Sunday, October 28, 2012

HAIRY CRAB SEASON

Tanks of crabs in shop
The Hairy Crab Season has arrived in Shanghai. Ever since arriving here, seven months ago, I have been hearing about this delicacy. They are in season through October and November, and people go crazy for them. Shops open up selling only hairy crabs. People sell them from buckets in the street, and it seems that every restaurant you go into is selling them. There is no getting away from the hairy crabs.


Market seller
 Believe it or not there are even "fake" crabs for sale. Fake in the sense that they are tagged with fake tags stating they are from the best crab areas. This must be the silliest fake I have heard of here, apart from maybe the fake IKEA store which looked exactly like the IKEA we know and love, except the furniture was all pre built to look exactly like the original. Now anyone who has struggled with assembly of any flat packs I'm sure would welcome this, fake or not.

Knowing that it was only a matter of time before we were either, invited out to eat these little crustaceans, or gifted some, I though I should find out as much as I could about the cooking and eating of them. From what I could see there would be very little to eat as they are not big.

If you are wondering why they are called hairy crabs, it is because there is hair in the claws and legs. Unfortunately you can't see this in the photographs.

My language teacher kindly brought in a video of what to do. I learned all the appropriate lingo and watched with care. 

Hairy Crabs
 As I had thought, there is not a lot of eating in a hairy crab. In fact the Chinese suck the roe, and sorry to say the sperm from the bodies, as that is all that is left once the heart, intestine and gills are removed. The heart was a big no no, on no account should we eat this. I know, the thought of it made me feel quite ill too. I made sure I could tell the sex of the crab, I could probably manage a bit of roe.

 Hope you are staying with me!

Well the day came. My husband texted me on the way home from work to say he had "the crabs" My did we titter! Anyway, a very kind colleague had gifted us a bag of crabs. So now I would have to put my knowledge, and my stomach to the test.

Crabs arrived in a very nice weaved parcel. Inside were eight crabs.


So I set about preparing them. I put the water on to boil. I had been told to add beer and ginger to it to give more flavour. Who am I to argue? I put the crabs into the steaming basket, popped on the lid, placed the basket on top of the boiling water and waited for them to turn pink. 




Ready for the pot
In 12 minutes they were looking ready to eat. Nice and pink.
I carefully removed them from the steamer and cut away the string. I placed them on a board with the mixture of back vinegar and grated ginger sauce for dipping.

Prepared for eating
As you can now probably see from the picture they are not so big. Not quite as big as my hand. The claws were about the size of the top of my thumb, and from what I was thinking there wasn't going to much meat in there.

So finally my thought on Hairy Crab. Sorry, but I have to be honest and say there was way too much effort for too little return. Give me a nice, sweet, large  Dungeness crab any day. At least there is nice chunks of crab to eat, not just a lot of sucking out little pieces. 

I am happy to have had the experience, but won't be rushing to do it again.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

WINE SHOPPING

One of the things which is very expensive to buy in Shanghai is wine. Of course, as with all imported goods it carries a heftier price tag, and as yet we have not found a Chinese wine which we would buy.

Our supplies were running very low so it was good to hear that our local supermarket would be holding it's bi-annual wine sale. 2 for 3, 3 for 4, 4 for 5 or 5 for 6 depending on what you bought. On top of that there was another 20% off the total. A sale we could not miss.

Lots of samples on offer helped us make our choice. Well not quite, as we already had a good idea as to what we wanted, but who would refuse a free sample? We could have been missing out on some fantastic product as yet unknown to us. A risk too big to take lol.


Soon we were being followed by a variety of people all trying to push their wines. But we stayed focused on our search, picked out a friendly face and she helped us navigate our way through the wine marquee to our chosen wines. Pinot Noirs, French, Chianti Ruffino, Riojas, Australian Sauvignon Blanc, always a safe bet, French Chardonnay, yes I know it's not as fashionable as it once was but I like it! What can I say? A case of Prosecco  completed our purchase. However we had to go to another cash desk to get free wines. It was chaos. However we remained patient, I pointed out they had not given us all our free bottles! I wonder how many people were done out of a bottle or two amid the chaos. I was not to be detracted, and we soon had our full entitlement and made our way home.



Our driver seemed somewhat bemused as he loaded it all into the boot, but was delighted with the bottle we gave him. He must wonder what we are up to.



So wine racks looking very healthy, with some to spare. So no popping out for an odd bottle or two. Hopefully this will stretch until the next sale in the spring, or am I being a tad optimistic there? 

Cheers everyone!



Tuesday, October 16, 2012

SHANGHAI TENNIS MASTERS

I was very happy to be at the final of the Shanghai Masters on Sunday. I was even happier that a fellow Scot, Andy Murray, had made it through to the final. As he was playing Djokovic I knew this would be a great match to see. This was to be my first live tennis event and I was really excited about it.


