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朱家角,上海青浦 August 9, 2018

Posted by hslu in China, Restaurants, Shanghai, Travel, 浦東, 上海.
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別小看朱家角,它比上海或臺灣的一般老街要有意思多了。你要是不相信,自己來看看。下午三,四點來,在這裏吃了晚飯以後,八點半,九點坐地鐵離開。以前來朱家角得坐公車,計程車或自己開車。現在,你可以搭軌道交通17號線去。就是離上海或浦東遠了點。出了朱家角地鐵站還要走20分鐘才能到老街。不過,你可以坐三輪車去。¥15一程。要上一個橋,拉起來很累的。我們反正要走路,二十分鐘,在樹蔭樹蔭下和街旁的騎樓下,沒多久就到了。

我們進了朱家角以後決定先往左轉,去城隍廟看看。結果這是一個錯誤的決定,因為這個決定把我們帶向老街,失去了去新區的機會。

城隍廟舊了,香火也不行。也沒有什麼特色。除非你信它,要去拜財神,拜送子觀音,求什麼,不然可以不去。pP

這是城隍廟前面的一塊大浮雕。

城隍廟香火並不是很盛。也沒有什麼遊人來拜拜,我們來的時候已經快關門了。這個大鼎倒是蠻有氣派的。

你可以看得出老街的人潮並不是太多。今天是禮拜六的下午。大概朱家角實在是太遠了。大太陽和悶熱的天氣也是原因之一吧。

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們來朱家角還真不是時候:夏天七月中,90度的大太陽天,沒風,沒雲,沒雨,汗流浹背,口乾舌燥。想起來,還實在是傻了點。不過,你沒有被熱到,怎麼知道冷氣咖啡廳的可愛呢?你說是不是?

朱家角不小,我把它分成三個不同的區:老街舊區,茶館咖啡廳區和新區。

朱家角的舊區就跟上海的七寶一樣,窄巷子,舊房子,老店面,小河流,石頭橋。沒有什麽生氣的商家一家挨着一家,有不少都是老先生,老阿婆在那裏看著。還有許多看起來不怎麽吸引人的食物和千篇一律的小玩意在那裏招攬來往客人的注意。除了幾副令人回味無窮的對聯,有意思的老字號招牌,鏗鏘有力的中國字,凹凸不平的石頭板路,古風猶存的建築物和獨樹一格的畫廊以外,沒有太多值得留戀的地方。跟臺灣的夜市一樣:你去過一個夜市就等於你去過10個夜市:沒什麽不一樣。

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你知道這個算盤上打出來的數字是什麽意思嗎?我不知道。

茶館咖啡廳區在老街裏面,不過好多家都聚集在一個地方。你在舊區裏走走,一到這裏你就會覺得這裏不一樣。這裏有好多家看起來很有韻味的茶館和很有情調的咖啡廳。有一點像九份老街後面轉彎那的幾家茶館。我們走累了,也沒有特意去找,就在附近找了一家茶館坐坐。吃塊蛋糕,喝了咖啡和茶。打發一點時間。過一下,老闆娘來說快要下雨了。還說有颱風來。我們還真不知道有颱風來。接著就下了一場急雨,雨不大,可是來的急,去的也快。後來我們就去找餐館吃晚飯。選了一家看起來還可以,可是我們開門進去一個客人都沒有。我們勉為其難就隨便點了幾個菜。菜來了以後,我放心了不少,因為菜的樣子可以,味道也不錯。過了一會兒,來了好幾桌客人,餐廳裏就熱鬧多了。

吃了飯以後,我們又走了一走,再看看朱家角,因為下次再來就不知道是什麼時候了。

沒走多久,我們走到一個跟普通老街很不一樣的地方:朱家角有一個新區。

新區不太大,聚集在老區的一邊,不知道開了多久。這裏有星巴克,有外國餐館,有酒吧,有咖啡店,還有路邊擺的座椅可以給客人點菜,喝酒,聊天,喝咖啡。新區的燈光明亮,一點都沒有老區破舊的樣子。它跟老區並沒有格格不入,只不過它顯得突出,把老街完完全全的比下去了。

