jeudi, avril 12, 2012

Red Trilogy - Portrait of Zhang Yimou made of Bamboo Sticks and Socks

This is even more beautiful than the last 2 - and I really like Zhang Yimou. More my generation than Jay Chou or Yao Ming (what to do, old already!). I've actually disserted on one of Zhang's beautiful, powerful but boring work as part of a cinematography minor when I was studying in Paris.

Red's ingenious, fancy having come out with such an amazing (and beautiful) idea.

I repeat myself, but this girl will go far. And she's so pretty, isn't she?

jeudi, avril 05, 2012

Restaurant Jean Georges, Shanghai

Jean Georges Shanghai

This wasn't our first meal at Jean Georges though it was the first time we ate there in the day and managed to take a few photos in natural light. Because the restaurant is pretty chic with wooden panelling, dim lights (even dimmer in the toilets), leather seats...which while creating ambiance wasn't conducive to food photography.

We still think the cuisine is finer, plus travaillée at Jean Georges' than at Mr and Mrs Bund - though the latter remains our favourite restaurant in Shanghai to date thanks to its generous portions and good service. If I haven't mentioned it before, MM Bund's lobster steamed in a glass jar is something one has to try at least once when one is dining in Shanghai.

View of Liujiazui from our table at the Bund

Last week Hub worked through the weekend and had 3 days off (Wednesday was Tomb Sweeping Day in China) at the beginning of this week. Took the opportunity to lunch out most days as many good restaurants do prix fixe menus for lunch that would allow us to try different dishes without ruining our pockets (or our supposed diet). It's also nice to eat out on a nice sunny day - after weeks of continuous rain and grey weather. Our Champagne brunch at Jade on 36 last Sunday was too much though - I drank so much (we estimated we probably drank at least a whole bottle each of champagne and red wine between us) I broke my favourite mug when I reached home and couldn't sleep all night.

Foie gras brulé, candied pistachios - excellent and light

Sea scallops with caramelised cauliflower

The Chinese staff at Jean Georges needs to be better trained according to us. They seemed a little clumsy, lacking in elegance, savoir faire and rigour. I do not know if you have observed professional French waiters at work, but you'll understand then that serving truly requires technique and a certain finesse.

Baked salmon with black truffle crust

Caramelised tenderloin, potato confit with lemon

We took different dishes in the lunch menu and shared a second main dish - because Hub wanted to try their cheeseburger with Russian dressing and crispy onions. He said that since JG had a restaurant in the USA, he must be good at making burgers.

JG Cheeseburger, Russian dressing, crispy onions

The food didn't disappoint and the dessert was quite fine - a great way to end the meal with. We drank half a bottle of Chilean red wine which turned out to be quite good, though the cost of the sparkling water (98 rmb!!!) nearly freaked us out. Bill came up to 1000 rmb for the 2 of us, which I guess was normal for lunch. A similar meal for dinner would normally cost double.

Raspberry sorbet, mousse and meringue

Strawberry-Calamansi tart, lemongrass sorbet

Jean Georges Shanghai
3 on the Bund
Tel : 021 6321 7733

Cabbage with Bacon Stir Fry

Cabbage and Bacon Stir Fry

There are days when you want to eat simply. I do not need another medical checkup to tell me that my liver's getting too rich and oily. Not that cooking the humble cabbage with bacon is not rich nor oily, but it's a simple dish to prepare and if you often keep a head of cabbage in the fridge like I do (because it keeps well for a long time), it can be whipped up in a jiffy.

I have been busy trying to reorganise the house now that we have lived a year in it. Spring being round the corner also contributed to the desire to tidy up and age probably also had something to do with it. A quick poll among my secondary school mates revealed that quite a number of the ladies have become quite into packing and repacking in recent months/years (some age faster than others haha) though once you reach my MIL's age I'm sure said desire will go out of the window again.

So I've been to Ikea a few times and came back with new shelves for the Babies (that I'd have spent an afternoon or 2 assembling the modern woman being the new man), I've also bought new transparent plastic boxes (they were quite expensive, sigh) and repacked the garage. Need to return to Ikea next week to buy more boxes so that I can also reorganise the closets. Plastic is a good investment because if you had burst pipes or a leaking roof, you'd appreciate not having your clothes in paper boxes (speaking from experience, of course).

Now I need to find the energy to repaint the wooden garden furniture for spring. And finish my new mosaic projects. But sighting sunlight really helps to keep me moving, winter just doesn't agree with me.

I had rice porridge left over from dinner and felt that it would go really well with some Cabbage and Bacon Stir Fry. No time to cook elaborate meals lately though that would have to change with the coming of spring and a new season of entertaining.

Cabbage and Bacon Stir Fry :

small head cabbage (tender parts chopped into large pieces)
3 slices good-quality bacon (sliced)
2 garlic cloves (finely sliced)
a few dried chillies
sugar, salt and pepper to taste

Boil a pot of water and blanch the cabbage for 3 minutes. This would help make the cabbage less bitter but do not over cook or it'll lose its crunchiness. Remove and set aside.

Heat up a fry pan and fry the bacon pieces till the fat is rendered. Cook the garlic and dried chillies in the fat till fragrant.

