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Tiger Woods Scandle December 29, 2009

Posted by hslu in Politics.
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Who or what was behind the packaging of Tiger Woods to be the most admired sports star over the last 8 to 10 years?

The Main street Media.

I think that they were also the ones behind the cover-up of Tiger Woods infidelities with so many women?

How can the media not know what was happening between him and these women? I guess there was a lot in stake: the big money sponsors and probably more important the image of a successful black man.

Now, his sponsors are rushing to the door to dump him.

Tiger Woods 自做自受 “zi4 zhou4 zi4 sou4”. He did it to himself. I wish his wife gets at least 50% of all his previous and future earnings. Another example of  因果 “yin1 guo3” at play here.

Chinese has this saying: 若要人不知, 除非己末为 “ruo4 yao4 ren2 bu1 zhi1, chu2 fei1 ji3 mo4 wei2”; if you don’t want other to know what it, you shouldn’t do it in the first place.

Tiger Woods 罪有应得 “zui4 you3 ying1 de4,” i. e., he deserves to suffer the consequence.

Now, who did the packaging of the current president of the United States, another black person? Is it The Main Street Media again?

Have you heard anything negative about him guy in the campaign season? No. Because the Main Street Media didn’t do their research like they did on Republican candidates.

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上海游記 Nov. 28 – Dec. 16, 2009 Day 4, Shanghai December 29, 2009

Posted by hslu in China, Food, Restaurants, Shanghai, Travel.
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上海游記 Nov. 28 – Dec. 16, 2009

Day 4, Shanghai, Monday, November 30, 2009

It was another cloudy day in Shanghai when we got super early to exercise. After another breakfast buffet, we headed out to another day of adventure. By this time, the sun was out and the sky got a little clear. The famous Oriental Pearl Tower 东方明珠 “dong1 fang1 ming2 zhu1” gradually showed up behind our hotel. The air was still kind thick and felt like an invisible cloak following us around. Thanks to the cold weather, the smog was a little easier to tolerate.

淮海路 “huai2 hai3 lu4” is famous for its name-banded stores, department stores, boutique shops, beautiful shopping malls, restaurants and pretty girls dressed in the latest designer clothes. We took our time enjoying the street scene strolling in and out of shops along 淮海中路; the busiest stretch of the 6 KM long street. We shopped at uniglo, 太平洋百货 (Pacific Department Store,) a couple of smaller department stores and a few others. As sky got darker, the trees along the street were dressed up with multi-colored Christmas lights to as far as eye could see. However, I wasn’t in any X’mas spirit probably because we were traveling. Our lunch was quick and easy at a café.  We had a steak/rice combo, rice with meat sauce and a wonton noodle soup; nothing to rave about.

When evening approached, more people showed up to shop, eat or simply 逛逛 like us. Near by, a subway station was busy with people rushed in and out of the building trying to go home. We sneaked into The McDonald’s to get warm and ordered something drink to kill time. The place was filled with people young and old. The small McDonald’s was doing a great business with four or five cash registers each with a line of five or six deep. Their prices were a bit higher than what we paid in the U.S. Of course, with the medium income of a Chinese citizen much lower, the price they paid was considerably higher based on purchasing power parity. Well, Shanghai was filled with rich people who could afford this kind of spending many times over and the name-brand designer cloth on many young girls in this area certainly made that statement very clear to me. I also saw one of my favorite restaurants here: 糖朝 “tang2 chao2, ” a Hong Kong-based restaurant famous for their sweet dishes. We like it so much that we had two meals there last time when we were in Hong Kong.

Another place we went to was 新天地 “xin1 tian1 di4,” an up-scale tourist area frequented by foreign tourists and local hot shots with new-found riches. It was only a few blocks away from太平洋百货. 新天地 literally means New heaven and Earth. It occupied an area of a few blocks with restored 石库门 “shi2 ku4 men2” or stone gate; referring to the stone gate in front of the multi-family building. It was a popular style of housing in Shanghai.

石库门

The place was filled with cafés, restaurants, book store, a court yard with several kiosks and a theater. Many restaurants had outside sittings equipped with propane heaters to keep their customers warm. Since it was a Monday, the outside sitting areas were quite empty and most people congregated inside the restaurants. A few of them had very loud music blasting from big speakers by the entrance of the restaurant.

As we strolling up and down the court yard, I was attracted by a beautiful female voice coming from the restaurant near the center of the court yard. The female voice was soft and sweet but I couldn’t see her face. She was singing Chinese songs from the 60’s and 70’s which were made popular in Taiwan by entertainment program like 群星會 “qun2 xing1 hui4” and signers like 鄧麗君 “deng4 li4 jun1.” It certainly made me stop to enjoy her voice and quietly sang with her. Unfortunately she only performed on Monday otherwise I would came back to listen to her some other day.