We arrived at the stadium with lots of time to spare. A wander around the various eating, drinking and retail areas, a quick bite of lunch and we were all set. The stadium looked amazing. The roof is in the design of a lotus flower. When the roof is closed all the points of the flower come together to meet in the centre. It must be amazing to see the "petals" swivel inwards.

However, as it was a beautiful late summer afternoon the roof would remain open. It was so nice to be sitting outdoors, wearing t-shirts this late in the year. Even when we were leaving the venue at around 9-00pm there was no need for a coat or even a cardi. Is this really mid October?

So we settled down to watch the doubles final. Have to confess it was not so exciting. It seemed that more than half the stadium was empty at this point. Obviously everyone was waiting for the big event. But I feel as we had the tickets for the day, why not enjoy as much as we could.

Soon it was time for Murray and Djokovic come onto the court. The stadium was now filling up and the atmosphere had changed significantly. A great game was about to begin.


The crowd were cheering on both players, and I was surprised by the number of Chinese people carrying Scottish banners, flags, and Murray banners. This accompanied by shouts of "Mullay, Mullay" made me smile. Yes, the Chinese do pronounce "r's" as "l's". It was really funny. The game was soon underway and as expected it was a great one. Both players playing a hard fast game. From the beginning you could sense it could go either way. Obviously our hearts were with Murray and we were willing him on. No one was giving an inch and the first set eventually went to Murray much to our delight. 


Second set was also very close but Murray just couldn't close on it, although had a couple of match points. Still a third set was okay by me. Sadly it was not to be Andy's night in Shanghai. He had won this final for the last two years, but tonight Djokovic won through. It was not a walkover by any means, it was a great final.

Did the outcome spoil my day? Not in the slightest. I saw a wonderful game of tennis in a wonderful city, and it is another wonderful memory of my time here. Can't be much wrong with that.


I think these two players are about to dominate the tennis world for the next few years. The number one and two spots will be theirs. The next generation of tennis superstars. Can I dare hope to see them play again? I certainly hope so, maybe next time the result will be different.

My experiences in Shanghai just go on and on. I am so very lucky.



Tuesday, October 9, 2012

SHANGHAI to SCOTLAND

Just back from a visit home and had a wonderful time. I am now back in Shanghai, thankfully jet lag free, cases unpacked and contents all back where they belong. Can't believe the clothes I had taken home have been packed away and I'm back to wearing my summer clothes.

This set me thinking about the things I miss, and the things I am happy to have left behind. About what I like better here in Shanghai, and what I miss having left behind.

It goes without saying that the biggest negative about being away is leaving family behind, and never a day goes past without thinking of them. Skype brings us together and keeps us in touch, sometimes we speak more than we would at home. So family aside here is the list of things that come to mind.

Scotland's advantages:

1. Breakfast in Cafe Gandolfi. A must when back in Glasgow.
2. Lunch in Rogano, another must when back in the city.
3. Black pudding, Scotch pies and Fish suppers.


Rogano's Bar
4. Meeting old friends and catching up over coffee, lunch or a nice glass of wine. Always fun, especially with a real fire blazing, a glass of wine and memories shared.
5. The friendliness of shop assistants. Always having time for a cheery word and friendly chat.
6. Beautiful autumnal mornings. Chilly but sunny, and lovely blue skies and the smell of damp leaves in the park. 
7.Warm scarves and gloves.
8. Night skies filled with millions of bright shining stars. Especially in Dalbeattie which is a designated dark sky area.
9. Being able to go into shops and buy clothes which fit. In China everyone is tiny and oh so skinny.
10. Simply being in a familiar situation. Knowing what every label says and how much it costs without having to think too hard about it. So simple but so comforting. 
11. People, even strangers, being interested in my living in Shanghai. 

Scotland's disadvantages.

1. The rain.
2. The rain
3. Dark drab coats, thanks to the rain!
4. Dirty litter strewn streets.
5. Bad language. Only in Scotland do people punctuate words with obscenities ie: abso"fuckin"lutely tre"fuckin"mendous. Apologies if this offends you. While I hate it there is also something in me which makes me smile when I hear it, and hear it you do frequently.

So really not too many disadvantages.

 One of the huge advantages of living in Shanghai is the warm weather. Since arriving here 6 months ago the first time I had worn a coat was on my trip back home. It does rain, and heavily, but it is still hot and soon passes and I know the next day will be back to summer. It is now almost half way through October and it is still 24c. The heat and humidity of summer have gone but I am still enjoying warm days and being able sitting out on the balcony with a glass of wine in the evening.

I think weather definitely affects your mood and your personality. It's easy to be happy and smile when the sun is shining, harder to do so on dreich Scottish days.

One think I don't like here that at this time of year at 5-30 it is getting dark and by 6-00 it is really dark. China operates on one time zone across the whole country and there is no changing of the clocks here. Give me long summer nights anytime. It is always dark here by 9-00pm.