Ok, so I’ve only spent a total of six days in Shanghai, but I have to say that the biggest surprise of all so far is … the food.
Now, for some context: Chinese food – the kind we get here in the US – is my absolute LEAST favorite food ever. I love Japanese food, Vietnamese food, Indian food, and like most Thai food, but I have never liked Chinese food. In fact, I so disliked Chinese food that way back when, when I worked in an actual office setting, when someone on my floor brought Chinese food back to their desk for lunch, I had to go sit on another floor. I so dislike Chinese food that I get up and to out when someone bring it to their seat at the ball park ... anywhere near me. I smell it and ugh.... In short, I pretty much can't stand it.
Frankly, I didn't think this "problem" would be that big a deal in Shanghai, because there are many restaurants of every type. (Papa Johns, KFCs, Pizza Huts are more ubiquitous than Starbucks!). I saw Mexican restaurants, Japanese, Thai, Korean, American, German … pretty much every type of food one might get in any large city. So, anyways, I wasn’t really that worried about the whole I-hate-Chinese-Food issue.
But wow have I been surprised -- and happily so. On this last trip last week, I ate at four different Chinese restaurants. And they were each delicious!! At the one we ate at our last night, our appetizer was a set of spring rolls made of very thinly julienned wrapped in thinly sliced ham, with an incredible, light sauce. For our meal, we had the most amazing fish EVER. It was so succulent and had such an incredible sauce – it was, truly, scrumptious. We also had Chinese kale (actually, just the stems), and some pork dish. (Ok, the sauce on the pork dish was a little too sweet for my taste, but it was ok and, anyway, I was full from all the other great stuff!)
We also had our first bottle of wine produced in China. Hmmm. Intriguing. (Or, as J would say, interesting … like a bug?) It was a completely colorless “white wine.” Actually, it was very drinkable. Very mild taste.
The star of the meal was the fish. (Sorry but I can't recall the name of the restaurant - will have to find that and edit. It wasn’t a fancy restaurant by any stretch, but the food really was fantastic.
Oh, and the bill was pretty fantastic too. Total cost for entire meal was about 168RMB (about $27). And this was the most expensive Chinese meal we had the entire week. Our other meals ranged from about 86 RMB to 120 RMB.
To be clear, you generally can't get a single small salad and a beer for that price at any of the "western/expat" places - they are all quite expensive. But the local places? Amazing food for amazing prices.
Yeah, I think I'm getting way over my "thing" about hating Chinese food. All it took was actually experiencing ... well ... real Chinese food!