About the time we got ready to have dinner, we saw a Shanghainese woman in her early 30’s practicing her 臺詞 “tai2 ci2” (speech to be given on a stage) in English for a Christmas tree lighting ceremony. Her English was very good and she attracted a small crowd including us. From her prepared speech, I speculated that a 副黨書記 “fu4 dang3 shu1 ji4” (vice Party Secretary) of Shanghai would be the guest of honor and he would be the one who threw the switch and officially ushered in Christmas holiday to Xintiandi. Of course, many 董事長 “dong3 shi4 zhang3” or CEO and 經理”jing1 li3” or manager would be on the stage too. I guessed the owner of Xintiandi must be a person of importance otherwise he wouldn’t be able to have a 副黨書記attending the ceremony. Because she was practicing her speech in English, there must be foreign dignitaries on the guest of honor list. I saw power mixing with wealth and without powerful connections; wealth could be hard to come by in Shanghai or anywhere in China for that matter. Well, what did I know? I was on vacation, wasn’t I?

We had our dinner at Fountain Bistro and Wine Bar: a restaurant with fusion-style food combining French and Mediterranean cuisine. The place was warm, loud and busy. Bao and I each ordered a cocktail, a clam chowder soup in a bread cup and shared a shrimp appetizer with some greens. Maria and I shared a paella and Xiaobao ordered a fish and chips. The soup was good: rich, creamy and hot. The shrimp was crispy on the outside and the meat was fresh. Paella and fish and chips were just okay. It was not cheap even by American standard.

After dinner, we were going to watch a movie at Xintiandi but decided to go back to the hotel because we needed to check out of the hotel early tomorrow morning. Our schedule called for us going to上海南站 “shang4 hai3 nan2 zhan4” or South train station of Shanghai and we would take a fast train to Hangzhou杭州, one of the most beautiful place in China.

朋友回台小聚 “peng2 you3 hui2 tai2 xiao3 ju4” December 29, 2009

Posted by hslu in Chinese Food, Life, Death and Yuanfen.
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朋友回台小聚 “peng2 you3 hui2 tai2 xiao3 ju4”

A friend of ours will go back to Taiwan after a 6-month stay. I made several dishes and bought them to her house last night for a dinner party with a few other friends.

I chose seafood as the main ingredient because they all like seafood except me.

Roasted Sea Eel with 杨梅 in Red Wine Sauce

The dried  杨梅 “yang2 mei2” or Chinese Bayberry added a delicious taste to the eel. The simple dish was easy to make and 杨梅 sure added another level of complex flavor to this dish. Sea eel is a commonly found with a popular sushi, Unagi. Try 杨梅 when you are in the mood of adventure.

Prawn with Pine Nuts

Little Neck Clams in White Wine Sauce

Scallops in Butter Sauce

The last dish was ground shrimp and pork meat balls with roasted chestnuts. The chestnuts were pre-cooked and I got from the Korean grocery store.

My dishes got high praises probably because they wanted to make me feel good. But heck, I had a good time making it. They were quick and easy to make. It only took me less than 2 hours yesterday morning. I also enjoyed eating them too. Every single one of them. The sauces were delicious but needed a little more reduction. Shrimp was fresh and roasted pine nuts were good addition to this dish with no sauce. Ground shrimp and pork balls were so delicious that they practically melt in my mouth.

Separation is always difficult to take especially when it is unclear when we’ll meet again. People make friends all the time but few last very long. Distance and time often make lasting friendship difficult.friends are like this. Husband and wife are no exception either

Well, I am sure we’ll meet again if not here then in Taiwan if we have enough 缘分. As we get older, friends near-by become more important because kids are usually far away and busy with their lives.

At our host’s house, we also met another guest who practices Chinese medicine and acupuncture in Northern Virginia and Maryland. He taught us a few simple things to do which should make our lives more enjoyable. He also helped our host to quit his 30-year smoking habit in just 3 acupuncture sessions. However, he said that acupuncture merely played a supporting role to alleviate the uncomfortable reaction after quitting smoking. A person’s will is the primary driving force if someone wants to quit this bad habit.make sense to me.

Dinner with Parents at Outbacks December 27, 2009

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Dinner with Parents at Outbacks

Since they haven’t been out for a while, we took them to Outbacks at Vienna on Tuesday night. We were going to MD for Chinese but chose Outbacks instead because I-495 traffic to MD was terrible.

We started with blooming onion and they liked it a lot. Both of them chowed it down very fast probablybecuase they were hungry after we waited 15 minutes for a table.

Dad wanted a 6 oz. NY strip with sweet potato. It was the right size to him because he finished it all. Mom had tilapia in lemon butter sauce but she couldn’t finish even 1/10 of the plate. She did like the potato soup which was very creamy with a lot of butter. I had a steak/(very small) lobster combo and bao had a ribeye. Both of our steaks were good but not excellent.We each had ordered a drink and we finished our meal in about an hour and 15 minutes.

