Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Dashu Wujie, Shanghai

There's a new upmarket vegetarian restaurant in Shanghai. Opened in August 2011, Dashu Wujie was created by the founder of Vegetarian Lifestyle chain. It is an upmarket, 5 storey restaurant overlooking over Xujiahui Park, and walking distance from Xujiahui station (line 1 and 9, exit 14.)

The each floor of the restaurant is themed (water, earth, fire, wind, gold) with banquet rooms available for groups. All fruits and vegetables are organic, as is the oil, of which they use minimally as to keep the food as healthy as possible.

The restaurant has incredibly streamlined service, thanks to staff with earpieces and the use of iPads to order your meal. The menu on the iPad is all in Mandarin, however once you click on the image of the food, a description appears in English. Spicy foods are marked with chillis and additionally foods containing onion and garlic are noted. I'm not sure if the menu was vegan, however there would definitely be vegan options.The menu is incredibly extensive and somewhat confusing to navigate if you cannot read Mandarin, for the tabs are all in Mandarin. Despite this, and with help from our lovely waitress we ordered 6 dishes and a pot of tea, all which arrived promptly.

First came our cold starters of eggplant skin filled with silken eggplant cooked with garlic and black vinegar and the visually pretty pickled radish and yam (I think... memory may be failing me!) The eggplant was absolutely delicious and I highly recommend this dish. The pickled radish was great to get the stomach juices flowing for the rest of the meal that followed.

 Next came our mains and bowls of brown rice! Oh how i miss brown rice! We ordered lion's head mushroom in black pepper sauce (as highly recommended by the waitress), mapo tofu (because it's my favourite!), sizzling Korean tofu with kimchi sauce and one other dish that i cannot remember the name! Unfortunately the sashimi was unavailable but the picture looked amazing!
Mapo Tofu... a deliciously saucy version!
The mystery dish
Pouring the kimchi sauce over the sizzling Korean tofu
Lion's head mushroom with black pepper sauce

We all really enjoyed the mushroom in black pepper sauce. The texture was 'meaty' as Dad put it but the flavour was delicious. The mapo tofu wasn't drowning in oil but still had the very spicy kick from the sichuan peppers and chilli. The Korean tofu was nice, but we probably didn't need two tofu dishes. The unnamed dish was awesomely bizarre. There were different crumbed vegetables (mushroom, zucchini, squash, tomato) and what looked like two tuna sticks and a plum and a kewpie tartare sauce. I'm really sorry i can't give a more adequate description but i remember when reading on the menu i didn't understand the English!

The 'tuna' stick. It was delicious!!!
The prices here are not cheap by Chinese standards, however for western standards i'd say it was brilliant. The entire meal cost $53AUD. I only wish i was in Shanghai a bit longer so i could go back!

Just if it couldn't get any cooler - on our way out we got given these pens for Chinese New Year

So cute!

Next time you're in Shanghai i highly recommend visiting this restaurant - even if you aren't vegetarian!

Sarah xx

392 Tianping Lu  天平路392号,近衡山路
3469 2857
open from 11am
Xujiahui Metro Station, exit 14

Monday, 9 January 2012

Dumpling Making Time!

Vegetable Jiaozi at the front, XLB behind.
Shanghai is famous for its dumplings - xiao long bao or pork soup dumplings in English. These little dumplings are filled with pork mince and gelatinised broth so when heated a soup is formed. Now obviously i am not going to try these things so instead i thought i'd try making them as well as some vegetarian dumplings for me :)

My parents, myself and a friend, Mike, scored a private class at Chinese Cooking Workshop, where in 2 hours we would make both xiao long bao and mushroom and cabbage jiaozi.

All the prep was done for us so all we had to do was make the dough, mix the filling and fill. Sounds simple? Well it most definitely wasn't! Our chef was lovely and very patient and helpful and with the assistance of our translator, we made dumplings that roughly resembled XLB.

XLB are round buns with pleated tops. I asked how many pleats we were supposed to make but no one could say. I think chubby western fingers don't make for delicate tiny pleats!

Stupid podgy fingers!
My xiao long bao!
Unfortunately the following day i walked past Shanghai's most famous XLB establishment and saw the lady making dumplings, possibly 10 times faster than me and they were perfect! Put me to shame! It was interesting for me to learn that the gelatinised broth isn't put in the dumpling as one cube as i had thought, it was virtually minced and incorporated in with the pork mince.
.....someone struggled a bit more than others!

Next we made the vegetable jiaozi. These were so much simpler - no pleating of the dough involved! The filling contained diced shiitake, black fungus, cabbage, white pepper, salt, sugar, sesame oil, rice wine, ginger, green onion and light soy. After kneading, rolling, more rolling, squishing and more rolling of the dough, they were ready to be filled. The filling was easy - a spoonful in the centre, bring the sides of the dough together to form a half moon shape and seal using the web between your thumb and first finger.
Jiaozi filling
My Jiaozi!

