Saturday, August 27, 2011

48 Hours in Shanghai - Part I

So, my brother spent a couple months with us in Beijing this summer, and it made for some crazy times and TONS of nonstop eating. We have lots of pictures and adventures to share, including some from an epic midnight showing of Harry Potter, but as it's taken me weeks to get to posting this one about Shanghai (and it's just part one of three), we'll have to save the HP7.2 for another time.

Against our better judgment, J, me, the little bro and our friend BChew (the noodle master) bought tickets for the bullet train to Shanghai amidst a string of high speed rail issues and typhoon warnings. Brilliant, huh?

Luckily, we arrived at the train station and got on with no problems. Our train ran smoothly, I threw back some Kangshifu ramen noodles (my train ride tradition :P) and we were there in no time. Oh yeah, and Bchew was also kind enough to lend me his iPod so I could begin my task of rereading all the Harry Potter books in an uninterrupted row. That might have helped pass the time, seeing as how I was just a few pages shy of finishing the book by the time we pulled in to Shanghai's Hongqiao station.

The next morning, after a nice sleep-in and padding about in pajamas, we were ready to leave the house, but our decisions were legion: xiaolongbao (XLB), shengjianbao (SJB) or both, and in what order/combination?

After Jenny Gao (China foodblogger and J's Twitter buddy) gave us some recommendations, we decided to head to one convenient location that had a good XLB place (Jia Jia Tangbao) right across the street from the city's most highly recommended SJB locale (Xiao Yang Shengjian).

By the time we got to Jia Jia Tangbao, it was already close to 3pm, so they were (of course) sold out of their basic XLB. "Guess that leaves us with the hairy crab roe rendition then!" These were tasty, but most of us admitted we were more excited about the SJB across the street. Also, not to reveal our lowbrow tastes, but J and I for one (for two?) actually prefer the non-crabby version of XLB, so spending thrice the amount for a product we actually enjoy less doesn't really tickle our pickle so to speak. So, off we went.

The thing about SJB is you really gotta time it right. When those suckers are fresh, they are quite possibly the world's most perfect food (meat, dough, crunch: your basic food groups in one handy bite). The hawker lifts the cap off the giant pot, steam billows out and you spy a honeycomb arrangement of perfect little white buns that are soon scattered with sesame seeds and diced scallion. Gah!

We ordered 16 of the little guys to start with, and trudged upstairs with our plates. After dreaming about good shengjianbao ever since the last time we were in Shanghai with Flo and Preston (2.5 years ago), biting into one was like that 6th grade make-out session after being apart from your prepubescent boyfriend due to summer science camp: hot and messy (not that I would ever know, I never had a bf in 6th grade...). The other thing about SJB is managing to get through the meal without burning your tongue. I failed. Definitely worth the pain, though.

J and the bro were done after theirs, but Bchew and I went for one more order of 4. By the time we stumbled out of that shop, I was pretty sure my blood had been replaced by the fragrant pork juice that burst out of each bun. As you can imagine, this slowed my (already slow-ish) movements a great deal. I probably could've used a walker right then.

Just thinking about that meal has made me lethargic again, so we will continue our Shanghai exploits - including a Pixar exhibit, food, and... more food - in coming posts. Stay tuned!