Published: June 16th 2009April 5th 2009 Xiao Long Bao is Shanghai's signature dish. Dimsum may be originally a Cantonese specialty, but this particular dimsum is definitely Shanghainese. You can't leave Shanghai without trying this soup dumpling. And the best place to try it is in this restaurant within the Dragon Gate Mall near the Yu Yuan complex. There is another outlet in the Xin Tian Di area, so take your pick. Just make sure you don't go home without trying this dimsum. There are some available for take-home. We tried that before. No good. Best to try it here, while it is freshly made and steaming hot. But I'm getting ahead of my story.
Din Tai Fung
The kids still swoon over this place. The best resto offering Xiao Long Bao.
After a month-long holiday in Turkey and Greece, it was such a pleasant surprise to find these 2 children welcoming us in Shanghai where we stopped over before heading home to Manila. Look at these children! These are my future bloggers/travelers. (The rule is for them to write a journal after each trip. For this trip, the elder one came up with a powerpoint presentation!) We have arranged for the rest of the family to meet up with us in Shanghai where we would likewise spend time with
Xiao Long Bao
Say it, it's uncouth to eat - so don't make this a date. But trust me, you can't leave shanghai without trying this signature dish.
my very good friend Weng and her family. A wonderful final leg of the journey!
It was not my first time in Shanghai, but it was a first for the rest of the family. The 2 kids arrived from Manila with their parents , a couple of days earlier, and stayed with Weng and Mario - - - my dear dear friends from way back. While we have made arrangements for them to stay in the condotel , Weng wouldn't hear of it. The kids loved their place, especially since that meant staying up late with these friends who are really family to us. They all met us at the airport and together, we tried out Shanghai's impressive Mag Lev train (50 RMB). While zooming all the way to the Pudong Station in less than 8 minutes, we just couldn't stop hugging and kissing each other. Having spent 2 days with their Kuya Gabriel (Kuya means older brother, but loosely and affectionately used as a term of endearment to an older family friend
), there were just too many stories to tell. Right off, little Martin said "this Shanghai is better than Hongkong and Macau" --- which says a
Of Gondolas and Street Canals
No, they are not singing "Santa Lucia" or "O Sole Mio". But it must be the equivalent in China. And once they get started, it's hard to make them stop.
lot, considering that these 2 kids just worship Hongkong Disneyland!
My friends Mario and Weng booked us at a nice 3 bedroom condotel in Shaanxi Road near a Buddha Temple. Regalia Hotel Group, a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, runs serviced apartments both in Shanghai and in Suzhou. The 3 room apartment has a spacious living room, dining area and a good-sized kitchen and laundry area. Though we never stayed long enough to cook our own meals, nor do our laundry, this place is something I can recommend to fellow bloggers traveling with a family. It is your very comfortable home away from home! You can cook, invite friends over for dinner while washing and drying your clothes, even play ball in the spacious living room. The next blog will tell you that I stayed in this place 2 trips in a row........but that is another story.
Let's see. This blog is all about Patricia and Martin in Shanghai. More people photos especially of my grandniece and grandnephew, rather than places or landscapes. Together with their parents and my good friends, these 2 kids didn't waste time. Barbie's World was their first destination in Shanghai.
Coffee, Tea or Tea?
Still in Yu Yuan - Shanghai's "Chinatown"
Patricia loved the place, and talked endlessly about it. On the other hand, Martin's food trip in the last 2 days before we arrived was quite amusing. Before long, both kids were talking about their culinary adventure in Shanghai. Talk about discerning tastes. While Martin still raves about his duck , dimsum and yeong chow rice, Patricia has discovered tofu, bamboo shoots and jellyfish. Their first 2 dinners in Din Tai Fung and Bi Feng Tang did not disappoint. You'd be surprised to know that these chinese restaurants' names can't seem to register in the minds of the adults, but to this day, these 2 young travelers can still readily recite the names of the good eating places they have tried in Shanghai. One particular dimsum that easily became everybody's favorite is xiao long bao
, Shanghai's signature dish. I know, I know......dimsum is really more Cantonese and some may argue the best dimsum is available in Hongkong. But trust me on this. Xiao Long Bao , shanghai's bite-size comfort food, is truly to die for. These soup dumplings are just that. One has to take great care in eating them, or you'd burn your tongue. The little balls of minced
pork with chicken stock come wrapped in the typical flour wrapper much like a regular siomai. Eating these delightful dish is another matter. First, one bites the tip to make a small hole, then proceeds to siphon off, suck and slurp on the soup inside the dumpling. The puncturing, the steam escaping from the little hole, the sucking, the eating ---- these comprise the entire ritual of savoring this very Shanghainese dish. The brave ones actually simply balance the xiao long bao in their chopsticks, carefully dipping them in either soy sauce or chinese vinegar, and promptly pop them into their mouths where the full flavors burst as the broth escape and fill their mouths! And speaking of the best xiao long bao, Din Tai Fung wins hands down.