Next time we might take them to Golden Coral; a buffet style service for a fixed price. if you wish you can order a steak for a small extra fee. The restaurant is located in Manassas about 20 miles away. I had many meals at a Golden Coral in Dallas way back in the middle 1990’s when I still worked for Mobil. It was very reasonable for what I paid back them. We sometimes took kids to another one not too far from our house on Midway near Trinity.

My New Camera – Nikon D5000 December 27, 2009

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My New Camera – Nikon D5000

Should I get a D90 instead?

The Record Snowfall of December 2009 December 27, 2009

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The Record Snowfall of December 2009

Officially at Reagan National Airport, the snowfall of December 2009 measured 16.6 inches, beating the old record of 16.2” set in December 1962. At Dulles Airport, the record was 21”; 3” shy of 24.2” record set in 1966. At our house, we had about 20” of snow.

Like most businesses in Northern Virginia, our restaurants were closed on Saturday, December 19, 2008 but Bao had to work on that day.

I took her to work around 7 AM and the road condition was terrible already with snow coming down hard and fast. At that time, we have already had 8″ of snow on the ground. After coming back from the hospital where she worked, I shoveled some snow off the driveway because more snow was coming. If I didn’t, I might not be able to get out of my driveway later to pick her up after work.

Snow Plow on Reston Parkway south of Tollway.

4:30 PM near Navy Elementary School

INOVA Hospital Parking Lot

Originally I expected to take her home around 8 PM. I knew it would be very difficult by then because snow plows and sand trucks just couldn’t keep it up with the heavy snowfall. The road condition was deteriorating fast and many cars and trucks got stuck along the streets everywhere. The worst of it all was that it was very hard to see where the center of the road was.

Since the side streets weren’t plowed, getting in and out of our community was even more difficult. I could easily get stuck and Maria may have to spend a night in the hospital like a few of her colleagues have done.

Fortunately she called me at 4 PM and I was very happy to hear the news because an hour of day light would make all the difference. I took her home around 5:25 PM thanks to my 4 Runner, my excellent driving skill and a lot of patient.

By that time, the sky has already become dark and there was no sigh of snow would stop anytime soon.

The majestic Trees in my Front Yard

Fortunately snow finally stopped at around midnight; 6 hours earlier than forecast. The next morning was a beautiful day with sun shine and clear sky. Our restaurants were able to open and we begun to dig out from all that snow.

Drive Way

Deck

Fish Pond

上海游記 Nov. 28 – Dec. 16, 2009 Day 3, Shanghai December 26, 2009

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上海游記 Nov. 28 – Dec. 16, 2009

Day 3, Shanghai, Sunday, November 29, 2009

I was disappointed when I woke up the next day: the sky was cloudy and I suspected it was probably filled with smog. The Bund on the other side of Huangpu River appeared to be covered under a gray-colored shroud. I already felt colder than it actually was.

We dragged Xiaobao up and took him to the free breakfast buffet in a huge meeting room. Even thug I paid extra to have Xiaobao staying in our room which was designated for two guests, we had to pay ¥68 for xiaobao to eat with us; $10 in US at an exchange rate of about ¥6.75 to $1 US after service charges.

The golden-colored dinning room had very high ceiling; probably 20’. Its decoration was quite nice and the breakfast stations were widely spaced. There were:

  • Traditional Chinese breakfast such as 5 or 6 selections of 稀飯 “xi1 fan4” and 10 to 15 kinds of 小菜 “xi3 cai4” including one that looked like a worm; 小饅頭 “xiao3 man2 tou2 ”花卷 “hua1 juan3” and 蔥油餅 “cong1 you2 bing3;” freshly squeezed fruit juices;
  • American breakfast such as cereal, toast, milk, bacon, ham and sausage (didn’t like it) with an omelet station;
  • Fresh fruits and nuts;
  • Assorted cheese;
  • A noodle station, and
  • Hard boiled eggs in the shell.

The Chinese 早飯 “zao3 fan4” was my kind of breakfast: multiple choices of 稀飯 and more than 10 different choices of 小菜. 花卷 added a nice touch and made-to-order noodle soup was a good addition too. Their version of western omelet wasn’t that good compared to its American cousin. Two other items were my favorites: blanched bitter melon 苦瓜 “ku3 gua1” and brown sugar-coated dried 金桔 “jin1 ju2.” The bitter melon was bright green in color, crunchy on the inside, lightly seasoned and very refreshing with its slightly bitter taste. That’s something I will try to duplicate next time when I have guests over for dinner. The English name of 金桔 is kumquat. It shaped more or less like an olive but with rounder ends. It averaged about 1” x 2” in size. It tasted like very sour orange but the rind is slight sweet. In some bars, 金桔 has been added to martini instead of olive. I liked the candied 金桔 because it retained its unique taste without the sourness. I even slipped a few back to my hotel room and popped a couple of them in my mouth as a snack. I also liked 八寶稀飯 “ba1 bao3 xi1 fan4” with red beans, white beans, Chinese red dates or 紅棗 “hong2 zao3,” oatmeal, 桂圓 “gui4 yuan2”, and others. The slightly sweetened 稀飯matched perfectly with the saltiness of various 小菜 “xia3 cai4.” It was a good traditional Chinese breakfast.

