Saturday was our last day. We decided to head out of town to visit the famous gardens of the old canal town Suzhou. We braved the train station and the crowds. I remember when I was living in Beijing having to get out the elbows and thick skin and literally push my way to the ticket window. It was an art – getting to the window, then finely judging when the woman behind it had a pause in her counting or staring off into space, and then shouting to her what you wanted – quick, decisive and concise. Mess any of that up and someone else was there to take your place, or worse, the woman would decide to ignore you and no amount of pleading could get her to sell you a ticket. Thankfully the concierge at the PuLi dealt with getting the tickets so we just needed to turn up!
We arrived in Suzhou and promptly got lost. Thankfully we did, because we came upon these: shenjian mantou (shallow fried buns filled with pork and soup).
The pork had been lightly marinated in soy (probably light soy) and sugar so it had a slight sweetness to them. The broth inside was (very!) hot and savoury. A nice way to start a chilly morning. The outer shell is made with mantou, a yeast risen white flour dough, but then shallow fried. So on the top they are fluffy and on the botton, crispy, with a dusting of spring onions and sesame. All in all very nice.
B was really enamored until she found one with a hair on it. Ah well, we had 3 really good ones before we were turned off them.
I was intrigued by these hairy things which they said were lychees (i’ve only seen the non hairy kind) though they were a little bland. We gave them to a panhandler who, disgusted, threw them promptly on the ground. Nice.
There were alot of fruit sellers around (also in Shanghai). They certainly looked yummy.
And then we came upon my highlight of the day: fresh sugar cane juice! For only 3 rmb a glass (about 30p). The guy takes freshly husked sugar cane, and puts it through the press.
And out comes delicous, fresh sugar cane juice! The vendor was complaining that foreigners never buy his sugar cane drink – so I offered to write him an English sign. We wrote: “Sugar Cane Juice – Fresh! Delicious! 3 rmb”. I hope his business booms. Fresh sugar cane juice rocks!
As the day wore on, B and I took turns feeling fluey – B feeling better after a powernap at a canalside teahouse. Me on the otherhand, I went a bit downhill. So much so that we decided to cancel our evening date with family friends.
Uncle Dong and his family came by the hotel and we decided that we should spend the evening with them – afterall, how often will we get to come to Shanghai? It was the right decision – the great company, the cups and cups of hot tea, and the amazing food really did wonders and I felt so much better at the end of the night.
For our final meal we were treated to a wonderful dinner by Dong Qiang, his wife & their daughter Elsie. The table was chock full of wonderful local classics.
And the return of the hairy crab! But this time, we had reinforcements. Veteran hairy crab eaters, Uncle Dong, Aunt Dong & Elsie showed us how to properly eat them.
There is an art to eating hairy crab – and the whole family helped get us on the right track.
We had a few more dishes, and then to end some small dim sum – mooli bun, sesame bun with spring onion, and finally an egg roll.
Elsie if you are reading this – thank you to you and your parents for a wonderful evening!
All in all a spectacular foodie adventure! I am still floored by how delicious, varied, and elegant the food in Shanghai is. Though we failed to hit our 21 meals, I can safely say that we are more than satisfied at our culinary adventures in Shanghai. As we say goodbye to Shanghai foodie scene… it’s time to say hello to a new diet regime!