我們很喜歡新區的景色,也喜歡新區的格調,有幾家外國餐館我們也很想去試一試。可惜我們沒有先來新區,不然我們不會在老區吃晚飯的。

只有下次再來了。

上海游記 Nov. 28 – Dec. 16, 2009 Day 8, Shanghai 朱家角 January 18, 2010

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

Day 8, Shanghai 朱家角, Friday, December 4, 2009

Today we took a day trip to 朱家角 to see 水鄉古镇 “shui3 xiang1 gu3 zhen4”or an ancient village built around rivers. 朱家角 was and probably still is the settlement of Zhu’s Family where 角 means a horn, a corner or a point. It is about 60 miles west of Shanghai in the Qingpu district and has been a very popular tourist destination in metropolitan Shanghai. 朱家角 has 36 stone bridges, a network of rivers, stone and brick paved narrow alleys and many ancient buildings along the riverbanks. Local residents still lived in stone buildings like their ancestors did hundreds of years in the past. As of today, there are many shops, restaurants, antique shops, galleries, tea houses and medicine stores. A Qing dynasty post office still there after several hundred years.

I checked the internet last night and found out that we could take a bus to朱家角 at 人民广场 “ren2 ming2 guang3 chang1” or people’s Square. We got a taxi and asked the driver to take us to人民广场. However, I didn’t know exactly where at人民广场. The taxi driver dropped us off at a bus station and said to wait for bus here. Sure enough, a bus showed up with 朱家角 sign. We got on the bus and paid ¥9 each for a one-way ticket. Hmm, that was very cheap. No wonder the taxi drive were willing to take us there for ¥400. I soon found out that there were advantages to pay a little extra: the road was terrible, the ride was bumpy, the seats weren’t very comfortable and the bus stopped at many bus stops to drop off and pick up riders. Well, it took us at least an hour and half to get there. Maybe a taxi wasn’t that bad an alternative after all.

滬朱高速快線 “hu4 zhu1 gao1 shu4 kuai4 xian4”

滬朱高速快線 “hu4 zhu1 gao1 shu4 kuai4 xian4” means Shanghai to Zhujiajiao Express Line. 滬 “hu4” is short for Shanghai. 朱 “zhu1” is short for朱家角.

After arriving at the bus station, we asked for direction and people told us to walk along the street and the 古镇 was just three or four blocks away. Soon we saw the sign and the undeniable rooflines of Ming Dynasty style historical buildings. Many people walked along us because they wanted to be our tour guide for a mere ¥20 fee. First of all, they didn’t dress like a good tour guide and secondly we didn’t want to be bothered by a stranger while we toured the village. We politely declined their services. Surprisingly they walked away, stopped bothering us without making a big fuss and continued their search for their next target.

As we entered the 古镇, the first thing that caught our eyes was this old man in a shop making something that looked like a thick strand of white hair. It turned out that he was making silk candy银丝糖 “yin2 si1 tang3” or silver-colored silk candy. The old man started with something that looked like a chunk of sticky salt water taffy. He stretched it out to arms length and then folded it back to half of its original length. He repeated the action many times and dusted the strings with white powder from time to time to prevent the silk from sticking to each other. After repeating this 8 to 10 times, he’d end up with more than 500 hair-like strings from the original single strand. He’d tear off a palm-size bundle and fold some grounded peanut and black sesame seeds inside. He’d sell eight of them for ¥20. We got a box and wanted to find out what it was like. Little did we know, the 银丝糖 was so good that the candy strings practically melted inside my mouth one string after another. It was sweet, soft, chewy and crunchy all at the same time. Not to mention the added flavor of roasted peanut and sesame seeds plus a slight saltiness which balanced the sweetness of the candy. It was great!

As we walked around the narrow alleys, we saw many shops selling 棕子 “zong4 zi3”, 蹄膀 “ti2 pang2;” or  焖蹄 “meng4 ti2” or braised pork shoulders, baked cakes with or without red bean paste fillings, 豆花 “dou4 hua1” soy bean pudding, 臭豆腐 “chou4 dou1 fu3” or deep-fried smelly fermented tofu, rice crackers, sweet yams in hot syrup, and tea. 棕子 “zong4 zi3” may be called Chinese tamales but the sweet rice and various kinds of fillings were bundled together by bamboo leaves instead of corn husks. A picture showed an old lady making 景家棕子 “jing3 jia1 zong4 zi3” according to secret recipe handed down from her ancestors. She became famous because of TV and media reports.

景家棕子

There were many art galleries with eye-catching sculptures and Chinese calligraphies. Antique stores sold counterfeits such as this laughing Buddha to unsuspecting tourists. Another shop sold small figurines of famous Chinese opera characters such as this lovely 楊貴妃 “yang2 gui4 fei1.” A lovely 雲竹 “yun2 zhu2,” or cloud bamboo, in a handsomely designed clay pot added a nice touch to the cold day.

