A Taste of China: Shanghai Eats

by spiceaholic on December 1, 2010

So you’ve seen the Shanghai sights, now it’s time to see the eats!

I’ll start off with an example of the type of meal we were served on Air China during our trip.  We were either served lunch/dinner type foods or breakfast.  This is one of the dinner options:

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Look, it’s like a bento!!  Steamed veggies, rice, and some beefy-thing.  The other option was chicken and veggies.

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For breakfast we had the option of a Western-style breakfast or a Chinese-style breakfast.  I asked what the Chinese-style was and it was congee, some kind of preserved egg, and something else that didn’t look good to me.  I got the Western-style breakfast which was an omelet, veggies, some albino-looking sausage, hashbrowns, fruit, and a croissant.  I’d usually eat all but the veggies and the sausage.  No pics, sadly.

We got fed every time we got on a plane in China!  Even if it was a 90 minute flight. Definitely spoiled us.

Now for the first meal we had in China!

The first stop we made in Shanghai was for lunch.  All lunches that were part of the tour were at what I think were designated “tourist-safe” places.  We’d all sit at big tables with lazy susans in the middle and the servers would plonk down dishes and we would serve ourselves.

Excuse the weird lighting, my white-setting got messed up.  And I was bad and didn’t write down what each dish was — not enough time!

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Some kind of chicken and onion dish.

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I think this was a stir-fried omelet in a tomato sauce.  It was really good.

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Chicken and celery.

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Yes, this is what you think it is! Nobody ate it, we all just took pictures of it.

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Fish is always served whole in China. I don’t like my dinner looking back at me, but that’s just me.

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Dumplings! One of my favorites while we were in China.  You will see many more of these.

After the first meal, I stopped taking pics of each dish and just took pics of what I served myself.  I don’t think everyone cared that I had a food blog and I didn’t want to hold up everyone while I angled for good shots.

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How much for that crabby in the window?  🙂

Our first night in Shanghai, we were feeling adventurous and wanted to explore a bit.  I knew from my vast nerd-ical research that Shanghai has some good dumplings and steamed buns and there were a couple places I wanted to try.  Too bad I didn’t have the addresses for them or the names written in Chinese.  The front desk tried to help me out, but I don’t think they’d heard of them, so I asked them to recommend a good place for dumplings.  It turned out to be near the Yuyuan Gardens, where we’d spent a good chunk of the afternoon.  Armed with a business card that had the name of the restaurant written in Chinese on one side and the name of the hotel and its address also written in Chinese on the other side, we hailed a cab.  Now keep in mind, the only Chinese I knew how to say was ni hao (hello) and xie xie (thank you).  Despite only possessing the vocabulary of a 2-year old, we managed to get around by ourselves in China quite well.  There was a lot of pointing and xie xie-ing involved.

The cab driver dropped us off at an intersection in front of the market place near the gardens.  We had no clue how to get to the restaurant from there, so we decided we’d just walk around.  We didn’t even know the name of the restaurant in English, we just knew we were looking for a dumpling restaurant.

We found what looked like a dumpling restaurant.

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After some pointing and gesturing we ended up with 2 not-dumplings. These were more like 2 huge steamed buns filled with a meat mixture.

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Even though they weren’t what I was looking for, these were pretty good. What I had in mind are called xiaolongbao, which I first had in Chinatown in New York City. They were called “soup dumplings” in English, because inside the dumpling was meat in broth, which is confusing because they’re actually a type of steamed bun. But I’m going to refer to them as dumplings. So there. From what I’ve read, broth is “jellified” and added to meat to make the filling and when the dumpling is steamed, the heat melts the broth and makes it liquidy. They’re a lot of fun to eat and I was on a mission to find them.

After we ate our not-dumplings, we walked around the marketplace a bit more. And then we saw people walking around with take-out containers of small dumplings and a long line. We knew we’d found the restaurant. We immediately got in line to wait and as we stood there, the dumplings would sell out and everyone would wait while they made another batch. This happened twice before we were finally able to get our dumplings. Sooo worth the wait.

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After our dumpling adventure we made it back to the hotel to rest up for the next day.

Ohh, but we’re not done with all the Shanghai eats yet!  That was only the first day!

Our second day in Shanghai started out early, since we were going on the excursion to Suzhou.  Breakfast was included every day during our tour and we always ate at the hotel.  And what breakfasts they were!  These were full on buffets — you had Western-style foods such as cereal, pastries, bread, eggs, etc. and then there were Chinese foods which changed every day.  Since our internal clocks were still 13 hours behind, breakfast time coincided with dinner time back home, so I ate big breakfasts.

Kinda like this:

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Noodles, fried rice, steamed buns, steamed veggies, bacon. Then an egg. And possibly seconds on the noodles. I went a little crazy the first few days because it was so new and different. And so much to choose from.

Lunch in Suzhou:

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A fried shrimp fritter and some steamed fish.

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Some nasty tasting beef.

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This tasted a bit like pineapple chicken.

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Rice! We ate lots and lots of rice on this trip.

That night after we got back was when we did the sightseeing tunnel ride.  After walking around, it was getting late and we were getting hungry.  We had wanted to go back to the dumpling place, but it had closed by then so we were trying to figure out where we could eat.  We decided to walk around and see what we could find.  By this time I was really hungry and my feet were killing me, so we ducked into the first restaurant we found and took our chances.

Sometimes you get lucky, and sometimes you don’t.   Dinner was . . . interesting.  This was our first experience dining in a restaurant by ourselves in China.  When we were with the group, there was a predetermined menu.  We were on our own here. The menus had English descriptions, but reading some of the dishes made me feel a little anxious.  I admit to not being too adventurous.  We found a few items that looked familiar and ordered.

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This was beef with peppers or green beans. I didn’t like it, there was something about it that tasted off.

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Some random soup they brought us, which we didn’t order. We thought we’d accidentally pointed to it instead of rice, but then they brought the rice in, so I don’t know what happened. I think it was some kind of tofu noodles.

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A spicy chicken dish. I liked this the best out of what we ordered, but it was hard to eat since all the pieces contained bones.

So, not the best meal we had, but they can’t all be winners.

The next day was our last day in Shanghai and it was the day we had the big sightseeing tour of Shanghai.

Breakfast time!

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Fried rice, bacon, some sinfully good mashed potatoes, and an unpictured egg.

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Cantaloupe, oranges, and lychees.

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Somebody is full!

After hitting up the Jade Buddha Temple, we were set loose in the Shanghai museum. After we looked at a few of the exhibits, we visited the tea house on the second floor for a little break.

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We stopped for lunch soon after that.

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Chicken, cabbage, fried rice, a spring roll, beef, and some seaweed (I think.)

And I’m afraid I didn’t get pictures of dinner before the acrobatic show.  The place was packed and waiters were jostling us as they walked by, so I didn’t want to risk dropping my camera.

The next morning we left for Xi’an, but not before I ate a hearty breakfast!  I apparently didn’t get a picture of it, but it was similar to what I ate the other two days.

So that’s it for what we ate in Shanghai!

Next up is what we saw in Xi’an!

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Lawyer Loves Lunch December 2, 2010 at 2:02 am

LOVE this post! I’m so glad you take a picture of airplane meals too 🙂 And I’m kinda comforted to know some of the dishes look familiar. I can’t be hungry for an entire vacation!

Aiman Masud December 3, 2010 at 12:15 am

Those steamed buns look yummy! Yes all that walking and sight seeing needs hearty meal.

Biz January 29, 2011 at 6:47 pm

Wow, so many great pictures of food!!

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