The first place we took Xiaobao to was 城隍廟 “cheng2 huang2 miao4” because it is the most popular place for tourists. Since Bao and I had been here before, we knew what to do and where to eat.

On the way to 城隍廟, our taxi driver had a mouthful about the current state of the Chinese economy and general living conditions in Shanghai. I told him that the government has successfully 保八 “bao3 ba1” or maintaining a 8% yoy growth rate after the global financial crisis. He said that 8% growth rate was a figure for the entire country. Many sectors and areas have been suffering while a few have gained more than their shares of growth. Housing prices have going through the roof and many people could not afford to buy a house. The gap between the haves and have-nots are getting bigger by the day. Many people have lost their jobs and they changed to become a taxi driver. Many are making less because people are taking subways these days. All taxi drivers got were short distance hauling. They no longer took people to Pudong Airport after the completion of the subway. Many of them used GPS to navigate through traffic in Shanghai but they do not use GPS to take customers to where they want to go. They also rely on GPS to warn them of upcoming traffic cameras and tell them what the speed limit should be when they drive to a different street in the city.

I casually commented on the massive construction project by the city to prepare for 2010 World Expo and the resulting traffic jams in the area. Our driver complained about the construction as well but welcomed the upcoming event. The 6-month long World Expo will definitely generate considerable opportunity in the short term. After that, our driver commented that his business will be negatively affected by the completion of many subway lines.

His comment reminded me of the taxi driver who took us from Pudong Airport to our hotel. He was in his late 40’s and had waited five hours at the airport hoping for a fare to Puxi or somewhere further beyond. With us going to Pudong, he must be disappointed because, to them, ours was a relatively short ride from the airport. The fare was $148 but I gave him $200 because he helped us with luggage and the fare was very reasonable. He was also very nice and polite. When I asked him about the name of the song by the female singer on his radio; he said that he didn’t know and if we didn’t like it, he’ll turn the radio off. Xiaobao and I both said that we liked the voice of the singer and asked him if he knew who she was. He said that he didn’t know. He then opened the glove compartment and took out another CD and told us that the both CDs came in the same package. Judging from the label of the CDs, they were apparently made for taxi drivers or people in the transportation industry. It didn’t have names of the songs except the name of the signer: 西單女孩. I would for sure check her out after I went back to the U.S.

From our conversion I knew a little bit of the live of a typical taxi driver:

  • They work every other day. Someone else will drive the taxi the next day.
  • On the day they work, they usually start from 6 in the morning until well after midnight, sometimes to 2 or 3 in the morning. It is common that they work 16 to 18 hours on their working day.
  • For each day they work, they have to pay the taxi company ¥350 to ¥400 depending on the condition of the taxi.
  • Gas runs ¥250 to ¥300 a day. In other words, they have to make at least ¥600 a day just to break even.
  • After insurance and maintenance, they make about ¥150 to as much as ¥300 a day.
  • They are required to join the union at the company they worked for and they are expected to pay the union fee every month. However, the union does not represent the taxi drivers when it comes to bargaining with the management. They do not have the concept of collective bargaining of a union.
  • Many taxi drivers work even when they are sick because they can not afford not to.
  • Red light cameras are very common at major intersections. Each time they got caught by the camera, the fine could cost them ¥150 at a time.
  • It is commonly acceptable to drive no more than 20% above the speed limit in the city. If a driver gets caught driving 70 km/hr in a 40 km/hr zone, the fine can be as high as $300.

I also noticed that taxi drivers were much more polite than just a few years ago. They still drove very fast and rushed to be the first out of the pack of cars at every traffic light. Very often, a three lane street would have four cars driving side by side. Nonetheless, it was also apparent to me that honking has reduced and some taxi driver even stepped out of their front seat to help their customers with luggage. I guessed there has been some improvement despite the significant increase of private cars on the street.

The so-called 城隍廟 “cheng2 huang2 miao4” actually encompasses three tourist spots; all in the same general area: 商城 “yu2 yuan2 shang1 cheng1,” “yu1 yuan1,” (Yue Garden) and 城隍廟, the City God Temple.商城 is the shopping paradise with more than 100 boutique shops selling everything from gold and silver jewelries, diamonds, jade, Chinese medicine, artisan works, designer chopsticks and clothes. There are many Chinese restaurants, a Starbucks and food stands. Many of these buildings are 100 years old. It is probably the most popular tour spot in Shanghai with estimated 37 million tourists every year.

