Monday, January 31, 2011

Shanghai: final dinner at Shanghai Spring restaurant

This is my last post about meals from my China trip (tear!).  Our final dinner in Shanghai took place at Shanghai Spring (Xiao Nan Guo), a popular restaurant inside the massive Super Brand Mall in Lujiazui, Pudong.  One of the first things I noticed and liked about the restaurant was the fact that at each place setting were two sets of chopsticks, in different colors: one was intended for personal use and the other for serving yourself from the communal dishes.

Additionally, this meal turned out to be an excellent way to end the trip; all of the dishes were flawless and exquisitely presented, and even though (as usual) there was a large number of dishes, each of the flavors was distinct and remained that way even in memory.  I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.  Our first cold dish was lotus root and lotus seeds in a light syrup:


Beef tendon:

Smoked yellow fish:

Ma lan tou (some sort of aromatic green) with salmon:

Mu er (wood ear fungus):


Whole river fish and "A Po Hong Shao Rou" (traditional red-braised pork) were wonderful, but the pictures are problematic, upload-wise.

Shrimp (remember this preparation?):

Bok choy with bamboo shoots:

Greens-and-sea-bass soup:

Tofu with crab roe (this, and the soup prior, felt like wonderfully glammed up comfort food).  We actually ate this with rice!

And with a final fruit plate, we bid farewell to the greatest food city that I have ever been to, and a place very dear to my heart.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Weekday dinner: seared tofu sandwich

On Thursday I didn't feel like cooking and so decided to serve sandwiches for dinner, but I ended up doing some cooking anyway.  I wanted to use firm tofu as the protein, and I had an opened jar of red curry paste, so I cut slices of tofu, dried them as much as possible, and rubbed curry paste on both sides.  While they marinated, I sliced and caramelized a sweet onion.  I also set up some quick-pickled zucchini, doubling this recipe's vinegar/sugar/salt proportions and using two thinly-sliced zucchinis.

Eventually, I seared the tofu on both sides and then placed it on lightly buttered toast, piled on the onions, and finished with some of the pickled zucchini.  The result tasted much better than I expected!  It had a nice balance of different textures and different flavors, and was the kind of sandwich I could imagine ordering at a cafe.  The meal ended with tea and chocolate-pecan brownies, which I think I left in the oven 5-8 min too long but still tasted good.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Shanghai: snacks at Shanghai Snack

After some shopping on Nanjing Road on January 9, my parents, mom's cousin, and my cousin decided to sit down for some deliciousness at Shanghai Snack restaurant (just off of Nanjing Road, near the subway station).  One of our priorities was sheng jian bao, i.e., pan-fried pork dumplings that are a Shanghai specialty.  These are served everywhere in (and outside) Shanghai, in both high-end and low-end establishments, but the best can be found at snack shops filled with locals.  Thus, we were quite optimistic.  Here is the little dumpling-cooking area in the restaurant:

You order and pay for however many you want (the dumplings are 2 RMB each) at the counter, where the counter lady writes down your order; then, you bring the slip of paper to the chef, who hands you a plate of freshly pan-fried awesomeness:

Great sheng jian bao have a crisp crust which gives way to a fluffy, gently chewy skin, containing some tender pork filling and some hot soup.  These did not disappoint!

Since it was winter and thus cold outside, we also ordered some bowls of little wontons in soup, 10 RMB / bowl.  Simple, brothy, and a warming complement to the sheng jian bao.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Shanghai: big family dinner at Jade Garden restaurant

The biggest dinner we had in Shanghai occurred on January 8 at a grandiose restaurant on Zhaojiabang Road called Jade Garden, and involved two round tables of 10-11 people each.  Although service was strangely slow, the dishes were certainly impressive.

First, Drunken Chicken:

Next, some sort of meat (probably beef) in aspic:

Kao fu (baked spongy wheat gluten), a Shanghai specialty:

Then there was a "salad" of lettuce leaves with peanut sauce - a rather strange inclusion, so we'll skip the picture and move on to tofu skin:

River shrimp (we had this preparation at several meals in China; the shrimp are steamed and then - I think - briefly tossed in a barely perceptible, slightly starchy sauce.  You eat the shrimp with a little vinegar, and it's incredibly simple and good):

Here are most of the appetizers on my plate:

Now, moving on to hot dishes, beginning with wheat gluten with vegetables in a tomato-based sauce:

"Drumstick mushroom" with baby bok choy:

Eel, in a traditional Shanghai-style preparation (also a dish I love):

Some sort of beef:

Tea-smoked duck with gorgeous little seashell-shaped steamed buns.  This duck was amazingly tender:

Sea-bass, slow-cooked with "red-braised pork" (hong shao rou) in a clay pot:

Pressed tofu skin (bai ye):

Whole sea cucumber, served to each diner.  Sea cucumber has no taste of its own, so everything depends on the sauce in which it is prepared/served, and this sauce was the perfect balance of sweet and savory.  Apparently these sea cucumbers that are served whole (as opposed to bite-size pieces in a shared dish) are even more of a delicacy.

Fish-head soup.  I should point out that this fish head and the tureen that contained it were simply enormous.  Also, the soup was delicious.

"Snacks" to end, beginning with a fried rice cake:

Sheng jian bao (pan-fried pork dumplings):

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Weekday dinner: Tangerine-ginger-coconut Pacific sole

I bought some Pacific sole fillets at Whole Foods over the weekend and decided to serve them as a weekday dinner.  I was inspired by this Food & Wine recipe and, since I had plenty of tangerines on hand, decided to make a tangerine-ginger sauce for the fish.

I first peeled and sectioned four tangerines, then removed most of the membranes from the tangerine sections.  I mashed the chunks of fruit with a fork and added about a tablespoon or so of grated ginger.  In a small pan, I let the fruit mixture reduce while stir-frying some zucchini and broccoli.  Then, still leaving the fruit where it was, I coated the sole fillets in some grated coconut and then cooked them over medium heat, flipping once.   I served the fillets with the tangerine-ginger reduction, garnished with some toasted coconut flakes.  The result was tender and quite flavorful, as well as relatively attractive.  The other two dishes were the stir-fried vegetables and noodles with peanut sauce.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Bountiful breakfasts

I was in Boston from Saturday through last night, and just flew back today.  Expect some posts about Boston restaurants in the near future!  But for now, more on "everyday" food....

I'm a big fan of breakfast; it gives me something to look forward to and get out of bed for on those cold mornings where it's so tempting to just stay in bed a little longer (i.e., most mornings).  Here are a few of my recent "most important meals."

Breakfast nachos: tortilla chips, guacamole (from Whole Foods), and an egg.

Bosc pear and plain yogurt, blueberry scone (Whole Foods) with cream and lemon curd, and tea:

Egg-in-the-hole, with a double-yolked egg!  This made me ridiculously happy at 7:30am.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Shanghai: lunch at Yang Ren A Po restaurant

On January 7, my parents and I visited two of my mom's college roommates, and we went out for a relatively light lunch (by visit-to-China standards) at Yang Ren A Po restaurant.

Steamed dates with lotus seeds in a slightly sweet sauce:

Pickled cucumber, a refreshing mix of sweet/sour/spicy:

Wheat gluten with vegetables:

Fish with pickled vegetables in a savory broth, my favorite dish of the meal:

Pork tendon with greens:

Spicy stinky tofu, which was so good that I kept eating it despite how spicy it was:

And finally, mushroom soup:

After lunch we went shopping.  I bought a long puffer coat, as well as the most awesome egg tart ever.  Here's a recap in case you forgot what it looked like:

And here's a gratuitous shot of the perfect custard interior: