Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant

I didn’t want to leave China without eating Peking Duck, so after a day of shopping we headed to Quanjude (Huai Hai Lu, Shanghai). Quanjude is an old establishment specializing in a traditional method of roasting duck since the Qing dynasty and have heaps of branches around China – there’s even one in Melbourne! The restaurant itself was kind of hard to find …unless you can read Chinese I guess and see a huge gold tablet with Quanjude in Chinese characters hanging above the entrance. Beneath the gold tablet is also a hostess dressed in traditional costume with a huge headdress on (actually she kind of looked like the concubines we saw at Three Kingdom TV Park) She told us to take the lifts upstairs, where we were greeted by more hostesses before being led to a table. The restaurant is ginormous – like the size of East Ocean in Haymarket, decorated with kitschy red and gold lanterns and such and the atmosphere was buzzing!
 
For me, eating Peking Duck is uncommon, coming from a Japanese family – I think the only times when I do eat it is with Bill’s family. We were here for one thing only so we ordered the Roast Duck banquet  – a whole roast duck, pancakes, scallions, cucumbers, sauce and duck soup. The waiter then informed us it would be a 40mins wait!!! until we would get our duck and suggested we order some cold dishes to eat before hand – none of the cold dishes appealed to me so we decided to order Shrimp in Szechuan sauce and Braised tofu and mushroom claypot whilst we wait. The shrimp were great to nibble on and so appetising, we hated seeing all the silver trolleys roll up and pass our table ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Finally after a 30min wait a silver trolley with a full, shiny golden duck roasted to perfection had appeared next to our table and we could smell the smokiness of it YUM! Then our personal duck chef came and skillfully sliced the duck skin off and deftly carved up the meat in thick even slices. Now on our table was three plates – a plate of crispy skin (glistening with what appears to be oil but it really wasn’t that oily!), a place of melt in  your mouth meat and the last plate had a bit of both. The chef also used the left over duck and it’s carcass to make us a spicy dish, which unfortunately we were too full to really eat, only nibble on. The duck was delicious, flavoursome, tender and juicy wrapped in our perfectly steamed thin pancakes which were plentiful, not like the places here where they only give you like 10 pancakes. We both really felt like gluttons but the duck was so so good and filling – we didn’t have room for dessert ๐Ÿ˜ฆ 

 
Bill planning our next hectic day at the World Expo
 
Fried Shrimp in Szechuan sauce
 
Braised Tofu and Mushroom Claypot
 
Pancakes
 
lip smacking goodness
 
 
soooo yummmy
 

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FOMO

Bill really enjoyed eating the crayfish/crawfish/mini lobsters (in actual fact we don’t know what they are, they’re just really tasty) from Dai Mei Hot Pot so we headed back to the same area and found a restaurant next door with seemingly long queues. Curious, we peered inside and discovered FOMO restaurant (Huai Hai Lu) where their specialty was crayfish, each and every table had plates of crayfish!! Excitedly we asked to look at the menu – picture menu with english translation!! WOOHOO!! So we promptly grabbed a ticket number and waited for 30mins before being seated.

 
Initially we wanted to order one dish to share between us which had half a plate of crayfish and half a plate of mini crabs, however they had already run out of the mini crabs.. boo ๐Ÿ˜ฆ So we asked the waitress for the dish which is the most popular and she also recommended another plate of crayfish with a spicier Sichuan sauce as one plate would not be enough between us two. She also asked if we wanted tissues and charged us for these – except these tissues were so cutely packaged as a FOMO brand with cute crayfish and hairy crab pictures. A mere 15mins later one plate of crayfish covered in Sha Cha sauce and then a giant TRAY of spicy crayfish arrives. Now, I must admit I usually hate getting my hands dirty and working for my food at a restaurant but there’s no other way of eating these and peeling them yourself makes them so much more tastier!! It only takes three steaps to deshell – take the head off, the whole shell will slip off really easily and then get rid of the blood line – and you’re left with a small and plump piece of white meat, pop em in your mouth for a tongue-numbing spicy but sweet and delicious flavour. Make sure you use your fingers or you’ll burn your lips and end up looking like Jay-Z by the end of the night.
 
After returning back to Sydney I did some further research to find out exactly what these little buggers are, and all I could find out was that they’re called xialongxua in Chinese, literally translating to "mini lobsters". They’re a specialty during the hot summer months in Shanghai while the hairy crabs are a specialty during winter in Shanghai. Unfortunately I also received a chain mail warning about the health risks when you eat xialongxia as they’re grown in polluted waters and are equivalent to eating out of the bin and threaten some sort of lung disease (others argue that the xialongxia can only grow in clean water). Thankfully our xialongxia were fresh, we didn’t suffer any adverse events and really enjoyed eating this mouth watering delicacy and will definately eat it again.
 
FOMO see how cute their tissue packets are!
These also lasted for the rest of the trip so we didn’t have to buy tissues at each restaurant ๐Ÿ˜‰
 
Complimentary gloves, shell bowl and vinegar dipping sauces
 
Getting ready to get his hands dirty
 
GET IN MAH BELLY you suckers

Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant

A trip to Cheng Huang Miao Old Town is not complete (for a tourist) without a visit to Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant (Cheng Huang Miao near the 9 corner bridge). 
 
Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant is at least 100years old, the "original" restaurant specialising in Xiao Long Bao (now selling eight different versions), which was invented in Nanxiang, but grew so popular they also brought them to Shanghai. I’ve loved these little babies ever since Helen introduced them to me during one of our regular yum cha sessions. The first time I tried these I burnt my tongue, not realising the soup inside would be so hot… since then I’ve mastered the art of eating Xiao Long Bao – dip it in vinegar with shredded ginger, bite a bit of the dumpling, enjoy the soup and eat the rest of the dumpling OR wait till the dumpling cools down a bit and shove the whole thing in your mouth and savour all the deliciousness that is the xiao long bao.

The first time we visited Cheng Huang Miao, the line for Nanxiang Steamed Bun ran for about 100m, so we decided to come back on another day much much earlier. The next time we arrived 30mins after they had opened and already the line was pretty long but we started queuing…10mins later we had not moved an inch. This is probably because each batch of Xiao Long Bao gets steamed then given so we have to wait until the next batch is steamed ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Lining up in the heat, surrounded by boisterous, loud old women playing whistles and jingling bells started to irritate me A LOT. So we followed a couple up the stairs which leaded up to the restaurant section, found ourselves a table and ordered three baskets of xiao long bao and two dipping sauces with ginger. To be seated upstairs you need to pay a few extra RMB, (totally worth it in my opinion) though the wait is probably about the same. While waiting for our xiao long bao we bought some freshly roasted chestnuts to nibble on and watched the people pass below on the bridge.

 
The Xiao Long Bao that I know and am used to are tiny dumplings thinly wrapped and pinched, filled with tender minced pork or crab and the best part is that distinctive hot broth that spills out and bursting with flavour as soon as you nip a bit of the dumpling. However, in Shanghai I generally found that their dumpling skin is slightly thicker than those served in Sydney where the dumpling is so thinly wrapped, it’s translucent and you can see the amount of soup.
 
 
 
Food Safety Inspection Notification – Excellent
 
Three poker chips – one for each basket :)))
  
 
Pork Xiao Long Bao and Crab and Roe Xiao Long Bao
 
Overlooking the bridge which warded off ghosts (because they can only travel in straight lines)
 
 


They weren’t the best I’ve ever had, (the best I’ve had are at Din Tai Fung or Crystal Jade where they are much much pricier). However, Nanxiang Steamed Restaurant displays many awards and is known as the "original" Xiao Long Bao, slightly overrated but still probably worth a visit for a tourist ๐Ÿ˜‰ It also has an "Excellent" Food Safety Inspection rating which you would NOT expect to find at many places.

Shanghai: Cheng Huang Miao

Glimpses of Old Shanghai

 

 

 
 

Walking through the small alleyways and residential areas of Old Town, you get a glimpse of life in Shanghai as we passed tonnes of street vendors, "DVD" stores and markets selling live chickens. After a 15min walk we had reached Cheng Huang Miao, it’s the ultimate tourist "trap" where you have Chinese temples filled with souvenir stores to cater for us tourists (really good if you want cheap souvenirs). The buildings are quite beautiful with the pavilions, gilded alcoves and dragons hanging off the roofs. The complex is immensely huge with small laneways lined with food stalls, drink stalls and $1 shops, making it easy to get distracted and lost (it took us several visits to figure out how to get in and get out without ending up on the other side of town).

When we visited the bazaar, they were preparing to celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival so the place was especially boisterous with drums banging, cultural performances and colourful displays of dragon boats and  of course a Haibao to keep it modern. Oh, DO NOT come here on a weekend, the crowds are insane – once you get inside the complex, you’ll never be able to get out… also beware of strangers who pull you aside and shove a business card covered with photos of designer goods in your face – they don’t know that "no" means "no".

We usually came here for a quick snack  from the food stalls. At first I could not stand the place as it reeked of Stinky Tofu and I was of course scared of getting sick and weren’t sure if it was "safe" enough to eat from here so we started easy with Portugese Egg Tarts and Bubble Tea. Bill was more adventurous and ate Beef Skewers and Soft Shell Crab. I did however, have a few Giant Xiao Long Bao, sucking the juicy goodness from inside and discarding the thick skin… kind of a waste really, but it was way too thick and dry for me to eat. Besides food stalls, there are tonnes of quirky stores if you look carefully: we stumbled across "Fashion Lane" within Cheng Huang Miao with vintage retro stores and an anime shop woohoo! We also saw many stores selling tea leaves and one store dedicated solely to walking canes.
It’s an interesting place to get lost in, if you have the patience and can tolerate the crowds.

