Monday, July 30, 2012

FOUR MONTHS in SHANGHAI

Cannot believe it is already four months since we arrived in Shanghai. A wonderful four months, a lot of highs a couple of lows but on the whole an amazing experience, and it's just the beginning.

What has four months here taught me?

Well I know I love Chinese cuisine. I love the spiciness of Shangainese cooking, loaded with dried peppers and lots of garlic, it certainly lets you know you've eaten a spicy meal. I also like Szechuan food. It is a bit different, as the spicy szechaun peppers have the ability to leave your lips and mouth numb, sounds scary but not really, it is quite delicious.

Then there is the Vietnamese, Korean and Thai but to name but a few cuisines we can be tucking into here in Shanghai. I am having a lot of fun getting to know them, to appreciate the differences in flavours, and find the dishes I prefer and want to eat again and again. I could be here a while.

I have now fully mastered crossing the roads. Seeing motor cycles coming towards me on the crossing, when it is showing the green man, no longer strikes fear into me. The constant hooting of car horns is only letting you know they are there, giving me time to get out of the way. It is still an adventure here everyday, especially when crossing busy roads, but I think I'm doing ok, nothing hit me so far at least!


I now know that learning Chinese is possible. Before we came I really doubted my ability to learn this weird and strange sounding language. However slowly, ever so slowly, I am making in roads. I do have to spend quite a bit of time studying, but I am reaping the rewards. Every time I shop I am delighted when I am understood. I don't always know what they say back to me, but I can make out prices when spoken, which was a great step forward. So day to day simple stuff I am doing ok with. I can order food and drink, what I want anyway. I can ask to try on clothes, ask for colours, sizes and prices, so again important stuff. Time, dates, days are also within my capabilities, which helps when I want Jack to pick me up. So I will carry on and hopefully one day I will feel I have cracked it. No one said this would be easy, but probably not as difficult as I had suspected.


I love shopping in my local markets, and as during the heat of a Shanghai summer fruit and veg don't last too long, so regular trips are essential. I love these trips, I have enjoyed getting to know the stallholders, they not only help me with my choices, but also with my Chinese. It is always a fun trip. Ok so I still feel a bit uneasy when I see the live produce, but I guess that is just so different from our sanitised supermarkets at home, it will take a bit of getting used to. I did actually buy live crayfish a couple of weeks ago. No different from lobster. They were delicious.


So as I head into the next few months it is with anticipation and excitement. I know there is a lot more to be discovered, and a lot more hurdles to overcome. I will carry on learning new skills, forging new friendships and try to enjoy every minute, and make the best of every opportunity that comes my way.

HAPPY BUDDAH
My love affair with China continues, and hopefully it will continue to do so. With the friendliness if the Chinese people, the diversity of the city and the wonderful hot summer days I will be doing my best to soak it all up.



Monday, July 23, 2012

Dish of the WEEK

Looked more bird like than fish to me. Although on closer inspection it was definitely fish.

The translations are just so literal and you certainly get what it says on the box!

Sorry, but when something looks so like the live product it kind of loses it's appeal. This may have tasted delicious but something stopped me from ordering it, perhaps it was those eyes staring up at me.

I have a lot of dinners out in the next week, so hopefully I will be able to add to my library of things which make me smile, gag, or make me wish I was in another restaurant! .

Wish me luck.

COOKING CHINESE

Having had my daughter and her husband here for a few weeks proved to be a lot of fun. It was great showing them around Shanghai, and it seems they loved it just as much as I do. It would be hard not to love this city.

We wandered around historic sites, went to the top of high buildings and discovered markets and little lanes full of interesting people and businesses. It was a wonderful two weeks.

Of course food was a big part of the holiday. Can you imagine my daughter of 35 years, had never, in her life, eaten Chinese food! Never, amazing isn't it? She just didn't think she liked it.

So here we are in a city alive with food culture and she was willing to give it a go. We started slowly with a restaurant called DIN TAI FUNG, which is a dumpling restaurant. Their speciality is little steamed dumplings, here they call them, xiaolongbao, filled with pork, prawn or vegetables. One thing you have to be careful of is biting into them as soon as they arrive at the table as they are really hot, and will burn your mouth, I speak from experience!  You can watch the chefs prepare them as there is an open kitchen. It's fun to watch. Amazingly my daughter loved them, and we would have a second visit before she left.


I had asked my daughter to bring me a copy of Gok Wan's new Chinese Cook book and had been excited about trying out some of his new recipes. All seemed pretty easy and straightforward.


