Sunday, May 27, 2012

Nanxiang Xiao Long Bao

Shanghai Xiao Long Bao (small steamed buns with meat and soup inside, sometimes called soup dumplings) are one of my absolute favorite foods in Chinese cuisine. Some Chinese places in the US claim to have xiao long bao, but I've never been to a place in the US that gets it exactly right. Shanghai is the only place I've ever been where I can find perfect xiao long bao; of course, that means every time I'm in Shanghai, I head straight for places with xiao long bao. Established in 1900, the Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant in Shanghai's Yuyuan Gardens area is one of the most famous xiao long bao restaurants in the world, and hands down my favorite place to eat in Shanghai. Unfortunately, actually getting a seat at the Nanxiang Restaurant can take hours of standing in line.... it is sort of extremely popular.

Fortunately, it turns out the Nanxiang Restaurant has expanded! My dad and I recently found out about a new branch of the restaurant in another part of Puxi, so we decided to go try it out to see if it is as good as the original Yuyuan Gardens location.

31°13'54" N 121°27'17" E

Seriously, crab xiao long bao are absolutely incredible. This Nanxiang branch didn't serve the xiao long bao on lettuce beds though, which was a bit disappointing. But they still tasted exactly like they should!

31°13'54" N 121°27'17" E
31°13'54" N 121°27'17" E

Usually at Nanxiang, I order just xiao long bao, in massive quantities. This time around though, my dad wanted to see what some of their other stuff was like. Curry dumplings:

31°13'54" N 121°27'17" E
31°13'54" N 121°27'17" E

Egg noodle soup:

31°13'54" N 121°27'17" E

Curry crusted egg rolls:

31°13'54" N 121°27'17" E

The most amazing thing we found was something best described as a gigantic xiao long bao. Seriously, this thing is amazing... it even comes with a "Caution: Hot" flag on a straw for the soup inside:

31°13'54" N 121°27'17" E
31°13'54" N 121°27'17" E
31°13'54" N 121°27'17" E

For dessert, I got this giant mango icecream float thing. Not mango flavored icecream, but rather, mango chunks and mango juice with vanilla icecream:

31°13'54" N 121°27'17" E

Next post: I have no idea. Maybe more food? Maybe the place I got my Totoro from?

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Bund at Night

Shanghai is split in to two halves by the Huangpu River, a fact reflected by the names for the two halves of Shanghai: Puxi and Pudong, which literally translate to East of the Huangpu and West of the Huangpu. One section of the east bank of the Huangpu is known as The Bund; about 150 years ago up until World War II, The Bund was the site of the Shanghai International Settlement, controlled by Britain, the United States, and France. As a result of the former colonial influence, the Bund waterfront today is made up entirely of European colonial style buildings. The Bund's architecture provides an interesting contrast to the ultramodern skyscrapers on the opposite western bank of the Huangpu, an area known as Lujiazui.

For this trip back to China, I'm not actually using my normal trusty Nikon D60. Instead, I'm using my brother's Nikon D5100. In a few months my brother will be heading to Shanghai as well, so he asked me to bring his D5100 for him ahead of time. Since the D60, Nikon has made a number of huge improvements in the low light performance of their sensors, seen most prominently in the D3's ability to take perfectly lit, noise-free images in the dark. Of course, the D5100 also has heavily upgraded low-light capabilities compared to the D60.

What better place to test out that low-light performance than the Bund at night?

Here are a pair of panoramas taken from the Bund. The first one is a full 360 degree panorama of the Bund and Lujiazui across the Huangpu River, while the second one is just of Lujiazui.

31°14'26" N 121°29'10" E. Click for huge version.
31°14'26" N 121°29'11" E. Click for huge version.

Some of the component images that went into the above panoramas:

31°14'26" N 121°29'10" E
31°14'26" N 121°29'11" E

At the northern end of the Bund proper is a giant concrete monument called the Monument of the People's Heroes (what a typical Communist Party style name!). It looks kind of like a Forerunner structure from Halo (yes, I realize that reference paints me as a quite a dork). The monument is a pretty good place from which to get pictures of the Oriental Pearl TV Tower across the river.

