Category: Food

2017 – A Year in Review

2017 – A Year in Review

2017, it’s been a crazy year.

January

Our China adventure started in January with a look and see trip to Shanghai. We spent 5 days and half the time I thought Thorben was crazy for wanting to move here. I got used to the idea when we visited Jing’An, the Bund and Xintiandi and our relocation agent showed me where to get Nutella and cheese 😉

February

In February we started our preparation with an intercultural seminar followed by a 2 week intensive language class, which made my brain hurt and showed me how difficult learning Chinese is. While Thorben got over this traumatic experience and started studying again towards the end of the year I still haven’t recovered quite yet 😉 I also got my job offer and started the visa process.

March

My host sister got married in California and I was happy to be part of the wedding as a bridesmaid. We also used the time to visit San Diego, Joshua Tree National Park and spent time with my American family in Ventura.

April

Thorben turned 30 in April and we took the chance to celebrate both his birthday and a farewell party. We also packed all our stuff into 25 boxes, handed over the key to our apartment and I dropped him off at the airport at the end of the month.

May

While Thorben was busy starting this blog, a new job, exploring China and finding us an apartment, I spent the month saying good bye to family and friends. I also took a trip to Budapest and celebrated my birthday winning at mini golf before hopping on a plane to Shanghai.

June

During my first week in Shanghai I met Pearl and we visited Zhujiajiao together.  We also received our air freight, which helped us settle into our new apartment. Thorben went to Japan with his coworkers while I discovered the avocado lady and spent a day exploring the city with Shane.

July

In July it was a bit rainy at times so we had fun playing board games and making travel plans. I also visited some touristy places as a friend from university was in town. Thorben went on his first business trip to Germany and we saw “Sleep no More” which he loved and I hated. We also faced some crazy temperatures – above 40! – but that didn’t keep us from trying lots of different restaurants and seeing the Lion King in Chinese.

August

During the summer we went to quite a few brunches and also cooked for the first time, not at our home but someone else at a home-style cooking class. In August we also met Ellie (at a brunch) and had some adventures with her and Pearl at a murder mystery dinner and trying to eat lung. At the end of the month Thorben and I took our first trip out of the country together and spent a long weekend in Seoul.

September

September was a mix between food and culture: I tried hot pot for the first time, we went to see the musical Sister Act. I hoarded cheese after hearing of a coming ban while Thorben took some pretty pictures at night. During our trip to Beijing we visited famous sights such as the Forbidden City and the Great Wall and had some delicious Peking duck.

October

The month started out with a week long break – Golden Week – which we used to travel to Hong Kong and visit Jana in Taipei. I also had an epic scone bake-off with Ellie. Most of our weekends we spent at brunch, shopping for tailored clothes and getting Christmas presents at the Pearl Market.

November

Thorben tried some hairy crabs while they were in season and I indulged in yummy breakfast street food. I also got some more Christmas shopping done during Single’s Day. After months of eating out and Sherpa deliveries I finally cooked for the first time. We got to check off a big item on the travel bucket list and explored the magnificent temples of Angkor. After 4 beautiful days in Cambodia we also visited Singapore.

December

In December we had to say our final good bye to Ellie at the airport. The rest of the month was much more festive: We ate Raclette, baked some Christmas cookies and went to a Christmas market. After a crazy half a year we got on a plane to Germany to celebrate Christmas with our families and catch up with friends.

Thanks to everyone who made 2017 so fun. Let’s see what 2018 has to offer!

Shanghai Street Eats Breakfast Foodie Tour

Shanghai Street Eats Breakfast Foodie Tour

After the delicious foodie tour in Hong Kong, I looked up what UnTour Food Tours offers in Shanghai. One, because it was fun and delicious and two, because the flyer I got in Hong Kong included a 10% off voucher 🙂 The one that spoke to me was the Shanghai Street Eats Breakfast so that’s what Ellie and I did on Sunday morning. Unfortunately the 9am tour was already fully booked, so I dragged myself out of bed for the 8am one. Spoiler: It was worth it.

We started at Xiangyang Park where we got a good glimpse of typical morning park activities: Water calligraphy, group sword swinging, Tai Chi and dancing. Our first stop was a street corner with a few different stalls. We tried jianbing (Shanghai pancake), fried dough sticks (kind of like unsweetened churros) dipped in fresh soy milk, savory and sweet baozi (buns), fried dumplings and potstickers with pork filling. My favorite was the jianbing and watching the lady whip them up in record time. Luckily, our apartment is only a couple blocks away so I’ll be back to this magical place soon.