So on the Sunday evening my daughter and I set about making our own Chinese feast at home. We picked dishes to cook, which included twice cooked pork, chicken in soy sauce, some ribs, from Bill Granger's Asian Book, some fried rice, and we decided to buy some dumplings and not, at this stage try to push ourselves too far.. Delighted to say it all turned out very well, it was really delicious. I enjoyed cooking with my daughter and this has given her an interest in carrying on cooking Chinese at home. She has already purchased the book and various ingredients and equipment and she has only been back in UK for a week! I'm sure she will be treating her friends to some nice meals in the near future. Not bad for a girl who had never eaten this food before. 




So with my daughter and son-in-law now back in Scotland, I will be trying out many more of the delicious recipes from the latest edition to my cook book library. If you have ever fancied trying Chinese cooking at home but always thought it was complicated, then this book is a must. Easy, fast and most of all very tasty. I can highly recommend Gok's cook book. Give it a try will save you a fortune on takeaway.





Friday, July 20, 2012

NAP of the WEEK

As summer progresses and the temperature rises what to do but take a few minutes to rest.

With a heat index of 44c today it was all I could do not to occupy the other side of the bench.

It is really hot.

I'm sure he will be up and going about his business before long.

The heat of the sun has to be treated with respect, I know as I spent a little longer in the pool on Thursday than I should have, and am now a lovely shade of pink, which is a little better than the red colour I was yesterday!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

SHANGHAI'S HAPPY HOUR

Gin Cocktail
Happy hour is a fairly important facet of ex-pat life here in Shanghai. Everyone has their favourite hang out, and they are always willing to share their knowledge of the best places to visit.

On my first visit to my doctor we spent 10 minutes discussing why I was there, I was a new patient and just needed to register, and the 40 minutes were spent dispensing, not prescriptions but her knowledge of the best happy hours in town! On reflection, maybe it was the best medicine she was prescribing me. I like to think so anyway lol.

Until recently we hadn't really got around to the cocktail habit here in Shanghai, but then my daughter and her husband arrived. A perfect opportunity to start our voyage of discovery.

First attempt was THE HOUSE OF ROOSEVELT. This is a wonderful building sitting on The Bund, across the Haungpu river from where we live. We headed straight to the 9th floor and stepped out on to a beautiful terrace complete with live music and the most amazing views of the city. A view which included our apartment building. Had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming, and this really was to be home for me for the next few years.


We were too late for happy hour but the venue more than made up for it. What could be better than a hot summer's night spent sipping cocktails on a deck looking across to where you live.

The time passed quickly with visiting family and soon their last night arrived. So where better to enjoy their last night in the city than in the highest bar in the world!  100 Century Avenue  This is located on the 97th floor of The Park Hyatt Hotel. We entered a magnificent foyer, a huge contemporary area with nothing there except for the amazing design concept. I loved it. The lift quickly had us stepping out on to the 97th floor. Sadly there were no free tables by the windows, but we were still able to see the views. We ordered our cocktails and a few snacks. This time we had caught happy hour.

Amazingly, as soon as a table by the window was vacated the waiter came across and asked if we wanted to move. So we did get our seat by the window, we ordered another cocktail and sat and enjoyed the wonderful panorama spreading out below us. We really felt like we were on top of the world. The staff were friendly and efficient and really made us feel welcome. Something tells me I will be back here! After all it is merely a 10 minute walk from our apartment, our local really!!!!

It is so strange looking out from these great venues and being able to pick out where we are living. I just cannot believe how lucky I am. Not only being here in Shanghai, but being able to enjoy our good fortune with family and friends. We are having lots of people come and visit and I will never tire of showing them this great city.

We decided to do one more bar before heading home. This time we crossed the road to visit CLOUD 9 which is located in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Another amazing entrance, but sadly no warm welcome and although there were seats free by the windows we were told they were for six, and as we were only four we could not sit there. Another table for four was apparently reserved. We left one hour later and still the window tables were empty. I just cannot see the reasoning for this and for me it will be my first and last visit. The staff were unhelpful, disinterested and really spoiled the atmosphere. So different from our experience at 100 Century Avenue.



So a great night, we didn't let the bad service at Flair spoil it, but I know where I will be heading for my cocktail this Friday night. No contest.



Cheers everyone. Looking forward to seeing some of you here enjoying a cocktail or two with you. Come and visit this wonderful city I know you will love it just as much as I do.



DISH of the WEEK


Not a lot of eating in this dish. I didn't even realise ducks had chins but I guess they must.
My husband has eaten duck's tongue but reckoned it was a waste of time. No taste, texture of jerky and pretty pointless were his comments on it. I take his word for it. What is the point?

They hunt goes on.......................


Thursday, July 12, 2012

CHIMING TRUCKS

Ever since arriving here in Shanghai I have been hearing what I thought sounded like the chimes of the ice cream van.

Day after day I would hear the music, and occasionally the tune of "Happy Birthday" would chime out. I would run to the balcony to try and see this, as what I thought would be, ice cream van. But always in vain. No sign of anything selling ice cream, or even anything resembling any kind of van that would be selling it's wares.

Also being as it was usually around 10-00am I would be alerted to the sound, I was confused as to why they would be selling ice cream at this time in the morning. Not that ice cream at any time would be a problem!!!

I asked around, was met with puzzled looks. No ice cream sellers in vans around Shanghai. What could I be hearing?

Then one day it all became clear. The sound I was hearing was the sound of the road cleaner. It would come around in the morning sweeping and washing the roads as it chimed out it's tunes. Disappointing in one respect, but also great to hear the sound of the roads being washed while accompanied by a pleasant tune. Also you could request "Happy Birthday" to be played. Love the idea.



Only problem is that when I say it washes the roads, it's not only the roads that get washed, the water is a powerful jet projected from front and sides of the truck, the pavements also get cleaned, and if you happen to walking past at the time, then your feet and most of your legs will also come in for a soaking. I soon learned to jump well clear of the van playing music. Cars going through puddles are nothing compared to this.

So now I know,  just have to find who to call when I want "Happy Birthday" played. I wonder if the take other requests?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

TEA in CHINA

Had a very interesting trip to a Tea House this week. When in China and all that..........



Some of you may not know but my husband works for Twinings, and therefore all things tea are of interest to him. So a tea tasting was right up his street. We had done it before, but this time my daughter and her husband were with us. It is always good to to do these things more than once as you don't always take everything in.

A delightful young lady performed the ceremony for us.


With an array of teapots, small cups and a selection of teas all promising wonderful health properties she set to work. Never boiling the water, leaving it to infuse for a long time, and swirling and pouring finally ending up in small cups for us to taste. Dark teas, green teas, jasmine, lapsang souchong, oolong black to name but a few. Most were delicious but some a bit too medicinal for my taste. 


One of the prettiest, but not not the tastiest came in the form of a tightly compressed flower and when covered in hot water it slowly unfurls into a beautiful flower before you eyes. This is a lovely thing to serve at a tea party, it will almost certainly entertain and wow your guests. Just have some heatproof glasses to hand.


One thing I found very interesting was that when making tea the first addition of the nearly boiling water is only to wash the leaves. It is poured over then away, and fresh water is then added to the leaves. After the infusion is complete it is then poured into tiny cups. The Chinese will always smell the tea before drinking. Much like we do with our wine. 

It was a surprise to learn that the tea leaves can be used up to eight times depending on the quality of the tea. Not something you can do with a teabag! So although the tea seems very expensive it is not really when you work out the number of times it can be used.


And if the health properties are to be believed, and I am hoping so, then when next year I am a skinny person with all my organs in great condition with beautiful skin  and the possibility of living to a very old age, then the cost will have been well worth it. Well one can hope!

So don't give up on the Twinings tea but do try some of the varieties you see on the shelves. I know we all tend to stick to our favourite, but as they say variety is the spice of life. You never know a cup of lapsang souchong or oolong might just become something you enjoy.

Friday, July 6, 2012

NAP of the WEEK

As the temperatures soared in Shanghai this week people were falling asleep with ease. It reached 40c but was feeling like 46c according to the weather forecast, it certainly felt extremely hot. It seemed people were nodding off anywhere,  even a bit of cardboard laid out on the pavement. This lady had just had enough and decided to check out.

If I had been out much longer I would have been joining her. Thank goodness for A/C. I cannot imagine living here without it. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

DISH of the WEEK

Assuming not just a bit on the side lol.

 I'm sure the translation was almost right and should have read "Spiced Donkey" not that it would have made any difference to me, as once again this was something I'd rather not let pass my lips.

I wonder if I will ever run out of these tasty morsels to bring to you. With 73,000 licensed eating establishments here in Shanghai, I somehow think not!

So another week, more searching to be done. Wish me luck.