楊貴妃 “yang2 gui4 fei1”

雲竹 “yun2 zhu2”

A few shops sold turtles large and small, four-legged river lizards and small fish from rivers and lakes near by. It would be nice to buy a few small turtles and keep them in my pond.

In the midst of the commercial district, a City God Temple or 城隍廟 “cheng2 huang2 miao4” provided tourists a place to worship and mediate. We stepped inside of this small and empty temple and paid our respect. A fortune-teller asked Bao to sit down and asked her to write 198 on a piece of paper. He said that the monks here would pray for her 198 days and asked her to donate money. He eventually cheated the gullible Bao ¥400 with false promises and dirty tricks. He also got Xiaobao there, gave him a sticker and asked him to put it on a wooden bell to as high as he could reach. With that he asked Bao to donate more money. Xiaobao wouldn’t do it but Bao gave him another 50 to get him off her backs. By that time, that troubling event had already left a horrible image in her and Xiaobao’s mind and Bao vowed not to be tricked by anyone like this anymore. What a bummer!

To further rub salt into the wound, 朱家角城隍廟 had a cast iron bell which measured about 4’ tall and 2.5” wide at the base. A wooden mallet was hung from the ceiling which was used to strike the bell. However, if you wanted to strike the bell, you were advised to donate ¥5 or ¥10 with each strike. With gimmick like this, no wonder this 城隍廟 had no worshipers.

I however found something to love: the Chinese 對聯 dui4 lian2 or couplet at the front door of the main building and 木魚 “mu4 yu2,” or the so-called wooden fish, sitting on a table in front of the Buddha statue.

The dui4 lian2 were a pair of antithetical verses which read:

怨天尤人 愚何其極

“yuan4 tian1 you1 ren1” “yu1 he1 qi1 ji1”

修德行善 福在其中

“xiu1 de2 xing2 shan4” “fu2 zai4 qi1 zhong1”

The couplet suggested that one should not blame god or men except himself because it only shows one’s utmost foolishness. Instead, one should build your morality and be kind to others for it will bring inner happiness to your life. I liked to study couplet wherever I go. Sometimes I didn’t understand their meanings but more often than not I could learn a thing or two from them.

The wooden 木魚 “mu4 yu2” was a percussion music instrument. It was hollow in the center with a small opening along the base of the wooden instrument. When it was stuck with the small mallet, it generated a hollow sound which was used by monks to keep the rhythm of chanting Buddhism sutra. When we lived in Taichong, Taiwan, there was a Buddhism temple called 寶覺寺 “bao3 jue2 si4” about half and hour walk from our house. We often went there to pay respect to my grandma whose ash was kept at a 3 or 4 story pagoda there until about 10 years ago. When we visited there, I sometimes picked up the mallet and stuck the wooden fish for fun. The sound was soothing to my mind and comforting too. I also have a small (about 2” wide and 1” tall) wooden fish at my house which I got from 靈隱寺 “ling2 yin3 si4” in 1986 when I visited the temple with my Mom and uncle. Although the wooden fish I have is small, its sound is also very calming too.

All over the narrow streets, I saw many interesting murals such as this one which said that if you walk 10,000 steps everyday, balance your diet and exercise, you will be healthy to your old age.

Another one was this lovely portrait of a 1930-era beautiful lady on a sofa. She wore the traditional Chinese dress called 旗袍 “qi2 pao2,” a big diamond ring, a watch, a wrist bracelet and matching ear rings and a pair of stylish high heel shoes. The painting also showed a bottle of beer, a bottle of wine, a bottle of gin, two half-full glasses and a bottle of Moet Chandon Champaign, a few brandies and whiskies. Her face, which shaped like a melon seed, or the so-called瓜子臉 “gua1 zi3 lian3,” wore chic make-up and a attractive smile. She represented a girl who flirted among wealthy business men in bars and restaurants in Shanghai’s famous上海灘 “shang1 hai3 tan1.” Nowadays, 上海灘 is still there. Wheeling and dealing among businessmen and their customers are undoubtedly still going on sometimes with the aid of young girls. I wonder what kind of murals will pop up along these walls 100 years from now. Time passes by but some things remain the same.