Next, we stopped at a little cafe for some drinks and then wandered through some alleyways. Our destination was a shop which served hand-pulled noodles in scallion oil and soy sauce – yum! Watching the guy pulling the noodles was an attraction by himself. He was so fast I’m half convinced he just had the thin noodles up his sleeve before he started. Our guide Christina risked her life for us by cutting up the noodles with scissors to divide them (bad luck, because long noodles = long life!) 🙂 We also had bamboo tofu with green peppers which was good and spicy.

After a little trip through the wet market, we went to a dumpling shop and had delicious xiaolongbao (soup dumplings) and wonton soup. After that I was convinced I could not eat anything more but there’s always room for dessert 🙂 We got bubble waffles which were crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, so just perfect.

Overall it was a fantastic tour with a great guide. Christina, a Canadian/Cantonese who has been living in China for 8 years, was really nice, told us lots of interesting stories and pointed out buildings I have walked by lots of times without noticing. Of course I may have also liked her because she fed us a lot and wore an awesome shirt.

It’s Hairy Crab season!

It’s Hairy Crab season!

There are many things in the Chinese cuisine that are a little weird. One thing are the hairy crabs. It is hairy crab season now and everyone is very excited. I finally tried them yesterday.

Similar to lobsters, they used to be considered pests and only became a delicacy pretty recently. Here in China that started with the big famines in the middle of the last century: people had to eat everything to survive. Leaves, bark, and well, hairy crabs, the pest in rivers and lakes.

Now everyone eats hairy crabs at least once a year in the fall, when they are in season. They are steamed (alive?) and taste … okay. The meat in the legs is pretty good but I didn’t care much about the yellow stuff on the inside that is supposed to be the best part. It tasted a little like egg yolk. Also, they really are hairy, see for yourself.

I read an article that the hairy crabs are migrating to European and North American waters and are a threat to local wildlife. So … start eating hairy crabs, people!

I had them during our department workshop, which was more about the crabs than the workshop. We went to an island in Yangcheng Lake in Suzhou. It was a great location – accessible only with a water taxi.

Everything we ate was locally grown – the snails, the vegetables, the hairy crabs. They even grow their own soybeans and rice.

Eating out in Shanghai – Part III 

Eating out in Shanghai – Part III 

The rate at which we try new restaurants has slowed down a bit, because we have started to revisit some and are often pretty lazy during the week and get food delivered. Have I mentioned that I love Sherpas? 🙂 So here is part III of the Shanghai restaurant review with 10 more places we or I have recently eaten at.

Taste & See – Australian 

Taste & See describe themselves as a Melbourne Bistro. I went here with some colleagues and we ordered a good variety: avocado and quinoa salad, a smoked salmon appetizer, 2 seafood dishes and lamb. All the food looked beautiful and was very tasty (I didn’t try the lamb so I can’t judge that). Especially the seafood rice was yummy. They just reopened so the location looks nice and the service was pretty good as well.

Black Pepper – Turkish 

I had a work dinner after an all day workshop at Black Pepper. Work dinners usually mean a fixed menu with lots of choices. I’m not a huge fan of Turkish food but everything was pretty good. I liked the appetizers we had, especially the dips and fried vegetable patties. The chicken from the main course was also nice and the dessert was okay, nothing too exciting. The location is cool and they have a nice terrace upstairs, but I’m not sure I’ll come back – too many other nice places to try in Shanghai 🙂

Hai by GOGA – North American 

This was another work dinner and I sat across my bosses boss, so I didn’t take any pictures. We again got a good variety of food. We had tuna, scallops, a salad with salmon, lamb, rib eye … Everything was really good. My highlight was the dessert, a super rich chocolate mousse with some crunchy stuff on the bottom. The location is a bit hard to find, you have to go around the back of the building and enter through a hotel. The restaurant is on the 7th floor and from the terrace you overlook the French Concession, so it might also be a good spot for some drinks.

Long time ago – Barbecue

As you can see in the pictures, you barbecue your own food at the table here. It’s a cool system: you just place the skewers in the openings and the little chain which runs around the grill turns them automatically. After watching you food being cooked you then eat it dipped in a spice mix and chili sauce. Their specialty is lamb, which was pretty good and we also had chicken wings, sausage, mushrooms wrapped in bacon and kidneys which I did NOT eat those after the lung disaster. On the side we got some eggplant, salad, cold noodle soup (like the one we tried in Seoul), and peanuts in a vinegar sauce, which I really liked. Overall, the food didn’t blow me away but it’s a fun experience and I think a good winter activity with friends – the grill really keeps you warm.

