jeudi, juin 23, 2011

100 Century Avenue @ Shanghai World Financial Centre (SWFC)


The SWFC or Shanghai World Financial Centre 上海环球金融中心 is currently Shanghai's tallest building though they are already in the process of building another that will be even taller. Standing at 492m above ground with 101 floors, it is a state of the art "vertical garden" housing the world's tallest observatory, shops, restaurants, offices and the 5-star Park Hyatt Hotel. It is also known locally as the "bottle opener building" as its tip looks just like one.

In the lift

You could pay more than a hundred rmb to stand on the 101st floor and see Shanghai from up there; or you could pay double and have a light lunch on the 91st. The Park Hyatt has a restaurant named 100 Century Avenue and they are currently having a weekday lunch promotion offering set lunches from between 91 and 150 rmb excluding drinks and taxes.

Mum, dad and the Teenager aka Green Brigade

We've eaten there on a weekend last winter and discovered that (1) the food there was so-so, (2) do not visit when it is cloudy for obvious reasons, and (3) the toilets were cool.

Many hotels have this backside washing device which is really cool

However, when the sun is out, the Park Hyatt runs a F&B promotion and you need to bring guests up there to have a great view of Shanghai - this is the place to have lunch in.

The Bar

Up there are the 92nd and 93rd floors containing private dining areas

It is hard to believe that until 1990 the whole area that is now known as Liujiazui used to be just farmland. Now it is a leading international financial centre with skyscrapers all over containing the most modern banks and other financial institutions, shopping malls and hotels. The kids just received their school report books and the first thing they said when they got home this afternoon was, "Could we get our presents from the Super Brand Mall?"

Dining area and open kitchen @ 100 Century Avenue

I've asked for a window table and we ordered 4 different set lunches : dim sum (101 rmb), Hainan chicken rice (101 rmb), grilled salmon (120 rmb) and sushi (130 rmb). They then charge you 65 rmb for tea and 50 rmb for a coke, for example, plus a final 15% tax. A simple dessert is included in the set lunch.

3 of the set lunches

The food was quite good and the portions sufficient - but for the price (especially of the normal menu) there was nothing to get excited about the restaurant. It is just pretty worth it if you want to go there for the view.

Another option would be afternoon tea on the 87th floor. The Park Hyatt has another restaurant and they serve pretty cakes and a selection of teas and coffee from 2:30 to 5 if I am not mistaken. There is however a minimum 150rmb per person spend rule to respect.

Ground is really far below

From the top of the SWFC you can also see the Oriental Pearl TV Tower and they too have an observatory with a museum visit included in the ticket. Could be another option especially if you prefer to have a view of the SWFC instead.

Jin Mao and Oriental Pearl

From the SWFC you can also see the Bund and all the lovely buildings from another era lining the bank of the river.

You can see Mr and Mrs Bund

I must admit that while I do not suffer from vertigo, I am nervous about tall buildings nowadays with all the earthquakes and what not happening all over the world lately. Am quite happy to hang around my 2-story wooden house with feet planted on the ground - and the sea a few hours away too.

Home-cooked Fare 家常便饭

Chinese Sausage Omelette (cooked scrambled egg-style)

Mum said she was sick of eating in restaurants - even if they were 5-star. She was craving for simple fare, stuff that she usually cooks for herself, stuff that her late father used to cook her, stuff that she would buy from the economical rice stalls back home. In other words, 家常便饭 or home-cooked food.

So while I served Hub's guest a heavy Thai dinner last night, I cooked the rest of the family the most basic of meals a few hours earlier : Ginger Pork, Chinese Sausage Omelette and Fried Potatoes in Dark Soy Sauce - all served with steaming hot rice porridge. And they enjoyed it like I had cooked them a gourmet meal with the most expensive of ingredients - not.

Fried Potatoes in Dark Soy Sauce

Fried Potatoes in Dark Soy Sauce :

3 large potatoes (half-moon shape, sliced thinly)
half an onion (sliced)
2 garlic cloves (chopped)
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
60ml water
2 tsp corn starch
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a frying pan.

Fry onions and garlic till fragrant.