For lunch, we stopped by this restaurant called 古鎮飯莊 “gu3 zhen4 fan4 zhuang1” that looked not that shabby from the outside. It advertised authentic local farming cooking and offered 2nd floor seats overlooking the river. We ordered a crab meat soup, celery with dried bean curd, marinated cucumber in garlic sauce, deep-fried pork tidbits, quails and fresh river shrimps. Earlier we had bought a piece of braised pork shoulder from a shop before arriving at the restaurant. It was vacuum packed in an aluminum bag for easy carrying. We asked the chef to heat it up for us and he gladly did it for us. The vegetable dishes were really fresh and appeared to have been picked within a day or two. The quails looked ugly and tasted awful. The boiled shrimps were fresh but small. They had more shell than meat and were way over cooked. The braised pork shoulder needed at least another hour of cooking because the meat was still a bit too tough. The soup was good but the deep-fried pork was too chewy. Overall, it wasn’t a good meal and I wouldn’t go back to it again. I was very disappointed to say the least.

After lunch, we strolled around the alleys and enjoyed a nice day of outing. The river was nice. The stone bridges looked attractive. The ancient buildings appeared authentic. Walking on the narrow streets bought me back hundreds of years as if we were in a movie.

But I had to look away from a few unattractive sights to enjoy this village. When we walked to the back of the village, we saw a few unsightly scenes that to this date still left me with an image I wanted to forget. I wished the local government would do something to make this entire village clean and neat; not just where most visited by the tourists. Some of the street food on display looked unappetizing. A few shops looked dirty which made me not wanted to try their food. Some street corners were in need of repair. We also saw a woman who was actually washing a small table  in the river. Overall, I felt the ancient village definitely needed some improvement in order to provide a more pleasant image to tourists from other cities in China and from foreign countries.

We walked back to the bus station and found the real Express Bus to Shanghai. We had to pay a little more but it was worth the few extra RMB because the bus didn’t stop on the way back. We were in Shanghai before four 4 in the afternoon.

上海游記 Nov. 28 – Dec. 16, 2009 Day 7, part II, Shanghai January 15, 2010

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

Day 7,  part II, Shanghai, Thursday, December 3, 2009

The first thing we need to do after breakfast was to get a new cell phone at a nearby telecomm shop. We quickly found a place to buy another SIM card for ¥118 for the second Samsung cell phone we bought from the U. S. The phone works just fine except that it couldn’t show Chinese characters. As such, I couldn’t read any text message sent to me by the phone company or others.

We asked the sales guy about my lost cell phone and our effort to retrieve that taxi driver’s phone number. He said that we could try Shanghai’s sales office of China Mobile or 中国移动 “zhong1 guo2 yi1dong4” at 第一八佰伴 “di4 yi1 ba1 bai3 ban4,” a giant department store in Pudong not far from the financial district.  八佰伴 was a chain department store originally from Japan. The company declared bankruptcy after Asian currency crisis in 1998. The company’s 450 stores were bought by another Japanese company but kept the name for its Shanghai, Hong Kong and Taipei stores.

We rushed to 第一八佰伴, found the sales office on the 6th floor and informed the sales person about my dilemma. Her answer was that it was impossible to retrieve the telephone number unless we can locate the lost SIM card. In other words, I had no way to inform the taxi driver that it would be okay for him to pick us up at our hotel in Puxi tomorrow morning and take us to 朱家角 (zhu1 jia1 jiao3.)  I wasn’t sure that she gave me the correct answer because I thought there had to be a record somewhere in China Mobile’s server of my communication with him. She didn’t give me the answer I wanted to hear probably because I was nobody. Another option was to go to China Mobile’s HQ in the 普陀区 “pu3 tuo2 qv1” Puxi. Since that place was too far away and it would take at least 2 to 3 hours to take care of this matter, I decided not to pursuit it any further. Well, I’ve put in a reasonable effort but the situation was beyond my control and I just had to let this go. We’ll find another way to go to 朱家角 on Friday.

Since we were in Pudong and not very far from 金茂大厦 “jin1 mao4 da4 xia4” or Jin Mao Tower, we decided to visit the second tallest building in Shanghai. Bao and I knew a restaurant in 金茂大厦 from a Chinese TV food show and we had planned to try its food. The restaurant was called 天萃庭 “tian1 cui4 ting2” or Paradise Garden specialized in Cantonese cuisine, dim sum and Shanghai cuisine. To reserve a table, you needed to call the restaurant at 57575777. In Chinese, it reads wu3 qi1 wu3 qi1 wu3 qi1 qi1 qi1 which sounds like 我吃, 我吃, 我吃吃吃 wo3 chi1 wo3 chi1 wo3 chi1 chi1 chi1.