Don't argue. These 2 kids are big fans! (I learned later that the same resto gave our 2 young travelers a Din Tai Fung keychain, quite a simple one, but enough to make these kids hold fond memories of this eating place. Now, that should be good advice to restaurant owners, don't you think?)
The night Shelly and I arrived, we dined in another restaurant. Name's Xiao Nan
ZhouZhuang: Venice of China
A thousand year old ancient river town, with stone bridges, street canals and narrow alleys.
, and naturally, we ordered Xiao Long Bao so Shelly and I can try it. The kids had a blast teaching their Auntie Shelly how to eat the soup dumpling. We ordered a number of appetizers and some sumptuous vegetable side dishes too, but I can't remember what they are called. What I do remember though is the pata tim or ti pan
they serve in that restaurant. Gosh, call it whatever you want, but we were certainly on a food trip here in Shanghai. The stewed pig's knuckles was so tender and delicious it was so easy to forget one's diet. That, plus the piece de resistance........ peking duck! By this time, my little ones have mastered the art of picking slivers of duck meat to place dead center on the paper thin wrapper, along with onion leeks and a smear of hoisin sauce, wrapping it like a roll, and voila! Martin kept reminding me that the peking duck in Star House in Hongkong is better, but that the yeong chow fried rice here is more yummy. Huh! What are we teaching these kids? (Check out an earlier blog: Peking Duck and Fireworks in Hongkong
By the time we
Zhouzhuang and Its Gondolas
Taken from the window of the restaurant where we had lunch. Windows have intricate oriental carvings.
checked in at Casa Regalia, we were ready to roll. For Shelly and me, it was a long trip from Athens via Istanbul. For the rest of the family, it was another (3rd) day of feast and fun.
Trip to ZhouZhuang
The next day , we filled up the entire van on our way to ZhouZhuang. This 1,000 year old water town is China's Venice. For 100RMB, one has the entire village to explore. And it is a lived-in village! The entrance to this Water Town is punctuated by stores selling silk products, ti pan or stewed pig knuckles, various dried and preserved fruits, sugar floss candies. As one enters , the water lanes and stone bridges greet the visitors right away. Gondola-like river boats glide through the river .... laden with camera-strung tourists happily snapping away. The lady "gondolier" sings Chinese songs with a good melody , notwithstanding that we don't understand the lyrics. This scene - the river, the boats, the ancient structures lining the river - must have impressed our pre-teen and 8yr old so much. (One afternoon after our trip, armed with our sketch books, these 2 drew and painted these scenes
Lakeview From ZhouZhuang
ZhouZhuang is a river town bordered by a lake on all its sides. The water canals snake through the entire village.
) It was a lovely sight. Think Venice with an Oriental accent. The red Chinese lanterns adorning many windows with oriental carvings. Viewed from any of these windows, the picturesque rivertown is framed even better than many of the postcards available on sale in zhouzhuang's stalls.
On our way towards the twin bridges, the 2 kids were lured by this lady displaying her "magic cards". It was hard to peel them away from her. More so, when the lady named a price which we all felt to be too much for a deck of cards. Further on, my nieces found a store with silk scarves in different colors. While haggling with the lady vendor, my grandnephew Martin sat it out amidst a display of colorful scarves. I snatched up a dozen of those scarves myself, and for a price lower than what the girls got them for! Lol. Experience or age, or both, count.
We finally reached one of the old houses. The ticket allows you to enter some of these houses belonging to the Yuan, Qing or Ming Dynasties. One of the most interesting of these public houses is the Hall of Shen. Built in 1742, Shen's
Ti Pan or Pata Tim
Yummmmmy! Feel that cholesterol rush!
Residence has more than a hundred rooms and was built by the son (Shen Wansan) of one of the first silk tycoons in the province. The arcades and courtyards within the Shen compound speak of the decadence of those times. There were signages along the aisles which caught our attention, and provided some amusement. The intricate carvings on the windows maybe very Oriental, though I detected a likeness to the Greek "eternity" patterns. Out of the Shen Residence, and once more along the street canal, we passed a number of eateries with live seafood in aquariums. I even found some turtles and I dare not guess what wonderful Chinese dish it would make. It's a good thing the tourist season has yet to set in , lest these street canals and alleys will be crowded with snap-happy travelers. ZhouZhuang must be a favorite out of town destination for those visiting Shanghai as it is only an hour and a half drive from the city.