Well, 城隍廟 “cheng2 huang2 miao4” was as busy as ever when we got there. The scenery could only be described as 人山人海 “ren2 sang1 ren2 hai3” or literally “people mountain people sea.” The famous 南翔小籠包 “nan2 xiang2 xiao3 long2 bao1” still had a long line. Many people waited for half hour or longer just to get a chance to buy this famous Shanghainese dish from a small window. Most of them didn’t bother to find a place to sit down and enjoy the delicious 小籠包. They simply moved to the side, opened the Styrofoam box and started eating. If you wanted to sit down, there was another line for a table in the restaurant upstairs. The 大食堂 “da4 shi1 tang3’ has still filled with people. Everywhere we went, we saw mouth-watering food on display. This whole area was like the best 小吃天下 “xiao3 chi1 tian1 xia4” or best collection of food under the sky. It was idea for people like me who enjoying trying different kinds of food.

A sign advertising a specialty of Hong Kong called 撒尿牛肉湯 “sa3 niao4 niu2 rou4 tang1” also attracted our attention but I had absolutely no interest to try it.

While walking around the shopping center, I saw this beautiful painting on a column of a building depicting a 臉譜 “lian3 pu3” of a 平劇 “ping1 ju4,” or Chinese Opera, character. Unfortunately I didn’t know who the character was and what was the name of the 平劇.

Since we had a huge breakfast at the hotel, we decided to tour Yu Garden 豫园 “yu2 yuan2” and City God Temple 城隍廟first before lunch.

This was the third time I toured 豫园 “yu2 yuan2” and I still enjoyed it. Since Xiaobao came here when he was very little, he had no recollection of the place. We took time to walk him around and saw almost every part of the garden. However, Xiaobao considered this place artificial and fake because almost everything in the garden was man-made. I told him to let his imagination rise above the fake decoration and enjoy the scenery as much as he could.

Coming out of 豫园, Xiaobao was attracted to this jelly-like toy which you can throw against a flat surface. The flattened toy would slowly regain it original shape. The toy cost ¥5 and was kind of fun to watch it moved.

上海城隍廟 or Shanghai City God Temple is a Daoism temple popular with people who came here to pray. The smell of incense permeated through out the entire temple. In addition to the city god, there were statues of God of wealth, Guan Yin, and others.

We also bought some incenses and followed other to offer our prayers too. In the main building of the temple, there was a Daoism ceremony completed with video documentation. We didn’t know what was the chanting about but the ceremony lasted at least 20 minutes and by the time we left 城隍廟, the video tapping was still in progress.

We left the城隍廟 and walked directly to 南翔饅頭店 to try its famous 小籠包.

南翔饅頭店 “nan2 xiang2 man2 tou2 dian4” is the name of the restaurant which specialized in the famous 上海小籠包.The line stretched out to the bottom of the stairs but as you get closer to the restaurant entrance, we could sit down which made the wait a bit easier. While sitting there, I was told that minimum charge for sitting in the restaurant was ¥60 per person. If I was willing to pay ¥150 per person, I could get the VIP treatment and be seated immediately. Well, we waited for 25 minutes or so and got the non-VIP treatment. We ordered a couple of side dishes and two kinds of 小籠包 with some drinks to meet the ¥60/person requirement. The 小籠包 was very good and was filled with delicious soup.

After our late lunch, we decided to go back to the hotel. The sky was getting dark and it became much colder. We stood in line of about 15 to 20 people at a taxi stop waiting for a taxi. Many taxi drove by but none was available. We waited and waited. Five minutes passed. Then ten minutes passed. Several taxies came by but we were still three or four parties behind. A private car drove up. The drive asked people where they wanted to go and yelled out the price back to them. No one took his offer. He asked us and we told him where we liked to go. He offered ¥50. We didn’t like it. He then drove around and came back to us again. We later agreed on ¥40 which was about ¥10 more than what we paid when we came here this morning. Our driver told us that police department sometimes looked the other way regarding this type of illegal activity. Our driver told us that most people didn’t use them because they charged more than what taxi would charge. It seemed to me this guy was making good money hauling people around and he definitely knew where to go and what to ask. Why not, the money was tax free and he’d have enough time to go home for dinner after a trip here and another trip there. A couple of hundred RMB was more than enough to pay for insurance and gas.

After a 3-hour nap, we walked to a big shopping mall 5 minutes away called 正大廣場 “zheng4 da4 guang3 chang3.” At a kiosk in the basement we bought a SIM card for an unlocked Samsung cellphone I took with me from the U.S. SIM card cost anywhere from ¥118 to ¥200 depending on the number. Certain phone numbers such as the ones with many 8’s would fetch a higher price because they are preferred by many Chinese customers. We asked for the cheapest SIM card which included ¥50 calling credit. The whole process was much faster than I had originally thought. I guessed cellphones have become so much more popular and there apparently had a great demand of this type of service.

We have been to 正大廣場 last year and liked the mall very much because it had so much to offer. We also knew the largest shopping center in Shanghai had many restaurants to choose from. A restaurant called 真功夫 even used the famous Bruce lee as its logo. Oddly enough the restaurant specialized in steaming dishes which it claimed was the preferred cooking method to retain the nutrition and original taste of its ingredients.