The fancy restaurant occupied ½ of the top floor of a 6-story shopping mall adjacent to the 金茂大厦. The mall has numerous top notch shops and restaurants and天萃庭’s kitchen was located on the 5th floor. Although we didn’t have a reservation but, since it wasn’t very busy, we got a table by the rail overlooking the lower levels of the mall. The restaurant has another section which included a big dinning room and many rooms for private parties.

As we sat down at our table, a waitress gave each of us a warm bar towel. We were asked if we wanted tea. I asked for choices and she gave me a few selections. I chose 西湖龙井 xi1 hu2 long3 jin3 since it was the best in this area and she said it was something like ¥50 a cup or nearly $8 in US. I said yes. She asked how many. I replied three. Well, I knew it was expensive before I came here but didn’t know it was that expensive. This was some expensive tea. It’d better be worth the price tag. Well, 即來之則安之 “ji4 lai2 zhi1 ze2 an1 zhi1.”

The ambiance of the casual lunch area was cheerful and elegant with gold and red-colored decoration around us. The jade-colored table setting and the red-colored menu with a gold-colored logo were very stylish. The wait staff was quiet attentive but not pushy.

Logo on menu

One dish we had to order was 果汁鹅肝冻 (¥128) or chilled foie gras in fruit jelly. We saw a special program recommending this restaurant and this beautiful dish. Itattracted our curiosity and we had to try it.

Other dishes were:

Appetizers

  • 萝卜丝拌海蜇 “luo2 bo1 si1 bang4 hai1 zhe2”- julienned white radish with jelly fish

  • 松子冬菇 “song1 zi3 dong1 gu1”- Roasted pine nuts with Chinese mushroom

  • 素雞 “su4 ji1” – Vegetarian chicken made from soy bean

Entrées

  • 蟹粉獅子頭 “xie4 fen3 shi1 zi1 tou2”- Braised pork balls with crab meat

  • 醬肉煎包子 “jiang4 ro4 jian1 bao1 zi3” – Pan-fried dumplings with meat and sauce

  • 蟹粉豆腐 “xie4 fen3 dou4 fu3” – Tofu with crab meat

Dessert

  • 酒釀湯圓 “Jiu3 niang2 tang1 yuan2.” Sticky rice balls with sweet fermented rice wine.

Our jade-colored placemats were removed before the lunch was served and we each got a white dinner plate instead. Shortly after we placed our order, we were served with a nicely prepared before-dinner xiao cai including pickled root vegetable, gelatinous pork and mushroom with 枸杞子”gou3 ji2 zi3,” and a salty fish of some sort. The fourth container had soy sauce if I wasn’t mistaken.

The gelatinous pork and mushroom with 枸杞子was the best among them. The pork was well seasoned and枸杞子 added a nice touch to this savory dish. The 枸杞子 ”gou3 ji2 zi3,” or wolfberries, are the dried berries of an easy-to-grow, low growing (about 6’ tall by 6’ wide,) deciduous flowering shrub. Its branches have very sharp thorns and the flowers are small and purple in color. The small, bright-red colored berries ripen from August to November depending on its location. In fact, my parents have to such plants growing in their vegetable garden at their house. One could also buy them from Chinese grocery stores at very affordable prices.

wolfberries, 枸杞子, are mild in nature and slightly sweet in taste. It has been said that taking a small amount of 枸杞子 on a regular basis, like 5 to 10 pieces a day with water or wine, can be beneficial to your lungs, liver, kidneys and eyes. It is also said that枸杞子have been used as a sexual tonic. There have been many recent researches on枸杞子 at University of Hong Kong, China and Korea. In addition, there are no known side effects from taking 枸杞子 which has been used as food and herb for hundreds of years in China and other Asian countries.

