Shanghai Street Food: Candied Hawthorn Berries On A Stick

Shanghai Tanghulu

Candied hawthorn berries on a stick aka Tanghulu is a treat that can be purchased in many cities all over China. However, the quality of the said stick of Tanghulu greatly varies. It can be sweet, tart, crunchy, and chewy. Or it can cause you to chip your tooth and wonder why Chinese people like it so much.

The trick is to find a store that sells mass quantities of Tanghulu so that the stick you buy is freshly made. Avoid those with a shiny, glassy exterior. What you want is a stick of Tanghulu that is exactly like the one I am holding in the picture above where you can clearly tell that while the sugar coating has hardened, it will break easily even if bit softly.  [Read more…]

Best of Shanghai Restaurants: Miss Zhouyu’s Sauerkraut Fish 周渝食惦 酸菜鱼

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Sauerkraut Fish is a popular Shanghainese style fish soup made of black carp and pickled Chinese mustard. Miss Zhouyu’s rendition is not the first time I have had this soup. But it is by far the best.

Sauerkraut and fish are not on my list of favorite foods but when expertly cooked, produces a soup so flavorful that instantly makes it one of the best things I have ever eaten. So delicious that I ate at Miss Zhouyu’s twice during my Shanghai trip. If it wasn’t for the fact that Shanghai has too many food options, I would have gone back a 3rd time.

The only downside to Miss Zhouyu’s Sauerkraut Fish is that there is no English menu. You need to go with someone who at the very minimum speaks Mandarin, but preferably someone who can read Chinese as well. Click here to read the reviews on dianping.com in Chinese. My personal rating is 9.5/10 for taste, 7/10 for environment, and 9/10 for service. It is also very reasonably priced. A meal for four is around $50USD.

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The Intercontinental Shanghai Rujin, Xin Yuan Lou Restaurant Review

 

The occasion was G’s cousin’s son’s 10 year old’s birthday party. G’s cousin booked a private room with 40 people 10 people per table, mostly adults with 4 kids including the birthday boy. And I thought that my NYC friends hiring clowns and tickle me Elmo was fancy for a kid’s birthday party.

馨源楼 is the hotel’s signature restaurant attached to the main building. Their decor is truly outstanding managing to impress even jaded ole me. Food wise, it was all over the place. Out of the 21 dishes, 2 were jaw dropping amazing, 3 were truly terrible, with the rest somewhere in the middle. But this was a very memorable meal mostly due to the environment hence the long post.

The Intercontinental Rujin is a meticulously restored mansion surrounded by gardens and located in one of the best neighborhoods in Shanghai. It is a beautiful understated hotel, one I have often walked by many times, as it is only a 20 minute walk from my grandparent’s apartment in Shanghai. A 20 minute walk in Shanghai translates to completely different neighborhoods.

Greeted by a giant Christmas Tree. Is it crazy that I saw more Christmas Trees in Shanghai than NYC?!

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Shanghai Skyline

Ah…Shanghai, the city of my birth. The city where I spent the first 7 years of my life and then visited many times over the years with the longest period being 3 months.

My last visit was in 2011 when G and I were deciding between relocating to Hong Kong or Shanghai. We choose Hong Kong.

No regrets, however if I were to make the same choice today it would be Shanghai.

Shanghai has grown by leaps and bounds within the past couple of years. In 2011, it was still up and coming. In 2014, it has arrived big time.

Night view from The VUE Bar @ Hyatt Shanghai

Architecture: Shanghai Tower is the most beautiful skyscraper I have seen to date, in pictures or in person.

Up close and personal with Shanghai Tower, the 2nd tallest building in the World at 2,073'. Will open in 2015.

Transportation System: Overall, very efficient whether it is airplanes, trains, buses, or taxi’s. Especially the trains. High speed rail is the way to go. So smooth that you don’t even realize that it is moving. And very clean too with no smoking allowed!

Hongqiao train station. Clean and very well maintained with plenty of fast food choices and a few restaurants.

Food: Shanghai has surpassed Hong Kong. Hong Kong has some of the best tasting food in the world but Shanghai has much more variety. Despite walking a minimum of 4 miles a day and my daily yoga I ended up gaining 7 pounds!!! I have never gained 7 pounds before on any trip not even all you can eat cruises!!! The number of restaurants is astounding, and even more so the variety. And need I say tasty? I did not even have one bad meal during the entire 3 weeks I ate out in Shanghai. And I ate out 3 times a day, sometimes even 4 or 5. Of course I did lots and lots research mostly going through all the pictures on dianping.com*** and combing through the reviews. Towards the last day of my trip, I was scared to give this chicken and pork tripe soup a try lest it destroy my record.

***Dianping.com is China’s answer to Yelp. I highly prefer Dianping to Yelp. The only negative is that you would need to read Chinese and in order to fully see the amazingness that is dianping.com. If you have a China bank issued credit card, you will have access to many instant coupons and be able to make real time reservations on Dianping.

