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.


Made: That Wasn’t a Sandwich, That Was a Movie

June 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

Chuck, I think we know who's the wiser one here...

(Slightly runny) Scrambled Eggs. Stilton. Chicken Breast. Whole Wheat Toast.

See I’m the kind of person who when it comes to making something to eat at home, finds herself confronted with several problems: I’m incredibly impatient, incredibly indecisive and incredibly fickle. In other words, I can’t eat the same breakfast twice in three weeks, I can’t be bothered to cook anything complicated, and when I have the luxury of time to stay home and make myself something, I would perch in front of the open fridge for half an hour deciding whether to use ham or bacon, and then end up pulling out 5 different type of cheeses, 3 types of meat, 3 types of bread or crackers, a few couple jars of seasonings and 2 eggs getting cooked in two different ways on the frying pan. Then I would take bits of this with bits of that and basically do a musical chair of breakfast items before settling on the combination that happens to suit my mood best that morning.

Usually when I am done with that, it looks like the inside of my fridge has come out for a carnival.

It was quite a romantic scene: the toast was just stationed there without expectations of any sort, then on comes a pink film of moist chicken breast, then several cool slabs of Stilton, then after a rather suspenseful pause — a cushion of scrambled eggs right off that richly buttered pan. It’s still not of age, and still a little shy and runny. The Stilton, obliged to melt under the heat, embraces the mellow yellow on top and the pinkness below in all its pungent goodness.

First comes the roughness of the bread against your tongue, then an eruption of runny eggs over to the sides at the top (you swear you hear the cooked part that thought it covered everything say ‘shit!’), and then a sudden sharp tug from the Stilton before it retreats apologetically to give you the sweet, humble taste of chicken breast.

Come to think of it, it’s not really scrambled… but it’s my way of cooking beaten eggs. It’s like making an omlette, but instead of having fillings inside, I leave some sneaky runniness in there.

Can you define joy for me in any other way? I think not. Not today.

Lemon and Lime Marmalade. Cream Cheese. Crepe Wafer.

Another musical chair creation. They click so well together. My amuse bouche for the day yes?

At Sea: The Sotto On The Side

June 9, 2011 § Leave a comment

Toasted Barley Mushroom Risotto (side)

That was one good mushroom risotto.

And that’s a lot coming from someone who never gives much for mushroom risottos. Not the dish in its own right, just general experiences I had with it at various restaurants in the past.

They always come too creamy, too undercooked, too (god save me) mushy – big clump of soggy water bugs infused with cream of mushroom soup concentrate.

This one – the spoonful holds together when you scoop it up, but you could still separate one grain from another had you only whispered such a command. Perfectly diced mushrooms, as well as halved ones – sauteed with a generous dash of olive oil to become bright young things.

Good one, side dish. Way to make me forget about my main.


Solarium Bistro, Oasis of The Sea. Somewhere in the middle of the Caribbean.

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