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[Wylie]The Ladies from Shanghai  

2012-11-19 10:59:34|  分类: 转载收藏 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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The Ladies from Shanghai

November 16, 2012 in CouchSurfing, Restaurants

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Jia, a.k.a. Shanghai's Carrie Bradshaw

Jia, a.k.a. Shanghai’s Carrie Bradshaw.

Person: Jia
Location: Shanghai
Restaurants: Northern Chinese, Taiwanese, Dumpling, Barbecue, and Shanghainese

“But the most exciting, challenging and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself. And if you can find someone to love the you you love, well, that’s just fabulous.”

- Carrie Bradshaw, Sex and the City

The "Sex and the City" ladies.  The New York version.

The “Sex and the City” ladies, New York version.

Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda were meeting for dinner at a northern Chinese restaurant in Shanghai known for it’s braised beef and delectable dumplings.

I’m sorry. Did I say Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda? I meant Jia, Jing, Zhu, and Dan. The four smart, funny, attractive, and, did I mention, single, ladies of Shanghai.

Samantha, Miranda, Charlotte, and Carrie: Shanghai Style.

The “Sex and the CIty” ladies, Shanghai version.  Jia, my CouchSurfing host, is wearing the cool T-shirt.

It was the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival, and one of Jia friends, a cute Mexican guy who worked in IT, would be joining us at the restaurant.  As the American girl tagging along for the ride, I was curious to see how the night would play out; Jia was my CouchSurfing host and played the Shanghai-version of Carrie in the group.

Northern Chinese dumplings.

Northern Chinese dumplings.

Even without drinking their nightly quota of “cosmos,” nor engaging in tabloid-worthy dating behavior, these women were clearly living their own Chinese version of “Sex and the City” which, thanks to the magic of the Internet, was a show they all knew and loved.

Sex and the city of Shanghai, looking across from the Bund.

Sex and the city of Shanghai, looking across from the Bund.

After the family-style dinner, and exchanging tame but flirtatious Euro kisses with the cute Mexican boy, we strolled in the cool, autumn night searching for mooncakes (red bean, peanut, and coconut), the food traditionally eaten to celebrate the time of year when everything – from summer fruits to back-to-school romances – are at their peak of ripeness.

Mooncakes for the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Mooncakes for the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Back at Jia’s apartment, we playfully debated whether the cute Mexican boy was a potential date for any of the four ladies, snacking our way through the mooncakes before saying goodbye, our bellies as full as the midnight moon.

The full moon above Shanghai.

The full moon above Shanghai.

It wasn’t until lunch the next day at a Taiwanese restaurant, eating wilted Chinese greens mixed with bits of spice-dusted pork, that Jia and I were able to talk more deeply about our respective lives in cities across the globe from one another. Jia wanted to become a journalist and travel the world, a dream she said sometimes felt so remote, she wondered if it would ever come true.  Just getting a visa, let alone saving for a flight, was an ordeal.

Taiwanese food at Master Fan in Shanghai.

As someone old enough to have starred in a “Sex in the City” prequel, however, I assured her that she was definitely still young enough to realize her dreams, and reminded her that, while life rarely plays out as neatly as it does on TV, that doesn’t mean it can’t offer its own, equally exciting, rewards.

And then, as often happens with couchsurfing, our talk turned to romance. Of course it helped that we were walking through People’s Park, a favorite gathering spot for the city’s lovelorn where, every weekend, well-meaning parents come in droves, aided by handwritten notes and awkward photographs, to secure marriageable mates for their busy, overworked adult children.

A Love Want Ad in People's Park, Shanghai.

A dating advertisement in People’s Park, Shanghai.

Jia had recently ended her own high-flying romance with a successful artist (a Mikhail Baryshnikov-like figure), who’d invited her to join him in Europe after a succesful Shanghai gallery show.  It was a tempting offer, but the relationship was still too new for such a dramatic move. And besides, she had her own creative successes to achieve first.  Secretly, I knew she’d have no problem finding Mr. Big when the time was right. And when she did, he’d be lucky to snag her.

Shanghai's Mr. Big?

Shanghai’s Mr. Big?

That night, over sheng jian bao at what Jia proclaimed was the best dumpling place in Shanghai, we took delicate bites of the fat white dough balls, first steamed en masse, then charred to crispy brown on their bottoms, and swapped more cross-cultural dating tales. Perhaps we would have better luck, we laughed, leaving the matchmaking to our parents, agreeing that, no matter where you lived, finding “The One” in a city of millions was about as easy as grabbing a seat on a rush-hour subway train.

Yang's Dumplings, a Shanghai fixture.

Yang’s bao dumplings, a Shanghai fixture.

After bao it was on to street barbecue…

Street barbecue awaiting customers.

Street barbecue awaiting customers.

and then more dumplings, this time Shanghainese-style…

A soup-filled Shanghai dumpling.

Xiao Long Bao, soup-filled Shanghai dumpling.

and a day later, Jia and her roommate Jing (a.k.a. Samantha) surprised me with a feast of homemade Sichuan pork and vegetables, garlic-y bok choy, and the most decadent steamed crabs I’d ever eaten.

Jia and Jing's Sichuan feast.

Jia and Jing’s homemade Sichuan feast.

Perhaps, I mused, rolling onto their living room couch after dinner, and feeling increasingly like a dumpling myself, this is the real difference between the ladies of New York and those in Shanghai:

That Shanghainese women stay remarkably thin while still enjoying daily doses of rice and pork, while in New York, single women are forced to subsist on infant-sized salads and the occasional cracker and cheese to keep their girlish figures.

If that’s the case, I thought, drifting off to sleep, who needs Manhattan? I’ll take Shanghai any day!

Shanghai street at night.

Shanghai street at night.

Bai Tou Xie Lao


Bai Tou Xie Lao
Chinese Idiom: Live to ripe old age in conjugal bliss; remain a devoted couple to the end of their lives.

 

Shanghai Restaurant Recommendations (in Pinyin):

Northern Chinese: Dong Fang Si Ji Jiao Zi Wang (Shanghai Library metro stop, Line 10)
Taiwanese: Lu Ròu Fan (Jing’an Temple metro stop, Line 7)
Dumpings: Yang’s Dumplings (Jiangsu Road metro stop, Line 2)
Barbecue: Dong Bei Hu (Jiangsu Road metro stop, Line 2)
Shanghainese: Fu Chun Xiao Long Bao (Jiangsu Road metro stop, Line 2)

Help spread the word about CS Cook.

Tags: Bar-b-que, Barbecue, Carrie Bradshaw, China, Cooking, CouchSurfing, Cuisine, dumplings, Food, Food Blog, Manhattan, New York, New York City, Restaurants, Sex and the City, Shanghai  

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