Shanghai is a city where east meets west, old meets new and where beautiful food is around every street corner. It is also my home town, where I was born, where I grew up and where I’m spending the 2011 Chinese New Year.
It’s been a while since I last wrote a blog post because so much has happened that I hardly had any time to rest! Yesterday was the 5th of January according to the Luna calendar which is when people welcome the ‘God of Wealth’ into their homes and bring prosperity for the year. In order to welcome him, you light fire crackers from the outside of the house into the front door which is what we did last night. It’s always kind of scary to stand near fireworks because I’ve had a few mishaps in the past. Once when I was little, one of those high shooting ones, which wasn’t very good quality, fell as a ball of flames onto my hair. I lost a lot of hair as a result. Luckily, this time I was safe. Yes, this is me. It’s good to finally put up a photo of myself. 😛
The following images were taken from our window, the fireworks is literally everywhere and can get fairly dangerous. I tend to stay indoors to avoid getting hit by any flying and burning objects. Chinese New Year is definitely a great time to visit Shanghai though as it’s hard to find a place so close to the city yet so full of culture and lots of fun! And yes, you can buy your own fireworks, just make sure you buy from larger places to avoid the bad quality ones and the possibility of getting hurt.
During Chinese New Year, Shanghai (and the rest of China) becomes a sea of red and gold (lucky Chinese colours) and is covered in festivity. This year is the year of the rabbit so of course, new years won’t do without many rabbit related ornaments and decorations.
We ate a lot on Chinese New Year’s eve, like we do every year. I didn’t get a chance to take photos of everything though, I was too busy fighting over the bbq skewers. 😛 Our house is situated in a formerly French occupied area in Shanghai (I think it was French anyway). For those of you who don’t know, Shanghai is made up of many areas formerly occupied by foreign countries during the ‘old Shanghai’ days. Therefore, everywhere in Shanghai, you can see westernised architecture, whether it’s along the Bund or residential areas such as ours. Our building is protected from any unauthorised modifications which makes cooking a bit difficult as you see, there’s no dedicated kitchen. All cooking is done on stoves installed inside the corridors (which is very cold). I give cudos to my aunties and uncles who have to cook in this environment everyday.
As Not Quite Nigella mentioned on her post about Shanghai dumplings, xiao long bao and such foods have traditionally been eaten during breakfast or as snacks. Now, it’s most often eaten at lunch or even dinner at times. For us though, tradition still prevails and we eat Shanghai dumplings for breakfast every few days whenever we’re in Shanghai. There’s just too many stores nearby that offer this type of food so such cravings are easily satisfied. Although, of course, taste and cleanliness cannot be guaranteed at just any store. Prices at these stores though are generally very cheap – a reasonable meal can be had for merely around $3-4 AUD.
Near our house is a place called 豐裕 (Feng Yu), a franchise with over 50 stores around Shanghai which serves traditional xiao long bao, wonton, noodles and many other foods. I heard the xiao long bao are not that great at this particular store, but the pan fried dumplings are nice. Our ones were slightly depleted because they are always cooked in a batch and we obviously got the last part of it. There was plenty of soup inside though. The mini wonton soup was nice too, easier to eat and not as filling, mini wontons are one of the dishes I grew up with and is very easy to make, even at home. Lucky last is the curry beef soup with vermicelli, Shanghai style. Also a classic dish to order, it tastes slightly curry but not overpowering, although sometimes can be a bit too oily to eat for breakfast.
The only problem with dining at one of these relatively small restaurants is having to know what to order…in Chinese. There is NO English words on the menu. If not familiar with how to order or what to order, I’d suggest visiting restaurants in shopping malls or on busy streets such as Nan Jing Road (one of the busiest, most touristy streets in Shanghai), they should have English menus or more English speaking waiters.
Everywhere you go in Shanghai, you can see a funny sight – people hanging out their washings on the streets. This is either outside their windows on apartment buildings or on the footpath (like the one below) using trees as a support. I’ve even seen people literally hanging their underwear on small person-sized trees, all over its branches. This is not a scene you can see everywhere.
You will also find a lot of street food, such as the ever popular Xin Jiang lamb skewers which is one of my favourite snacks, especially in winter. Although I must say, my friend’s home made lamb skewers were better than any I’ve ever tried on the streets. 🙂
Another common scene in Shanghai is the fresh produce stores. They used to be all over the place, taking up entire streets and entire buildings. However in recent years, the government has cleaned up these streets and put most of them into buildings to keep the streets cleaner. So if you’re looking for one, walk into small alleyways and you might be in luck.
This is the first of a number of posts about my visit to Shanghai, hopefully will provide a bit of insight into what life is like in Shanghai and a bit about the various food adventures I have here. 🙂
Happy Chinese New Year and hope the new year brings prosperity, good health and plenty of laughter to all my readers.
豐裕 (Feng Yu)
Phone: +8621 64724609
Shaan Xi Nan Lu No.281, Lu Wan Qu, Shanghai, China
For more store locations, visit their website and copy/paste them into Google maps. Sorry, no English is available for the website.