Search This Blog

Friday, May 28, 2010

Special Shaanxi Dinner

When I was in Shanghai, I called up a childhood friend and was ecstatic to learn that her parents were visiting her in Shanghai (I hadn't seen them in almost thirty years). We met up next to her apartment at a restaurant that specialized in Shaanxi cuisine. I was born in Shaanxi Province and spent two years there so I was super excited!

Tossing liang pi... so so good. Btw, all the cold dishes were excellent -- the lotus root (marinated in slightly sweet and sour sauce and with just the right crunchiness), the green veggie dish is actually walnut tree leaves. Oh Auntie and Uncle W also got traditional Shaanxi pancake with pork, also perfect.

Shaanxi cuisine tends to be fairly spicy. Unlike Sichuan cuisine, which is known for being mala (numb and spicy), or Hunan cuisine, which is known for ganla (dry and spicy), Shaanxi cuisine is known for being suanla (or sour and spicy). Here is a Shaanxi version of boiled fish called - Big Pot Fish. There were fish, Chinese napa cabbage, glass noodles, and a whole host of other goodies in the pot. I don't remember it being sour, but the spicy sauce was so good, really flavored the mild fish. Drooling again.

We also got spicy piggy knuckles, Big Mix Dish and a tofu dish. They don't look much, but they were so good. The pig knuckles were the perfect finger food, the Big Mix Dish is a Shaanxi favorite because it combines many ingredients and is known for its nutritional value. Last but not least, I know the tofu dish looks kinda plain, but when I tasted it, I don't think I can eat supermarket tofu again. The tofu actually tasted of beans! And it also had pieces of veggies in it too. When I tasted it, I knew I had eaten it when I was little but had forgotten the flavor after so many years... so it was like meeting an old friend again.

And the grand finale, Shao Zi Noodles (臊子面), a staple of Shaanxi diet. After all the food, I didn't think I could eat anymore, but boy was I wrong. The soup was light and slightly sour so it actually relieved my fullness. The noodles were excellent and they came with cubed veggies, meats and thin egg pancake. Incredible. It was just a simple neighborhood restaurant, but in my mind, it beat all the fancy schmancy Michelin starred restaurants. Simply good, perfectly seasoned food.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Casual Soup Lunch

Last weekend, I took my aunt to a neighborhood restaurant in Shanghai that specialized in slow cooked soups. Can you guess what this is? It's duck tongue. Don't go ewe, it's actually quite tasty -- though requires a bit of un-lady-like gnawing. But who cares.

Chinese salad -- the vegetable reminded me of a cross between parsley and celery leaves... very refreshing.

Shanghainese smoked fish. Although it claimed to be 1930s style smoked fish, my aunt said it was very much year 2010 style smoked fish. Nevertheless, the flavor was just right -- slightly sweet, smokey, and the texture was slightly crunchy on the outside and slightly chewey inside. This is what I like about Shanghainese cuisine, the flavors and textures are never too over-powering.

Here is our soup -- we got Strong General Flower (霸王花) soup, really hard to translate into English. Essentially it's a type of flower related to lilies and it is slowly simmered with pork bones, carrots, sweet dates and soy beans. I love the creamy, whitish broth.

Here, the waitress fishes out the flowers, pork, etc.

The ingredients can be eaten with some light dipping sauce on the side. And the broth is consumed separately.

Chinese people love to eat out, and usually in large large groups.

How do you say Oink Oink?

You go to a hot pot place and go CHOMP, MUNCH, CHOMP! It was so good. The choice of dipping sauce was excellent. I usually go with Shacha sauce, but this time I added some hot sauce and special Shanghainese sauce.

Should we get yuan-yang hot pot or regular plain broth?

We opted for plain broth cuz we had a vegetarian in the group. Lobster sashimi (the restaurant later made salt and pepper lobster with the head, tail and legs), conch, shrimp on skewers (btw, these were live! sorry shrimpies), fish balls, beef balls, sliced beef, sliced lamb, veggies and a ton of other stuff that we had to leave to the side cuz our table wasn't big enough.

Sliced geoduck, which I like lots, a special kind of crab with mild sweet flavor, oh we also had really good noodles... I love hot pot. Oink Oink!

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Day in the Life of a Shanghainese Tai-Tai

When Cat Tai-Tai gets up in the morning, she mopes around, asks the Aiyi to prepare some fresh fruits... then admires her very own collection of Hermes bags, yes, this is a genuine article.

After eating her fruits, and making the heart-wrenching decision of which Hermes bag to carry for the day, she goes to her awesome Porsche 911 Targa 4S... today she is carrying her 25 cm togo blue jean Hermes Birkin.

Looking good in the Targa 4S... (alright alright, this is Cat Tai-Tai's gal pal, notice the gynormous rock?)

With her Targa 4S, she arrives at the Peninsula Hotel in no time...for afternoon tea.

After tea, she visits her BFFs Christian...

... and Louis, here is a humongous baobao (English, baggie) that Lou designed especially for Shanghainese Tai-Tais, in case we need to take the whole house with us.

After her courtesy visits with Chris and Lou, Cat Tai-Tai takes a stroll along the Bund ... the five starred red flag overlooking the most capitalistic society, like, ever!

And Cat Tai-Tai winds down her day by sipping on some super good red wine and wiping away the single drop of sweat on her forehead -- sigh, life is so hard being a Shanghainese Tai-Tai.

