Saturday, May 31, 2008

Shanghai First FoodMall II

I was walking around the 'foodmall' and headed towards to the back of the shop, I noticed that there was a food area where people were cooking. The first stall I noticed was that they were frying dumplings. Yes, dumplings again. The name of the place was called Yang's Fry Dumplings. As you can see in the photo below, there was an enormous queue. I immediately decided this was going to be the beginning of my lunch. You first have to go to window and tell a man how many you want and pay for them. You get a ticket and then you go to the back of the queue. While standing there and waiting, you get hungrier and hungrier as you can watch the staff stuffing the fresh dumpling and watching the man frying the dumplings.

They were so stunningly good. They were very hot so I had to be careful of the hot spitting dumpling. I am sorry for the quality of the photo. The only problem about the food mall is that there is no where to sit and eat the fantastic dumplings. So, I was holding the dumpling in one hand and the camera on the other.

The next dish I had for lunch was from another food stall near the dumpling stall. The area had several soups to choose from. Depending which one you chose, you stood behind someone eating and waited until they finished and you took their seat. It was an interesting thing to do and it had to be very strategic because there were evil women roaming around trying to cheat and get the next empty seat without queueing like everyone else.

The soup was amazingly good. I chose the soup with stewed beef, thin glass noodles, peanuts and a spicy bouillon. The portion was huge (I was very happy), the soup had a wonderful blend of flavours, of course I could not even come close to trying to describing them to you. Just believe me when I say that fast food can actually be delicious. Oh, and yes, it is a bit strange trying to eat when there is a stranger continuously looking over your shoulder to see if you are finished with your soup.

Shanghai First FoodMall

I was walking around to find my last lunch in Shanghai when I stumbled into a huge food hall. I noticed that millions of people were shopping in this emporium of food stuff. It was crazy! I think if you were looking for any kind of spice, fruit, animal, tea, snacks, fresh/ dried/ preserved, etc. you could find it here.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Snacking in Shanghai II

My last day in Shanghai, I was determined to try as much food as possible in three hours before leaving for the airport.

The first place I stopped was named Wu Da Niang, a place that was popular for buns. These are the famous white flour buns stuffed with either something savoury or sweet. I noticed that people were queueing up. I went to look and there was a young girl asking the customers which bun they wanted. They had about 5 different types. I, of course, had no clue what was inside them since everything was written in Chinese. I just guessed and used the power of finger pointing again. Luckily, I have been eating these kind of buns for long time and have a good feeling what the buns are stuffed with. If the top of the bun looks wrinkled, then it has something savoury. If the top of the bun is smooth, then normally it has something sweet. So, I pointed at a wrinkled bun and I was right, it was stuffed with steamed minced pork. Yummy.

The second place was a 'cool' place. Since, most of the people queue were young teens. Since, I am young at heart, I needed to try this snack. You choose your topping, from red beans, mung beans, or sago. You get a big green cup full of ice and coconut milk, then the young girl scoops up your choice of topping and puts it/ them on top of the ice.

I chose the sweet mung beans only. I mixed all the ingredients together and waited a bit for the ice to melt. It was a refreshing and cool snack. Actually, the cup was huge, I barely could finish the entire snack. However, I hate things to go to waste.

The third place was a very unique and lovely place. On the side of the street, I saw a woman open a bamboo lid and from the huge vapours of steam appeared the most lovely set of dumplings. What was unique about these dumplings were that they were stuffed with sticky rice and pork. Not only did they look heavenly, they tasted wonderful. The texture was not what you are used when you eat dumplings. The sticky rice adds texture and a different senstation when eating them.

The fourth place was a sight to behold. There were so many people surrounding the place, I was wondering what was going on. To my amazment, it was a snack place, set up like you were buying a train ticket. A kiosk like place, with huge glass windows and little holes in the windows where you shout your oder and where you pick up your order. The women taking your order were all in white and wearing masks for hygene. I could not believe the choices of foods. Was I in heaven? It was a mix of savoury and sweet snacks. I wanted something sweet, so I pointed to a green looking blob. Imagine those blob toys, that you throw on the wall or floor and they come back to form. This green snack was like that toy. The texture was like eating a sticky jelly. It was stuffed with sweet red bean. I am sure it is still sitting in my stomach.

The fifth & final place was something you see a lot in Shanghai. I needed to wash down all the things I have been eating. So, I stopped at a tea shop. But this is no ordinary tea shop. They are like Starbucks, but only serve hundred type of teas, cold or hot. The Chinese love their tea and this place specialised in tea with milk. The strange name for this tea booth was Brick.