123 three food related stores, mostly restaurants or fast food in a very ordinary mall about 10 minutes walking from my grandmother's apartment. The Basement is like a maze. Lest you think this mall is special. There are at least 20 malls like this in city center Shanghai. The sheer number of food outlets available in Shanghai is insane.

People: I haven’t gotten shoved one time this trip as opposed to 2011. But I also made sure to avoid rush hour. It also helped that my visit was during the off-season.

Safety: Shanghai has always been safe. Much more so than NYC. However, Shanghai has gone the extra mile of posting a police or special squad on nearly every block in city center.

Restrooms: Free and clean available all over the city. If you don’t find it clean enough, just ask the guard manning the station to clean it before you use it. Way to go Shanghai!

Overall: I am very proud of how the city of my birth has transformed itself into a world class city while retaining many historical elements. And thankfully city center Shanghai has already completely the majority of its construction projects so dust and pollution have gone way down.

Lantau Island Hike to The Big Buddha HK

Hiking to the Big Buddha was something G and I always wanted ever since our first visit to the Big Buddha by cable car in 2011. But I did not want to do it with just the two of us so in 2013 we talked Mike and Tom (who were visiting us for the week in Hong Kong) into the hike by promising that we would all get a massage afterwards at The Four Seasons.

I knew the hike would not be easy but I had no idea how tough it was to hike in the hot and humid weather under the midday sun. The toughest part was finding the start of the path to the Big Buddha after we exited the Tung Chung MTR. I found directions off of this website, but unfortunately the swamp she described was filled to make way for a hospital so we got extremely lost. I thought we were never going to find it because nobody we came across knew how to hike to the Big Buddha. But G was determined and pushed to go forward. After 2 and 1/2 hours of wandering around Tung Chung we finally found the start of the hike.

I think this was one hour in of getting lost. We wound up in a small fishing village where we could see the cable cars in the distance. It reminded me of villages in China.

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We tried a different path and wound up in the middle of nowhere…

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Circled around again and passed a housing estate which was on the way to some temple that was part of a heritage trail. We figured at worst we could hike the heritage trail so we followed that path.

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And somehow we found this green bridge which lead to the start of hike as described by RunLily. I was worn out at this point already, we had been walking around in the hot humid weather for the past 2 and 1/2 hours with a 15lb backpack. I had no idea if I was going to make it up the first hill because I knew it was a straight climb up and not a winding path. Note where the cable car station is, that was the first peak we needed to climb followed by 5 more. Much of the trail to the Big Buddha is directly under the cable car path.

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Climbing the first hill seemed endless. There was no railing and the path was steep. I was wondering how could I possibly finish this path when there are 6 more after this one? It did not help that the path was not shaded and the sun was quite strong as was the air pollution. I think it took us 40 minutes to get to the top of this hill with numerous stops in between.

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But the view was almost worth it if I wasn’t so terrified of falling off the mountain.

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Going down the first peak. The wooden stairs were shaky and not good for those with a fear of heights like Tom and I. We were so high up that I kept my eyes away from the cliff side. I was very discouraged at this point but did not want to back out because it was scarier to go back than it was to continue.

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I think this is was somewhere around the second peak. The sun was getting to me and I remember I had to lay down for at least 10 minutes before I could proceed. Mike was doing push ups because he wanted to keep his heart rate up. He was kind enough to carry my backpack for the reminder of the hike. This is also where Tom got the inspiration to solider on because Mike was doing push ups while Tom was exhausted. Currently Tom is in amazing shape and bikes all around New York and does bouldering.

Without the extra 15lbs on my back, I was able to continue. It also helped that the trail got easier. Like life, if one works harder in the beginning then it will be smoother passage later.

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The Big Buddha is within sight! Only a couple of more hills to go.

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We were all pretty tired but excited to be finally eating lunch at 2pm after starting the hike at 8am in the morning! A vegetarian fest at the Po Lin monastery hit the spot. It is nice to go back to a place where the food never changes. I first ate at the Po Lin monastery in 1999, and it is still the same fare today.

I am not a Buddhist but I do respect all religions. I know that there must be some greater power out there, but not sure what. As I grow older, I realize how important it is to do the right thing, help others, and give back to society.

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Gand I gazing at the path that took us 3 and 1/2 hours to complete.

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Cooling down with a shaved ice at Food Republic inside the Citygate Outlets at Tung Chun. Afterwards we headed to the Four Seasons where we indulged in a 90 minute massage. The massage did wonders for all of us as none of us was sore the next day.

Overall: The hike was amazing! I highly recommend it for those that are in decent shape in cooler weather. I would do this again for sure!

Till next time.