Add the potatoes spreading them evenly over the pan.

Using a spatula turn them over from time to time. Cover with a lid if you have one to let them cook in their own steam.

Drizzle the dark soy sauce over the potatoes. Stir to mix well.

When the potatoes are cooked (shouldn't be too soft - al dente is preferred), add the corn starch solution. Turn off the heat and make sure the potatoes are coated evenly in the thickened sauce.

Serve hot with rice or rice porridge.

Being Photographed By Wang Gang Feng in the Streets of Puxi

Family Shot in Puxi

The family arrived on the 11th and I had the chance to book 2 sessions with China's first freelance photographer Wang Gangfeng for the next morning which I promptly seized. He has probably photographed most of the expat families in Shanghai, but I figured that this would be a good way to introduce old Shanghai to the family and at the same time mark the rare occasion when almost everyone was together for once (my sister and her family were missing though).

3 Kids on a Trishaw

What I knew from looking through some of the other commercial photos Wang had taken was that the shoot would take place in the old streets of Shanghai. Though our RdV was at the luxurious Four Seasons Hotel in Puxi. He has hired a young man to walk us from the hotel lobby to the shooting location. And yes, it was weird discovering a small compound filled with dirty old houses and narrow alleys in a neighbourhood known for its skyscrapers and expensive hotels.

Nice balconies

I was actually quite excited to be visiting one of Shanghai's old lanes since Pudong where I am is pretty modernised and clean. At the rate they are pulling down old areas, I suspect that those old houses would soon be a thing of the past - such a pity.

Talking and knitting in the streets

Breakfast, anyone?

Mum told me that she wondered why I've arranged to have our photos taken in such an old and dirty place - but when she saw the photos later on she exclaimed that we were like film actors on location shooting...

Waiting for the family before to finish

Stars of the morning leaving location shoot

Wang Gangfeng runs the Gang of One Photography Studio and claimed to be China's first freelance photographer, first Chinese fashion photographer to have worked with Elle, an award-winning photographer known for his candid shots of life in China...

Drinks, anyone?

I was perplexed as to why he would offer expats expensive private sessions with him, but could only imagine that it's only normal for anyone to want to bank on their notoriety when they can. It could always be for a more noble end e.g. finance his trips to continue documenting life in China or set up learning funds for local students - something I would do if I had his talent and the chance to use it and be known for it.

Lifesize cutout of the photographer in front of his boutique

Photo of Tibetan sisters

We had lunch on the 91st floor of the Shanghai World Financial Centre a week later and came across his boutique selling photographs and postcards (of his work). I must admit that they were lovely, human, touching shots and made me want to decorate my walls with a number of them - both in colour and in black and white. One that I particularly liked was that of a pair of Tibetan sisters who went with their family to pray for a week each year at the big temple in Lhasa.

Want a smoke?

I took a few shots of our location that dark and rainy morning so as to remember the day by. A few grandmas were knitting and gossiping in the streets, breakfast was being sold at the entrance to the compound, a hair salon was drying its towels out in the alley...

Fancy a cheap haircut?

Fried Thai Prawn Cakes (Tod Mun Goong) with Sweet Chilli Dip

Thai Prawn Cakes with Sweet Chilli Dip

We have been eating fried prawn cakes at the Thai restaurant in our compound that cost a good 10 euros for 4 pieces which considering that we are in China seemed a lot of money. Hub had a guest over for dinner last night and wanted me to cook a Thai meal. I thought hard about what to make for the aperitif and finally decided to try making a few Fried Thai Prawn Cakes with Sweet Chilli Dip.

I bought 500g of good-quality frozen prawns for 50rmb. That yielded 10 prawn cakes. Moral of the story : prawn cakes are expensive to make.

I have been extremely busy as 6 members of my family came over to Shanghai 2 weeks ago. Only my parents are still staying with me now, but we have to prepare for our short trip to Jiangmen in a few days and there are still many odds and ends to tie up before we leave. The weather had also been extremely bad, it rained almost every day since they were here.

