I Learn From Tall Birds With Small Brains

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.

I never asked... but she might have been the heroine Mrs / Ms / Miss Cheung?


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’
‘… [Confused]’
‘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?’
Me: ‘Yes!’
Friend: ‘Yes of course hahahhaa’
Me: ‘Yes! Hahahahahaa’
Everyone laughs.

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?


First he squishes a white dough (which was mixed with chopped spring onions) flat on the pan, then after a while, he breaks an egg on to it

Then he adds salt, pepper, spices.... and CHEMICAL X........ Yea yea..

VIOLA! (I ended up not eating most of the sausage..... one thing I wouln't mess with - 'meat' that doesn't look like part of an animal. I swear I could taste suspicious hints of wasabi in it for some reason....

Zeee cook!

And ze Friend! Shanghai people are so friendly (maybe it's coz I don't understand what they are saying half the time) I love it here.


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.


Where Am I?

You are currently browsing the Street Food category at THE OTHER TALKING RAT.