Ganesha – Indian

This place got introduced to us as the best money for value Indian food in Shanghai. While I’ve had better Indian food, it was good and you definitely can’t beat their prices: We were 4 people and had pappadoms (lentil wafers), 4 main dishes, 3 different types of naan, rice, juice and beer and each paid just under 10 Euros. The mains we got were Mutton Keema, Chicken Korma, Paneer Makhani (Cheese) and Baingan Bhantha (eggplant). It’s inside a mall and the restaurant is pretty basic and not too cozy but if you are looking for some cheap, quick Indian food, this is the place.

Cobra Lily – Southeast Asian

Cobra Lily is in Xintiandi, a nice little area with brick houses, trees and lots of restaurants. So it wasn’t really a surprise that it was pretty expensive there. We had a nice dinner with a good mix of dishes: A mint and fried goat cheese salad, beef tartare, prawn cake spring rolls and smoked pork neck with rice noodles. I had to surrender after a few bites of the goat cheese mint salad, it was very good but super spicy. My favorite dish was the beef tartare. They had some pretty interesting sounding desserts so of course we had to get some 🙂 Thorben had green tea meringue with dark chocolate dried plum ganache and coffee ice cream (except for the chocolate-plum not my thing at all but he really liked it) and I had chamomile pannacotta with frozen white chocolate mousse and berry sorbet – yum!

Tribe – Healthy

The outside sitting is nice and so are the juices and smoothie. The food is a bit too much on the “gluten-free, sugar-free, vegan, raw and super healthy” side for me. It’s not that I don’t like healthy or vegan food in general, it’s a nice change to all the meat and oil sometimes. My smoothie bowl looked pretty and the granola and fruit in there were good but once I ate the toppings, the dragonfruit with quinoa was just very bland. Thorben also wasn’t the biggest fan of his “Organic Breakfast for Champions”. We’ve gone back once in the afternoon to just have a juice and some snacks: The marbled “Cheesecake” and some Almond-Parmesan Crisps. Again it was okay, but nothing to rave about.

Loop & Carbon, Love Only One Person – Japanese

I couldn’t find the restaurant online but I swear that’s what it said on the sign 🙂 We went there with Pearl, Shane and 2 of her friends after an intense hour at Jump360. Shane’s friend got a groupon so we had a big menu with lots of different food for around 15 Euros each. I think I missed 3 dishes in the pictures and also the dessert (ice cream). I liked their sushi and tempura shrimp and most of the other things we ate, but I didn’t try the beef tongue 🙂

Funkadeli – Italian

Funkadeli is in a little restaurant area close to where we live and I finally tried it when I met a friend of a friend for the first time. She is Italian and suggested it, so that was already a good sign 🙂 The have a good happy hour and we had some appetizers first: Spanish tortilla, mozzarella, tomatoes and pine nuts and some smoked salmon – all good. We also had a pizza that was really delicious. As dessert I tried the “chocolate salami” just because it sounded funny. It’s chocolate with biscuit and nuts. It was alright but according to the Italian expert a bit too sweet and not enough nuts and biscuit. I’ll definitely go back because the location is cool and prices are super reasonable (pizza is only half of what it costs at Gemma!). They also do brunch so we might go there this weekend.

The Refinery – American 

Another Xintiandi restaurant, in the middle of Taicang Road, with lots of awesome outdoor seating. I loved the atmosphere and would just go back for that but the food unfortunately didn’t blow us away. Thorben rated it 6/10. The menu is big and I had spinach and artichoke dip and fish and chips and Thorben had avocado and salmon tartar and a grilled salmon dish. Nothing really stood out and the mocktails were way too sweet but we still had a very nice evening sitting outside and watching the city lights.

An Epic scone bake off 

An Epic scone bake off 

On Saturday Ellie and I had a little scone baking competition in our kitchen. I had mentioned a few weeks ago that I’d just gotten an awesome scone recipe from my colleague in Germany who is from the UK, which prompted Ellie (also from the UK) to state that they could never be better than hers. So the scone-off was born.

In preparation I tried out the recipe a couple of weeks ago, both the sweet and savory version (with cheddar cheese). I thought they turned out awesome, so I was feeling pretty good about it.

