Archive for May, 2010

I found this bottle of Osmanthus vinegar in one of the Chinatown stores we frequent.  Osmanthus flowers are popular in China for its fragrant smell.  You can read more about Osmanthus here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osmanthus.  The ingredients of the vinegar is rice vinegar, sugar, and Osmanthus flowers.  You can’t see it in the picture, but the bottle actually has Osmanthus flowers in it. 

Osmanthus Vinegar

To try the vinegar, I drizzled it over some asparagus that I pan-seared, and deglazed with shao xing wine. 

Pan-Seared Asparagus with Osmanthus Vinegar

The Cat judged the dish as excellent.  The smell of the Osmanthus flower combined with the smokiness of the asparagus well. 

An Update 

The mochi-stuffed lotus roots that we like in China is seasoned with Osmanthus. 

Osmanthus Flavored Lotus Roots Stuffed with Mochi

There are more posts to come from our trip to China.

The Mouse

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Looking back at our previous visits to Shanghai, we seem to focus on one dish each time.  Previous visits have focused on the fresh water hairy crab and stink tofu.  This time, I wanted to improve on my shoyu pork (hong shao rou).  Whenever friends asked what we wanted to eat (besides vegetables) I requested hong shao rou.  There appears to be as many variations as there are people who cook the dish.  In the restaurants where we had the dish, the presentation focused on the pork. 

Hong Shao Rou

This hong shao rou was at a fancy restaurant. 

Hong Shao Rou

The above hong shao rou was at a restaurant that President Clinton ate at.  His picture was displayed prominently on one of their walls.  There was also a picture of Fidel Castro eating there (not at the same time). 

This version was ordered by X at D’s birthday dinner. 

Hong Shao Rou

I love the dish it was served in, very stylish. 

Hong Shao Rou

Last but not least, Teacher Cheng had us over for dinner one night and made her version of hong shao rou with hard-boiled eggs. 

Hong Shao Rou, the Home Edition

All were delicious.  I have a better idea of the taste and texture.  I will be experimenting in the future. 

The Mouse ate hong shao rou for educational, artistic, and scientific purposes. 😉

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Now that I’ve got your attention, this post is not really about gummi worms, but probably just as interesting. 


Our friends X and D, mentioned in a prior post, really try to take care of us when we visit.  X likes to eat and will try to give us a different experience each time we visit.  On a past trip, X ordered rattlesnake which included a shot of liquor with one of the snake’s organs and a salad made with the snake-skin.  At the end of the meal, the restaurant offered the rattle which they boxed.  On another trip, escargot was the trend in Shanghai.  X made sure to order it when he and D took us out (X really likes escargot). 

Sea Cucumbers 

This time, sea cucumbers seem to be the big thing.  The first time they took us to dinner, X ordered a single cucumber. 

Braised Sea Cucumber on Shanghai Cabbage

In person, the sea cucumber kind of looks like a giant gummi worm.  Here’s the detailed picture. 

Braised Sea Cucumber, Detail

The texture is like eating stiff Jello.  The sea cucumber itself doesn’t have a lot of taste, the gravy was a variation of the Shanghai “brown sauce”.  D said that there is an art in preparing the sea cucumber.  She’s tried it at home with results that are less than when ordered at a restaurant.  This sea cucumber was kind of smooth as far as sea cucumbers go (not much character). 

About a week later, X and D took us out for dinner again.  This time it was D’s birthday.  In the middle of the dinner, the waitress added a fork and knife to each place setting.  I had not seen a fork and knife since we got to China (duh).  So this was curious.  X ordered a sea cucumber for each of the guests. 

Braised Sea Cucumber

This time, the gravy had more of a “western” taste like maybe beef or pork stock instead of the Shanghai “brown sauce”.  X liked the gravy so much that he ordered rice to soak up the gravy.  Compared with the first time, my sea cucumber had a little more “character” (more bumps and surface texture).  If it were a different color, it would really look like a gummi worm.  Here’s the picture of the sea cucumber sliced. 

Braised Sea Cucumber, Sliced

X and D have never failed to provide us with new and different eating experiences. 

The Mouse battled a sea monster and won, yum. 🙂 


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In Shanghai, there several branches of this “tea house’.  Here is a picture of their tissue package with phone number. 

Tea House Information

The branch we frequent is located in the Jing-an area next to the Yan-An Hotel.  The pricing system works like this: you buy tea or coffee (on this trip the prices ran between $8 to $12 depending on the type of tea); you get free hot water (all you can drink, coffee is only one refill); you get access to all the food you can eat); and you have a 6 hour limit.  Tea selections include green teas, oolong teas, black teas, and herbal (no caffeine) teas.  The range of food runs from nuts to noodles to dessert.  

We first found the tea house in the early 2000’s.  Back then, when we peeked in, business seemed kind of slow.  We first tried the tea house in 2006 and we could easily get a table anytime.  In 2008, business seemed to pick up and there were times when the tea house was full.  This time, we had two occasions to visit, both times we had to make reservations.  And both times, all the tables were full. 

Here’s some pictures of the interior of the tea house: 

Tea House, Hallway

Tea house, Room Divider, Main Dining Area and "Private" Rooms

Tea House, Decor

This is just a sampling of the food available when we were there. 

Soy Beans

Pickled Chicken Feet

Spiced Seaweed with Garlic

Stewed Tofu

Stewed Quail Eggs

Spicy Cucumber

Smoked Duck Neck Bones

Pork Soup with Pumpkin and Turnips

Long Rice "Soup"

Steamed Won Ton


And last but not least: 

Custard Tarts

The Cat said that the custard tarts were the best she had, ever!  There’s a buffet table with fruit, pickled vegetables, nuts, and seeds.  The hot foods come from the kitchen either in batches or when ordered.  

The Mouse is reading his tea leaves, looking for his fortune, shhh (just kidding).

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I had Aunty P and Aunty M that helped to inspire me and shape who I am today.  The Cat had several people who helped to inspire her.  I took this picture at a tea house in Shanghai (more on the tea house on a separate post).  

The Cat's Brain Trust

 The woman on the left, Teacher Cheng, is a published poet.  The man on left (her husband), Director Li, is an accomplished film director.  Both of their children are also TV and film directors.  The woman on the right, Aunty Tang, is a published author, university professor, actress, and singer (the whole package).  The man on the right (her husband), Uncle Wang is a film editor.  The Cat is in the middle.  Apparently they like me because they said they would adopt me too (they think I’m funny). 🙂  

The Cat’s father also taught her lessons about life.  He was a high school physical science teacher.  He didn’t talk much but his lessons included both how he lived his life and the choices he made.  This is the gate of one of the schools he taught at.  It has been turned into a community college.  We didn’t know it at the time we booked the location, but the gate is right across the street of the apartments where we stayed. 

High School Where The Cat's Father Taught

One of the main reasons for this trip was to perform the Chinese ritual of burning paper money and offering food at a family member’s gravesite so the soul will have money and something to eat.  In this case, it was for The Cat’s father. 

Teacher Cheng wrote a poem about The Cat’s father that was engraved on the back of his headstone. 


The Cat said the poem described her father and celebrated his soul. 

The Mouse is Verklempt.

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