Part 3: Food in China

Our last meal is worthy of its own post.

Our last dinner was a little different. We had French food at Jean Georges at 3 Bund, a very fashionable address in Shanghai. We had the skyline of Shanghai before us. It was pretty magnificent with all the buildings lit up and sparkling. It was very good (but expensive). It was a prix fixe meal. My first appetizer was one of the best dishes that I’ve had. It was fresh tuna with a ginger sauce and radishes. It was so incredible fresh and delectable that I’m envious of my former self who is having it. I have to find a similar dish here in Chicago though it won’t be as fresh.

The Bund, Shanghai

The Bund, Shanghai

My second course was a tiger prawn dish, which was okay. My entrée was beef, cooked on the rare side (how I like it) with mushrooms. The beef was great but I wasn’t fond of the sauce. Dessert was masterful. It was Vanilla Risotto, Blackcurrant Parfait, Black Sesame Ice Cream. I’m not fond of risotto as a rule but I ordered it because I love black sesame items (buns, rolls, etc). The blackcurrant parfait was absolutely perfect and the black sesame ice cream was a great accompaniment. It was one of the best desserts that I’ve had in a while.

The meal ended with chocolates that were stupendous. Sadly, we were so stuffed we actually had to leave some behind…silly of us. Oh well.

Night skyline, Shanghai

Night skyline, Shanghai

That’s all for now.

Part 2: Food in China

So I’ve talked about bean paste and dumplings, now it’s time for the main course. One of my favorite meals was in Hong Kong at a restaurant overlooking the Harbor. We had some amazing Peking Duck. Yes, I realize that I had Peking duck in Hong Kong but we weren’t going to Beijing on this trip so you make do with what you got. It was superb. It was wonderfully cooked, sweet with crunchy skin. We had made our little tacos (or wraps) with some cucumbers, plum sauce, and paper-thin crepes. It was delicious. Someday I’ll have Peking Duck in Beijing but this meal will do for now.

In Shanghai one night, we had an amazing assortment of dishes. We started off with giant soup dumplings (previously mentioned). Then there was a wonderful Sichuan fish dish that was the right level of spicy for me. (My tolerance is not very high unfortunately). Then my favorite dish of the trip was a sweet pork dish. It’s not the sweet pork dish that you normally think about when you have sweet pork in Chinese cuisine. There were chunks of pork with incredible amount of fat. It was allegedly Mao’s favorite dish. It was really good. Better than other sweet pork dishes I’ve had.

Our third and final dish was a curry chicken, which was also very good. I didn’t know that curry was also a part of Chinese cuisine but makes sense given the sharing of culture between China and India. We ended the meal with a taste of Baijiu, a strong but sweet Chinese liquor used in toasts. I only had a tiny sip of it. It was wonderfully sweet but it made me cough. Not bad. I liked it more than soju but it was too strong for me.

That’s all for now.

Part 1: Food in China

Enough talk of sightseeing, let’s talk about food. One of the things that I was really excited about was eating food in China. I’ll first talk about snacks/desserts. In my case, I’m going to talk about dumplings and red bean paste. I generally like meats and stuff encased in dough like things. Empanadas and pasties are also my favorite foods.  Shanghai allegedly is known for its soup dumplings. For those of you who haven’t had them, they are dumplings with soup inside the dough. Not dumpling soup. A friend explained that the soup part is actually liquid fat. I have to be careful because they are really rich. But boy they were tasty. We had small ones at a local chain in a shopping mall on Nanjing Road. Later, I had a giant one that was served with a straw. Very wondrous.

We had other dumplings throughout the trip. Surprisingly, the dumplings at both the Hong Kong and Shanghai airports were really good for airport food. I was rather impressed. We also had wonderful gelatinous covered pork dumplings in Shanghai. I’ve never had anything like them before but they were really good. One of our hotels had a breakfast buffet with a “dim sum” section. That was basically breakfast for me during most of the trip. There were the usual favorites, shrimp, pork and shrimp, bean paste buns, mushroom buns. There was also a little squash one. I’m not sure what it was but it was sweet.

Dumplings in Shanghai, China

Dumplings in Shanghai, China

One of my favorite foods in the world is red bean paste. In my experience, I find it in things, like buns and pounded rice. I absolutely adore it. One of my favorite things about going to Chinatown in Chicago is going to a bakery and picking up some pastries filled with bean paste. I’ve tried lotus paste and mung paste but it’s not the same. So I was really excited to be going to the land of bean paste. I stopped by a few bakeries to get bean paste pastries. So good. I went to a convenience store and got little dough balls with red bean paste. Mmm…It was all really tasty.

In addition to dumplings and red bean, I had some street food. My definition of street food is a bit flexible; it means food not bought at a restaurant or café. So I went to hole in the wall stores, stores with booths catering to passersby and street markets. This was something I really wanted to try. Sadly, there was not as much street food as I would have hoped. But I did have some tasty egg tarts in both Shanghai and Hong Kong. They were mildly sweet and filling. I also tried a banana at the Hong Kong street market. I was curious about trying a banana different from the ones we get in the states. So I found a banana that looked like a different variety and tried it. It was smaller and squarish. I’m not sure if it was supposed to be eaten raw but I didn’t have a lot of options. Much subtler than our normal bananas in the states. In Hong Kong, we also bought a variety of rolls made from nuts, pounded rice, and black sesame paste. They were incredible. The right texture and sweetness…soo good. I want more now.

The only thing that threw me for a loop was a pastry with dried pork on it. I had it at the Shanghai museum. It was okay until I found crème in the middle. I wasn’t really sure what was going on there. But if that’s the worst thing I can say about food on a trip to a new land, well, I’m pretty lucky.

That’s all for now.

Part 4: Shanghai

And then it was our last day in Shanghai, our last day in China. For now. I was immensely glad to have this trip to Shanghai and Hong Kong. They are really very different cities. After a few days in both cities, I really felt that I had a handle on Hong Kong. Shanghai, on the other hand, still eluded me. Both have amazing skyscrapers though Hong Kong appears to have more. Shanghai is truly vast; I actually didn’t know it was the biggest city in the world (officially and unofficially). I knew the biggest city had to be in China but I didn’t realize it was Shanghai. I felt that I really needed at least another day there for an introductory visit. I don’t know if I’ll ever really get a handle on Shanghai but I’m okay with trying.

Our last stop before leaving for the airport was the Jade Buddha. It’s located in a Buddhist temple complex. There are several buildings, all containing truly remarkable statues of Buddha and other g-ds/spirits. The central temple had three golden Buddhas with beautifully bright-colored fabric hanging from the ceiling. Behind the 3 Buddhas, there was another Buddha, supposedly a female Buddha per the tour guide I overhead. Around the Buddha was an entire world of statues of all sorts of sizes. It reminded me of the medieval paintings that had G-d in the center and then everyone around sized according to their importance. A side temple had other statues, a reclining Buddha, and a multi-limbed G-d.

Reclining Buddha in the Jade Buddha Temple, Shanghai, China

Reclining Buddha in the Jade Buddha Temple, Shanghai, China

Buddhas in the Main Temple of the Jade Buddha Temple, Shanghai, China

Buddhas in the Main Temple of the Jade Buddha Temple, Shanghai, China

But the piece de la resistance was the Jade Buddha itself. It is located in a separate building. It’s located in a truly impressive room. The walls are beautifully carved wood. Overhead there are dozens of little golden Buddha statues. And in the center, there is the Jade Buddha itself, serene and majestic. Worth checking out.

And that’s all she wrote…until we talk about food.