“This gooey chocolate fudge pie is the perfect dessert to please any chocolate or pie lover. So easy to make, easier to eat, this is a pie that disappears in a hurry. Maybe that’s why it’s so famous!!”
Fall came so fast and winter is hardly noticeable. It actually seems time to think about the garden, but I know that winter will rear its ugly head again soon! In the meantime, I’ve been tackling home projects, but haven’t given up on documenting our China trip. I last left you when we departed Chengdu and were heading to Shanghai.
Shanghai, (8th largest city in the world) is home to my boy, Alex Odie San China Boy! I couldn’t wait to get there to explore where he lives and frankly, see what he likes about it so much. We decided to stay near Alex, which coincidentally is near where Manservant used to work. We headed back to his old stomping ground at the I.M.Pei Mansion, an elegant art deco home built in 1934, which was renovated 10 years ago into a boutique hotel. Very interesting it is, and one can only imagine what it was like in its hey day, but unfortunately now feels a bit worn. Currently owned by the city of Shanghai, it is to bad they have let it fall. It does however have a 5 star toilet that we couldn’t figure out how to flush.Try explaining that to the front desk when they doesn’t speak English and you don’t speak Chinese!
After the bing we walked into a Chinese open grocery where seperate stalls contained eggs, rice, seafood, produce, etc… all from different vendors. It was clean and basic. And then off to the Jing ‘An Temple. Not to see the Temple, but to see the food! (Actually there was a holiday that day and the Temple was quite crowded, though next time I will go in. It contains the largest jade Buddha in China, was built in 247 A.D. and was renovated in 1983 after it had been converted to a plastic factory during the Cultural revolution.) Jing’an temple is surrounded by a large mall and plaza with many places to eat. Taiwanese rice rolls were new to us and sold in an upscale fast food place. Zoe dove right in.
The mall also contained a luxurious Japanese grocery which had everything you could ever want. I thought the prices were similar to a high end grocer in any big city. Prepared food, gorgeous fish and sushi, meat and truffles of every size and mushrooms of every variety were just a few of the offerings. My jaw was open. But no eating at this place. Alex had us moving on to the Famous Special Shop, Fu Chun, a Chinese style diner specializing in xiao long bao- another name for dumplings! Everything is in Chinese, one orders at the small counter and then stakes out a spot on the dining room floor, while hovering over a staked out table.
As soon as the patrons leave, you sit and only then does the waitress take your slip that shows what you ordered. Not fancy, but truly the best I’ve had. Honestly, I didn’t know soup dumplings could be so good. The crab soup dumplings were amazing and we required two orders. We could have kept eating but China Boy assured us we had more eating ahead. Of course, right around the corner was a scallion pancake place and a European bakery with cake rolls that Zoe just had to try! Then it was more walking.
Finally we arrived at Alex’s apartment, the peachy pink place above. Can’t say that after a long day of walking, climbing 7 flights is much fun, especially in unairconditioned common areas which were also a bit grungy. Apparently cleaning common areas is not often done. We arrived to Odie-San’s place-built in 1990-I would have guessed 1970- and though it was quite large and considered quite nice by Chinese standards, it reminded me of an old college dorm. However his room was quite spacious and being at the top of the building meant he had an upper roof top deck that was his to use. The deck was lovely, except that his roommates didn’t care about keeping it up and so the plants Alex so lovingly planted were almost dead. This convinced him to move on and December found him in new digs with two fewer roommates. Unfortunately this one has no deck, but looks very similar to the above. After watching the sunset from his rooftop, we left for the hotel, wiped the sweat off, and did a quick change before joining his old roommate from Sweden for Yunnan food. Yunnan food was new to me. Featuring mushrooms, goat’s cheese and lots of fresh vegetables-we really enjoyed crunchy lotus root-Yunnan is a province located in Southern China.
Sunday began with Manservant and Alex finally taking the subway to the airport to recover what they hoped would be Manservant’s missing luggage. Countless phone calls had determined nothing and no one ever called us back. Sure enough as Zoe and I were having coffee, Alex and Manservant came sauntering up with luggage marked RUSH. Boy that tag sure helped. Then it was on to breakfast near Alex’s office building.
Well fortified we headed to the center of Shanghai where we browsed through neighborhood alleyways when someone decided to have his neck shaved. The barber treated him like a celebrity!
I thought he was quite brave! Slowly we ended up at the Yu Gardens. Finding the entrance to this 5 acre garden is not easy. One traverses through a packed touristy shopping area to finally arrive at the garden. Inside the “Garden of Happiness” is a beautiful spot built in 1559. It is unlike any garden we had seen in China and I particularly liked the dragon’s tail running the entire perimeter along the top of the rock wall. We were lucky because it was the end of the day and therefore there was not a line to get in. However it was still quite crowded and not the peaceful escape it was intended to be. But certainly it was not to be missed!