The Making of a Piglet: Step 1, Ding Tai Fung in Shanghai

Three longs of long of bite size tang bao and some Shanghainese side dishes...

Close up of the bite size tang baos. With these, no need to worry about the juice squirting everywhere. Just dip these in the chicken soup stock and pop 'em in your mouth.

Red bean paste XLBs... the red bean paste is so creamy and silky.

Just when I thought I couldn't eat anymore, I chowed down a sesame paste bun, so so freakin' good.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Night Out in Seoul

I am in Hong Kong right now. Couldn't access blogger from China cuz Google and the Commies hate each other. Can't we all get along, so I can pour my little heart out on whereiscat? Make love, not war, peeps. Ok, I am gonna digress now to my ridiculous night out in Seoul. Met up with M like at around 8ish, and didn't come back to my hotel until 6am... crazy crazy. The day started out innocent enough... pretty view of Seoul under blue skies.

Yay, time for dinner... Your dearest kitty Cat in Seoul.

We went to a little alley way lined with restaurants that specialized in stewed pork bones soup, and sliced pork and oyster wrap. Korean restaurants tend to specialize in one item and when you go there, there is no need for a menu, cuz the waitress will bring out the same thing for everybody.

Here pork bellies are stewing outside. Hm, maybe I should just eat this, hehe.

Restaurant bustling with diners...

Here is the first part of the two part dish -- sliced pork, oysters, obligatory kimchee and lettuce.

Ready to be eaten... I was hesitant about eating raw oysters in a foreign country, then I was like, oh whatevers, we live once... Oh, my tummy, wah!

We struck up a conversation with these diners... Asians are incredibly social, especially when they are in their home territory. Oh do you see the pot on each table, that's for the pork bone soup. They put lots of perilla leaves in there, kind of unusual.

Mmm, yummy bone...

After gnawing on the bone, we walked around Seoul, and saw a street lined with food vendors in plastic tents...

The street food du jour in Seoul right now seems to be boiled snails... something about them kind of gross me out right now, don't know why, but ewe, can't believe I ate them.

I ate this?

The soju made me do it! Bad bad soju.

In addition to cheap sustenance, this is also the place you come for relationship issues...

We went to the little creek that runs through central Seoul after eating the snails... and it was lit with lanterns in celebration of Buddha's birthday.

I am putting this pic up solely to show off my terrific camera. I heart you Canon Powershot!

After lantern viewing at the creek, we decided to experience the ultimate Korean pastime, public bath house! Here is it's very green entrance. It was so weird. This place had like 6 levels and each level had different types of entertainment -- video arcades, nail salon, open air movie theater, massage... Everybody walked around in bathhouse PJs. At around midnight, most bathhouse-goers went to the central hall and slept on the floor. The hall had a throne, which was occupied by two girls, and around the hall, there were like saunas and massage chairs... the saunas were slightly disconcerting since the entrance resembled that of a brick oven... so I opted not to cook myself and slept on one of the massage chairs instead...until 6am.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Seafood Buffet in Seoul

I am on a leisure trip in Seoul. I must say accommodation in Asia is so much better than the US and it's not expensive at all! I saw Up in the Air on the way to Asia, and I was like, oh my god, America is now like the country bumpkin of the world. George Clooney thinks those cheesy hotels are glamorous?

The restaurant overlooks the city... I see several couples having maybe anniversary dinners there.

Crab legs!

The quality was really good... mmm, yummy scallop sashimi.

View from the hotel...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Shanghainese in Hong Kong

Yummy! Had really good Shanghainese food tonight. Ate so much. Oink Oink. Drunken chicken, and Shanghainese tofu veggie roll... simple, refreshing appetizers

In Chinese, this dish is called "Clear Sauteed Shrimp" -- again, following the Shanghainese cooking style, it's not heavily sauced or greasy at all, so the tender texture and the mild flavor of the shrimp really shine through.

The obligatory XLB -- and they were good, mmmmm. Oh yeah, one problem with Chinese restaurants everywhere is they bring out the dishes whenever they are ready, not in any particular order. You may see two appetizers, a main course, another appetizer and so forth.

Sweet and sour fish with pine nuts -- perfectly fried fish, the only thing that bothered me was that the chef stuffed a shrimp inside the fish mouth, kinda creepy for some reason, but anyhoo, other than the slight visual disturbance, it was delish.

K, k, the whole spread, too busy eating. We ordered a light and refreshing vegggie dish as well. The vegetable is called Emperor's Veggie, it's got a slight herby taste to it, but not overwhelming and the soup that it was cooked in was totally umami.

Unlike many Chinese restaurants, this place had a good dessert menu. I of course ordered Shanghainese fermented rice and mochi ball soup. It was freakin' good. So good I forgot to take a pic. Oh well. Oh, this is another specialty here. It's Jujube stuffed with mochi.

I forgot what this was... some sort of jelly like cake thingy.

Wow, this was really good too. It's a kind of like a Shanghainese cream puff. The puff is puffier than western cream puff, and the filling is almond cream. Lighter than the typical western cream puff. Now the cream puff is sitting happily in my tummy, hehehe.

When we got here, the place was virtually deserted... but apparently Hong Kongers eat dinner at around 7:30, so an hour later, the place was packed and it's a Wednesday night. Chinese people love to socialize over meals.