Monday, July 19, 2010

Shanghai 2010 - Qibao

I know, this is a little late, but I've been putting off the posts from my trip to China all the way back in April, and I figured I may as well put them up now (at least before school starts and I get too busy). I'm probably going to cut down a lot on because I think with all the pictures I took, it would take forever for me to finish. Or maybe I'll just keep updating...very very slowly.

Anyway, one of the biggest highlights of my stay in Shanghai was our visit to Qibao, a small village on the outskirts of the main city. The place is known best for its nuomi, or glutinous rice products...which are all sinfully delicious and equally sinfully fattening.It's a bittersweet relationship.

We started off with lunch at the main restaurant. The highlight of the meal was a gargantuan bowl of fish head soup, swimming amongst tiny hairy crabs and other types of seafood. The soup was alright, not particularly outstanding, but that's okay - the sight of the giant fish face peeping out sadly over the rim of the soup tureen was memorable enough.

The village itself is very quaint. I think because it's such a big tourist attraction, the government makes a big effort in maintaining the "Old China" atmosphere of the place. Unfortunately, they couldn't stop that ever-present "survival of the fittest" culture of China that you get when you fight your way through millions of other angry Chinese people trying to get somewhere and get there fast (I always thought Shanghai was just a Chinese version of New York).

So after dinner, we wandered around the alleys looking at the endless supplies of hawker foods being sold around us.

Like I said, the people there are really into sticky rice, so there were a lot of mochi-like cakes.I actually didn't even know half of the flavors I saw, but the green ones are supposed to be mung bean (I think). Black ones are probably sesame, and some of the plain white ones actually are filled with red bean paste.  I found cakes filled with nuts, berries, dried fruits - you name it. In addition, they also sold nian gao, or rice cakes, freshly made and still soft! I have to admit, next to bread, rice cakes are seriously my guiltiest pleasure of all. Like I said, I am a carb fiend.

Some additional snacks we found along the way:

Honestly, there's just way too much to post, but on a final note, I'll have to conclude with our epic yuanzi (or stuffed mochi balls) tasting tour.

Yuanzi are actually a traditional Shanghai delicacy (any Shanghainese person will swear by it, and woe be to anyone who disagrees in his/her face). Qibao, known for its mochi products, is very very famous for them, so there's quite literally a 24/7 line (well, I don't know about night...but it's a pretty crazy line). Mom had to wait forever to get to the front (I took a picture)...and let's just say that when you get to the front, it's like being in a mosh pit at a rock concert. Then again, anyone knows that you don't get in the way of a Chinese person and his food.

Anyway, I couldn't get a good shot, but the two main flavors being sold are the plain savory ones (white) with shepherd's purse (personally my favorite) and the sweet green ones with red bean paste filling. I think the skin is green because they mix some kind of vegetable puree into the dough before steaming them.

Afterward, we got dessert in the form of tangyuan, or boiled mochi, at a shop renown for them. Tangyuan is probably what comes to mind of most Chinese people when they hear about Chinese style mochi. They're absolutely delicious, but very very fattening.

All in all, it was an awesome day...a definite treat for a food junkie like me. I'll be sure to visit again the next time I'm in the vicinity.

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