Baking was a really international affair: First, it was an English-German competition in China and for the ingredients we had flour from France, sugar and salt from China, baking powder and milk from Germany, butter from New Zealand and cheddar cheese from the US. We even managed to track down clotted cream at Cityshop – a real deal for only 6 Euro, usually it costs 9 😉 The price of some imported goods is a bit crazy but in that case it was so worth it. In combination with my mom’s homemade jam it was delicious.

Shane, Pearl and Thorben got to try all of the goodies but in the end there wasn’t really a clear winner because I had made cheesy scones and Ellie the original kind which was hard to compare. Also, our jury wasn’t really helpful so I guess it was a tie. In the end we had fun baking and all got to eat lots and lots of scones, so I’d say we all won.

It was great to finally use the kitchen and the oven and wear the “Baking Queen” apron my awesome colleague made for me with her kids 🙂 Hopefully more baking will happen soon.

Golden Week Travels: Hong Kong

Golden Week Travels: Hong Kong

Last week was Golden Week in China. It’s the week around the National Day and the whole country gets a week-long holiday. Like it is the case for many holidays here, part of the time away from the office has to be made up by working on a Saturday or Sunday. For this Golden Week we had to work from Monday to Saturday and then we had time off from Sunday, October 1st until Sunday, October 8. Not a bad deal really, especially since office already closed at 2:30 on Saturday.

We were warned that traveling is crazy during Golden Week, that everything is super expensive and really crowded and just a big hassle. 8 free days and you don’t have to use a single day of vacation time, so of course we still went. I booked the flights in July already and they were twice as expensive as usual but hotel prices were pretty normal. We originally just wanted to go to Taiwan but because it was a bit cheaper I booked Shanghai – Hong Kong – Taipei – Shanghai. 2 destinations for the price of one, why not?

Hong Kong

We’ve both been to Hong Kong before so I didn’t plan much ahead of time. I just made a note where to buy the Octopus card (can be used for public transport including ferries and can be bought at the airport) and downloaded the metro map. We only had 2 full days and for the second day I booked a Hong Kong foodie tour. Like almost every time we go on vacation one of us got sick. In Beijing it was me, in Hong Kong it got to Thorben (and I was still coughing a bit) so besides that tour our itinerary was really light.

Hong Kong Skyline

Our hotel was on the Hong Kong side of the harbor and we took the ferry across twice to see the skyline, once by day and once by night. I love the Hong Kong skyline, it just goes on and on and on …

At night we went to the “Symphony of Lights” which is a light show they do every night at 8. I don’t think it’s really worth it unless you happen to be there at that time. The buildings are lit up anyway and except for a bit of music and some lasers there isn’t anything extra to see, so I wouldn’t wait around for it again. The skyline by itself at night is really impressive, so any time is great to see it 🙂

Flower Market

We also wanted to check out some of the markets and did the flower market. It’s a street with lots and lots of stores and booths which sell tons of plants and pretty flowers. If we lived in Hong Kong I think our apartment would now have orchids on every window sill. It also smells really good, I didn’t want to leave. Here is the colorful picture overload:

Foodie Tour

I booked the “Central & Sheung Wan Foodie Tour” which wasn’t too far away from our hotel. We had 6 stops on the tour and the group (there were 9 of us) was a mix of people from the UK, US and Australia and Germany of course. Besides eating lots of food, it was fun seeing a bit more of Hong Kong and hearing some interesting stories about the local life and crazy rent prices. The wet market visit was not for the faint-hearted – we saw some freshly butchered fish and the cut up parts were still twitching. Our guide said that to get the freshest fish you buy the parts where the heart is still beating …

We tried Wonton Noodle Soup, barbecued pork with rice, preserved fruits and candy, Dim Sums (which included different dumplings, buns and spring rolls) and Egg Tarts. I really enjoyed the tour and the food. Most of the places we went I wouldn’t have gone by myself and it was great to have someone point out all the goodies I would have missed. So overall it was a fun way to spend an afternoon and it was so much food I couldn’t even think about dinner.

Traveling during Golden Week really wasn’t bad. On Sunday we had no trouble taking the metro and maglev to the airport and the lines at the airport were also normal. Hong Kong was fine as well, it didn’t seem any more crowded than during my last visit. The mystery were everyone was, was solved by our friend Ellie: Everyone was stuck in traffic on the way to the Great Wall 😉