Shanghai Is Still In China (And Singapore Airlines Is A Great Way To Fly)

On a work trip to Shanghai last Friday, I sat in my cab and marvelled at the gleaming towers, giant billboards and the frenetic pace of the people in the business districts of the giant city.

Then my cab driver asked me something which I assumed to be permission for him to excuse himself because he needed to find a toilet urgently. I also assumed that he had spotted a public lavatory somewhere close to the junction where he had stopped the taxi.

That public toilet turned out to be a bush on the edge of a small park next to the road.

There have been other rude reminders that I was in China, but this one still shocked me enough for me to fumble and drop my phone while I tried to sneak a photo.

On foot later, there was the usual array of people spitting on the sidewalk before crossing the road, people not fearing for their lives by riding a motorcycle while holding an umbrella and people not caring about other people’s health by smoking in a taxi queue and at the top of the subways’ escalators. I stood in the rain just to avoid smokers blowing smoke at me.

Maybe it’s because I go there without my family, but I’m always glad to leave Shanghai for home, and can’t wait to get on the plane. At the airport, the feeling becomes stronger because no matter how modern the terminal looks, the ground staff are unsystematic – causing chaotic queues at boarding (Krisflyer Gold one line, PPS, first, business and Star Alliance Gold, one line, so it ends up with Economy passengers having the shortest line).

Hossan and I both agree that there’s nothing like coming home, and it begins when you board a Singapore Airlines plane. I don’t care if the stewardess asks if I’d like the “G-ken with Podaydo” after she announces that the “sit beowt sigh has bin tendorf”. The service is fantastic and I think, in the last couple of years, even improved to the extent that I’d say it’s the first airline I’d consider flying anywhere, as soon as I figure out what’s wrong with their website.

Eating tour of Shanghai in pictures

We left Shanghai with a lighter heart and heavier tummy, and this is why:

This beer cost 10 RMB. That's S$2. Basement of Times Square, Shanghai

You are not allowed to eat the menu

We didn't know that Ye Shanghai wasn't the same as Old Ye Shanghai, and we paid for it

French coffee in the French Concession

An inviting vegetarian cafe in the same district

Candied hawthorn fruit sold on the street, which we were later warned against, cos they're not hygienically prepared. Oops.

In case you didn't know how to drink Chocolate - at Whisk!

The best Peking Duck in Shanghai - Xindalu

Lillian's slogan borrowed from Carlsberg: Probably The Best Egg Tart In Shanghai

Franck's was a most delightful bistro on a most delightful street

Putting Naomi in a candy store is like putting Naomi in a candy store.

Best dumpling in the world. About to be eaten.

They mixed the sweet and savoury dumplings in the same bowl. Which was weird.

Best Taiwanese food in Shanghai is here, apparently

We were a little horrified at the lack of pedicure. Our Shanghainese relatives didn't share our concern.

Bound to be eaten - Shanghainese Hairy Crab

We found the cafe chain Wagas to be surprisingly good.

No, it wasn't a baby turkey. We asked.

Possibly the best meat dumplings in the world

At Hong Kong New World Plaza, they served freshly made beancurd (douhua) in a tub like this. And we emptied it like this.

These were the most delicious black sesame filled pumpkin dumplings we ever tasted

Naomi's late brother loved this Xinjiang kebab vendor's fare. So did we.

The skewered meats/vegetables were infused with the flavors that only some inedible fuel could create

Waxy corn

On our eating tour of Shanghai, we came upon a shop on Huaihai Lu that sold steamed corn on the cob. Perfect for nomming while walking back to our serviced apartment.

A couple of bites into one, I started asking Naomi’s mum how they managed to put sweet glutinous rice into every kernel of corn – because, you know, this is China, and they can damn well do anything they like these days.

So apparently it wasn’t a GM corn cob we were nomming on, but a naturally occurring variant of corn found in China, The Philippines, and Burma.

(No pictures. Hands were tied eating).

Franckly beats any French fare in Singapore

This is turning into an eating tour of Shanghai.

It’s been a couple of hours since Naomi and I returned to our serviced apartment from dinner at Franck.

It was no ordinary dinner. It was OMG THIS IS SO GOOD WE COULD LIVE HERE AND EAT HERE, IF NOT EVERY DAY, THEN AT LEAST ONCE A WEEK.

We entered the premises cautiously, having read some unflattering reviews about Franck’s brusque, French service.

Maybe things change very quickly in Shanghai, cos we were looked after very well by the attentive staff who even took the trouble of interpreting the completely French menu which was wheeled from table to table.

All this after we thought we couldn’t possibly eat any more, cos on Saturday, we booked ourselves a table at La Creperie and had the best crepes outside Breton, even though mine looked as if a seagull had puked all over a doormat.

And I can’t believe the hot chocolate we had at Whisk. It coats your spoon. It coats your tongue. It coats everything!

And even though they refuse to serve you water, their chocolate would make Max Brenner grow hair.

P.S. Blogging from an iPhone isn’t easy.

Best egg tart in the world

The last time we were in Shanghai, we had the good fortune of being stuck in a jam on the corner of Huaihai Zhong Lu and Maoming Lu.

Our friend Han Tong was in the taxi with us. And when we asked him why the heck people were queuing outside a hole in the wall, he told us it was because Lillian Cake Shop was one of the most famous confectioneries in Shanghai.

So yesterday afternoon, we happened to walk along the same street corner, and decided to see what it was about.

The girl behind the counter simply asked, “how many?”

And so we bought four of the best egg tarts on the planet. Still steaming hot, the soft custard had a crust worthy of it being called a Chinese creme brûlée, held together by the most buttery, flaky pastry.

OMG, we’re so gonna try to buy some to bring home lor.