Thursday, 21 April 2011

shanghai: moreish modern metropolis

For most of our time in China, we made a point of indulging in mostly traditional local cuisine, with only the odd deviation here and there. In Shanghai, however, we gave in to a more eclectic mix of morsels. Perhaps we needed a bit of a breather after a straight two weeks of Chinese food, fascinatingly varied as they were. Or perhaps we were lulled by the irresistibly cosmopolitan, international vibe of Shanghai. Either way, we just succumbed... with pleasure.

The first thing I had in Shanghai was a Portuguese egg tart. I couldn't have asked for a better way to start my day. Each glorious bite saw the soft, ethereal custard disintegrating joyously in my mouth.

egg tart.

Hours later, after a leisurely session of window shopping, we wandered into a posh supermarket deli and grabbed some Japanese takeaway for lunch. I opted for sour plum onigiri and salmon sushi rolls.

omusubi (aka onigiri) and sushi.

Our funds had been running low but we still had some Australian dollars which we exchanged at the bank for Chinese Renminbi. The next day, we felt so rich that we each got a fancy dessert at Haagen Dazs. This was actually our lunch. Oh yeah.

I'm not a big tiramisu fan, but the coffee ice cream in Simon's tiramisu dessert was lovely.

haagen dazs tiramisu dessert.

This was my Swiss-roll-inspired dessert. Thick crepes wrapped around strawberry ice cream, served with a tuile biscuit and small dollops of raspberry and mango ice cream.

haagen dazs swiss dessert.

After a day out sightseeing and admiring the night view from what is currently the tallest observation deck in the world at Shanghai World Financial Center, we popped by Din Tai Fung on the third level of the building for a filling banquet dinner. It included their famous xiaolongbao, of course. These gorgeous little pork dumplings were exquisitely made - you could spy the soupy interior through their translucent skins. To eat, lift carefully, bite a tiny hole and suck in the savoury broth before devouring the rest of the dumpling with liberal doses of black vinegar and fresh ginger.

xiaolongbao at din tai fung, swfc.

No matter which city we were in, we never seemed to have trouble finding a good breakfast takeaway spot. In Shanghai, our favourite one was a shop/stall selling a variety of buns.

This xianroubao - basically a type of pork bun - was like a big, doughy, greasy version of xiaolongbao. It wasn't easy to eat this without making a mess! One big bite reveals the meatball-ish stuffing, and then before you know it, rivulets of oil are trickling down your wrist. But oh, it was delicious. We giggled at how unhealthy it was, and continued cramming it into our mouths.

xianroubao: pork bun, shanghainese style. watch out for the oil spill!

Much healthier were the vegetable buns, such as this one which had shredded Chinese radish in it. Peppery. Tasty.

chinese radish bun.

I was happy to see how popular tea eggs were in Shanghai. Even convenience stores would often have a pot bubbling away. Many places, such as this roadside stall, would sell an egg for one yuan each.

tea eggs.

We tried doughnuts from a couple of international chains. These offerings were from an Indonesian chain called J.Co Donuts & Coffee. Simon couldn't resist the one called Avocado Dicaprio, if only because of its awesome name. I played it safe and went for a creamy Snow White.


I can't remember which chain these doughnuts were from. It may have been from Dunkin' Donuts.

and more doughnuts.

For our last night in Shanghai, we decided to really live it up and went to the upmarket and fashionable Sinan Mansions of the French Concession district in search of dinner. We settled for some Chinese-influenced Peruvian cuisine at Chicha Lounge. It was very good - I particularly loved the tangy, refreshing ceviche.

ceviche at chicha lounge.

The seven-course set meal at Chicha Lounge stuffed us silly, but I had my heart set on visiting the Alchemist Cocktail Kitchen just next door, known for their fancy utilisation of molecular gastronomy in sophisticated cocktails and bar food. I soldiered on with my loyal compatriot towards the promise of sinfully delicious beverages, and we were not disappointed. I was in alcoholic heaven with my Pimm's Spider - cucumber and absinthe ice cream served with a flask of Pimm's No. 1 and fruit beer.

pimm's spider at alchemist cocktail kitchen.

On our last day, we checked out by noon but with an evening flight, we still had several hours to kill. As always, eating was a fabulous way to pass the time. I had seen these little skewers around at street stalls and I finally gave them a go. They were quite tasty.

meaty mini skewers.

