food and consumerism for strong stomachs, livers and wallets in china. also the occasional ranting.

Friday, August 17, 2007

neu haus

don't mind the cobwebs on this blog.... but i am briefly resurfacing! not sure how long lived this will be as a resurged habit because for some reason Blogger is blocked from the China internet and now at work through the HK circuitry, everything is in chinese, which might cause me some technical issues. anyway, thought it worthwhile to check in, since chef and i moved into a new pad last night. its in the french concession, and right amidst all these old red-tiled roof lane houses and a dirty market (where chef and i watched a turtle being broken down for someone's evening soup) so its quite the ideal setting. i was needing something like this to jumpstart my excitement for being here since work has been *questionable.* the apartment is going to take a bit of work to change it from the "generic modern renovated chinese apartment" to something with some more soul. I shoud post some pictures of the light fixtures just to make you guys laugh. pics to come and perhaps some more ramblings.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Back on the Chain Gang

I've ended my 4 months of unemployment and started working fulltime again. I've fallen a bit off the blog radar since 1) chef arrived and 2)work started. I have to be honest and say that work is tough, bc it is a whole new industry to me from my previous jobs. I had another offer with a company that I felt more naturally inclined towards, but I opted for the one that is more into digital and interactive, because I do believe in the longevity of this business and the lack of ceiling for innovation in this sector. As my Saturday today started at 8am with a client call to the States, of course I continue to question and try to imagine how well I will have transitioned in the coming weeks, months, or even years. I woke up around 7:30am this morning, with my hair still reeking like cigarettes from smoky evening interiors from the night before. That's one of my biggest pet peeves about China-- my respiratory health--which coupled with insane pollution and coinciding allergy attacks, I do think is in a quickened downward spiral. Some days you can just feel in your body that there are so many new toxins in the air, that I find myself thinking a lot about the London Fog of 1952.

Not to make this blog too therapeutic for myself and boring for you, I think it's worth sharing some conflicted thoughts I have been having about my transition. From the start of moving here, I have found myself being adamantly defensive about proclaiming that I am "Chinese." Every time a cabbie assumes I am Korean, or lecture me that I can only claim to be American and not Chinese (meaning that I cannot be hyphenated races), it had been really frustrating me. I don't know why this ethnic pride or stubbornness arises-- it might be just that I don't think that being of a certain ethnic group and also being an American citizen should be mutually exclusive.

Well, now the tables have a turned a bit. In my work, everyone else is either Singaporean or a local Chinese hire. They speak and communicate a lot in Chinese, and I definitely feel a bit like an outsider. Add the fact that the content of my work is totally new to me as well, and all of a sudden I find myself pining for preferential treatment, based on my cultural "handicap" of being American, not Chinese. However, my colleagues see my Chinese face and don't skip a beat really because in their minds they register me as a Chinese, who has come back to Shanghai or something. There is this freshman American college student intern with us for 1 month who is white as shit. At lunches or meetings, everyone in the group is clamoring to give her tips, suggestions, insights, etc on things and recreations to do here that are very "Chinese," to help ease her into the scene here. They also ask her endless questions about American culture, traditions, behaviors, etc. I find myself feeling weird, expecting them to share the questions and guidance with me-- but instead they disregard my presence in these conversations, even when I interject an opinion or two. Its so strange for me, because in this scenario I am ACHING to be viewed as American, and I don't know why (maybe its because I know a lot more than this girl because of my age and all).

So I am struggling with this odd dichotomy of feelings-- wanting the attention, curiosities and respect for being "western," and yet in other instances I am vehemently trying my best to be considered a 'local" (maybe when it comes to issues of being ripped off). Anyways, this issue is kind of embarrassing to be revealing online, because it reveals elements of perhaps me needing attention or preferential treatment, but oh well, you readers are mostly just my good friends, so I guess this is just an act of humility and self-acknowledgment. Moving and adjusting to new cultures can be such a head trip. It tests every habitual comfort and behavior you have previously practiced, and makes me feel so self-scrutinizing.

I'll have to follow up this post with more happy and fluffy thoughts and recollections of my time here.

