July 24, 2011 § Leave a comment
If anyone happened to walk out of the Hongqiao Road station Exit 4 at 1pm this afternoon, they would have seen a girl in a dull blue cotton dress, cinched a little below the waist, facing the wall and doing what apparently seems to be furiously flinging some noodles from a paper bowl into her mouth.
(If they stay a little longer, they would also see her looking sketchily left and right, before taking out a bottle of mineral water and washing her hands with it.)
That is a stratrgy i’ve learned from Discovery Channel since I was a young girl. The Ostrich Rule of Thumb. If you can’t see them, they can’t see you.
Really, this is the thing I’ve come to adore about Shanghai – no matter how stupid I look on the streets, no matter how much of a tramp I look like eating while walking, no matter how badly I eff up, anywhere, anytime… No one would know after a month .
Eating that bowl of 面皮 (soupless rice noodles mixed with…. read on) – was like experincing that Macho Nachos high one certain midnight in East Village. It’s like I was sent on to a platform of infinite euphoria and there was no stopping me from going on and on and on and on… I’m never a big carb fan (… I mean rice and noodles and pasta specifically), but Oh… My… LJU)W*RU(*SDUIHSDJHFN()&#)… this one was SO GOOD. The sesame oil, infused with the thread thin cumcumbers and the red spices and the occasional peanuts and every little irregular bump and imperfection of the hand made noodles … Made it just so, SO perfect.
And then when you figured out there’s nothing left in the bowl, you just look up, pause and think: oh, the rest of the world actually exists.
And crap, I don’t have tissue napkins.
I bought thirty packs of Kleenex and ten packs of wet wipes (spent literally half an hour choosing which scent to buy so now I have aloe vera, tree oil, mint and lemon… pick?) after that. Promise you it’d be a neater job next time round.
Also some morning blabs…
Given that my mandarin is truly kinda, exceptionally, you know… bad,this conversation happened as I ran pass a street vendor, spun my head around, and doubled back.
Me: ‘what is that?’
‘………[some accented mando that I dont understand]’
‘Oh, I see….. Can I have one? Is there ‘rou’ [meat] in there?’
‘Um….Rou… Roll… Like *Flap hands around.* Chicken, lamb, beef… Roll’
‘Nevermind. Can I have one?’
‘Okay. 4 dollars. Do you want sausage in it?’
After a while, we conversed a bit more and he got to know that I’m from Hong Kong.
Me: ‘Hong Kong is very crowded!.’
Him: ‘What? Yea.. Lots of people go to Hong Kong.’
Me: ‘I’m doing a summer job in Shanghai for a month. But I study in New York.’
Him: ‘Oh really. Hey [name of friend]. She’s from hong kong.’
Friend: ‘Oh. Student?’
Him: ‘No she’s working already.’
After a while more….. pancake’s almost ready…
Friend: ‘What are you up to today?’
Me: ‘Oh i’m heading to this … this… (I wanted to say art square, but I didn’t know how to say ‘art’ in mando) … Ahh I’m so bad at speaking mandarin!’
Friend: *Laugh and babble somehing for 5 minutes
Me: ‘Ohh hahahahhahaaaa yes.’
Friend: ‘Yes? Of courrrse.. Hong kong blah blah China blah blah . Yes?’
Friend: ‘Yes of course hahahhaa’
Me: ‘Yes! Hahahahahaa’
The joy of not knowing a language too well.
I walked away and passed by the skinny, tanned middle-aged woman at the next stall. Her black hair, with loose hints of grey, were as usual, tied in a low ponytail. She has a slightly broken tooth and today she’s wearing a loose dark blue tshirt that was torn at the collar. I waved at her. She smiled back at me and said ‘ay!’ I would pass by there every morning and grab the best meat buns in the world before rushing to the heart of the city.
It’s hardly a week and I’ve already become buddies buddies with 70% of ah yees and suk suks at restaurants or food stalls on the road outside… home.
Yes. Somehow, I feel surprisingly at home.
And can someone please enlighten me? Did I pronounce ‘meat’ wrong? It should be somewhat like ‘roll’ right?
张阿姨面皮 Auntie Cheung’s Noodles, near Hongqiao Road Station, Shanghai.
Vendor that is usually there on Saturdays and Sundays, selling some sorta pancaky thing.
June 25, 2011 § Leave a comment
6 a.m. Father’s Day. First thought: Why did I get salmon whyyy did I get salmon it’s not like sprawling it across bagels with cream cheese or throwing it in scrambled eggs or just curling it up like a flower on the side of the plate is not gonna make him fall asleep before he even arrives at the breakfast table. And then he’ll think, ‘What’s up with the breakfast setup- OH right, father’s day. Salmon… I was wishing I could have my normal, hearty instant noodles in MSG soup- UH OH… not scrambled eggs, I had been looking forward to poking that egg yolk from my sunny-side-up since 11 last night. Ah well, she tried. She’s a good daughter. Smile, just smile. Hmm What if I ask, would she-‘
So I tried to avoid that from happening.
