Our foodiest of friends, I know I promised lots of foodie pics and descriptions by now, and I fear you’re probably diving into this letter in anticipation of such, and I may have to disappoint!
Its not that we haven’t been eating well – because the food here is great – we just haven’t yet launched into the full Chinese culinary adventure yet. In our first week here I think we ate out several times: first night it was Mexican (the cocktails were fab), then we had Indian, after that was pizza (very, very good pizza, excellent pizza, but still pizza), we’ve been to the home of some wonderful friends and eaten fabulous Sri Lankan food, we’ve been to the other side of Shanghai for Taiwanese, we’ve had wonderful dumplings that were apparently in the Hong Kong style, sublime Vietnamese noodles and Ross even took the kids to Burger King when I was out one evening, what we haven’t had much of yet is Chinese!
The closest we’ve come to Chinese food is what Ross has been cooking at home, enchanted by some roadside noodles he enjoyed on one of his earlier trips here, he’s been cooking up a storm of noodle dishes at home. As for me, I think its clear to the whole family at this point and I can no longer hide it – somewhere between Christchurch and Shanghai I have totally lost my cooking mojo. It’s rather distressing, as I’ve always thought of myself as a pretty good cook, but my offerings thus far have been sadly lacking. Maybe it’s the lack of ingredients – or familiar ones at least, maybe it’s the sparsely filled pantry that I’m starting from scratch, maybe it’s the inadequately tooled kitchen – bare of all my favourite cooking implements and pots, which I hope are somewhere on their way to us, but I’ve completely lost the knack.
On a great recommendation from friends, we ventured out on Friday evening for Peking Duck. Not the elegantly served, delicate morsels of downtown, but the local variety, prepared and sold at the local wet market, pretty much where only locals shop. Armed with directions and even a photo of the required vendor, we lost courage at the last minute and took our lovely driver into the market to assist us. We found the stall in question, accessorized with dozens of cooked, hanging ducks, with heads intact, and a giant wood-fired oven in the background. Sticking out like the only foreigners in the place, which we were, we lined up for duck. We watched parcel after parcel passed over the counter to waiting locals, and waited our turn. Ducks were pulled down from their hooks, deftly chopped up, parceled into little boxes, pancakes, hoisin sauce and spring onions added. The Chinese man in the queue behind me grabbed my arm to excitedly and loudly shout something in my face: “He wants to know if you like duck” our driver explained, that’s all. I smiled and nodded like an imbecile, even I know how to say ‘yes’ in Chinese, something I seem to only be able to remember during my Chinese lessons. We got our duck, had our photo taken (a couple of times that we saw, and no doubt more that we didn’t) and went home to enjoy our Friday night takeaways – China styles.
Knowing that you lot are visiting next year means I clearly need to do further food research. I’m going to have to eat out a LOT more, I can’t possibly have you arrive and not have a list of spectacular eateries for you to sample – Chinese and other. I intend to compile a rather varied list – from the best of street food to the grandest of fine dining restaurants, I just know you’re going to want to try it all! Just don’t ask me to cook, I’d hate to disappoint!