Friday, May 25, 2007

plagiarising myself

I'm off tonight with vague travel plans, but the destination set: Huangshan Mountain aka Yellow Mountain in Anhui. I have to go throw some things into a backpack so I to hurry things along, I am throwing you the bone of an intimate excerpt from my email to chef last night, who is arriving in 4 days!!!! i am so excited. bitch is gonna get raped.

begin self plagiarism (does this destroy the sanctity of my original, lovingly penned message to chef?):
"....i am off to the yellow mtns, called huangshan in anhui. i feel as if it is my duty as a chink to sojourn far away to this collection of 72 peaks of mountain crests, to struggle and sweat in
uncovering the truth, the birth, the mystery, and the source.... of my yellow skin. i am hoping that at the end of the day, it will actually be the hidden home of airwolf, which i have fantasized for a good 22 years about. or maybe i will find that the thundercats were actually my ancestors. maybe there will be a massive carwash setup where every chinese baby born gets spray tanned with a yellowish pallor. i just don't know.

but deep in the depths of my soul, i feel the mountain calling me. i will take care to visit significant sites along the mountain path to find spiritual enlightenment about my race, among them, "Bowl Legged Fountain of Truth," "Snaggletooth Rock," "No Tipping Mountain Tip," "Bossy Oriental Female Fjord," and "Ripping-Off Ridge." Please wish me luck on my virgin adventure. of course, where treacherous, i will travel by cameltoe...."

back in a few days!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Chinese History of Sleep

Woke up today, unemployed and achey breaky as usual. Responded to an email from Dirty, in which she kindly offered to send me anything I need from the US. I graciously decline, and then all of a sudden my fingers take a life of their own, and my sweet email back to her starts to erase, and an uncontrollable catharsis of bed rage spills out on the page. The issue is: why the fuck do Chinese people have no concept of comfortable mattresses! The bed I sleep on is so unforgiving, it feels like two boxsprings stacked on top of each other. I have asked my friends where the nearest Sleepy's is, and they simply laugh, and assure me I can spend $1k US to buy a mattress with a paltry padding not unlike a medium-flow day pantiliner, but it is futile, and I must give up all dreams of flouncy, downy softness. I am befuddled, and then I suddenly conjure up the image of ancient Chinese relics of PORCELAIN pillows.

Understanding, but not acceptance, slowly sets in.

I always wondered as a child who these two adorable, pale, cute friends of mine were. They never responded when I poked them, taunted them, and yes, mounted them. I thought they were the best buddies ever, never talking back and never budging to protect themselves. Then I found out they were porcelain pillows! Imagine a child trying to process the concept of cold, hard, nonsensically inflexible pillows. I tried to keep my distance from the stone cold duo for most of my teenage years, and made it obvious that I loved my body pillow more, since it was soft and lovingly absorbent of my angsty tears and drool. So anyways, I guess modernity in China travels at a snails pace, since they think mattresses modeled after concrete are in vogue. This is one thing I am NOT happy about.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Fire from Within

So word on the street is that my blog-in-progress just isn't as interesting, offensive or abrasive as myself in person, so I am having a bit of a digital identity crisis.

I certainly don't want to be airing my dirty laundry online (my shadiness is none of your business) nor incriminating any of my new partners in crime (aka troublemaking drinkers in shanghai), so what the hell am I going to write about, that will provide me some outlet for ranting, and for my loved ones to know I am still alive and terrorizing people. My lil bro's girlfriend Jenny told me that upon seeing my previous entries, I might have to change the blog to: onesizeup.com. I really hope her sassy genes marry into the family.

The truth is, I just can't stop talking about eating or spending money. I guess I can try t0 broaden my content, so please bear with me for the next few months or so as I vacillate with random regurgitations of everything under the pollution-obscured china sun.

So anyway back to eating.... I just came home from having Dumbo Octopus Sashimi
for the first time. (see image). It is an extremely rare delicacy and is actually heralded as a rare, endangered creature (especially for its likeness to Easter Peeps Candy), so that is why only the Chinese are ruthless enough to slay it for food. It had a buttery, slimy, mango-redolent, idiotic, plain dumb taste. Ok, I am totally fucking lying, I just found this cute knob of an organism deep in my right ear. Ok again, lying, this little guy lives in the bottom of the Monterey Bay! He would make a hot ass keychain, that's for sure. Or maybe one of those toothpick dispensing contraptions. Which reminds me of a quote I read in my TimeOut Shanghai guide today: (something to the effect of..) "Teenagers here don't think anything of spending an entire day dedicated to shopping for one single tchotchsky for their cell phone."

