Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Hidden Gem: Lanzhou La Mian (Shanghai)

I spent weeks researching for the best restaurants in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Since I was traveling thousands of miles across the world, I wanted to make sure that I didn’t waste any meal on some mediocre representation of Hong Kong/Shanghai cuisine. I spend countless nightlights Googling “Shanghai food,” “Soup Dumplings,” “Dim Sum,” “Won Ton”, “Egg Tarts,” etc, reading blog upon blog entries and writing countless emails asking for recommendation, in order to create the final list of must eat foods.

Although, the bags under my eyes were well worth the great meals I had eaten, but as it turned out, my favorite meal in Shanghai was not found on the Internet. Instead, I found this nameless Lanzhou
la mian (handmade noodles) restaurant in a quiet neighborhood near People Square and Nanjing Lu, with a storefront that most westerners will never step foot in unless dragged into by a local Shanghainese resident. This shop is not about ambiance. If the LA county health department inspected this restaurant, they would never give it a rating higher than a “C.” You will find great food at this restaurant, but risk staying up all night with the runs.

Throughout the trip, I passed by many similar street food vendors who could have served the most authentic and amazing food in Shanghai, but because of my western snobbery, I was too scared and missed out. Although, la mian is not a Shanghainese cuisine, but since it is a local favorite, I thank my expat Shanghai resident tour guide for taking me to eat amazing Lanzhou la mian.

We ordered two la mian dishes that was made right in front of us. The noodle maker started with a lump of dough. Then by stretching this dough, it became long, thin strands of tasty noodles. Amazing!
La Mian Making La Mian
La Mian Soup (tangmian) - Hand-made noodles served with a flavorful, spicy, clear beef broth.
La Mian Soup (Tang Mian) La Mian Stir-Fried (Chaomian)
La Mian Stir-Fried (chaomian) - This was my favorite dish. Soft yet chewy wider noodles served with a spicy, flavorful tomato based sauce with beef and seasoned vegetables. It was the best noodles I have eaten.

Dumplings – Pork dumplings. They were okay, but the star was definitely the la mian.
Pork Dumplings
Sometimes you don’t need to do research to find the best local cuisine. Just go where the locals are and it will find you.

Lanzhou lamian Restaurant

Thursday, January 14, 2010

2 Birds 1 Stone: Dong Bei Ren 东北人 (Shanghai)

After my mini dumpling crawl, we hailed a cab to the Bund for the Huangpu Riverboat Tour. The Bund is currently under construction, so traffic was a mess! We arrived at the Bund Pier at 1:45 pm when the cruise ship was ready to set sail. We threw 100 yuan a person to the ticket agent and rushed toward the boat. I didn’t even bother to negotiate with the ticket agent to lower the ticket price per person. I was most likely over charged because I read that most cruises cost ~45 yuan a person. At least we didn’t waste another hour waiting for the next cruise.

Oh well, the cruise was worth the cost. We were able to kill 2 birds with one stone by seeing both Shanghai’s past and future in this short 45 minute cruise on the Huangpu River. As the boat sailed up and down the Huangpu River, we were able to see the historical landmarks of the Bund on the western shore and the modern skyscrapers of China’s financial center in Pudong on the eastern shore.

After the cruise we spent the rest of the day walking through the Fresh Concession. We decided to kill more birds in one day by trying Northern Chinese cuisine for the first time at Dong Bei Ren.

Dong Bei Ren is a colorfully decorated restaurant with wooden structural beams and brown bamboo furniture, filled with loud, happy people eating and drinking. The warm, welcoming environment, along with the comforting Northern Chinese stews and braised dishes created the perfect location for dinner after a long day of touring the city.

We ordered:

Deep Fried Pork With Sweet and Sour Sauce - I don’tlike Sweet and Sour Pork in the states, but this was the best sweet and sour deep fried pork I have eaten. The pork is lightly fried. It was not too oily, but perfectly crispy. The sauce was sweet, but not too thick and ugly red like how you find in the states. It was perfect.
Deep Fired Pork With Sweet and Sour Sauce Assorted Sour Sauerkraut Pot
Assorted Sour Sauerkraut Pot - Pickled cabbaged soup with tofu, pork, vermicelli noodles. It was warm, a little sour. The soup was great over rice. It was perfect for the cold weather.

Stir Fried Three Vegetables - Eggplant, Onion and Green pepper, swimming in oil. It was okay, but too oily for my taste.
Stir Fried Three Vegetables Pan Cakes
Baked Corn Pancake - To me, this was a tasteless pancake.

Sweeten Bean Paste Baked Corn Pancake - I liked the bean pasted filling, but my American tongue wanted more sugar in the corn Pancake.

I enjoyed my first experience of northern cuisine. Because we were pressured for time, I needed to maximize my experience and diversify your meals by killing multiple birds with one stone.
Dong Bei Ren's Menu Interior of Dong Bei Ren
Dong Bei Ren - South Shaanxi Road Branch:
2F, No. 1, South Shaanxi Road, Luwan District (near Middle Yan'an Road)

Dong Bei Ren - Panyu Branch:
No. 46, Panyu Road, Changning District (the intersection with West Yan'an Road)


Dong Bei Ren - Shuicheng Branch:
2F, Rutai Hotel, No. 555, Shuicheng Road, Changning District (the intersection with Maotai Road)


Dong Bei Ren - Changshou Road Branch:
No. 360, Changshou Road, Putuo District (near Changde Road)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Exceptions: Yang’s Fry Dumpling 小杨生煎館 (Shanghai)

