as it is said to cool the body, cold foods are bad in summer, yes sounds weird to me too.

Anyway a quick glance at the menu soon had us laughing, sausage curry, really? That was only the start of it. The appetiser basket contained, chicken drumsticks with no hint of curry, crispy fried tentacles and chips with ketchup. Was it too late to make a speedy exit? No we really had to stay and experience it.



We made our choices, we needed to order the appetiser as proof! I went for a pork and vegetable curry, how bad could that be? Well basically pretty bad, a fried pork cutlet with some veg covered in the same generic curry sauce as my husband's curried meatballs. I thought he had made the bad choice, but soon realised there was probably no good choices. In spite of this the restaurant was fairly busy.

We made small gesture towards eating it. Drank our Japanese beer, again a weird thing as this was the only alcoholic drink available, and believe me we needed some alcohol to see us through the experience!


It took me back to those awful Vesta curries which was my first taste of foreign food. Some of you may remember them with fondness, I did until my memory was jogged as to just how awful they were. Oh how our tastes have moved on from early days experimenting with new cuisines from around the world.

As we left, and paid what was around £9.00, a worthwhile price for the experience, and the photographic evidence.




So if you ever in any place in Asia come across COCO's Indian Cuisine run for your life, I've taken the hit for all of you lol.