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Friday, April 19, 2013

MUGA Day #25: In Search of the Perfect Shanghai Dumpling


There is a restaurant in Chongqing offering around $100,000 if any customer eating there dies from H7N9 bird flu.  Never heard of Chongqing?  First, it is located approximately in the middle of China.  Second, it might have a population of 30 million.  Wikepedia lists Shanghai as #1 with 17.8 million people, Beijing #6 at only 11.7 million, Seoul #11 10.6 million, and Tokyo #14 at 9.9 million.  However, this is because Tokyo is #1 with a metropolitan area population of 32 million and Seoul #2 with 26 million.  So Chongqing is significant, and could well be #2.

What has this got to do with Shanghai dumplings?  Nothing much except that they don't contain any avian flesh.  The vague Chinese term is Xialongbao or soup dumplings or jiaozi or wontons.  This all comes into play in today.  The specific item is not what we popularly have in Hawaii.  The Shanghai dumpling has hot soup INSIDE with a ball of hashed pork.

The New York Times lists 10 things to do in Shanghai, and #4 is eating at Din Tai Fung for Shanghai dumplings.  And they specifically indicate that this is a Taiwanese restaurant chain with Hong Kong financing.  (#1, incidentally is to catch the Maglev train, #6 is a green massage).

So this morning I caught the Big Bus, one of those double-deck hop-on and jump-off busses.  The cost was $50, but this included entrance into the Jade Museum, top of one of their tall buildings for the view and a river cruise.

My first stop was at Yu Garden for this original Shanghai dumpling.  I went to the tourist information office for them to recommend a restaurant and write in Chinese that I wanted a plate of Shanghai dumplings and a bottle of beer.  With some difficulty, I found the restaurant, which turned out to be famous, the Shanghai Classical Hotel, since 1875 known to be the birthplace of Shanghai cuisine.  I passed on the info to the waitress, there were a lot quizzical looks, and a lot of wait.  But first came a large bottle of warm Tsingtao beer.  Yes, warm beer.  Then, later, a very large bowl of....won ton soup.  Great.  I ate a bit and left.

So I thought I'd re-calibrate my sense of Shanghai and go to that Taiwanese Din Tai Fung.  Fabulous, with a smaller bottle of cold Tsingtao beer.  The much larger meal at the Shanghai Classic Hotel cost of all $6, while this smaller combo at DTF was around $10.  In the former were no non-orientals, while in DTF there were only tourists.

Well, no perfection yet.  I walked to the Huangpo River and caught the free water tour:

The omnipresent Oriental Pearl Tower, with my Westin on the Bund on the extreme right.  In notice a cute sign on the ship:

Meaning, keep out!  More photos:

Next, caught the bus and then took their metro to catch the Maglev:

Frankly, I was disappointed, for the Japanese Shinkansen goes up to 320 km/h, around 200 miles/hour. Also, I would surmise that the sideways motion of this maglev would have caused a disaster with my sake meals.  I've traveled at least 100 hours on the Shinkansen and never spilled anything, which is really saying something, for I regularly have accidents at home.

The bottom line is that I have yet to find that perfect Shanghai dumpling.  As I leave for Beijing tomorrow, I guess it would be a royal insult to find this epicurean delight there.


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