After cleaning our benches the dumplings were all steamed for 10 minutes and then we sat down to enjoy them with vinegar Shanghai-style. It was amazing, steaming the XLB seemed to hide many of their flaws! They tasted pretty good even though some of them looked seriously dodgy!

Cooked XLB

It was a great class and the best thing i took from it (apart from how talented XLB chefs are) was how to make and roll proper dumpling wrappers.

Off to Yunnan province today. Will be an adventure!

Sarah xx

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Mr & Mrs Bund

Ni Hao from Shanghai!

Since I'm overseas for a little while i thought I'd blog about some of the fabulous places I've eaten at and other food related adventures. Being vegetarian in China isn't always the easiest. They have a plethora of 'vegetable' meals with varied vegetables, tons of tofu and rice/noodles, however, despite saying 'Wo Chi Su' (i am vegetarian - literally i eat vegetables) I've found diced pork, random seafood or oyster sauce in my meals. Anyway, that's all part of travelling and i now know how to say i don't eat meat or fish so hopefully that will help too!There are several dedicated vegetarian restaurants in Shanghai and i hope to visit them soon.

Last night we went to Mr & Mrs Bund which is an upmarket western restaurant by French Chef  Paul Pairet. It's a very cool place. The wait staff wear jeans, suspenders/waist coats and red converse sneakers. The clientele was very western which was amusing after spending so much time being the only white person in a room!

The menu is seriously extensive. The idea is that you create your own meal from different elements. For example, say you want tomato, under the tomato heading there are about 5 different tomato based salads. Same went for other vegetables, meats, fish, rice, desserts etc. There is also a rookie menu if you're too overwhelmed by all the choice. 

The first dish to come out was a complementary starter of tuna mousse and croutons. The plating was so cool in a tuna can and the mousse seemed to have been siphoned, it was that aerated.

Next out came the salads. Is that an American/French thing to have the salads as a separate course? We thought they'd come out as sides to our main course. Anyway we had the tomato mozza salad, which as it seems was cherry tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella with a gorgeous tomato puree. The salad was like eating pure tomato, absolutely delicious!  The second salad was rocket, truffle & Paris mushrooms, soy and parmigiano. It was AMAZING!!!! Just like the tomato salad the flavour was so intense. So earthy and mushroom-y with a hit of saltiness from the parmesan and soy.

Now for the main course. I ordered Risotto Truffle & Paris (yes a little obsessed by truffles/mushrooms) but i don't cook with truffles at home. The bowl was really funky and unfortunately my photo of the risotto itself is hard to see but it was delicious. Perfectly cooked rice with flecks of truffle/mushroom and beautiful flavour.

The folks ordered a hunk of meat to share. It was enormous! It looked like something from the Flintstones. We also ordered steamed greens to go with the mains.

Now for the desserts. Mum and I both ordered Lemon & Lemon Tart as I'd seen a picture of it and i was not disappointed. This is a candied whole lemon, filled with lemon sorbet, lemon curd, chantilly and pink citrus (grapefruit?)

Dad ordered Strawberry and Coca-Cola sorbet. Bit odd? But he loved it!

It was a fabulous evening and the wait staff were lovely. At the end of our meal they brought over an iPad with their wares for sale (cutlery, glasses etc and also takeaway food items) different idea, but effective!

Until next time

Sarah xx

Mr & Mrs Bund

Bund 18, 6/F
18 Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu (near Nanjing Dong Lu)
Shanghai 200002

Sunday, 1 January 2012

New Years Eve Nibbles

Happy New Year!!! I hope the year brings happiness, health and excitement to you all!

Sundried Tomato Dip (left), Chunky Basil Dip (right), Za'atar Labneh (front)
Last night my friends and I gathered at a friend's for NYE. Considering the heat i decided to make a platter of nibbles to go with our drinks.

The sundried tomato dip is from EDC and it's super easy to make. Just place 1 clove of garlic, 160g unsalted cashews, 1 small deli tub of semi-sundried tomatoes, 2 tbsp grated parmesan, 1 red capsicum (chopped), 40ml olive oil and 40ml vinegar into a food processor or Thermomix and pulse 3-4 times until roughly chopped. It is so quick yet so delicious!

For the chunky basil dip i placed 80g pinenuts, 80g unsalted cashew nuts, 100g basil leaves (a big bunch), 1 clove garlic, 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese, 40ml vinegar and 40g olive oil into the Thermomix and turbo-ed (pulsed) 3 times. You may need to add an extra tablespoon or two of olive oil however i didn't need it. Adding extra olive oil will also help the basil leaves to stay a vibrant green and not discolour so quickly.

Speaking of which i get so annoyed when i make pesto and it goes brown. I've tried putting a layer of oil on top and completely covering the surface with cling film but nothing seems to work! It's so frustrating! Over on the Taste forums it was suggested that pesto could be frozen so i've given it a shot. I placed some in a small ziplock bag to use tomorrow. Hopefully it will be as good as fresh. It looks like it's gone a bit of a duller green but it's definitely not brown.

Any other ideas how i can keep pesto a nice colour?  Or other suggestions on what i can do with basil? My basil plants have gone crazy this year!

Sarah xx