We travelled to Shanghai during the Fall Festival (known as golden week in some areas). Having just been to Shanghai in the summer, I had come to realize that Shanghai is a great place for tourists. My complaint in the summer was that it is hard to find the "heart" of Shanghai and to understand what makes it unique, but my realization was that the beauty of Shanghai is its approachability compared to other Chinese cities. It has everything a Westerner could miss, plus some great things to see and do. Because of the holiday, we expected a lot of crowds, but in general, it was not as crowded as it had been in the summer.
Our first stop was a shiny looking dim sum restaurant. We had the obligatory Peking duck (I wouldn't recommend it here, the skin had no crispness to it).
The coolest thing about this place was the genius idea of putting a disc of cooked carrot at the bottom of the steamed rice flour dumplings. Normally these babies stick to the bamboo or parchment paper and you have to either use your fingers to peel the paper off, or you have to have some help from a neighboring eater. With carrot discs, no stick, no fuss.
Our next stop was at a famous park area called Xujiahui.
We didn't actually go into the park, but the surrounding side streets are full of fun looking shops where everything is 10 Yuan (about $1.60)
We also sampled some of the street food. The "stinky tofu" is especially famous in Shanghai, so we tried it. It was...well...it's not as scary to taste as it is to smell. The smell is a little like sour milk and rotting vegetables mixed together. I'm not sure how it ever gained the popularity that it has, but the flavor is a little like fried tofu with Korean bibimbap sauce or a sweet chili pepper flavor.
Our last stop for the day was at a Hunan style restaurant in the Shanghai Zhabei Stadium.
This dish is mountain yam which is slimy root with very little flavor. It's covered in a berry sauce. It's popular at a lot of restaurants as an appetizer.
And this fungus has the unfortunate name of Jews ear. The name is supposedly not as horrible as it sounds. The original name was Judas ear because legend has it that Judas hanged himself from the type of tree on which they grow. I don't know. It made me feel a little funny when I saw it on the menu. I had never eaten these in the midwest where I grew up. I've had them a few times in Hawaii, but they are really, really popular (and inexpensive) in China.
And finally, the fish, which was delicious. It had two types of sauce. The red was the green tasted like a really good tomatillo. The red was more of a chili pepper flavor.
After the dinner we went outside to watch the lights and water show. They have this show on the hour and it was really nice (and free). It made for a really enjoyable evening.