You can see in the photo on the right, the menu went on and on and on. It took a while for people to decided (myself included) what they wanted. You could choose, I ended up choosing a cold ginger tea with milk. The tea is made then put into a plastic cup which is then put into a maching that laminates the top. Then you stick your straw through the lamination. It was very tastful and what I needed to wash down everything I ate so far. Time was running out and I was getting hungry for lunch. My nexty post will be the place I found for my last lunch in Shanghai.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Sichuan Restaurant

My last dinner in Shanghai, there was a huge rain storm. We decided to walk to a very popular Sichuan restaurant . We were lucky it was only a 10 minute walk from the hotel. Sichuan food is famous for being very very spicy. But the main thing that most people might not be used to is the amount of cooking oil they use in their food. You will believe me once you see & read the post.
The first dish was jelly fish in shaped into long thin stripes with a very spicy sichuan sauce, sprikled with sesame seeds. A nice starter to get our taste buds ready for more spicy dishes.

The second dish was crystal prawns. This restaurant is famous for them. Fresh and plump, light and tasty. It truly lived up to its reputation for being a wonderful dish.

The third dish was tenderloin cooked in oil. The oil was fused with a spice and vegetables. I could not believe it until I saw it. At first, I did not dare taste the dish because my heart was saying "dont you dare touch that if you want a heart attack". However, my taste buds won the arugment and I stuck my chop sticks into the hot oil and digged out a piece of beef. It was the most unbeliveable piece of meat I have tasted. It just melted in your mouth leaving the taste of the spicy sauce and vegetable essence. Amazing!

The fourth dish was another wonder to behold. A HUGE bowl arrived at the table and it was covered with chilies and sichuan pepper corns. I had no idea what on earth we were going to eat or how to eat it. This time it was a fish cooked in oil which got it essence from the kilos of chilies and sichuan pepper corns. My head started itching just the site of it. So, the photo on the left is when the dish arrived. The photo on the right is when the waitress started spooning out the chilies and sichaun pepper corns. What was left was the fish swimming in the oil. This time I was not afraid to try, since the beef in oil was terrific. The same was for the fish, so fresh and cooked perfectly. The meat was sweet but the after taste of the spicyness almost killed us. There was so much sichuan pepper corns, that our mouths were numb (like you got a shot of novacane from the dentist). It was a strange feeling trying to eat and drink when your mouth and lips are numb. But I loved the experience.

The fifth dish was a tricky looking dish. It first looked like simple green beans. I was about to eat one when I was warned that they are actually roasted green chilies. Yes, you read right. Roasted green chilies. I have no idea how on earth the Chinese can eat just stuff. However, I was determined to try. Actually, they were terrific. At first they had a punch and kick, but it was short lived. The spiciness was there, but because it was so good, I could not stop eating them.

The final dish was fried chicken in chilies. By this time, my mouth and lips were begging me to stop torturing them. No Way! It is not very often, I can experience such wonderful food. Some people suffer for fashion. Here, I am willing to suffer for food. The whole chicken including the bones was butchered into small bite sizes. The first bite was crunchy but then your lips got numb. Fantastic. How often can you do this? I would love to suffer again at this fantastic restaurant.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Crystal Jade (Shanghai)

My friend took me to one of his favourite places to have lunch; Crystal Jade. It actually is a Cantonese restaurant chain from Singapore. Now, before you have negative images of chain restaurants, let me assure you, this is one is no where near like those awful chain restaurants. Crystal Jade has some of the finest food you can get anywhere. What is amazing about Crystal Jade is that they are consistently delicious when you are either in Shanghai, Singapore or Bangkok. Crystal Jade is famous for their dim sum, which literally means "touch the heart" or "order to your heart's content" and hand made noodles.

The first dish we had was deep fried mussels. I do like the occassional fried food (I know, not good for my health), so was a safe bet that I would enjoy the first dish. Lightly battered and deeply fried, it came out very crunchy. A bit oily on the paper but luckily not when you bit into the little snack. The second dish was (is) one of my favourite dim sums. It has a translucent wheat starch skin and is filled with minced pork, green chives, water chestnuts and peanuts for added crunch and texture. It does fall apart the moment you bite into one and the filling falls out, but I am never disappointed when we have these fantastic dim sum.