We'd heard about Yang's fried dumplings even before we touched down on Shanghai, but I didn't hold out much hope for locating them. The fried dumplings (shengjianbao) are, again, not too unlike xiaolongbao, but heavier and with crunchy pan-fried bottoms. As luck would have it, we stumbled upon them completely by accident while exploring a shopping mall. Sloshed in chilli vinegar, these broth-spurting shengjianbao were wonderfully scrumptious. Mm-mmm! Come to mama, you serendipitous little darlings.

the well-known pan-fried dumplings/buns (shengjianbao or shengjian mantou) from xiaoyang shengjian.

Simon, still hungry, decided to move on to a Taiwanese-style hot dog, da chang bao xiao chang, which literally means "big sausage wrapped around small sausage". To elaborate further, it was basically a pork sausage encased in a sticky rice sausage-shaped bun.

taiwanese-style da chang bao xiao chang.

As for me... I was still basking in the afterglow of the shengjianbao and all I wanted was a light drink to tingle my senses. This sweet and sour calamansi juice was just the ticket.

calamansi drink.

Finally, reluctantly, our time was up. We got on to the high-speed Maglev, and bid our farewells to Shanghai. We'll be back, China. We'll be back...

maglev train in shanghai.


  1. lovely and delicious, tempting desserts for sure.

  2. I'm so jealous of the stuff that you get to eat! I want to go to shanghai too!

  3. That's right Nava!

    Michelle, even I am jealous of the stuff I got to eat. ;) I was a little sad writing the conclusion of this post when I realised I had indeed come to the end of my travels...

  4. Wow... I'm so jealous! Thanks for sharing this adventure with us!!

  5. This post really makes me miss Asia.

  6. Typing out this post made me miss Asia! We need an abundance of delicious street food (and decent public transport!) here in Melbourne, is what we need. :p

  7. So much variety! My parents went to Hong Kong for the first time last year and, after they got back, my dad complained for weeks about how he missed the 30c portuguese tarts he ate for breakfast every morning. Not quite what I was expecting to hear about the food there... :P

  8. Oh, but not so surprising! We love our egg tarts in Asia, be they Chinese or Portuguese. :D

  9. That is some good eating! :D So many dumplings... swoon!

    How was the Maglev? My husband would love to go on it (he loves techy machine things!)

  10. You had a feast! the egg tart looks amazing!

  11. Oh yeah Agnes - I loved the dumplings! The Maglev was pretty cool, you don't really get a sense of how fast it is until you look out the window at the expressway and see how you're zooming past all the cars. :D

    Zurin, I enjoyed it so much! :D

  12. Xian Yang Sheng Jian is in my to-eat list! But not sure if I can locate it :O

    Since I will be at Shanghai and not other cities this time, I might be venturing out to more Shanghai local eats/food.

  13. Xiao Yang Sheng Jian is a chain so there is a chance you might come across it. I'm not sure how individual stores compare in quality but the one we were told about, and found, was in a shopping mall, and it was super popular and we were very happy with our shengjian!

    I wish I had more time to fit in all the local and international offerings that caught my attention in Shanghai. There were just so many things to try!

  14. The pastry portion is so flaky!

  15. Páscoa,

    °•♥♥ °°•✿♫°.•

    É ser capaz de mudar,
    É partilhar a vida na esperança,
    É dizer sim ao amor e à vida,
    É ajudar mais gente a ser gente,

    Boa Semana Santa!
    Feliz Páscoa!!!✿°º

    • ♥♥♫° ·.

    ( ),,( )

  16. A Busy Nest, yes - it certainly was a very nice tart. ;)

    Obrigada Magia! Feliz Pascoa to you too! :)

  17. I miss Shanghai and Beijing. So want to go back and live there for at least 6 months.

  18. Oooh, I have a lot of catching up to do on your blog ... I just got back from a trip as well and I LOVE reading travel posts. You are an eater after my own heart, I'll tell you that. Impressive!

  19. Yay for travelling - I'm looking forward to more of your posts, too! :D

  20. Love the photos, so fascinated by all the different treats you got to try!

  21. Once again your photos are a visual treat served to the rest of us. Pure deliciousness floats off the screen!

  22. Thanks SeattleDee as always for your lovely words! :)

  23. Be gentle with me. Be sweet ad kind, oh hell! Who am I kidding? Flip me over, ride my ass and pull my hair!. Hey, i am looking for an online sexual partner ;) Click on my boobs if you are interested (. )( .)


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