jeudi, juin 21, 2012

Shanghai on the Move

View from the Bund : early 1990s vs today

Shanghai, as you can imagine, is a city constantly on the move. Skyscrapers are now where only farmland used to exist, a street lined with food stalls now contains malls full of restaurants and each time my driver loses his way he would blame it on the fact that "once again the roads have changed". He grew up in Puxi and used to drive a cab in the city, but often looks upset when I tell him to drive us to the old town. I don't blame him, the jams tend to be quite bad the minute you leave Pudong.

Prices too are changing all time, moving upwards at quite a frightening speed. At my junk furniture store, the same wooden stool I paid 150 rmb for in May 2011 now goes for 250. The person who introduced me to the shop paid 100 rmb in 2010. Every bowl of noodle I had this year turned up smaller than last year's in the same shops. I turned up at shops and restaurants now and then only to find that they have closed down. I promised myself not to stock up on anything anymore when we left Italy but I'm starting to have second thoughts now.

I personally do not know where they are going with this though one thing for sure it looks like Shanghai is set to look like another big city like so many others elsewhere in the world. With no real skills or productivity to match, but already becoming more expensive. Filled with spoilt and rude individuals who came out of one-child families. Or young girls on the lookout for the easy way out.

Recently I keep having these thoughts : physically they look Chinese and they occupy Chinese land, but culturally they have lost it a long time ago. Most of the people I've met know even less of Chinese culture than I do and their only religion seems to be money. Even Buddhist temples charge entry fees (and they are not cheap), seriously what happened to being a "place of worship"?

Many people (not just politicians or businessmen, also doctors, policemen, teachers etc) are as corrupt as the feudal lords from their glorious past and anything can trigger a mob reaction in these parts simply because they form such a mass. The thought of having to bribe kindergarten teachers so that they would keep an eye on your child (e.g. not let him stew in his soiled diapers), doctors so that they would give you a bed, surgeons so that they would stitch you up properly, policemen so that they wouldn't give you trouble etc staggers. One foreign guy messed up a local girl in Beijing and now they are cracking down on foreigners in the major cities, you wonder sometimes how safe you are and how well-protected your rights.

Yet Shanghai is the place to be in now. There is much going on, you still get to see the changes and enjoy them, and it's not getting better elsewhere anyway. Hub was saying that we should retire to Singapore in the future. I find that quite disturbing because if you look at how things are back home now, soon there will only be Mainland Chinese people or imported Indian technicians on the island and Singapore is so tiny I do not see how we're going to be able to live with them in such numbers. When I left Singapore in 1995 the population was 2.6 million. Now it's 5.2 million, how can a country's population double in such a short time? I'd rather be a foreigner in a foreign country than be a foreigner in my own.

June 2011

I started out only wanting to show you this before and after photo. I have no idea how that got me off to blabbing about the above. I brought PL and J to Tianzifang a few weeks ago when they visited Shanghai. And discovered that one of the dark dankly places that used to be lived in has since turned into a(nother) clean and new shop!

May 2012

I guess from the outside these houses look quaint and interesting, but the people who live in them must not find them very comfortable. They are not going to continue living in them so that we tourists could take nice exotic photos to blog about or paste on Facebook, and like I'm doing now, wax about how sad it is that all the old places are being destroyed to make way for cold identical modern pads. But I said it anyway.

Tiramisu (Eggless Version)

6 years ago I blogged about making a simple Tiramisu. Looking back at the post, I realised that I got to know the amazing Edith of Precious Moments around that time making our friendship in and out of the blogosphere more than half a decade long! Time does fly, doesn't it?

Over the years, I have been making Tiramisu on and off - and often differently from the last time. I guess that as a person grows older, the food she prepares changes too. I do not make Tiramisu for my solo consumption, so as the kids' tastes and demands evolve, I try to take them into consideration (Hub would say, "What about me?" but like I like to say, "Too bad I'm not your mother!"); myself I have decided that I prefer Grand Marnier to all the traditional Italian liqueurs so Grand Marnier is the alcohol de préférence in my Tiramisu nowadays.

You will have some difficulty finding Tiramisu in restaurants during the warmer months in Italy - because it's more dangerous to consume raw eggs during this period. I have taken to omitting eggs when making Tiramisu (after we started living in Italy) so that it becomes a year-round consumable. The yolks would give it a richer taste and a slightly golden hue and the beaten whites would add some lightness to the cream - but overall I do not think they really change the taste and what is really important is the quality of the main ingredients.

When I have guests I would serve the dessert in individual glasses allowing all to enjoy the view of the different layers. Making Tiramisu just for ourselves, we prefer to have it in a large recipient so that everyone gets large portions - my kids could have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

It was funny though to see Baby Boy go, "I really love Tiramisu - but not as much as I love my mother!" (He would then whisper loudly to his sister, "Because mum is the one who made it...") Their friends dropped by to play in the afternoon and I politely offered them a slice - and the Babies dropped whatever they were doing so that they could make sure that I didn't serve their friends too-generous portions of the dessert.

A good quality mascarpone, as I've discovered, keeps for a long time. Mine was a year past its expiry date (left to wallow at the back of the fridge) and when checked yesterday, turned out to be as good as ever. I swiftly dug out a packet of sponge fingers, turned on the Nespresso machine and whipped out a Tiramisu.

Meanwhile I know that I've been away for a long time. Friends and family came to visit in succession so I have been busy. They left last Saturday taking with them the Teenager, so I finally get to breathe a little now and can return to a few of my usual occupations.

Tiramisu (2012 version) :

26-28 sponge fingers
3-4 expresso cups of strong coffee
2 tbsp grand marnier
2 tsp sugar

500g mascarpone (preferably italian-made)
200ml whipping cream
2 sachets vanilla sugar
2 tbsp soft sugar
1-2 tbsp grand marnier

cocoa powder (sifted)

Prepare the strong coffee (I only use expresso nowadays), add in the sugar and Grand Marnier. Pour into a soup plate.

In a large bowl whip the mascarpone with the vanilla and soft sugars and add in the cold whipping cream. Continue to whip till creamy. Pour in the alcohol and whip some more.

Dip the sponge fingers (usually sugared already) very briefly on both sides in the coffee and line the dish with half of them. It is very important not to let the sponge fingers become soggy or the Tiramisu will taste horrible.

Cover the first layer of sponge fingers with the cream and sift a layer of cocoa powder over it. Spread another layer of sponge fingers on top and cover with the cream. Finish with more cocoa powder over it. Cover with cling wrap and refrigerate for a few hours before serving. Easy peasy.