Maybe it still did.
(Cream sauce was made from sauteed diced mushrooms, cream and a dash of soup powder.)
I have a certain affinity to crepes, probably because it is the only item my mom makes well, as mom is special in a way that she doesn’t, and basically couldn’t cook. And by that I mean she really doesn’t cook, at all. She would attempt to make congee and turn out something between soup and rice (which is i guess… the definition of congee – but it looked suspiciously like waterbugs in a murky pond). She would attempt to reheat a pork bun in the microwave and after two minutes, take it out and find it hard as crystallized bread. The next time, learning from her mistakes, she would attempt to steam it – and upon opening the lid of the pot after five minutes, find her bun swimming in boiling water and radiating soggy floury bubbles and her favorite glass bowl splintered into chunks because she couldn’t find the steam rack to hold the Chinese pastry up. (And she was using a pot because she couldn’t be bothered to use the proper steam wok.)
But crepes, she makes well. And apparently, according to myths of her recent attempts, vegetable soup as well.
I found the perfect crepe recipe on allrecipes.com. Click here for it.
But basically it’s mindblowingly simple. I’ve tried different flour-egg-milk proportions and so far, this has been the winner. Don’t follow the original recipe, you’ll find lumps in it. If that happens, put the mix through a sift.
1 cup flour
2 tablespoons butter
pinch of salt
Beat together eggs, milk and water. Sift in flour. Mix well. Add butter and salt.
Heat up pan. Coat with butter. Pour in a (large) spoonful of mix. Make mix coat pan in circular motion. Around 1 minute on both sides.
And what is Father’s Day breakfast without some trace of intoxication involved?
I watch the stars from my window sill
The whole world is moving and I’m standing still
Some mornings… some mornings feel like this.
And others feel like this.
I can’t really say
Why everybody wishes they were somewhere else
But in the end, the only steps that matter
Are the ones you take all by yourself
You and me walk on, walk on, walk on.
The Weepies soundtracks my life.
June 21, 2011 § Leave a comment
Gorge on the picture all you like but just to make myself clear: nothing, and I mean NOTHING, can describe how sensual the whole experience was. It was the equivalent of some drug that makes your eyelids flutter in a pre-faint state and your lips curve up ever so slightly from trying to suppress a hit of euphoria and your jaws slow down to a munching tempo of around Largo.
Words cannot describe that absurdly soft, absurdly smooth texture of the egg, how it envelops itself like a liquid snake around those succulent, wonderful scallops and how it sings with that white truffle dressing and dance with the flimsy lettuce strands as those dainty bits of chives do the backup singing.
Do you know, by the way, that the slow-cooked egg is termed by David Chang (of Momofuku) as ‘the sexy egg’? That:
‘A slow-poached egg– say, at 143°F (61°C) for 90 minutes– is that rare, perfect synthesis of greenmarket and high tech. When cracked open, the thing spills out ludicrously egg-shaped and ridiculously soft, the yolk suspended between raw and cooked, the cloudy white freed from that slight rubberiness I never knew bothered me until I had an egg without it.’
Says TIME writer Joel Stein in this article.
Have I caught your attention on the egg yet? For the more experimentally inclined, go ahead and read the paper published on Food Biophyics by César Vega and Ruben Mercadé-Prieto entiteld Culinary Biophysics: on the Nature of the 6X°C Egg (there is a free PDF download), where they explored the time-temperature combination of cooking the slow cooked egg in a more technical and less emotional way than I did… kinda like this:
(credits to Khymos blog post, image from Culinary Biophysics: on the Nature of the 6X°C Egg, fig.8, pg 158)
instead of like this:
And then there is the Truffle Parpadelle.
Smoked egg. How did, and could a poutry ovum be so glorious? It was like a damned socialite among the layers of slippery pasta and cunning mushrooms.
Incredible. Every time I taste something like this, I feel like my tastebuds stumbled upon Alice’s Wonderland in Pandora’s damned box – an amusement park where truffles bloom like cherry blossoms and drive up your nose to tap dance there.
Introducing, lads and ladettes, my partner in gluttonous crime (glime?), F.
When ever we come together, wolfing down Ukranian crepes in East Village or slurping up raw scallops in Lan Kwai Fong, one of us would inevitably at some point, wonder out loud how odd of a duo we are.
I’m starting to think all these friends in initials I address here are like my secret agents.
Gold by Harlan Goldstein, Level 2 LKF Tower 33 Wyndham Street | Lan Kwai Fong, Central, Hong Kong, China
Price/head: 300-600 HKD (lunch)
Five years from now, I’m going to remember: Hokkaido Sea Scallop Carpaccio with Slow-Cooked Egg and White Truffle Dressing, Truffle Pappardellem with Wild Forrest Mushrooms, Black Truffle and Smoked Organic Egg. The egg…. the egggggggggg. And also, sadly, the terrible, distasteful, gold and shiny decor. Well, more the reason to CLOSE YOUR EYES WHILE EATING. (The outside lounge area was quite decent though.)