The third dish we had was dim sum in a shape of chinese hats. Translucent skin again but more firm and rigid than the first ones. It is stuffed with huge shrimps, minced carrot for colour and texture and green chives. The shrimps were fresh and plump. Juicy when you bite into them. Just lovely. The fourth dish we had was the typical steamed dumplings. Thin skin stuffed with minced pork. These types of dumplings when made are also stuffed with frozen pork bouillon, so when the dumplings are steamed, the frozen bouillon melts and that is how the juice is inside the dumplings. As usual, you need to put the dumpling over a spoon and let the juice fall out into the spoon and then sip it. Once you enjoy the delicious juice, the you can stuff the dumpling into your mouth.

The fifth dish we had was dumplings in spicy sichuan sauce. Another fantastic dish. The dumplings have another dimension when they are in this spicy sauce. The final dish was the another minced shrimp dim sum wrapped in egg colour skin. These were wonderfully dense with shrimp and the flavour of shrimp bursts out with the first bite.

There were only two of us, stuffing our faces with these wonderful dim sums. So, by the sixth dish, we definately were stuffed. Too full for dessert. We decided to take a walk and find a nice place for coffee.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

T8 Restaurant & Bar

After our aperitif at dr bar, we walked over to T8 Restaurant & Bar. One of 'THE' restaurants at Xin Tien Di. The first impression you get when you enter the restaurant is the fusion of east & west. Dark wood floors, asian touches in decor, dark steel panels, chic lighting fixtures that makes everyone look good (I like that).

We were greeted with VIP status because the friends I was with, know the restaurant manager and they often dine at T8. Of course, I never complain when people want to treat me like a VIP. We were led to our table and the first thing I noticed was the huge modern open kitchen, with bar style dining so you can watch the chefs in action.

We were escorted to our table, which was close to the bar. While waiting for our food, individual freshly baked bread came out, which were devine. Since, we were so hungry, we truly enjoyed the crispy top of the breads and the soft interiour of the breads. We were happy eating and talking when, the amuse bouche came out. A chemistry cylinder filled with beet root salad & horse radish foam. It was amazing; if you closed your eyes, it was actually like eating a fresh beet root & horse radish.

The wine we drank was Chateau Gigognan 2004 from Cote du Rhone. A nice wine that was full of fruit and spices. A very nice beginning for the evening. Well, we ordered another bottle to last to the end of the evening as well.

The first appetizer was Tatakiof sesame crusted tuna on carpaccio of daikon radish & black caviar. A beautiful presentation of tuna and radish, it was almost a piece of art. The tuna was so fresh and tasty and the radish added an asian element but was not over powering the tuna. A great starter. The second appetizer was fois gras parfait, crispy marnier sugar, brioche, coriander and granny smith apple. Another beautiful presentation, almost Zen like, simple and delicate. The fois gras was cooked perfectly (a difficult task), the brioche which was soft and sweet was a nice accompaniment for the fois gras. The whole combination was a hit.

The third appetizer was Sichuan seared king prawns, octopus compote, garlic cream and crab spring roll. Another amazing dish, the sauce was rich and spicy, the tiger prawn was fresh and not over cooked. Luckily my friend was trying not to over do it with the carbohydrates, so I had to eat his coconut infused rice with the left over sauce. It was a difficult job, but sometimes, you just have to help friends out by eating all their food.

Since, my friends were friends of the establishment, T8 decided to offer us an extra dish on the house. Which turned out to be a fantastic dish. It was a white asparagus soup with cray fish & tangerine. All I can say about this soup was, 'WOW'. Amazing richness & creaminess, but not heavy. The taste of white asparagus was so obvious. I am sure this dish was very deadly for my cholesterol and heart. But, what's life about if you cannot enjoy soups like this.

The first main course was seared 'poussin roti' with kohirabi rissotto, hoi-sin pine nuts and rehydrated figs. The poussin was roasted to perfection. The meat was falling of the bone. The rissotto was cooked al-dente and the unique combination of flavours surely made the italian rice more asian. The second main course was slow cooked lamb and Sichuan high pie, yellow curry & coriander bisque. I have had a lot of dishes in my time, but this was a knock out. The dough was a lovely crispy shell (though to thick) and the filling was an unbelievable lamb that was slow cooked (I have no idea how long they cooked it for, but the lamb just melted in your mouth). The yellow curry was rich and spicy and added a nice touch.

The side dishes were snow peas, shallot dressing with almond topping. The other side dish was spinach stir fry with asian flavours and topped with red chillies.

No desserts were needed. We were so stuffed. But were delightfully happy with our dinner. After dinner, the manager asked if I wanted to see the rest of the restaurant. I took a tour and the restaurant is so amazingly designed. This is a place that needs another visit by me. I want to try all the other dishes.