Season to taste and add the blanched cabbage to the frying pan. Stir fry for a few minutes and serve hot.

Yuxiang Kitchen, Shanghai (渝乡人家)

Yuxiang Kitchen Himalayas branch

Fei was supposed to join us since she was the one who recommended that we try this Sichuanese restaurant 渝乡人家 that just opened behind the Jumeirah Himalayas Hotel in Pudong, but she felt queasy and had to give it a miss. So Judy and I went with the Teenager who surprisingly didn't sulk for once and actually seemed to enjoy his meal.

I am getting used to eating Sichuanese, in fact I sometimes have cravings for the numbing heat and spice of the cuisine. The oil that the food tends to be steeped in is a bit off-putting, but once you start fishing the stuff out, you will forget that you even minded that in the first place. Like my driver said, it can be addictive, so much so that many locals in Shanghai are giving up their sweet cuisine for the fiery one of their Sichuanese comrades - according to him.

Yuxiang Kitchen is actually a chain with branches all over Shanghai. The restaurant in the J Hotel being new, the decor was refined and we had the privilege of eating off new plates and sitting on new chairs.

Forget this beef skewer dish : dry, tough, stringy, raw spice taste

The service was reasonably attentive (not many clients that day) though I wouldn't listen to their recommendations too much, the beef skewers our waitress mentioned we should try was dry and stringy, a mistake.

Bullfrog in chilli oil - yummy and very oily

Chicken in chilli oil - quite nice but could be meatier

But the rest of our orders turned out quite well, though improvements can still be made. I loved the bullfrog dish but the pieces of frog were weirdly chopped, not easy to consume. There was much more eggplant than fish in the fish and eggplant dish, maybe we should have gone for the spicy fried fish instead.

Fried pig's intestines - nice and crunchy on the outside but to be consumed quickly

Eggplant and fish - a bit of a rip off

Finally I actually enjoyed the cold noodles more than I expected to. It had a good mix of sesame oil, peanut paste, soy sauce, vinegar and chilli. Quite yummy, much better than the Ding Tai Fung version, actually.

Cold noodles - very nice

Yuxiang Kitchen Himalayas Pudong Branch
1188 Fangdian Lu
Tel : 021 6047 9797

mardi, avril 03, 2012

Chicken Dan Dan Noodles

Chicken Dan Dan Noodles

In my quest for a local substitute for imported tahini (which is very expensive here in Shanghai), I ended up buying a few jars of sesame paste some of which also contain peanut butter (and are therefore not suitable for making hoummous). Currently not in a figure condition to enjoy peanut/sesame butter sandwiches, I had to find some better use for said pastes and came up with a bowl of Chicken Dan Dan Noodles for lunch.

I had my first bowl of Dan Dan noodles at Ding Tai Fung last year and didn't like it. I felt that it was too peanut buttery. I've wanted to make my own version since then and was glad that I found a moment to do so a few days ago. Life has been hectic lately between meetings for Global Child Day (GCD), my mosaic and calligraphy hobbies, recent passion for picking up the piano again (too much stess?), housework, lunches with friends, cooking classes and preparing to receive friends and family to Shanghai starting from the end of May.

I've also been having quite a headache over Baby Girl and her lacking behind (according to all her teachers) in almost all of her subjects. We need to figure out if she's having problems learning, if she's slow and/or if she's lazy. How's that?

Dan dan noodles are also known as spicy Sichuan noodles. Though it has become such an important part of the Taiwanese snack culture that we probably think of Taiwan (or even American Chinese) first and Sichuan second when it comes to the dish outside China. My version was, I think, more Taiwanese than Sichuanese (if you go by the ones I've eaten in Sichuanese restaurants thus far).

I didn't have use of the driver that morning so I couldn't buy any fresh Shanghainese noodles (that I felt would go well with the sauce). I used fresh ramen meant for lanzhou lamian instead which worked out quite well actually. It was more springy and had a firmer bite compared to Shanghai noodles. I didn't use any spring onions because I do not like them much.

The result was a slightly sweet, salty, peanut buttery, acidic and fiery bowl of noodles.

Chicken Dan Dan Noodles :

peanut oil
1 large clove garlic (minced)
1 large slice fresh ginger (julienned)

1 tbsp sesame paste
1 tbsp dark soy sauce (or if you prefer it sweet use kecap manis instead)
1 tbsp chilli oil (I also used chilli padi)
1 tbsp black vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
125ml chicken stock

fresh wheat noodles for 1-2 persons

Garnishing :

1 tbsp roasted sichuan peppercorns
fried beancurd skin (sliced)
cucumber (sliced)
100g cooked chicken meat (shredded, normally minced pork is used)

Bring a pot of water to boil and cook the fresh noodles till they are al dente. Drain and set aside.

Combine all the sauce ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

Heat up the peanut oil and fry the ginger and garlic till fragrant. Stir in the sauce ingredients and simmer till well combined.

Pour the sauce over the noodles and garnish with shredded chicken, cucumber, bean curd skin, chopped spring onions and roasted Sichuan peppercorns. Mix well before tucking in.