Cooking in China

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The Canal right next to my apartment 

As I have been experiencing how it is to have my own apartment, I also discovered how annoying it can be when you have to cook your own meal after a long day. Fortunately, there are many things that I think make the task easier for foreign students in China than those living in New york.

First, the food there is really cheap. If you feel tired and just want to grab a snack, you can go to the many restaurants next to Fudan and eat a huge bowl of filling noodle soup for almost nothing. Look at the photo below:

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How much do you think this would cost in a New York restaurant? (not a snack, an actual restaurant where you are sited and all)?

I would have said probably 7 or 8 dollars at least. Well this cost me 10 Yuan which is 1.6 USD! I know, that is just incredible and such a good excuse to taste local food and don’t cook at home.

But when I feel courageous, I try to cook. Again, as long as you go for local food, the ingredients are really cheap. I generally go to little street stands to buy vegetables, fruits, noodle, rice and eggs.

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Last time I bought many fruits and Muslim bread and it cost me only 6 USD.

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I use them to cook local food. I decided that since I now live in China, I should live as close to Chinese culture as possible. So generally, a daily meal for me would be noodle soup, fried rice with pork, egg drop soup or noodles.

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I think it is generally pretty healthy, which is great. I want to ask my Chinese roomie to teach me how to cook real Chinese meals, as I feel like mine are sometimes quite westernized.

Maybe I will start posting some recipes?

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Yu Garden: a Culinary Experience

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Yu garden (or Yuyuan Garden) is for the moment my favorite place in Shanghai. It is a closed garden constituted of beautiful traditional Chinese buildings (article coming soon!). Even though the environment itself is pretty spectacular, today I am going to talk about the food you can eat at the Yu garden. 

Yuyuan garden is basically where you should go if you want to have an incredible amount of choice in a small place (though the food is more expensive there, probably because it is a touristic place).

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My roomie Ling and I wandered around in quest for great food. We ended up in this restaurant where everything, from walls, to floor, to furniture, is golden. To order, you get to the diverse stands, where some sample food is displayed, and make a choice.

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The “problem” with this kind of restaurant is that actually everything looks good, so it is really hard to make a choice! Besides, there is no menu, so you just get to choose depending on what your meal looks like (hoping that there are no weird secret ingredients in it).

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Sometimes it can actually be hard to guess if the food displayed is an entry or a dessert! Some of it can also be extremely spicy.

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Outside of all the restaurants, you also have street stands, displaying cheaper (but still tasty) items. An interesting candy is this fruit skewer poured in melted sugar that children seem to love.

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Sometimes, you can also encounter some “off topic” shops. There is one Turkish ice cream place there, and also this shop where they sell gummy candies.

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Among all this food, we finally went for some:

1. Some tea. Well we did not really buy it, we actually had this degustation at some tea place (and ended up not getting any tea, oops)

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2. Dumplings! Article coming soon on this (since it is my favorite Chinese food). It is basically a sort of Chinese ravioli filled with vegetables or meat and warm soup. Ling knew about this street stand that was amazing. There was a huge line of locals (that’s how you know you are going to eat something incredible). Some nice Chinese man advised us on what we should take.

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They were basically the best dumplings I have ever had (and I can tell you I eat quite a lot of them). The base was thin and not sticky, and they were filled with a delicious mix of pork and crab as well as some slightly oily soup.

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I will definitely come back!

The Muslim Market

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Because we decided we are not already eating enough fried/street food, my friends and I went to the Muslim market of Shanghai.

It is composed of many stands, all selling an interesting mix of Asian/Middle East food.

There, there was an interesting choice of diverse nuts. I really wanted to buy some dried grapes and apricots to make a tajine, but it was pretty expensive (because imported)!

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Basically, we spent our time trying every single item on each stand (which is A LOT). It was incredibly good. I particularly remember a stuffed bun with tender warm lamb and spices. I bought it for only 3 Yuan (50 cent USD)!

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Most of the food is cooked on embers. I guess that is why the muslims’ meat was so tender. They directly cooked their bread on it.  It reminded me of Turkish Pide bread or Indian bread. It is a thick slightly chewy galette which resembles a pizza base.

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One of the most surprising discovery we made is a little dessert which tasted almost exactly like…a tiramisu! I wanted to bring some more home but obviously the stand ran out of it..

The vendors were also selling some raw meat.

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A very nice couple selling raw meat. They were so happy to pose for my photo!

The market was definitely a great culinary experience, even though it was finally not that big (a dozen of stands). I will probably come back some time to get some more “tiramisu” and stuffed buns 😉