Monday, August 31, 2015

Tiny McDonald's in Shanghai

I decide one morning to take the ferry across the Huangpu River in Shanghai (2 RMB, roughly 31 cents US) and walk around the Pudong area. 

 Ferry across the Huangpu River

As I sat on the concrete wall facing the river talking on the phone, a crowd of giggling teenage girls came up the esplanade.  One of them sat next to me and another took her picture.  The picture-taker then gave me a big thumbs up.  I imagine that picture is now on someone’s social media site, “Sitting with Foreigner”.

Walking further up the esplanade, I spot what has to be one of the smallest McDonald’s around.

Tiny McDonalds's

I can’t imagine that more that one employee fits in the store.  But people are lining up, especially for ice cream.  Not a bad idea.

But, work calls and it’s time to take the ferry back across and head off to my meetings.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Sea Bass Three Ways

JP Seafood, our local fishmonger, usually has pacific white sea bass in the counter, a fish that is firm and flavorful.  But every now and then Joey brings in a real treat, Chilean sea bass, which is more expensive, but worth it with a buttery, melt-in-your-mouth flavor.  We seem to prepare something with the pacific sea bass every week or two, but switch to the Chilean when available.

Joey and I trade stories as I tell him about eating fish off white bread in Shenzhen, he tells me that he’s thinking of getting a Chilean sea bass and I should come back in a few days.  However, I end up at Berkeley Bowl to get duck legs and what do I see in the next counter?  Chilean sea bass.  I have to have it!

I have three go-to recipes for sea bass:  Mustard Roasted, Roasted with Fennel, Blood Orange, and Olives, and Foil-Baked with Spinach.  Any of them will work for either type of sea bass, or other white fish that I can generally find locally, such as snapper or halibut, which are both more lean than the sea bass, but work well with these recipes.

Mustard roasted is a favorite way to prepare the fish.  Combining creme fraiche, Dijon and whole-grain mustard, capers, and minced shallots, I make a thick sauce with which I completely cover the fish.  The thick fillets I usually get then take about 25-30 minutes to bake under this sauce and come out moist and tender.  Then, after putting the fillets on warm plates, I add a scoop of the sauce.

Tin foil provides another way to seal up and steam the sea bass.  I place each sea bass fillet on a mound of baby spinach in the center of a piece of tin foil, then sprinkle the fish with minced shallot and small pieces of butter.  As I close the tin foil, I add a little white wine on top of the fillet.  Once again, the large fillets bake for 25-30 minutes, then the tin foil packets are drained, the spinach and fish are plated, and the juices are drizzled on top.

I like to accompany these fish with new potatoes, boiled with garlic, black peppercorns and a bay leaf, then halved and stirred with butter, salt, and pepper.

For a more complete dish, roasted sea bass with fennel, blood oranges (not in season now, so I use regular oranges), and olives offer a lot of complementary tastes.  Thin-sliced fennel is cooked with garlic in olive oil, then mixed with wine, pieces of orange peel and orange juice.  The sea bass is then added to the pan, surrounded by slices of the blood (or regular) orange, olives, and bay leaves.  Roasted in the oven for the same 25-30 minutes, the fish is served with the fennel, oranges, and olives and drizzled with the sauce.  This dish pares well with some white rice.

I go with mustard roasted.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Shenzhen Garden Signs

Walking around Shenzhen, I come across great signs in the gardens and landscaping along the paths.  Here's a few of my favorites.  Some of the Chinglish (English with Chinese vocabulary or sentence structure/construction) requires a little thought, but does ultimately make sense.

But, now, enough of Shenzhen.  My meetings are over and its time to go home and plan the next sojourn.

Friday, August 21, 2015

A Few Sights in Shenzhen

Shenzhen is located in Guangdong Province, in the Pearl River Delta bordering Hong Kong.  I can get back and forth from the Hong Kong International Airport by shuttle, subway (Metro), or ferry.  However, when I fly down from Shanghai, it's much easier to fly into the Shenzhen Airport and take the Metro into town.  Just as in Shanghai, the 1-1/2 hour Metro ride from the airport to my hotel costs 7 RMB ($1.10 with the newly devalued RMB).

Shenzhen has a tropical climate and is currently hot and humid, around 90ºF (32ºC) with 90% humidity.  My friends in Shanghai told me it would be cooler in Shenzhen than Shanghai, but I don't think so.  There's a reason that bougainvillea, hibiscus, and colocasia (elephant ear) grow so well here.

Colocasia growing along the sidewalk

And, the sidewalks have natural shade.

 Tree-shaded sidewalks and bike paths

The Ping An Financial Center in Shenzhen is still under construction, but when it is completed, it will be the second highest building in China (after the Shanghai Tower).

View of downtown and the new Ping An Financial Center

A few months ago, The Daily Mail interviewed Wang Hua, an operator of the crane on top of the Ping An building since 2009, and he told them that he has the best job - he has to walk up hundreds of steps to get to work, but the view is incredible, when it isn't in the clouds.

In the 1970s, Shenzhen was a sleepy little fishing village of a few thousand people.  Then, in 1980, Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping waved his magic wand and made Shenzhen a Special Economic Zone.  Now it has 15 million people and is a hotbed of industry.

There is a great statue of Deng Xiaoping at the top of Lianhuasha Park, with a view platform facing downtown Shenzhen and the Shenzhen City Hall.  

Deng Xiaoping statue in Lianhuasha Park

 City Hall from the view platform in front of the Deng Xiaoping statue

City Hall view from the plaza

Lianhuasha Park covers about 80,000 square meters and has some good hikes up and down, to and from the statue and over other hills to the far side of the park.