 
Dragon Boat Festival
 
Dragon Boat Festival
 
Street Food
 
Giant Xiao Long Bao
 
Fried Soft Shell Crab
 

 
Portugese Egg Tarts
 
Beef Skewers
 
Retro Chairman Mao
 

 
Cheng Huang Miao at night
 
The Bund Center, our apartment from one of the gates at Cheng Huang Miao
 

Shanghai: Dai Mei Hot Pot

On our first night in Shanghai, Bill was keen to have hot pot for dinner. So after getting to know the Huahai Shopping strip we walked into the first hot pot restaurant we came across.

Dai Mei (Huaihai Zhong Lu) restaurant is located on the second floor of the building, to get there you have to take an elevator up which meant there was no way for us to judge it and deem it "safe" enough to eat at… which made it a bit of a gamble. As we entered I was happy to find the restaurant was massive and busy (although they had packed tables wherever they could), it was quite clean and the ventilation must have been good because it wasn’t very steamy despite the number of hotpots boiling.

I don’t think that we were fully aware we weren’t in Australia anymore until we sat down at Dai Mei and looked at the menu, we immediately thought  "Shit, the whole menu is in Chinese… there’s no pictures … there’s no English … and there’s no pinyin …how the hell are we going to order". Luckily Bill managed to call over a newbie waitress who had the patience to explain to us how to order and ticked the portions of each dish for us. Dai Mei has a system of pre-paying before any food is served so once we had chosen our orders, we paid at the register and collected our drinks, went back and waited for our food at the table.

Boy, was this place cheap – our total cost for dinner was 65RMB ($15) including a 2L Pepsi, beef rolls, lamb rolls, tofu, bean curd noodles, enoki mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, beef and fish balls, spinach, green vegies, chinese cabbage sauces and watermelon. We also ordered a tray of crawfish (this was advertised separately and had a picture woohoo!) The food came almost immediately after paying and we started cooking and eating to our heart’s content. It involves A LOT of sweating but it was so enjoyable and even more satisfying because it was so cheap XP We came here for dinner after a day at the expo because it’s open till late – we ordered basically the same things but with orange juice instead.

 
er… can’t read anything
 
 
Beef rolls and Lamb rolls
 
Crawfish
 
Half our spread

Shanghai First Impressions: Welcome to the Future… or not

Shanghai really is the epitome of contrast – where modern meets traditional. 

 
 

It was a long drive from the airport to the French Concession, and as we traveled on super efficient highways I began to realize we had arrived in this hugely vast hyper-modern city and I was stunned with the sheer amount of skyscrapers lining the horizon. I guess I forgot about Shanghai’s population of 20million.

First impressions of Shanghai as we explored the fast paced city one tree lined street at a time, you notice buildings have an old charm to them, everyone drives like a mad man, people can sell virtually anything on the street from fake wallets to stinky tofu and cyclists and pedestrians greatly outnumber cars. The city is shockingly fast paced that there seems to be a Hermes being built on every corner and you can see progress each time you walk past a construction site. Something I was not expecting was the streets are extremely clean – for the whole three weeks we were there we did not see a single roach or rat. Ironically, although the streets are so clean, the people are in the bad habit of spitting everywhere. The probable reason why the streets are so clean is at the end of the day they hose down the whole street with really high pressured hoses – no water restrictions there. Some other differences? They have countdowns on their traffic lights for cars and pedestrians!! And when you’re turning left, you have to be in the most right lane… weird huh?

 
The modern and the traditional
 
 

  

 
The very traditional


2 seconds before pedestrians are run over

 

Bills’ grandpa lives in the French Concession area and lives in the old Shikumen style buildings. The entrance is separated from the street by a large gate and the lane is lined with small courtyards where residents grow their own herbs, park their bicycles and hang their laundry. I think the building is made out of stone and houses 5 families with a communal kitchen and communal bathrooms.  We frequented the area so often we were able to explore and get lost in the French Concession which led us to gorgeous hidden lanes and pretty boutiques.

       

We were also lucky enough to have an apartment on the Bund, THE promenade of Shanghai. Our view from our bed was so freaking amazing I can’t begin to describe what it felt like falling asleep to the view. It is very futuristic and kind of quirky with the Oriental Pearl Tower, spiky Jinmao tower, the Aurora tower which lights up "I heart SH" and the funny tower that looks like a bottle opener you hang on your key chain. We were lucky enough that they had finished three years of renovations here, but this also meant ALOT of people were also visiting the Bund, with street performers, food stalls and hoards of people lining up for a photo op, it was hard to get a nice photo of the skyline.
The Bund at night is gorgeous!!!! The elegant colonial buildings along the whole street illuminates gold and all the buildings look so so grand and decadent and you realise where the "Paris of the East" comes from. Walking past all the buildings lining Zhongshan Lu, you can tell there is alot of history here that it’s overwhelming. It’s also reflected at the end of the road where Huangpu Park meet the People’s Monument. There’s nothing quite like this here.

 
Goooooood Morning – the view from our bed
 
The Bund at night
 
19th century elegance
 
Good night – the view we fall asleep to

I never thought that I would fall in love with China, but within weeks I had fallen in love with Shanghai.
Next time baby I want to stay at the Waldorf Astoria ๐Ÿ˜‰