For dinner, we chose 阿一天下 on the fifth floor. 阿一天下 originally started in Hong Kong 35 years ago. The restaurant is famous for its abalone and seafood at very reasonable prices. It has more than 20 franchisee stores all over Southeast Asia. I have heard of the name but didn’t have a chance to try its food. The 正大廣場 store opened about 9 months ago and I was lucky to find it.

We ordered:

  • Shark fin, fresh ginseng, soft bamboo shoot in chicken broth.
  • Sliced Abalone soup
  • Abalone in Golden Broth
  • Abalone and fish Casserole in mushroom sauce
  • House Abalone with Rice, and
  • Roast pork and Abalone with Rice.

All three soups were very tasty with good ingredients and delicious broth. The three rice dishes were ordinary, a couple of them had too much sauce and their presentations weren’t very appetizing to me. With that said, their abalones were definitely above average: tender yet slightly chewy on the inside with flavorful taste. Unfortunately both Xiaobao and Maria didn’t like them and we had to leave them behind because I couldn’t finish them all.

After the dinner, we walked to 滨江大道 “bing1 jiang1 da4 dao4” which was only 5 minutes away on foot. I used to have very fond memory of this stretch of the river bank on the other side of The Bund. Tonight, the air was cool and damp, the street was empty, the young performer was no where to see, the street lights were dim and all the buildings at The Bund across the Huangpu River was dark. Only the neon lights of the cafés and restaurants on 滨江大道 were still shinning as if they wanted to tell the passer-bys that they were still open for business. We chose Red Dot café and ordered lattes and hazelnut cappuccino. We sipped our drinks, counted barges and colorful tourist boats passing by in front of us and told Xiaobao what a beautiful light show it would be had lights were on the buildings at The Bund. We later found out that the government had asked the buildings to turn their lights off at 10 PM in order to save energy. Well, I for one was disappointed but understood government’s position.

The time was late. The air got even chillier outside. The warmth inside the café and the hot drinks temporarily kept us warm and comfortable. We talked about Xiaobao’s decision to move to Taiwan after quitting his 2-year job in San Francisco. We talked about his life in Taipei during the past 3 months and what he intended to do with his life. I hoped our conversation was useful but I sensed that he still has some doubt about what the next step would be. Well, we still have time because we’ll be with each other for the next 7 days.

It was about time to go back to hotel because the café was about to close for the day. It was dark outside and we’d to deal with the nippy weather again. At least the weather is good for a good night sleep even in a place that’s 8,000 miles away from our home near D. C.

上海游記 Nov. 28 – Dec. 16, 2009 Day 2, Shanghai December 23, 2009

Posted by hslu in China, Food, Restaurants, Shanghai, Travel.
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上海游記 Nov. 28 – Dec. 16, 2009

Day 2, Shanghai, Saturday, November 28, 2009

Xiaobao was waiting for us at the luggage claim area just outside of the Immigration check point when we arrived at Shanghai’s Pudong Airport. It was around 9:30 PM on Saturday, November 28, 2009. His 2-hour direct flight from Taipei on 中國南方航空 “zhong1 guo2 nan3 fang1 hang2 kun1” or China Southern Airline arrived about 2 hours before ours. We came in from Washington DC with a 3 hour stop over at Narita. We were tired from the long trip but were happy to see Xiaobao.

On the way in, our temperature was remotely monitored for fear of H1N1 flu. The immigration officer didn’t ask me anything and waved me to pass quickly as if he was getting ready to go home. It must have been a long day for him too. After the immigration check point, our luggage wasn’t checked at all and we didn’t even have to fill out any forms for the Custom Agency. I stored one piece of our luggage in the storage station, the heaviest and largest of the three, in the airport for about $4 per day so that we didn’t have to drag it along.

The cab ride to our hotel in Pudong 浦东 pu3 dong1 took about 40 minutes with little traffic on the highway. I chose Oriental Riverside Hotel浦东东方滨江酒店 “pu3 dong1 dong1 fang1 bin1 jiang1 jiu3 dian4” with a great view of Huangpu River – 黃浦江 “huang2 pu3 jiang1” and the Bund – 上海灘 “shang4 hai3 tan1.” The hotel is in the same building as the Shanghai International Convention Center – 上海國際會議中心 “shang4 hai3 guo2 ji4 hui4 yi4 zhong1 xin1” where many important Chinese leaders such as 江擇民 “jiang1 zhe2 ming1” and the others, have had meeting here. I chose this Pudong hotel for our first leg of stay in Shanghai because it is close to where the action is: the 东方明珠 “dong1 fang1 ming2 zhu1” or Oriental Pearl Tower , 金茂大厦 “Jin1 Mao4 da4 xia4” or Jinmao Tower and 正大廣場 “Zheng4 Da4 Guang3 Chang3,” a six-floor shopping center on the edge of Huangpu River. It is also very close to Riverside Promenade or 滨江大道 “bing1 jiang1 da4 dao4,” a stretch of riverside opposite to the Bund where we had fond memories last time we were here.

