Welcome to my tales of cookery school, food and travel

The first 30+ posts of this blog describe my experiences as I complete a nine month cooking course - the City and Guilds Diploma in Food Preparation and Culinary Art. I did this after I moved out of full time employment and it was purely selfish - I love food, cooking, eating and drinking. Subsequent posts are about, food, travel and adventures.

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Monday, 4 March 2019

Smiling in Shanghai

As you know, good food makes me happy - making it, eating it, sharing it.  And I'm an omnivore with a willingness to try most things, though I draw the line at anything animal that's still alive, like monkey brains or goldfish.

I've just been in Shanghai for a week of eating and faced a challenge or two but am here to tell the story.

It's lunchtime after a big morning at the Shanghai Museum so I've wandered down South Yunnan Street, a street famous for its restaurants and food.  Boldly I point to what someone else is eating, pay $6.00 and wait. I know it’s got soup and noodles and I’m thinking beef and veggies. Here’s hoping!  

I have no idea what I just ate. Fantastic soup, great noodles, a bit of bok choy, all good. Some small bits of what I’m pretty sure was chicken, and something I tried hard to convince myself was some sort of exotic mushroom. But I know in my heart of hearts, not to mention my gag reflex, that it was something animal that I wouldn’t usually eat. It remains a mystery. 

Before leaving home I book a couple of foodie experiences - a breakfast walking tour and a dumpling making class. I want to know how to get the soup into a soup dumpling.

how do they get that dang soup in there?
 It turns out it's not soup when it goes in. My dumpling making master, Cici, shows how its done.  The short story is you simmer pig skin in stock for a couple of hours to create a gelatinised mixture. This is then strained, cooled and it sets. You mix it through your dumpling filling and when you cook the dumpling the  stock melts and hey presto! soup in a dumpling. 
Cici ready to teach me

Pork gelatine/soup

I am marvellously successful when working with Cici. We make both mushroom and pork xaiolongbao (soup dumplings) and I manage to produce some traditionally shaped, not-too-ugly results.  Sadly, when I try this at home it doesn't work out so well.

ok, ok I know you can tell mine are in the front steamer
Cici also shows me how to make the traditional leaf shaped dumplings from her village  
Clearly the mis-shapen beasts on the right are the ones I folded
The Street Eats Breakfast tour is a real winner.  Six of us meet our guide at a park in the French Concession area of Shanghai. I get there early and watch the tai chi, dancing, exercise groups and general gatherings that always seem to happen in Asian parks in the mornings.

Our guide meets us at 9.00am and we are off to be introduced to the delights of various Shanghai breakfast foods. First stop Xiang Cai Ren Breakfast Pop-Up where we crowd into a tiny restaurant with 6 tables and are introduced to the poetically named Four Warriors of Shanghai breakfast food: soy milk, savoury soy soup with spring onions - aka scallions, pickled vegetables and sesame oil (and chilli if you want); fried dough (kind of like  Spanish churros) deliciously crisp on the outside and light and soft on the inside; glutinous rice balls stuffed with a bit of fried dough, boiled egg, pork floss, pickled vegetables; and sesame pastry.  

Dipping the dough into the savoury soup was delicious!  You wouldn't typically eat ALL of these things for breakfast and as we have lots more to come we try to restrain ourselves.
Soy milk, chinese fried dough and savoury soy soup
Next stop is another pop up breakfast spot making jianbing, an amazing dish starting with a dough spread out thinly on a crepe style flat plate, an egg broken and spread over it, a sprinkling of pickled vegetables and spring onions. she then folds it in half, spreads on some bean paste and chilli paste then, the stroke of genius: crisp fried wonton skins and laid on it and it's all folded like and envelope, cut in half and like everything else takeaway in china, put in a plastic bag and you eat.

our jiangbing cook
 (Here's a short video I took - hope it plays)

Our guide tells us this woman hires this space from 5.00am to 10.00am then packs up and goes home and someone else will take over the spot for a pop up lunch time session. 

Next on the street we sample steamed buns (bao), fried dumplings and soups, then at the Imperial Noodle House we have hand pulled noodles with scallion oil, and bamboo tofu with peppers.
steamed bao - how many can you eat?

pan fried dumplings - yum

bamboo tofu with green peppers
By now we are groaning and our bellies are straining, but wait - there's more! The Jin'an Bakery serves Sweetheart Cakes which I have no trouble refusing - heavy pastry wasn't going to sit well at this point. 

By this time it was 12.30 so that's some long breakfast.  I didn't eat for the rest of the day. true story.
this is the pork noodle soup I made at home after the sad failure of my dumpling dough - kind of a deconstructed dumpling - it was delicious.

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