Not too far away is the Hall of Zhang's Residence, right before the Fu'An Bridge. Built by the Xu Family in the 15th century, and later bought by the Zhang Family, this residence has fewer
A View of the Bridge
Still in Zhou Zhuang. From this vantage point, we found a playground where the kids exhausted all their energies.
rooms than the Shen Residence. Like the other ancient houses, the river flows underneath the Main Hall of the Zhang's Residence. My eyes were trained on Martin, knowing how this little boy easily gets involved in mishaps! Once before, he fell into a lily pond. Another time, he bounced down the stairs. And when my friends Weng and Mario told me the story of how he fell from the trolley at the airport while waiting for our arrival, I knew I just had to keep an eye on him. After all, this is no lily pond. It's a damn river , busy at that!
By the time we stopped for lunch, we have walked long enough to whet our appetites. Lunch was another "no mercy" affair. Martin couldn't have enough of his yeong chow rice, while Patricia set her eyes on the mushrooms and tofu. There was also this dish of cubed pork, stewed in soy sauce. It reminded us of our local dish, "adobo", but slightly sweeter. In between many cups of tea, we feasted on these chinese delicacies . Right outside the restaurant by the bridge (sorry, i can't recall the name), we chanced upon an ice
Shanghai's Yu Garden with the Expo Mascot
All throughout our holiday, these 2 kids won't stop bugging me about a next trip to Shanghai for the Expo 2010.
cream stand. Mario bought ice cream for the kids , with Martin dropping his ice cream (just that, he held on to the cone - and don't ask me how that happened) in less than 3 minutes. Not to worry, he got his 2nd scoop that day.
We slept much of the one and a half hour drive back to Shanghai. But as soon as we were dropped off at the CyberMart, our adrenaline was up again. Bracing ourselves for an hour or so of haggling, my nieces did a fine job with their purchases. And then we got ready for dinner at Bi Feng Tang. More xiao long bao. But the yeong chow fried rice took a while before reaching our table. We had to repeatedly remind the waiter to bring in the rice along with the viands. (In China, the rice and noodles are served last. The idea is one eats only the many meat, seafood and vegetable dishes, and the rice/noodles are served last only to "fill up" ) For us though, we always eat our viands together with the rice. If you are like us, be prepared to explain this well to your waiter. In
Chinatown in Shanghai?
Shanghai is so cosmopolitan , that it is refreshing to see traditional Chinese architecture. This one was taken in Yu Garden.
our case, my Shanghai-based friends usually flash a text message from their mobile phones instructing the serving staff to serve the rice together with the rest of the orders. And that text message is written in Chinese characters! All that wait for the glorious fried rice was not in vain. One of the waiters made the mistake of putting down on our table -- right in front of me -- a delicious-looking string bean vegetable dish. I helped myself with the dish and got as far as 4 stringbeans, until the serving was suddenly transferred (by the same waiter) to the next table. There was no chance to tell him that the serving is short of 4 morsels, or that I am still chewing those 4 pieces, as the motion was so quick. Taken aback, we just had to laugh it off and decided not to bother to explain. After all, we wouldn't know how to explain it to these guys!
Yu Yuan, Shopping and The Bund
The next morning, we woke up late for a lazy day spent in Yu Yuan or Yu Garden and then some shopping. Mario and I found Starbucks and
A Day in Yu Yuan
Also called YU Garden. These 2 kids stayed with me at Starbucks while their parents and aunt went shopping.
decided to sit it out while the rest, including the kids, went around and did some shopping. As soon as Mario and I found seats , I warned him that in a few minutes I expect the kids to be delivered to our care while the others do some serious shopping. I was not wrong. Mario had to laugh, amazed at how well I know my family.
