Archive for July, 2012

Chinese Crack bread

Take a look at this.

Chinese Crack Bread

It looks pretty innocuous doesn’t it? But be warned. This is the most addictive substance that I have ever come across. Quite possibly more addictive than various Class A substances. I have forgotten what it is called in Mandarin – I just call it Crack Bread.

I had thought that my time spent in America had cured my love affair with bread as the vast majority of the bread there is bland, textureless and far too sweet – in all joyless and only good for feeding to ducks. I pretty much stopped eating bread as a result.

That’s until I found this stuff, that is. It is available all over Shanghai but my favourite vendor is a tiny little stall on Wulumuqi lu. This stuff is completely perfect – starchy, a bit greasy, slightly salty and layered and delicious. Sprinkled with sesame seeds it is completely and utterly irrisistible, particularly when it is fresh and warm.

Here’s where I buy it from. Ok it doesn’t look particularly inspiring…

I quite often pick some up after my vegetable shopping and all the way home I am deliciously aware of the warm bundle in my shopping bag. It is virtually impossible to leave any in the bag. In fact, I think I can hear some calling from the kitchen right now…

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Up close and personal with Shanghai traffic – and loving it

Since I passed my driving licence a few months ago – I’ve been driving a Chang Jiang around town quite frequently. It’s essentially a Chinese copy of a Russian copy of a second world war BMW, complete with sidecar. It looks like the bike Steve McQueen drove in the Great Escape.

It’s not terribly reliable and it has rather a lot of foibles but I’m absolutely loving it. It has a greater range than the scooter and you can get an extra person on it. So sometimes I give people tours of the city. I’m turning into a real cheerleader for Shanghai as a result.

So many people come here, hang out in Nanjing Lu (like Oxford Street in London) or in Pudong and think they have seen the city. They have only seen one side of it. There’s SO much more. For a start there’s some astonishing art deco architecture, including the only art-deco ex- abbatoire that I have ever heard of, there’s the old town with its tiny streets and chaotic markets, and there are the hidden villas of the former French concession that reveal secrets about its gangster past. Also, Shanghai was an open port for many years, so received a disproportionate number of incoming migrants for years, for example during the Russian revolution and in the run up to the second world war. I think that’s some of what makes it such a unique city in China.

The sidecar is a fantastic way of getting around – you do have to obey more of the rules of the road than on an electric scooter, but parking is still easier than for cars and you can squeeze down some lanes too small for cars. I also think that you actually notice more on a bike – I think cars are just so familiar that it is hard not to just filter everything out. On a bike you are a little more up close and personal with the traffic (Ok that’s not always a good thing here) but it does make everything much more immediate. I’m enjoying showing people aspects of a Shanghai they didn’t know existed, and I’m learning so much myself too.  Here are some of the chap’s colleagues who have joined me.



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The worst thing about Shanghai summers…

Summer has arrived in Shanghai. We’ve just had weeks and weeks and weeks of rain, then all of a sudden it stopped raining and summer arrived. Wow it has been hot. Actually it’s not off the scale in terms of temperature – it’s been late 20s/ early 30s Centigrade but it is so humid it feels far warmer. We’ve had 80-90 percent humidity which in my book is just a few percentage points off being in a shower.

So walking around is pretty brutal and even a few blocks walk feels like an expedition. But that’s not the worst thing about Shanghai summers. Oh no.

The worst thing is that when it gets hot, people want to wear fewer clothes. And, as is the case all over the world, it is never the right people who take their clothes off. The young attractive people seem to wear a rather a lot of clothes even in summer – most often because they don’t want to get a tan. (Actually the Chinese think it is hilarious that Westerners try to get darker when they spend rather a lot of money on whitening treatments.) But the old guys don’t care –  they like to roll their vests up into grotesque crop tops. They are everywhere. *shudder*. The bigger the belly, the hotter it gets I guess.

That said, I have been a bit shy to take a portrait of one of these lovelies, so here’s a pic of one on the move to give you an idea. Lovely huh?

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