But I digress.... back to eating...Last night I had a sort of pricey curry hot pot, which was pretty good. It was a ripoff though, for being around $20US a person for dinner. But I learned from Burbs during dinner this chinese concept of "inner heat." Apparently, when you eat a lot of foods that naturally incur heat, ie. Fried foods, hot essence foods like oil-- you raise the temperature of your chi internally. If you don't counter that out by eating foods that conjure coldness, ie. deep sea creatures like dumbo octopus and crabs, watermelon, cucumbers, etc. that is what may cause you to erupt with cankersores, acne, etc., as a physical manifestation of the heat imbalance internally. To testify, I have had 3 cankersores within 2 weeks since I have been here! I am going to start rocking watermelon wedges as retainers in my mouth. I certainly don't want to get caught by the housekeeper with a cucumber in my mouth.

Here's a shot of hairy crab I had the other night when the hot Hong Kongers (Davena, Anton & crew came to town.) The guy who owned the restaurant apparently sources his hairy crabs (stop laughing) from Holland, where they farm them all year long, vs. here in China when they only peak during the fall season. Chef told me yesterday that hairy crabs actually abound all through the world, and most scientists regard them as a biological nuisance, but maybe its just that there are too many hungry people in China to give a shit that the chubbiest crusteaceans you can eat have massive tufts of pubes on their shells. The waitresses actually dissected the crabs for everyone, and made a flower out of their limbs. In every restaurant, there is basically a 1:1 ratio of servers to customers. Luckily I did not feel so bad for them that night since some Taiwanese pop star names Vanness Wu rolled through to make their night by signing their timecards and diaries. Do yourself a favor and get a glimpse of this GAYSIAN.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Reflexology.. I'm hooked

Mr. Wong Rong Gun aka "Number 8"
T: 137.7446.2732
Reflexology, Full body Pressure Point Massage, and he'll make your chapped elephant skin feet all buttery again like a newborn. The most amazing, good-natured healer I've found in Shanghai. Ok, well my mom also found him, known as "Number 8" at a nearby Reflexology spot near her house, but the business closed overnight and she had to hunt him down across town at a new spot on Rujin No. 2 Rd x ZhaoJiaBan Rd. We went for a visit and ended up recruiting him for house calls. China does breed opulence in the most slacker of people (yeah, me). Does house calls in the late morning before his 12 hr shift starts. Speaks little English, so I can provide you with some choice phrases to help request your needs. You might wonder, gee- it's not rocket science to know your liver is beyond repair, but this guy is incredibly skilled at being able to name your current ailments through the soles of your feet, and he works to harmonize the imbalances. Reflexology 1hr: $38rmb | Body Massage 1hr: $60 | The Whole Shebang for 2 hrs: $88rmb. We pay him this much because he is so earnest and damn good.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


Some highlights from a newcomer's belly...

THURSDAY, MAY 17, 2007
Woke up hungover at 8am, truthfully, drunk still. Found a limp egg-pancake suffocating in a plastic bag on the kitchen counter and devoured it, tricking myself it was a breakfast burrito. Washed it down with a slovenly cut mango. Tried to work out Chef's Fedex cooking supplies held hostage at Customs. Found out I have to pay over $300US for our CDs to enter BootlegNation.

Fast-Forward to LUNCH...
| T: 6274.0084
A year ago I nearly died stuffing mountainfuls of the yolky insides of chubby hairy crab insides into my face here. I cherish the memory-- it was the closest I have ever felt to being a sybarite gorging at stately dinners in ancient grecian times, minus the dining interludes with little servant boys. Anyway, Willy Yee is in town and has only eaten pizza and sandwiches with his expat friends, so I felt it my duty to submit him to msg delights. Mom takes us for late lunch-- we ordered much more than we could eat, plus we opted for more expensive options. We had a trademark yellowfish noodle broth (subtly and simply superb), anchoy greens (salty as hell), 2 tender fried pork chops with "Shanghai Worchestire Sauce" and another trademark-- it seemed to be a deep fried japanese style fish fillet.

Address TBD Jiangsu Lu | T: 62124190
Visited Ms. Lin Ing to relax and have much tea, including the high-end oolong specimen Poercha. See photo for its benefits. Also image of the blooming flower tea.

On the flower tip, it is worth mentioning I scored a dozen roses today for my mom for $12rmb...I' m sure I got ripped
off, but I just need to say that it's not hard to be a ladies man in this country. AKA you are a sociopathic cheapskate idiot to not have game here.


