Archive for April, 2011


Sushi: Shanghai-style

Sushi @ Haiku by Hatsune, Taojiang Lu, Shanghai – has to be one of my favourite places and meals in Shanghai. Not very Chinese (and probably not very Japanese either!)

Expensive?  YES! An indulgence? YES! Addictive? YES! But oh, SO delicious!

Butterfly Roll

(with salmon sashimi in the background)

Amy Roll

Princess Li Roll


Caterpillar Roll

Disclaimer: I accept no responsibility for causing any drooling on the keyboard!


The Balloon Man

Not the best of photographs, but I finally caught up with the “Balloon Man”. We often spy him from our taxi on our way to the office in the mornings, but I never have my camera on hand. Today he passed us while we were still waiting for a taxi.


Here’s looking at you!

Maybe I’ve had a sheltered and privileged upbringing…….but somehow I still haven’t quite got used to the fact that when I purchase a whole fresh chicken from the supermarket, it arrives with head and feet included!

I feel a bit like a Mafia hitman as I hack off its head and break its legs at the knee before it goes into the oven to roast.


A favourite dish here in China – for the Chinese – consists of the “delicacies” of chicken beaks and chicken feet and is fondly translated as “Walkie Talkie”!


Hot and Sour Dressing

Time for another recipe: this one is from Kylie Kwong’s “My China – a Feast for the Senses” – it is a really amazing book that describes her journey through some of the provinces in China, meeting and sharing in the life stories of the local people and cooking the specialties from that region. It’s a coffee-table book, a photo-journey and a recipe book all blended into one.

This Hot and Sour Dressing is used as a delicious dressing for a salad of steamed chicken, but it can be used with prawns, fish, beef, pulses, vegetables – basically anything. I’ve used it with chicken, fish and prawns, and all work equally well and are very tasty. This recipe comes from the city of Chengdu in Sichuan province, which is known for its love of spicy flavours.

Dressing ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons chopped coriander [I use a big bunch of stalks and leaves – no need to measure!]
  • 5cm piece of ginger, cut into thin strips (or finely chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons trimmed and finely sliced spring onions
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 large red chilli, finely sliced [Remember to remove the seeds if you want less heat!]
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons light soya sauce [I add extra soya sauce if I want to make the dressing go further]
  • 1 tablespoon brown rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil

Combine all ingredients except peanut oil in a heatproof bowl. Heat peanut oil in a small heavy-based pan until the surface shimmers slightly, then carefully pour over the ingredients in the bowl. Stir to combine and set aside, uncovered.

Prepare whatever seafood or meat or veg you are going to use, and when ready, arrange on a platter and spoon the dressing over the other ingredients and serve at room temperature.

Last night I used this dressing over Steamed Chicken Rissoles and a bed of leeks and Chinese wilted greens.

Chicken Rissoles

  • 2 large chicken breasts, minced in a blender
  • 2 chopped spring onions
  • a small bunch of coriander, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon light soya sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon Chinese cooking wine
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon potato flour
  • salt and pepper

Mix all ingredients into the minced chicken and leave to stand for a few minutes. Shape chicken mixture into small balls and place in steamer basket + wok for 15-20 minutes until cooked through.


  • 1 leek, sliced
  • a bunch of Chinese greens, pak choi or spinach
  • a few tablespoons of chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil

Heat the peanut oil and stir-fry the leeks until soft. Add the greens, toss to mix and pour in a few spoons of the chicken stock. Cover and allow to simmer for a few minutes, until leaves are just wilted.

To serve: drain the leek and greens and place on a platter. Arrange the chicken rissoles and pour over the hot and sour dressing.



A Poem for Qingming

People flock to a public cemetery by the seashore in Shanghai yesterday morning abiding by the tradition to sweep the tombs of their ancestors during the Qingming Festival. [Shanghai daily 2011-04-04]

The Qingming Festival usually falls in early April and has become a time for the Chinese people to commemorate and honour their ancestors.

The tradition began in the Zhou Dynasty, and has a history of over 2500 years. Qingming indicates the coming of late spring, the best time for ploughing and growing. The Chinese people now refer to Qingming as “Tomb Sweeping Day” and the festival has integrated with “Cold Food Day”, to become a day when people sweep the ancestors’ tombs and eat cold food.  With the trend towards a more eco-friendly adaptation of the tomb sweeping custom, some of the traditions have evolved to a more modern and techno means of honouring the ancestors; such as public memorial ceremonies, commemoration through the Internet, etc. However, many people will still travel to the cemeteries on the city outskirts to visit and attend to the tombs of their ancestors; pulling out weeds, sweeping away the dirt, and burning incense. School students are also encouraged to pay their respect to national heroes and martyrs.

In Jiangsu and Zhejiang Provinces, the sweet green rice ball is a popular Qingming Festival food. It is also an essential offering at ancestral rituals in the areas south of the Yangtze River. During the Zhou Dynasty, one or two days before the Qingming Festival were designated as “cold food days”, during which hot cooking was banned.

Often the weather is still cold during Qingming, so various sports and games were invented for body-building, e.g. taqing (“stepping-the-green” ==> walking outside into the awakening spring), shuttlecock-kicking, swing, Cuju (Chinese football), polo, willow-planting, tug-of-war, rooster-fighting, and the flying of kites.


Qingming by Du Mu (A poet from the Tang Dynasty)


It drizzles endless during the rainy season in spring, travellers along the road look gloomy and miserable.

When I ask a shepherd boy where I can find a tavern, he points at a distant hamlet nestling amidst apricot blossoms.


Fruit Stall on Shaoxing Lu

I LOVE taking photographs of fruit stalls – the diverse array of colours and fruit always compels me to capture the moment.

This fruit stall is on Shaoxing Lu in the French Concession, just outside the hospital on Ruijin Er Lu (which explains the additional fruit baskets and flower arrangements on display).


It’s not Saturday…

….when the government make you work Saturday so that you can get an additional day of holiday.

It’s one thing to make your own decision as to whether or not to work over a weekend, but to have it legislated really makes one break out in an attitude.

On Tuesday, 5th April, the Chinese nation gets a public holiday for QingMing (or Sweeping Tombs Festival) in order to honour their ancestors. In order to get Monday off work as well so that one can take a long-weekend: Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, most office and government workers have to work today, the Saturday before the Festival.

Suddenly an already long week stretches into 6 working days – one needs 3 days rest to recover! I can’t can imagine how this concept would go down in South Africa….

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April 2011
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