Then it was rush rush back to change, as that night we planned to see the night lights of Shanghai. We washed off the sweat, changed our clothes, thought we knew where we were going to meet Alex and ended up being hijacked by a taxi driver. Turns out we didn’t need a taxi and Manservant misunderstood Alex Odie San. When you hire a taxi in China it is very important to have where you are going written in Chinese characters. In this case, we did not AND our phone battery was running low. We thought we were going close by and as we kept geting further and further away Manservant tried to reach Alex on his low battery. Alex immediately started yelling, “Get out of that cab now. Make him stop. Put me on the phone.” Well, whatever he yelled at him, meant us being unceremoniously dropped on the side of a street while not having a clue where we were and also without a working cell phone. Stupid on our part. Luckily we immediately found a cab and had the card of the Pei Mansion so the driver knew where to take us. There our two children awaited us and proceeded to scream with worry. Well… just a little excitement for the evening.
Having used a bit of time, we settled on a quick dinner at one of Alex’s favorites. After a few beers and some good chow, all was better. Then it was on to the lights of Shanghai. We ubered on down and though we didn’t walk on the Bund, we viewed it from the other side of the river. Colored lights are very popular in China and it was a pretty sight. Alex then took us to the bar at the Park Hyatt, located high in the sky, where we finally calmed down with a nightcap as we watched the clouds roll in and the lights slowly turn off. Much better than paying to go to a viewing balcony.
Monday morning found Zoe and I looking for breakfast while Alex had a meeting. We then met at his apartment and did a bit more of discovering his ‘hood by shopping for our next meal. After visiting a produce place for veggies, a fruit place, a store for drinks, a place for chocolate, a place for nuts to snack on, a grocery for cheese and I think one other…three sets of hands were full. It was then a matter of lugging the bags-one of which contained a giant pomelo and a watermelon, up 7 flights to repack in a box of ice which Alex had specially delivered. We then repacked while Alex went to get a rental car, (after just earning his China driver’s license) carried down all of our stuff, drove to the Pei to pick up Manservant and pack up our car.
And then it was on to Moganshan.
Moganshan began in 1898 as Shanghai elite wanted a get away from Shanghai’s summer heat. Eventually a train was built, but until then porters were used to haul people and their belongings up the mountain where stone villas were built to house the summer community. Even Chiang Kai-Shek had a place there. Taken over in 1949 by the People’s Liberation army, the villas were handed out to different work units. Today it is being revived and there are various places to stay. We stayed at the original Moganshan villas where different villas are available depending on the size of your party. Our house had two bedrooms and one bath and was quite quaint. Stone houses of European style have been renovated, hotels have sprung up and it was a great respite 8 days into our trip. Alex did a great job driving and it was especially fun to have our license plate photographed every time we got on and off the highway. It is easy to forget that China is a communist country, until one truly looks around and sees cameras everywhere!
All was going well until it started to pour. And pour. And then it got dark. And darker. And we found ourselves in the little village of Moganshan, where unbelievably they were working on the roads in the pouring rain. Mud was everywhere. After crossing what seemed like a raging river we finally found ourselves headed to the national park in which Moganshan is located. How Alex found this, I have no clue. After paying the entry fee, we then called the caretaker who showed us where we were going. She asked if we wanted to walk the short route or the long. We chose short and soon found ourselves getting off the side of the road as she points and says it’s up that way. Now remember we had luggage and food and well, you know the drill. Off she goes taking the first 12″ high stone step to show us our way. Remember it’s pitch black and she hands us each a torch (flashlight) to light the way. The rain had slowed to a drizzle, but everything was slick and muddy. As you can imagine from the group of photos below, at night this was a very treacherous path. Well, it was to me as I’m not the most sure footed person in the world.
After arriving with all of our belongings we began to make dinner. Turns out you can eat in a dining room, but Alex didn’t know this. As it was already 8PM we sat down to a great, really great meal, of grilled cheese. I am not kidding. It was great! The kitchen was well stocked, utensil wise, but with one light bulb it was quite hard to see. Then we watched movies. Nothing like watching “Elvis and Nixon” while lounging in China. Quite a good flick, I must say.
The next morning we made eggs for breakfast, sat outside at the picnic table, and watched two older workers find their way down our path. They seemed quite surprised to see us and Alex graciously asked them ,”Have you eaten?” a polite, common way of adressing elders. “How are you”, is not a phrase used often in China. Apparently it is not considered sincere and though people don’t expect to be fed, “Have you eaten”, is considered more caring. Jovially, they were quite surprised that the boy spoke Chinese. But with huge smiles, jaws open, eyes staring, they continued on the rocky stairs with a polite thank you.
Upon finishing our breakfast we headed up the mountain, on the trail that was treacherous the night before. And yes there were still narrow, slippery parts in my opinion, but the muddy path was much more easily traversed during the day. Into the bamboo forest we went for a somewhat easy hike over the paths through the park. We met some interesting signs
and crossed a suspension bridge that I made everyone cross before me, so it would shake less! After a few hours it was happy hour and we enjoyed a bottle of wine on the neighbor’s deck. Of course the neighbor’s weren’t there! Then it was back to cooking salmon in our tiny unlit kitchen and spending a warm evening with my family.
The perfect respite… it was good to escape the city, and enjoy the tranquility of nature. Next stop Hangzhou… Until then settle in for a piece of pie. Really good pie. Really good fudgey pie. Thanks for reading. I sure thought I’d never get this one finished…unlike this pie which disappeared fast!
More from China:
Eggplant with Pork and Garlic and China
Fudge Pie 1