vickygoestravelling

my journey to health and well being via exotic destinations


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in which we eat lots of different food in Shanghai & I get food poisoning!

Jess with Andrea at table no 1 by Jason Atherton

Jess with Andrea at table no 1 by Jason Atherton

Double cooked belly prok (centre), rice balls in date skins (behind), deep fried dick legs (eft); clay pot aubergine (right)

Double cooked belly pork (centre), rice balls in date skins (behind), deep fried duck legs (eft); clay pot aubergine (right)

Crispy friend fish with spring onions, and delicious black mushrooms, withe garlic/rice vinegar cucumber

Crispy friend fish with spring onions, and delicious black mushrooms, withe garlic/rice vinegar cucumber

We came, we saw, we ate! Thanks to  our gourmet guide Jess we managed ot sample many different cuisines; but strangely enough the first meal we had, which was also the cheapest, was the best. Jian’guo 328 is owned and managed by a Taiwanese lady but serves real Shanghai food. It’s tiny and basic, with Formica tables and closes by 9.30. We had beer but I was surprised to see a couple drinking Chablis on ice!

prawns and mixed veg

prawns and mixed veg

lotus root and cucumber

lotus root and cucumber

The following night, we decided to try Sichuan, so off to the Sichuan Citizen in the French concession, a rustic bistro, quite trendy serving cocktails and wine  – we had a bottle of decent Santa Rita sauvignon for the record. As Jess is allergic to meat we stayed fishy – sampling red hot chilli prawns (in their shells so a bit crunchy), a whole tilapia in Sichuan sauce (a bit gloopy sadly); ma po bean curd in Sichuan peppercorns – to die for, mouth numbing hot as it’s meant to be; and some vegetables – plus soused cucumber with garlic & chilli (again – a great favourite this), pickled lotus roots and more greens.

stuffed lotus roots (left); pomegranate flowers (right) galette (top)

stuffed lotus roots (left); pomegranate flowers (right) galette (top)

grilled goats cheese; mint salad

grilled goats cheese; mint salad

The next night Ross was working late so Jess and I had a girls night – braving the dangerous-sounding Southern Barbarian, famed for its Yunnanese delicacies and wide varietes of Czech and Belgian beers! We stuck to Tsing Tao. Here we feasted on more lotus roots, this time stuffed with a little Chinese bacon as it turned out (sorry Jess!);  stir-fried pomegranate flowers in a sour/sweet sauce, with spring onions, totally scrumptious; grandma’s potato galette – quite ordinary, just crispy potatoes; and the house speciality, grilled goats cheese, with a delicate little mint salad in rice wine vinegar, sugar and garlic. One to make at home….

seared tuna

seared tuna

succulent scallops - but was it one of these that poisoned me?

succulent scallops – but was it one of these that poisoned me?

Then we gave Jess a night off and went to drink cocktails on the Bund with Ross’s colleagues, at the Glamour Bar, followed by El Willy’s, a taps bar (their choice). The air con wasn’t working properly so it was hard to enjoy the food with sweat trickling down one’s neck. Some was good – the seared tuna and scallops, plus the marinated fish, but there were a couple of horrors including glutinous patatas bravas and calamari coated in a greasy, thick batter. And to crown it all, it was after this meal that I fell very sick indeed…I will say no more other than sight-seeing with clenched buttocks is no joke! But – and I cant resist saying this – Chinese loos are very clean…

roast turbot at Table no !

roast turbot at Table no 1

The big night out was to be at Jason Atherton’s (Maze fame)Table number 1, set in a renovated factory in the up-and-coming area by the  Cool Docks. People who live in the east always need a change of palate, so we were delighted to go West for this treat. I was, however, put off by having to share a refectory type table with other diners (a very ugly couple who ate noisily and were on their mains before we even got our starters); and disappointed that the waiters had no ideas on provenance of the food I was interested in ordering (was still feeling distinctly queasy at this stage so purity of ingredients rather critical!). Answer came there none, which is always a bad sign. Thankfully, Jess and Andrea loved their main courses, roasted turbot, while Ross and I were slightly disappointed – he with his rack of lamb and me with my sole (still don’t know where it hailed from, but it was on the dry side and possibly FROZEN!). The starters were delicious – tuna carpaccio and scallop ceviche, and the deserts unctuous, with accompanying sauces in little teapots. But if you read this Mr Atherton, I do strongly advise you to pay attention to your brand if you intend to franchise it out. Reputation management and all that…

Smiling lady getting ready to serve food at lunch time (didn't look too appetising!)

Smiling lady getting ready to serve food at lunch time (didn’t look too appetising!)