Steps up a hill in Lianhuasha Park

As a relatively new metropolitan area, Shenzhen is very modern.  Sometimes I think that I could be in any modern city in the world and it would look like this.  However, Shenzhen also, as a new city, took the opportunity to set aside land as green space and has over 800 parks scattered throughout the city.  As I walk around in the morning, I observe people on in the parks, waking, hiking, exercising, flying kites, or just hanging out.  I enjoy walking around Shenzhen and just watching the activity around me.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Random Sculptures on the Streets of Shanghai

In addition to formal sculpture gardens such as the Jing'an Sculpture Park and the sculpture and gardens on main streets, in particular, Nanjing Road, there are little treasures scattered all around Shanghai that I just stumble across as I walk through the city.  Here are a few examples.

 Outside the Marriott Shanghai City Centre on Xizang Road

 Two sculptures at Kaiqiao Green Land Park near the Yan'an Road Metro Station

 Playful scene on Hengfeng Road near the Shanghai Railway Station

 Small park on Changshou Road

 Creative use of modern sculpture at another small park on Changshou Road

One of the sculptures in Changshou Park

Monday, August 17, 2015

Lunch in Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Halfway In-Between

When I’m on my own for lunch in China, I typically duck into a Family Mart to pick up a sandwich.  There seems to be a Family Mart on every corner and everyone stops in for something:  sandwiches, salads, dumplings, soft drinks, green tea, beer, …

Going with the fancy sandwich at Family Mart, I spend 6.9 RMB ($1.11) on lunch. 

If I was feeling more hungry, there are steamed bun stands and shops everywhere and they are popular!  People stop on their way to work and take one with them or line up at lunch time.

Traveling between cities, I'm reintroduced to a long-lost friend - the free airline meal.  Here's lunch served by Shenzhen Airlines on a  2 hour flight between Shanghai and Shenzhen, chicken with rice.  Or, perhaps I should say, rice with some chicken (it is, after all, still an airline meal).

But, when I’m meeting with with friends or business partners, we have a more substantial lunch.  Lunch for four in Shanghai this time features duck.  I told Fisher last time that I liked duck and he tracked down a Beijing  restaurant.  We also had soup, dumplings, beef, fish and probably a few other dishes I can't remember.

Fisher acknowledges that he always overorders and does take some back to the office afterwards.  But, as another friend in Shanghai, Wilson, explains, it is considered incredibly rude to not order enough food.  When Wilson was courting his wife, he would have dinner with her uncles and order for the table.  He had to make sure that there was more than enough food for everyone and that there was a good, complementary variety of dishes if he wanted to get their approval.

A few days later, lunch for five in Shenzhen once again focuses on Beijing duck.

The duck is carved in the room with us.  First, slices of skin are eaten, dipped in sugar.  Then tender portions of duck meat are dipped in bean sauce and rolled up in steamed pancakes with onions and cucumber sticks.  While we're eating this, two more dishes from the duck arrive.  The remaining meat is chopped up and served on a plate, while everything else (bones, meat, fat) is made into a broth.  Wow!

And, since Shenzhen is on the Pearl River Delta, there is also great fish.  The large bowl in the middle contains strips of a white fish cooked in oil, with lots of spicy peppers.  When the dish is served, the hot peppers are skimmed off the top and the fish in hot oil is set on the table.  We each have a plate of white bread that is not eaten - the fish is scooped out and put on the white bread to drain and soak up the oil.  I then pick up the fish off the white bread with my chopsticks and eat it.  I'd never seen this before and had to have it explained to me (the look on my face as they gave me a plate of white bread gave it away!).

The waiter tells us that the son of the owner has opened a competing restaurant several blocks away and they have a friendly rivalry.  We'll have to try the son's place next time.

Dinner in Shenzhen demonstrates the basic difference between lunch and dinner:  liquor!

Particularly potent is the Chinese white wine, Baiju.  The Chinese have been making baiju for over 5000 years, and Gary brought a bottle that his friend had made at home.  We opened it after the beer ran out and, after the first few glasses, it went down smoothly and quickly.  The only problem was that the next day, the ferry to Hong Kong Airport kept rocking in the waves.  Baiju is recommended for dry land.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Jing’an Sculpture Park in Shanghai

I love this park!  It was closed for over a year while they rebuilt it, with the new Museum of Natural History in the middle.  Now it’s reopened and I wander through every time I’m in town.   

The Jing'an Sculpture Park is located on Beijing Road West, between Shimen Road No. 2 and Chengdu Road North, a 15-20 minute walk from People's Square and just down Beijing Road from the Shanghai Marriott City Centre where I stay. 

When I used to stay by the Shanghai Railway Station a few years ago, I would walk past the park almost every day after crossing the Wusong River as I headed toward Nanjing Road, People's Square, and/or the Bund.  After a few trips past, curiosity got the best of me and I went in.  Now, I go visit every time I'm in town.

Here are some of the great views.

Park entrance at the corner of Beijing Road and Shimen Road No. 2

 New Shanghai Natural History Museum in the middle of the park

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Sculptures and Gardens on Nanjing Road, Shanghai

Nanjing Road is the main shopping street in Shanghai, packed with world-famous high-end shops.  But, in addition to the shops, the street and neighborhoods have great sculptures and small gardens, randomly scattered along the way.  Walking from People’s Square to the Jing’an Temple at the corner of Nanjing Road and Changchu Road takes about 45 minutes, at 6:30 in the morning, before the crowds come out and pack the street (and before I have to head off to meetings).  And, the crowds do come out on Nanjing Road!

Here are some of the sights I come across in my morning walk, random discoveries as along the way.  This is why I walk through cities!