The kids had their miniature bikes to play with, while Mario and I sipped our coffee and chatted the minutes away. With those new toys, they didn't bother us for the next half hour or so. Before long, Shelly arrived with her hair all done up. She stopped by this stall selling hair pins, clasps, and other stuff, and allowed the vendor to fix up her hair. She also arrived rolling a new suitcase she bought off some hidden stall within the Garden complex. Val and Zet arrived too, eager to show us their own purchases. Don't get us wrong., This Yu Yuan is truly a Chinatown in China's very cosmopolitan city. The architecture, the stalls, every nook and corner is screaming "Chinese" and there are a number of photo ops all
An afternoon of shopping in this area, just below the Science and Tech Museum.
around. But this family must be either moved by culinary adventures or shopping, that we all didn't do justice to this lovely garden right in the center of Shanghai. Anyway, now that we're all gathered together, we then had a quick and simple lunch , then proceeded to the Mall beneath the Museum of Science and Technology in the Pudong area. That's where I got my own new suitcase, thinking I'd junk the old one which has seen better days in Turkey and Greece. It's easy to get lost in this shopping area which Martin calls "a Museum, but not actually a Museum". Actually, it is the mall beneath the Museum. Now let me warn you about this place. Be prepared to negotiate! Back home, a bargain means buying something for about half the quoted price. That's a bargain at basement prices. Not so in this place. In fact, not so in all of China. Except for department stores and boutiques where prices are fixed, a shopper in China should be prepared to haggle for as low as 10% of the quoted price. Yes, 10%. Initially, I was embarassed, even afraid, to negotiate at such ridiculous prices. But when the
The Bund.......Shanghai's landmark.
lady vendor counteroffered at 30% of the initial offering price, I knew we were going to strike a deal soon. This can be tiring. So, be sure you had a good meal and well-rested when you do go shopping in China. How shall I say it? It's like a test of nerves, and stamina. The first one who tires of the game, loses. So there.....
As with food, these 2 kids' tastes differ as well when it comes to shopping. Martin was given a shopping allowance which he didn't use up. When his mom ran out of Chinese currency (RMB) and asked to "borrow" from his fund, his mom never heard the end of it. He kept a good accounting too of how much money he still has left . As for Patricia, she had her eye on a single, expensive item. She's very much into gadgets, techie that she is. She combined her shopping moneys and decided to upgrade her iPod. Having bought one, she then proceeded to keep her Auntie Shelly company especially on her shopping jaunts. She "worked" for more shopping money as she offered to edit Auntie Shelly's photos from Turkey and Greece, and to
Jumping with joy!
Must have been a total of 15 shots .......... oh well.
work on a collage of such photos as Shelly demanded. Great. These kids are fast learners.
On our last night, we were brought to the promenade by the Bund. Both adults and kids were awed by the display of lights by the Bund and the buildings across the waters in the Pudong area. Neon lights everywhere. Architectural wonders atop new, modernistic buildings in full neon colors. This display beats Manhattan any hour of the day. Or night. As with the Beijing Olympics which took the entire world by a storm with its grand display of modernistic structures , fireworks and opening/closing ceremonies, the skyline here in Shanghai is a feast to the eyes. My, they have surely come a long long way. No wonder the kids love it here. From the Bund, we watched a few boats catering to tourists cruising the bay. We had our fill of the promenade, and quickly took shots of the boats as their lights turned blue, then green, then purple, and then red.
From the Bund, we walked around the People's Square and again, delighted at the display of lights. The hotels and other buildings around the square prided themselves with
MC Do Girls
Taken at the People's Square. Once more, Shelly with her stunts. And little Patricia is learning fast.
their tops in varying architecture and patterns. Lighted like torches, the tops of these buildings shouldn't be missed by any modern architect. It crossed our minds that present-day Shanghai is every architect's dream, perhaps because funds for new, modern buildings must have budgets big enough to accommodate their whims and fancy. Tonight is our last night here. And the kids had their chance to meet and say goodbye to Hai Bao, the Expo 2010 Mascot, who can be found at almost every mall, park or corner.
Before calling it a night, we breathed in the Shanghai air again, unmindful of the fact that smog greeted us every morning we were here. Smog and all, the entire family wished a repeat of this adventure. The Shanghai Expo 2010 threatens to draw us back here sooner than we should. Oh well. That idea is something to dream about in the next so many months. Meanwhile, there was something in the cool breeze that turned us all nuts, as we eagerly posed for wacky shots , "jump-offs", kung fu shots , etc. So much laughter. Ahh, family trips are really in a different league. (P.S. We all left the following
day with Shelly and I flying via Philippine Airlines, and the rest via Cebu Pacific Air. The latter offered promo rates for this no-frills return trip from Manila to Shanghai. Well, we never heard the end of it from these young travelers who kept complaining that their plane is no good as there were no inflight meals! Lol.)
Trader Joe's in Shanghai?
The "pirated" version of Trader Joe's. In China, Zhou is pronounced "Joe".
There are more photos below