THis is the lunch she was about to serve

This is the lunch she was about to serve

No trip to China is complete without meandering round looking at street food. On my various wanders round the Old Town back streets, I came across some wonderful looking food, and some great characters….

ready meals waiting for buyers....

ready meals waiting for buyers….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also discovered that there is a market for ‘ready meals’ – better than Sainsbury’s any day. Eat your heart out M&S!

delicious -looking dumplings in the back streets...

delicious -looking dumplings in the back streets…

 

 

 

 

Dumplings are all steaming away, ready for buyers…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or you can buy a yummy stir fry…stock up on some dried fish, or go shopping in a smart store and get sea slugs, hundreds of varieties of mushrooms and all sorts of sickly-looking sweets (the Chinese have a very sweet tooth). And you can round it all off with a slice of cake! Not for me…

Stir fry anyone?

Stir fry anyone?

sea slugs anyone? hideously expensive, must be a great delicacy

sea slugs anyone? hideously expensive, must be a great delicacy

mushrooms galore

mushrooms galore

Sickly-looking cake

Sickly-looking cake

Bon appétit!


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in which we cool off in Tongli

Tongli- the Vence of the East

Tongli- the Venice of the East

A Water Town! Sounds like a way to cool off in 40C..so we thought!

Still suffering from the Shanghai tummy trouble, we wisely opted not to take the train and then a bus to Tongli, chosen for it being more inaccessible and hopefully less full of tourists. Ross’s ingenuity secured us a local taxi for one quarter of the cost of taking a tour, so we set off with Jess at a civilized 9.30 am.

It's too damn hot - 40C, but we pose like Chinese for our photo with the ubiquitous peace sign

It’s too damn hot – 40C, but we pose like Chinese for our photo with the ubiquitous peace sign

Like us, she had never been outside Shanghai, and we were pleased to see open countryside, with paddy fields and fish farms lining the roads, interspersed with high-rise apartment blocks and luxury developments. Not surprising really as the Water Town area was where ‘due to charming environment and abundance, in ancient times, many noblemen and distinguished families built their private gardens…low bridges, running water and small villages has won its fame as Venice of the east. All these make your trip full of poetic and artistic imagination from the moment you arrive here.’

Jess and Ross in the Tusi Gardens

Jess and Ross in the Tusi Gardens

So said the local guide. And it was true. After queuing for a little shuttle, ‘driver having lunch, she come when finish’, we arrived in the walled town, which at first glance looked rather tourist tacky, lots of shops selling tat and rickshaw wallahs touting for business. But once you left the main streets and wound round the back, life here is probably much as it was a century or two ago – small little one/two storied stone houses with little courtyards, or small gardens. People lolling around inside in the heat, cooking smells lingering in the fetid air. A small breeze just about ruffles your hair on the numerous bridges that cross the canals.

Tusi Gardens

Tusi Gardens

We enjoyed the formal coolness of the Tusi gardens, and made our first tourist purchase, an exquisite and intricate paper cutting of a pair of carp, in blue – bought from the artist.

Peek-a-boo

Peek-a-boo

Whoa - thats some phallus!

Whoa – thats some phallus!

A visit to the Chinese Sex Culture Museum is a must, especially as Jess’s friend Andrea had interviewed the owner for a news piece…in fact it is more culture than sex, although there are some magnificent phalluses on display. A Chinese boy sidled up to me as I was

And another....

And another….

admiring one. ‘You like?’ he whispered in my ear.

Another fine old mansion was host to a museum of Qing dynasty beds – all exotically carved teak, the Moon bed especially designed for ‘conjugal bliss’. Hmm, I’ll have one of those, says Ross.

Ross is hot!

Ross is hot!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We made a bad error over lunch spot, but we were so hot. Literally drenched through from top to toe (yuk!) that, instead of continuing along the canal, where we later saw some waterside cafes complete with electric fans, we made our way to the main square where we found air con, a beer, and the most repellent greasy rancid dumplings I’ve ever seen, plus some lurid pumpkin buns…Jess stuck to the cucumber, Ross ate the dumplings, I drank the beer, no one ate the pumpkin!

East meets west - or Disney!

East meets West – or Disney!

This girl had never met a foreigner before...

This girl had never met a foreigner before…

After lunch we met some gorgeous girls all dressed up in local Disney Princess outfits aka local traditional dress – hot synthetic gowns with long sleeves and frills, in garish colours, all having their photos taken. More than happy to be photographed by and with us – one girl told us she had never met any foreigners before; her friend spoke impressive English for a girl from the provinces. None of the pretty girls, posing for their friends, minded being photographed either. Ross is now building up quite a collection of Chinese beauties. I’ll have to watch him.

Jess and her new friend, who spoke passable English

Jess and her new friend, who spoke passable English

This couple were enjoying all sorts of strange poses

This couple were enjoying all sorts of strange poses

Cool it was not, but a fascinating day out. We saw only one other group of laowai (foreigners) the whole day; and it really wasn’t that crowded so our planning paid off. I rather like that the Chinese (and the Malaysians and the Singaporeans and the Indians) are all such inveterate tourists in their own countries. I suppose their lands are so vast and varied that it makes sense. Why go abroad if it’s all on your doorstep?

A Selfie of us all, true Chinese style! Love you jess!

A Selfie of us all, true Chinese style! Love you jess!