After we checked in and settled down, we decided to get something to eat. It was a little before 11 PM. By that time, the hotel restaurant has already closed and there was no restaurant near by that was opened at this time. If we wanted to get something to eat, we had to go to 浦西 “pu3 xi1” or west of 黃浦江 “huang2 “pu3 jiang1.” Well, why not Pu Xi 浦西?

Our taxi driver suggested 黃河路 “huang2 he2 lu4.” He said that 黃河路 used to be very popular with Shanghainese people for a late night dinner even 10 to 15 years ago when Shanghai just started to grow. It now has been replaced by more glitter and flashy places such as 淮海路 “huai2 he3 lu4” or 新天地 “xing1 tian1 di4.” He said that back then many late night singers, business men and movie goers liked to come to here for a midnight snack and taxi drivers were known to flock to this place for a chance to take half drunken customers to their destinations. He said that the food was still good but it lacked the showy appearance of new places frequented by younger crowd and foreigners.

We gladly accepted his recommendation because this was exactly the type of restaurant I wanted to have a typical Shanghainese food.

Well, we weren’t disappointed.

We walked around and saw as many as 10 restaurants still opened on this stretch of street with very dim street lights. Several guys wearing heavy coat paced in front of some restaurants in order to lure passer bys to their restaurants. We chose 悅來酒家 “yue4 lai2 jiu3 jia1,” a traditional Shanghainese restaurant and ordered several popular Shanghainese dishes as our first meal in Shanghai.

Cold Plates:

馬蘭頭香干 “ma3 lan2 tou2 xiang1 gan1” (¥18) – 馬蘭頭 is a small, low growing (2” – 4”) green leaf plant commonly seen in Jiang Su Province. It grows easily in the field and is a famous dish in the city of Nanjing. 香干 refers to flavorful dried bean curd, white in color, cut into very small pieces. This dish was made with small amount of salt, rice wine and sesame oil which complemented the slight sweetness of 馬蘭頭. It was nutritious and healthy.

四喜烤麩 “si4 xi3 kao3 fu2” (¥10) – 烤麩 is a side dish made by practically every family in Shanghai and consumed on a regular basis. 烤麩 is made from soy bean milk with a sponge-like texture. It is chewy and maybe soaked with sauce. It is typically prepared with bamboo shoots, black wood ears and peanuts hence the name 四喜 or four times of happiness.

Entrées:

糖醋石斑魚 tang2 cu4 shi2 ban1 yu2” (¥168/斤) 石斑魚 is groupers with slightly firm meat and very little bones. It is one of my favorite fish. 糖醋 literally means sugar and vinegar. It is a common cooking technique consisted of

  • Carefully slicing both sides of the fish with several cross cuts to expose the bone in the middle so that the fish can be quickly prepared,
  • Lightly seasoning the fish with salt and covering the fish with corn starch and/pr flour,
  • Dusting off excess starch and/or flour,
  • Deep frying the fish to golden brown and place it on the serving plate
  • In a hot wok, quickly stir-frying green onion, minced ginger and garlic slices
  • Adding chicken broth, tomato sauce, sugar, vinegar and rice wine and then bringing  it to boil,
  • Thickening the sauce with corn starch (in water,) adding a little sesame oil and pour it over the fish.

The shrimp on top of the fish was not necessary though.

蟹粉獅子頭砂鍋 “xie4 feng3 shi1 zhi1 tou2 sha1 guo1” (¥58) – This is a very special dish because I like to make and eat 獅子頭, ground pork meat balls, very much. Unlike the 獅子頭 I made which sometimes took on an odd shapes because I was lazy when deep-frying them, these ones had crab meat in it and was made like a ball; the way they were supposed to be. The meatballs were served in a 砂鍋 or clay pot which retained heat longer. It came out bubbly with steam rising from the soup. With Chinese cabbage or Napa cabbage, it was a fitting dish for a chilly and windy night. It was also very good for older people because it was easy to digest and nutritious.

As for 主食 “zhu3 shi1” or starch, we had 雪菜肉絲麵 “xue3 cai4 rou4 shi1 mian4” (¥28). It was a nice comfort food on a damp cold night. 主食 in China referred to the starch portion of a meal. It can be white rice, fried rice, soup noodles, pan-fried noodles, 饅頭 “man2 tou1”, or 銀絲卷 “yin2 shi1 juan3”, or 大餅 “da4 bin3,” etc.