Of all the appetizers we ordered only the 果汁鹅肝冻 (¥128,) or chilled foie gras in fruit jelly, was exceptional. Its presentation, taste, sauce, foie gras and fruit jelly were all top rated. Other appetizers were ordinary. The texture of the pork meat balls was slightly firm and the flavorful chicken broth was infused with crab meat; something I usually would not do. The tofu with crab meat was the best tofu dish I’d ever had: the tofu was soft and coated with tangy sauce. The golden colored sauce got its color from none other than 枸杞子 too. The small amount of Crab meat augmented the flavor of the sauce and tofu to a higher level. A great dish by the chef! The pan-fried 醬肉煎包子 tasted liked Cantonese 叉燒包 “cha1 shao1 bao1” but the ingredients and the sauce of the 包子餡 “bao1 zi3 xian4,” the inside of the 包子, were different. It also didn’t have red coloring as it usually did in Cantonese 叉燒包.

The dessert was another favor of mine and I knew bao liked it too. The湯圓, made from sweet rice powder, was slightly chewy but not sticky to my teeth. I could taste the slight sweetness of the 酒釀 and smell the alcohol from the fermentation process as it escaped from the surface of the soup. The meal took about an hour and half and I actually enjoyed it very much. I wasn’t sure how much Xiaobao liked it because he didn’t like seafood at all. Well, we’d give him some more jiao3 zi1 and cong1 you2 bin3 later.

After the lunch, Xiaobao wanted to take us to see the dinning room up on the 86th floor of the 金茂大厦.We walked around the building and found the elevator to the restaurant. We told the hostess that we wanted to have some coffee but she won’t let us in because the restaurant was still busy with its lunch crowd. She sent us to the bar two floors down on the 84th floor.

The interior of the bar was very impressive. There was an elevated stage at the center of one wall which was flanked by an open bar on both sides. The semi circular room had probably 20 tables, each with two or three sofa seats. The bar had a very high ceiling, probably 300’ tall. The open space extended all the way to the glass roof which made it a very unique place to have a cup of coffee or a glass of martini. I wondered what the band would sound like because of the high ceiling and acoustic effect. We ordered a coffee and a tea and the bill came to ¥100.

Before Xiaobao left Taiwan, his friend suggested a few place to visit while in Shanghai. One of the places was 南外灘輕紡面料市場 “nan2 wai4 tan1 qing1fang3 mian4 liao4 shi4 chang3” or South Bund Soft-spinning Material Market, a three-story fabric market, located in South Bund at 399  陸家濱路 “lu4 jia1 bang1 lu4.” Note that Shanghainese pronounced 濱 like 幫忙’s ”bang1 mang1” 幫 instead of 檳榔’s “bin1 lang2” 檳.”

The big character in the middle is 布 "bu4" or fabric

When we got there, it was almost 6 PM; their closing time. The guard won’t let us in so that we had to look for a shop outside near the huge sign at the front of the building. The owner of the shop and his two female assistants talked us into buying two suits (¥1,400) for me and four shirts (¥1,200) for Xiaobao. Turned out that the owner was also a 湖北人 “hu2 bei3 ren2” but I didn’t think he gave me any special discount at all. His two young, female assistants were very helpful and I bet they sweet-talk to all their customers in order to make the deal. We paid half of the price as downpay and agreed to come back on Saturday to pick them up. Since it was time for lunch, we took the owner’s suggestion and went to a near by Sichuan restaurant called 川妹魚庄酒樓 “chuan1 mei4 jiu3 lou2,” Sichuan Sister Seafood Restaurant, a suitable choice for a chilly evening.

We ordered three appetizers, four entrées, soup and a 大餅”da bing3” as our 主食 “zhu3 shi2” and dessert.

  • White beans with fermented sweet rice 酒釀白豆 “jiu3 niang2 bai2 dou4.” This was a very simple dish to make. It was sweet and full of the aroma of sweet rice wine.
  • Pickled radish with edamame beans 豌豆蘿蔔干 “wan1 dou4 luo2 bo1 gan1.” I started to eat 蘿蔔干 when I was a little boy growing up in Taiwan. Back then, we ate a lot of 蘿蔔干 because it 下飯 “xia4 fan4” or made rice easier to eat because of its saltiness. It was very cheap and easy to make. My Mom would cut the white radish into sticks of ~3” long and ¾” wide on four sides. She’d rub them thoroughly with plenty of salt and dried them under the sun for a few days. Because of its saltiness, it could be kept without refrigeration for several days. It was also a regular dish in the morning with congee. Nowadays, I occasionally make this dish because it reminded me of the old days in our small house, tiny kitchen and a round table just outside of the kitchen. I no longer have to make 蘿蔔干the old way because it is widely available in Chinese supermarket. Instead of stir-frying 蘿蔔干 with edamame beans, it can be made with scrambled eggs and green onions which was another regular dish on our table 50 years ago.
  • Gelatinous pork 肴肉 “yao2 rou4.” My Mom used to make this dish when I was a small boy. It was one of the dishes Mom made for Dad’s many college friends who came to our house regularly. I haven’t made this for a long time not because it was difficult to do but because I have had more things to choose from now.