Yang's Fry Dumplings
I am a germaphobe. I constantly bleach my kitchen and bathroom, avoid touching elevator buttons, doorknobs and handrails and use hand sanitizer a few times a day! In fact for this trip, I bought 4 bottles of hand sanitizer and 4 bags of antibacterial wipes - one for my mom, dad, aunt and me. We were armed and protected from germs. Scared of contracting the swine flu and other illness that would stop me on my China adventure, I did not touch my eye, nose or mouth unless I had coated my hands with antibacterial, but for one thing I would make an exception – Yang’s Fry Dumpling (sheng jian bao)

After lunch at Jia Jia Tong Bao, I couldn’t resist trying Yang’s Fry-Dumpling. I had traveled across the Pacific Ocean and Yang’s Fry-Dumpling was right in front of me, serving fresh Sheng Jian Bao right out of the biggest round frying pan I have ever seen. Sheng Jian Bao are soup dumplings, but not steamed like it’s Jia Jia neighbor’s. I ordered one tray of Sheng Jian Bao for 4.5 Yuan then waited in line for 15 minutes while I watched the chefs prepare my dumplings.
Making Sheng Jian Bao The Menu at Yang's Fry Dumplings
Sheng Jian Bao- Fried to a crispy, golden brown with sprinkles of green onion and sesame. I took a box of 4 to go meet my parents, but I couldn’t resist opening the box while I walked. I awkwardly took a bite while the soup burst out and dripped down my hand. The skin was thick, but crispy. The soup was well-seasoned and flavorful. In fact, it was so good that I licked my hands with out washing or hand sanitizing them first! Gasp! For the next time (Bite a small hole, suck out the juice to enjoy the juicy goodness)
sheng jian bao from Yang's Fry Dumpling
Well, I’m still alive. Some times you need to make exceptions, like eating a 2nd lunch right after you finish a tray of steamed dumplings or savoring every bite even if it means licking your hands.
Yang’s Fry Dumpling
97 Huanghe Road

Yang’s Fry Dumpling
54-60 Wujiang Rd

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Day 2: Jia Jia Tang Bao 佳家汤包 (Shanghai)

Day 2 in Shanghai started around Nanjing Lu visiting the People’s Square, or so that was the plan. My excellent sense of direction, which is about 98% accurate, still jetlagged and disoriented, lead me to somewhere unexpected. We walked out of the subway, through an underground shopping mall, to the front a park with manicured lawns, trees, ponds, bridges, and flower beds that was surrounded by modern high rises. The park was peaceful and a nice change of pace from the rest of the hustle and bustle of Shanghai. There were seniors reading the paper, men and women doing tai chi, lovers strolling and children playing. I found the People’s Park instead of the People’s Square. Opps. Close enough right?
Jia Jia Tang Bao and People's Square
My sense of direction lead me one step closer to Jia Jia Tang Bao. Right across People’s Park and next to Park Hotel was Huanghe Lu, a street famous for its street food. About a block in, you’ll notice two restaurants across from one another filled with long lines - Jia Jia Tang Bao to the right and Yang’s Fry Dumplings to the left.

After my disappointment with the dumplings at Yu Yuan. We decided to try Jia Jia Tang Bao. At 11:35 am on a Wednesday, I stood in line at Jia Jia Tang Bao for about 25 minutes. The line grew longer as it became closer to 12 noon. By the time I got to the front of the line only 6 out of 8 of the varieties of dumplings were available. Before sure to get there early, Jia Jia Tang Bao closes when they sell out. The restaurant is small. For some good dumplings, get ready to sacrifice some personal space. If you have less than 4 people, you will be asked to share a table.
Inside Jia Jia Tang Bao Fresh made Dumplings
We ordered the following and then waited 20 minutes for the delivery of the freshly made and steamed to order dumplings:

Pork Soup Dumplings (7.5 Yuan) - Thin soft, delicate skin with the right amount of soup with a ball of well-seasoned pork.
Shrimp and Pork Soup Dumplings (9 Yuan) - If you like shrimp then you might like these dumplings. The shrimp over powered the taste of the pork.
1 Soup Dumpling Pork Dumplings
Seaweed and Egg Soup(2 Yuan) - A good companion for the dumplings
Seaweed and Egg Soup
I was happy with Jia Jia Tang Bao. Since we have Ding Tai Fung in LA, I decided not to try the Shanghai one. Jia Jia Tang Bao is only marginally better than the DTF in LA, but it was 1/12 the cost! I'm glad that I have awesome soup dumplings close to where I live, it beats flying over the pacific every time I crave one of these babies!
Jia Jia Tang Bao
90 Huanghe Lu, by Fengyang Lu


+82 21 6327 6878

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Hello 2010!

Foodie Adventure of 2009
2009 was a great year spent with friends and family and, of course, a year filled with good eats! I found good food wherever I was - from chasing down food trucks in LA, to trying Mofongos in Puerto Rico, dinning at Joel Robuchon’s L’atelier in Las Vegas, waiting in line for soup dumplings in Shanghai, and eating egg tarts in Hong Kong. Things will only get better in this decade and 2010 will be filled with more exciting foodie adventures!

Recently, I have freed up some time by single-handedly bringing down the ratings of Heroes, Private Practice, Community and The Big Bang Theory by breaking up with them on my DVR. To fill the void, I will be more committed to my food blog. My goal in 2010 is to post a restaurant review or recipe once a week. Keep a look out!

Cheers to a year filled with great food, fun adventures and amazing times with friends and family!

Happy 2010!