The service was spotty but the food was very good. Every dish was lightly seasoned just the way Shanghainese dishes were supposed to be. 糖醋魚 was crispy on the outside, tender and fresh on the inside. The sauce was tangy with right balance of sweetness and sourness. We liked it a lot and consumed the fish quickly. We also finished the cold plates probably because we were pretty hungry when we first arrived at the restaurant. Xiaobao probably didn’t have a lot to eat on the airplane. I only ate cold noodles and salad and some ice cream on ANA. I skipped ANA’s main course completely so that I could enjoy 正宗的上海菜 or authentic shanghainese Cai. The crab and pork meat balls had the right texture and the broth was light but savory. We finished almost every dish and the whole thing only cost us less than $36. What’s even nicer was that we didn’t even have to tip the waiter; a saving of $7 for me. I already liked what Shanghai had to offer the first night.

Well, I wasn’t disappointed. It was a nice beginning for our vacation is Shanghai, albeit in an old and dull section of Shanghai where streets were narrow, lights were dim, the roads were uneven and houses were low and old. Some places on the street even had puddles of water which we had to walk around. Some restaurants had neon lights which helped us navigate the darker sections of the street because shops were closed for business. Some restaurants, including the one we went to, converted the dinning room into two levels; each with a low ceiling in order to accommodate expanding businesses in their heydays. The tables were old and the chairs have been used for many years. there weren’t fancy table cloth, silverware or wine glasses. There weren’t waiters with electronic gadget on their wrist and food runners that you haven’t met to bring your plates to your table. There wasn’t any service to speak of but the basic level of taking your dish to your table with a half-hearted announcement of what it was. But, the place reminded me of many restaurants I went to in different parts of Taiwan about roughly 40 years ago. It made me felt like I went back to a place in my memory where everything was so familiar and warm.

Well, enough nostalgia because we had to go out into the cold and call for a taxi to take us back to our hotel. By the time we got back to our hotel, we were ready for a good night sleep. The room was modest in size and in decoration but comfortable. It has a big window facing the Huangpu River and The Bund. I couldn’t wait to see The Bund tomorrow from my window because I paid $40 extra for a room with the grand river view instead of the less appealing garden view. I hoped the extra money was worth it.

Well, time to sleep because we still had a full day of sight seeing ahead of us tomorrow.

上海游記 Nov. 28 – Dec. 16, 2009 Day 1, D.C. to Shanghai December 21, 2009

Posted by hslu in China, Chinese Food, Food, Travel.
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上海游記 Nov. 28 – Dec. 16, 2009

Day 1 – Fly to Shanghai from IAD, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2009

This was the second time we took ANA for our cross Pacific flight because we liked its service and stop over at Narita Airport was short.

I also liked ANA’s in-flight food. In fact, ANA’s food wasn’t that bad at all especially the first meal because we were is such a great mood to begin our vacation.

I particularly liked the cold soba with dipping sauce made from kelp and dried bonito flakes. It also included some seaweed flakes and a small package of wasabi. The wasabi was essential to transfer an ordinary cold noodle to an enjoyable experience: the noodle was cold and slightly chewy, the sauce was tasty, flavorful with a hint of saltiness and the wasabi really kicked the experience to a higher level.

I asked for two bottles of white wine with my meal.

The refreshing taste of the wine really complemented the cold noodle and salad: a piece of smoked salmon, artichoke heart corn and potato salad and a few pieces of carrots. Rice was hot and slightly sticky. It went well with scallop sautéed with shiitake mushrooms. Toward the end of the meal, we each were given a small cup of Häagen-Dazs ice cream which was a nice touch. Not all of our meals were this good: pork cutlet with broccoli was a bad choice because the pork was tough and broccoli was over cooked.

Service was impeccable: all female flight attendants were smiling all the time even though their English wasn’t that great. They sure made it up with their warmth and extremely pleasant demeanor. They all wore light make up with their hairs comb back to form a bun on the back of their head. Their purple-colored uniform matched nicely with the multi-colored scarf on the neck. Their huge smile made me wonder what a nice image they projected to their customers; even to us cheap travelers in the back of the airplane, i.e., the Economy Class. They were all very patient with your requests even when they were putting dirty trays in the cart. I didn’t even notice any slightest resentment to our request no matter what it was. Above all, they never forgot your request even when they were very busy with the work at hand. The cross-Pacific flight was completely booked and every seat has a person in it.

While in Narita Airport, I heard that most Asian markets were under selling pressure Friday as Hang Seng fell 5+% and Nikkei was 3% lower because Dubai World had requested a six month delay to service their $80 B loans. Wow, all that real estate development in the desert was in jeopardy now and how things changed so rapidly. A mere 2 years ago, many Chinese tour companies were advertising 7-day travel packages to Dubai and surrounding countries to witness the mirage created by the petrol dollars. The bubble finally bursted and stock markets would likely go down with it. Well, my investment would for sure go down with the overall market as well but I would not worry about it because I was on vacation.

Overall, our flight was enjoyable, the movie, G.I. Joe helped me to make time pass more easily. I also made a lot of money on the poker game but sucked on Tetris.

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