  • 干扁四季豆 “gan1 bian3 shi4 ji1 dou4” or string beans Sichuan Style. Our restaurant also carries this dish but this one was more flavorful and hot. The aroma was more pungent because of various spices, including 花椒 “hua1 jiao1” or Sichuan pepper, a specialty spice from Sichuan province.

花椒 “hua1 jiao1”

  • 絲瓜炒青豆 “shi1gua1 cao3 qing1 dou4.’ This dish, not very common at a Sichuan restaurant, was very pleasant to look at, fresh, tender and delicious. It didn’t have much sauce which was different from how I would cook it. 絲瓜 is a green, hairy fruit vegetable about 12” to 18” long and 1” to 3” in diameter when matured. It’s slightly sweet and has a mild taste. It is called 絲瓜 probably because when the skin is peeled off, it produces a sticky sap which stretches like spider’s silk (絲.) I am very fond of this vegetable but not good at cooking it. I often cooked it too long which made it too soft and turned it into a darker color. From time to time, Dad would plant this in his vegetable garden in Virginia and we have had some of this wonderful vegetable a few times in the past. We used to have 絲瓜 at our house in Taichong, Taiwan as well. We ate some and kept a few till maturity for seeds. We also left a few hanging on the vines until they completely dried. After peeling off the skin and getting rid of all seeds, we saved the network of tissues as sponges to clean dishes. They could also be used as bath sponges and body scratch which was called 絲瓜筋 “shi1 gua1 jin1.”

  • 香干肉絲 “xiang1 gan1 rou4 shi1” or shredded pork with dried bean curd; another one of my favorite dishes; tender pork coated with mild hot sauce, slightly chewy dried bean curd and green onions. Very little sauce like what it supposed to be. Not too much cooking oil but enough to make it shinning on the outside of every piece of pork and bean curd slices. Our restaurant recently added this dish to attract Chinese customers. However, our dried bean curd, to me, is a little too chewy at times.

  • 麻婆豆腐 “ma2 po2 dou4 fu3” was the quintessential Sichuan dish we had to try here. And we weren’t disappointed: soft Tofu, ground pork, hot pepper, unique Sichuan spices, right amount of cooking oil and topped with green onions. Just the way we liked it except it was a little to hot for us. I bet my daughter would love this dish. It was another dish that’s so 下飯 we could eat a whole bowl of rice with this dish only.

  • 湯 “Tang.” I actually forgot what kind of soup I ordered and I didn’t keep any notes either. It looked good. The 10 or so 枸杞子 floating on top of the soup, the green onions, the pan-seared meat in the soup, the clear broth and the clay pot made it a savory addition to our meal. Too bad I didn’t remember what it was now.

  • 黑芝麻大餅 “zhi1 ma2 da4 bing3” or black sesame paste thick flat bread. This was a wonderful dish and I was glad that I ordered it. Xiaobao liked it and we also liked it too. I often saw this kind of flat bread sold at Chinese grocery stores. However none of them had sweet black sesame paste inside. The bread was leavened and pan-fried and the sesame paste was sweet and had a very fine texture. The flat bread was served right off the hot pan which was soft and smelled so good. I wished I could ordered a few more and bought them back to the U. S.

Well, as usual, I ordered more than what we could finish. But it was a satisfying meal and we were all stuffed.

Before we headed back to our hotel, we went to the famous 南京东路步行街 “nan1 jing1 dong1 lu4 bu4 xing1 jie1” which was not too far from our hotel. This part of 南京东路 was designed for pedestrians only. The street was lined with department stores, fashion shops, brand-name stores, and restaurants, by the time we went there, it was too late because more places were getting ready to close for the day. We walked around and found a place to have some coffee and latte before walking back to our hotel.

We’d go to 朱家角 “zhu1 jia1 jiao3” tomorrow. I’d figure out how to get there after we got back to our hotel since I lost my cell phone and couldn’t get hold of that taxi driver tonight. Well, it was too bad that we had to pay for the Internet service at the hotel at ¥20/hr or ¥120 a day.

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