We now have a bathroom that has had its floor ripped up to be water-proofed and a toilet is waiting for a new paint job once they have part of the roof repaired. Not funny when you had 11 people under your roof and needed all the bathrooms you could come up with.

Thai Prawn Cakes :

500g raw prawns
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp sugar
juice of half a lime
white of 1 small egg
1 tbsp corn starch
panko breadcrumbs
oil for deep frying

Sweet Chilli Dip :

2 tbsp water
2 tbsp fish sauce
50ml white rice vinegar
100g sugar
2 garlic cloves
1 large fresh red chilli

Peel and devein the prawns. Add salt, pepper, fish sauce, sugar, lime juice, egg white and corn starch and mix into a rough paste using an electric mixer. Chill in the fridge for at least an hour.

Pound the garlic and chilli till you get a rough paste, add it to the water, fish sauce, sugar and vinegar in a small pot and simmer/stir till you get a syrupy sauce. Set aside to cool.

Heat up enough oil for deep frying in a frying pan. Fill a shallow dish with panko breadcrumbs. Scoop up a tablespoonful of the prawn paste and drop it onto the breadcrumbs. Coat it thoroughly and shape it with your hands if necessary. Gently lower the prawn cake into the hot oil and fry till golden brown and crispy.

Serve hot with fresh cucumbers and the sweet chilli dip.

vendredi, juin 10, 2011

Spicy Prawn and Vermicelli Salad

Spicy Prawn and Vermicelli Salad

It is difficult planning a fully asian meal when Hub decides to serve some of his better wines. On occasions like these one has to go western or compromise on a fusion of east and west.

The last time we had guests (a mixed couple like us) over, I started with a Spicy Prawn and Vermicelli Salad and finished with a Duck Confit with potatoes cooked in duck fat. Until last night we've had really hot weather so the salad was a refreshing start to a rather heavy meal.

Confit de canard, pommes de terre sautées à la sarladaise

This dish is best prepared a little beforehand so that it could be served chilled. I made another one for my lunch with a few ladies 2 days later and this time it accompanied a curry as I only served water during the meal. We had a lovely sparkling Moscato Freisa wine before that though and I fear that I'll never find enough bottles for myself from now on since they would all be turning up at the same shop to stock up soon.

Spicy Prawn and Vermicelli Salad :

The vermicelli :

3 small bundles of dried mung bean vermicelli
half a lemongrass stalk (bashed)
boiling water

The prawns :

20 raw medium prawns (peeled and deveined)
3 garlic cloves
2 fresh red chillies
a small slice of ginger (julienned)
1 tbsp fish sauce
juice of one lime

The garnishing :

2 small cucumbers (sliced)
half a small red onion (finely sliced)
fresh mint, basil and coriander leaves (shredded)

The dressing :

2-3 garlic cloves (minced)
2 tbsp palm sugar (grated or in syrup)
1 bird's eye chilli (sliced)
3-4 tbsp fish sauce
juice of 1,5 lemons
2 kaffir lime leaves (cut thinly)
bit of lemongrass (bashed)

Fill a salad bowl with just enough hot water to cover the mung bean vermicelli. Salt the water and infuse the lemongrass in it. Soak the vermicelli till the water is absorbed. Let it cool and then leave to chill in the fridge.

Pound the garlic and chilli till you get a rough paste. Marinate the prawns for an hour with the garlic paste, ginger, fish sauce and lime juice.

Heat a bit of canola oil in a frying pan. Fry the prawns till cooked. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Prepare the dressing by mixing all the ingredients together. Leave to chill in the fridge for at least an hour. Remove the lemongrass and lime leaves before using it.

When ready to serve, assemble the chilled vermicelli in a big salad bowl. Cover with the cucumber and red onions, followed by the fresh mint and basil leaves. Pour the dressing over it.

Finally add the cooked prawns and garnish with the fresh coriander.

My family arrives from Singapore tomorrow for a visit. Will be busy but would be taking the opportunity to do a spot of sightseeing.

Junk Furniture

Today's spoils

As you know I have been furniture hunting since my arrival in Shanghai. People who have been living here for years (Shanghainese included) told me that they've never been to half of the stores I've been to.