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Afternoon Tea at The Four Seasons Hong Kong

If you are after a high quality afternoon tea experience during your trip to Hong Kong, The Four Seasons would be your best. The Peninsula is too touristy, The Clipper Lounge needs a makeover, and the rest is not worth the money. It is my favorite place for afternoon tea in Hong Kong. The decor is modern but cozy despite the high ceilings and you have a fantastic view. Additionally tables are placed far apart so that you never had to hear your neighbor’s conversation (unlike The Peninsula and The Clipper Lounge). There is also live piano music playing throughout most of the afternoon. I loved it when the pianist plays Disney songs, but that depends on your luck as we were stuck listening to songs I did not recognize at all another time.

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Another bonus is that The Four Seasons accepts reservations for their afternoon tea, so you would not be stuck waiting for an hour like The Peninsula. Additionally their dress code is completely casual to the extent of shorts and flip-flops which I like but others hate.

Food wise, they serve the best scones in Hong Kong hands down. I was amazed that most of the people ate the sweets first, sandwiches second, and the scones last! How could a scone taste good cold? It must be eaten first when it is piping hot with the clotted cream and jam all melting into one delicious bite. The clotted cream and the homemade jam is also top-notch. The tea set below is for 1 person. For two, just double the quantity. Pictures of the tea set I took for two is uploading sideways so this one will have to suffice.

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Needless to say that the service at the Four Seasons is superb, easily the best of the bunch as well.

Overall: All the dining establishments inside the Four Seasons are great with the exception of Inagiku, which I won’t review since this blog is meant to document the good times.

The Lounge is located on the lobby level of The Hong Kong Four Seasons at 8 Finance Street and is attached to the IFC Mall. Tel: 3196 8820

Tai Ping Koon 太平館餐廳

Tai Ping Koon from the outside looks like one of those Western Style Dining Places from the Old Shanghai gangster movies. As in their doors and windows are fully covered by white gauze, and have that dark wood and brass thing going. Eating at the restaurant is stepping back to 1930’s Shanghai.

The name does not sound like much nor does my picture look like much, but it was scrumptious. Perfectly seasoned and without MSG, or at least I could not detect any. Swiss Style chicken is pretty much a fancy name for soy sauce chicken in my book. But these were the best that I have tasted. During the 14 months I lived in Hong Kong. I have gone back repeatedly for this.

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Another favorite of mine is the Swiss Styled beef chow fun, which is similar to the wet style beef chow fun. It was super delicious as well. You would think that in Hong Kong every restaurant makes good beef chow  fun. You would be wrong. Beef is expensive in Hong Kong, so usually only the good restaurants or only at certain price ranges would you get good quality beef.

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The Tai Ping Koon I frequented is the central outlet as it is a 15 minute walk from my apartment. Have not been to the other branches though I know there is one in Causeway Bay and TST.

Tai Ping Koon is also famous for soufflés as big as your head, but it is not impressive in my book because there are tons of restaurants in NYC and Hong Kong that make a kick ass soufflé.

Address: 60 Stanley Street Central, 2899-2780 Reservations are recommended.

HK Tycoon’s Canteen aka Fook Lam Moon 福臨門

Fook Lam Moon is a world-wide high end Chinese chain serving top rated Cantonese Cuisine. But the only branch I have been to is their flagship eatery in Wanchai as purported to be the best tasting. I have visited there twice during our 14 month of living in Hong Kong and I am sad that I didn’t visit it more often. But really there are just so many delicious restaurants in Hong Kong.

The food here is exquisite and quite possibly the best Cantonese Restaurant I have ever been too. It is no wonder that it is a favorite with the rainmakers in the Hong Kong, it’s nicknamed the Tycoon’s Canteen because during lunchtime there are scores of Rolls Royces and Bentleys parked in the front along with drivers and bodyguards all dressed in black.

Fook Lam Moon Hong Kong

I rate Fook Lam Moon so highly because they only use the freshest ingredients and combine that with their expertise in traditional Cantonese cooking, it is hard to have a unsatisfactory meal here. Besides they make the best roast suckling pig in the world period. There is none of that porky smell that is associated with either unfresh or cooked poorly. A masterpiece that is Cantonese BBQ. Note that the pig must be preordered.

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The East Star Garoupa was delicious. Easily the best fish I have ever tasted. It was expertly steamed and seasoned with the fish being firm yet tender with the indescribable sweet taste of top quality fish. I ordered this dish because my dad always wanted to try the East Star Garoupa. At around $180USD for this fish, this is pricy to say the least. But it was worth it to order it at Fook Lam Moon because this fish would cost around $150USD at other seafood restaurants around town because it is a highly prized fish. I would order this again. 10/10 for taste.

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Fook Lam Moon’s signature mochi with with red bean filling is simple yet exquisite. A must order to round out your meal. 10/10 for taste.

Overall: If I could only have one meal during a stopover in Hong Kong, it probably would be Fook Lam Moon. It is that good. And though it is on the expensive side it is worth its price tag.

Interesting thing of note: There were various opened wine and alcohol bottles with names tags on them stored in plain view of the diners at the restaurant. I recognized some of the names to be the head honchos of finance and real estate of the business elite that often dine here. Prices here can be sky high as there certain things like abalone that costs $2500 USD per person!