Today was a dreary sweatfest. Went to the Red Town for a job interview and wandered among amazing and (some bad) sculptures. Had two interviews, but got so sweaty in the AM humidity that I had to go home for a sprinkle and wardrobe change in between.

| T: 63302615
Once the interviews were over, the drinking began. The evening was awash starting with dirty martinis at Laris. The cocktail waitresses could not have refilled our barsnacks more plentifully and repeatedly. Then headed for free hors d'oevres and more drinks at De La Coast's Happy Hour. Their Event Manager Sherry Wan, a Louisa-doppelganger from California, was an awesome hostess. View of Pudong and breezy spring weather on the terrace was pretty unbeatable. Stumbled on to have horrible meal in a mall restaurant with Burbs and Drew. Meal had zero-alcohol absorbancy.

TUESDAY, MAY 15, 2007
ADDRESS TBD ( across the street from our apt.)
An excessive lunch of lamb hotpot for Mom and I. Cost us $105rmb for a delicious lamb broth hot pot swimming with various mushrooms and split yin&yang-style into a Spicy Szechuan Pepper side and a pure broth side. 1 order of lamb slices, 1 dozen shrimp, Bitter Shredded Cabbage for the hotpot, and 2 Lamb Skewers. Plus over 20 sauces to mix and match with. Was a bit woozy after from MSG overload, but this place is incredible. Went to go get reflexology after for $25rmb, and was told by the therapist to lay off the alcohol, since he could feel from my footsoles that my liver is crying for mercy, among other pathetic problem areas including my stomach, shoulders and spine.

MONDAY, MAY 14, 2007
My second time to this wannabe Kenka restaurant. Only laudable thing really is the "boner suasage." We briefly discussed whether or not they just reuse the bones that they sic the porker onto. I think there's a high chance. Dining companions touched sausage tips.

This bustling market is inarguably one of my most favorite places in the city. Its the main attraction that delays me from moving out of my parent's apartment in the Changning District. The street is filled all day with food vendors from dawn until 2am. In the afternoon, the foodstuffs really come out in full force. Among the favorites: xiao long sha (crayfish), braised pork shoulder, deep fried cornish hen that has been pre-braised, fried nori-seasoned fish fritters, fried japanese style beef patties & pork, and miles and miles of greenery, seafood and fowl. Places like this need to be preserved!

SATURDAY, MAY 12, 2007

FRIDAY, MAY 11, 2007
Snapshots of shanghainese food which tends to err on the sweet side.
Crayfish smackdown. Get it super spicy, "zhong la" and for an extra $1rmb each, get disposable apron, gloves and tissues. Other people were eating what looked like steamed shrimps and some other tin plate full of hot peppers that make your eyes tear just looking at them.

Clarity: Counting Calories

THURSDAY, MAY 17, 2007
I haven't done much with this impotent blog... mostly because of the massive confusion in my head as to whether this should document my psychological, emotional, cultural, or gastronomical transition to China. Or maybe because I am too busy stuffing my face with cheap food (and the occassional booze overkill). I think the most obvious thing to document should be my food encounters, mainly because I am equipped with my secret food discovery and menu translating weapon, the Overbearing Food-Pushing Shanghainese Mom... only in town for 4 more days! I will try to work backwards and showcase the interesting visuals and tastes I've wallowed in so far, so bear with me as I try to play ketchup real quick. Don't be surprised if the amount of KiloCalories you see posted do not seem as if they could humanly fit within the spare number of days I consumed them. Dijon did say, "Obesity is the new Black in China." Beautiful.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Touchdown in the Motherland

CHINA ARRIVAL: Monday, May 6th 2007 @ 11:30pm
My new home is going to take some getting used to, to say at the very least. Took the direct flight from JFK to Beijing and then connected to Shanghai. Severely hungover, fatigued and with BBQ smoke still in my pores, I slept almost the entire flight through. Got my first flavor of China when I got hustled at the Air China gate for my check in. The Chinese bitches at the gate were cold as hell and made me pay an extra half of my original fare to check in my oversize luggage, plus they made me buy a Canal St. luggage at a 300% markup. Felt chumped and Chef reminded me that we are moving into the "Land of No Customer Service."

The new chapter of my life is a downgrade in some aspects sure, but I'm hoping the risks I am hedging on will bring insanely great
returns sometime in my lifetime. Woke up during my flight to find a nasty Sizzler-style dessert with a jelly candy sunkist lime wedge on top. Perfect for testing out my new camera on closeups with. Stopped over in Beijing, considered playing a hand with the China Welfare Lottery... Didn't feel like hedging my lucky numbers against someone's foodstamps though.