Old cupboard - rotten here and there, no longer straight in the middle

The doors of the cupboard

The day before I had guests for lunch and they insisted that I bring them to a few of my furniture stores when they saw the stuff in my house. One of the shops sold junk (or "curio" as they called it) and it was this one that I visited this morning with my neighbour C.

Old table probably had its legs sawed off to become a coffee table

She was really excited when she saw the junk shop and said that she would have to return another day with her hub. The shop is dangerous, dark and dirty - but it fulfils most of a treasure hunter's fantasies. You just want to dig, dig and dig when you are there - and hope to find something for a decent price.

See why I call this a junk shop?

Prices are reasonable, but they are increasing at an alarming rate (e.g. I calculated around 20-50% each month) as more expats turn up through word of mouth to buy from them. You cannot really negotiate as the owner knows that most people who go there are looking for a bargain and he probably suspects that we like old used stuff.

I always ended up buying something each time I was there. This morning it rained cats and dogs and the place was darker than ever - but it only made the whole shopping experience more exciting. I picked out a bale of leftover blue cloth, a small wooden box with kama sutra-like paintings inside, a kungfu bench, tiny wooden stools, a pair of embroidered slippers, an old wooden tray, a used bird cage...

There was bird shit in the cage when I bought it and I freaked out, asking them to clean it up for me. The bench was rotten at parts and had a very quick wax job as we waited at the front of the shop, listening to loud music and the sound of paper coming off the presses in the shop next door. I do not know what I will do with the cloth yet (yesterday I bought almost the same thing in Puxi and had it made into a table cloth) and I have already changed my mind about giving away the tiny stools to friends with kids - I found them quite useful for putting shoes on at my own entrance. Besides I am fond of squatting occasionally and the stool makes the act more comfortable.

Small wooden wedding box

I could have bought similar stuff new - but somehow prefer it when they have been broken into, when they are even a little rotten. I am still looking for a rectangular tea table, a small low table (for my flower pot), vases, flower pots etc. But will take my time as there must surely be more interesting finds elsewhere in Shanghai and I do not want to end up finding something nice and not having the space for it.

mercredi, juin 08, 2011

Duck Confit and Porcini Risotto

Duck Confit and Cepe Risotto

We served our last few duck confit when we had the Ms over for lunch and there were 2 legs left over which were just begging to be served with a risotto. Actually I got the idea from a restaurant here in Shanghai which had a duck confit risotto on its menu though I have never tried it.

I also have a last jar of porcini (cèpe) preserved in oil left so I thought that it would make a lovely Duck Confit and Porcini Risotto for dinner. I didn't plan on sharing it with the children (they had home-made hamburgers), but they took a look at the dish and decided that they wanted to have some too. Hub thought that it was a great idea (he was hesitant about it at first). Now I'll have to stock up on duck confit the next time we return to France. And I am still trying to find fresh porcini here in Shanghai.

Duck Confit and Cepe Risotto :

2 duck confit legs
1 small red onion (diced)
2 garlic cloves (diced)
duck fat
fresh rosemary
arborio rice for 2
a few porcini mushrooms (cubed)
a dash of sweet white wine
750ml hot chicken stock (boiled also with duck bones)
salt and pepper to taste
fresh parsley
grated parmesan cheese

Cook the duck confit legs in their own fat in a hot frying pan till the skin is crispy. Shred the meat and set aside. Reserve the bones for the stock.

Prepare a small pot of chicken stock. Add the duck bones for more flavour.

Heat up more duck fat in the frying pan and fry the onions, garlic and rosemary till fragrant. Add the arborio rice and coat the grains thoroughly with the fat.

Stir in the porcini mushrooms and the wine. Lower the fire and pour some stock into the pan. Let the rice absorb the stock and keep adding more stock until the rice is almost cooked. This will take about 10-15 minutes. Do not cover.

Add the shredded duck confit to the rice and give it a gentle stir. Rice should be al dente and there should still be liquid in the pan. If you allow the liquid to be totally absorbed before you turn off the heat rice will be overcooked and risotto too dry.

Serve hot with salt, pepper, parsley and parmesan cheese. And a good red wine.