Left: 31°14'32" N 121°29'11" E. Right: 31°14'37" N 121°29'13" E
Left: 31°14'40" N 121°29'12" E. Right: 31°14'46" N 121°29'10" E
31°14'40" N 121°29'13" E

The Monument of the People's Heroes sits next to the point where the Suzhou Creek flows into the Huangpu. At night there's usually a small fleet of old dredging barges parked in the creek confluence; during the day, the barges are used to dredge deep shipping lanes in the middle of the Huangpu. The Waibaidu Bridge crosses the Suzhou Creek, and on the other side of the creek are more European style buildings, such as the modern day Russian Consulate.

31°14'41" N 121°29'10" E
31°14'40" N 121°29'12" E
Left: 31°14'41" N 121°29'10" E. Right: 31°14'41" N 121°29'9" E

The Waibaidu Bridge is wired up with LEDs that cycle through a number of colors over the course of a few minutes. I managed to catch the bridge in mid-change from red to blue:

Left: 31°14'46" N 121°29'10" E. Right: 31°14'46" N 121°29'10" E
31°14'46" N 121°29'9" E

When I visited China in grade school, very few families had cars. Today, however, China has the largest automobile industry in the world; even the Bund is packed with cars during the day. I especially like the following two shots, which I got by pivoting in place to track cars with my camera, hence the cool streaky background effect:

31°14'43" N 121°29'9" E
31°14'43" N 121°29'9" E

Next post: food in Shanghai!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Nanjing Road East at Night

Nanjing Road East is the bustling shopping heart of Shanghai; running from People's Square to the Bund waterfront, Nanjing Road East today is entirely pedestrianized and is home to some of the largest, oldest, most expensive stores in China. Think 5th Avenue in Manhattan meets Times Square meets the Champs-Élysées in Paris with a dash of Blade Runner.

31°14'19" N 121°28'41" E
Left: 31°14'23" N 121°28'46" E. Right: 31°14'17" N 121°28'38" E
Left: 31°14'23" N 121°28'46" E. Right: 31°14'17" N 121°28'38" E
31°14'12" N 121°28'18" E (Note: this photo is from a previous visit to Shanghai in 2010)
Left: 31°14'12" N 121°28'18" E. Right: 31°14'14" N 121°28'21" E (Note: these two photos are from a previous visit to Shanghai in 2010)

Fifteen years ago, Nanjing Road East was home mostly to only Chinese establishments, but today the stores here are a mix of western and Chinese. Alongside Chinese department stores are everything from Pizza Hut to James Bond. High end wristwatch makers like Rolex and Omega are so popular that Omega has two separate stores on opposite ends of the street:

Left: 31°14'18" N 121°28'38" E. Right: 31°14'28" N 121°29'7" E

The biggest western brand here is, of course, Apple. The Nanjing Road Apple Store is one of the largest Apple Stores in the world, and is packed pretty much 24/7.

31°14'21" N 121°28'47" E
Left: 31°14'23" N 121°28'46" E. Right: 31°14'37" N 121°29'13" E
31°14'40" N 121°29'12" E
31°14'40" N 121°29'13" E

Nanjing Road is always under construction too, it seems, as old stores are ripped out and new ones put in. Almost always, the construction work is being done by the Shanghai Construction Group. Everywhere you look in Shanghai, you can see SCG logos stamped on construction sites; SCG more or less built the entirety of Shanghai. Most of the supertall skyscrapers in the skyline, the entire metro system, apartment complexes, bridges, government buildings, shopping malls, stadiums... you name it, SCG probably built it.

Left: 31°14'25" N 121°28'51" E. Right: 31°14'25" N 121°28'51" E
When rich folks visit Nanjing Road aren't buying Apple products, they're usually buying designer clothes, expensive cameras, or expensive watches.

Left: 31°14'24" N 121°28'50" E. Right: 31°14'28" N 121°29'5" E

Next post: photos from the Bund!