Shanghai’s food culture is hard to tackle in one visit so I always tell visiting friends to start with two things: a basket of soup dumplings and a bowl of yellow croaker noodles. While soup dumplings have been widely covered, yellow croaker noodles really don’t get as much love!
黄鱼面 which literally translates to ‘yellow croaker noodles,’ are essentially springy noodles in a creamy golden broth filled with chunks of yellow croaker. At 蟹黄鱼 Xie Huang Yu, my favourite noodle spot, they also toss in minced crabto enhance the umami flavours. Add a light splash of vinegar to the broth and it’ll be just perfect.
Xie Huang Yu has a charming little store in Xintiandi that feels very down to earth compared to its surroundings (PC: Dianping)
Lunch spread! Each bowl of yellow croaker noodles comes with a little side of vinegar mixed with minced ginger
My two favorite dishes to share are the lightly breaded Chinese pork chop and the chicken thigh in a spring onion marinade
It’s rare to see such big chunks of minced crab & yellow croaker, they’re super generous with their portion sizes at Xie Huang Yu
These yellow croaker wontons are pretty phenomenal too–essentially, Xie Huang Hu stuffs yellow croaker chunks into juicy wontons and then add some minced crab on top
A local gem in Xintiandi, you’ll find plenty of locals lining up here during weekday lunch hours!
Shanghai’s best bowl of noodles
At Xie Huang Hu, they’ve really perfected that delicate balance of a creamy soup without any fishiness to it and chunks of yellow croaker plus crab. At 68RMB per bowl, it’s a steal! The restaurant’s signature wontons stuffed with yellow croaker are also excellent. You can really taste the fleshy fish meat and the wontons themselves are delicious when dipped in the vinegar-soy sauce. Other popular dishes to share include fried yellow croaker, chicken in a spring onion marinade, and Shanghai-style fried pork chop.
Note that Xie Huang Yu’s yellow croaker noodles are certified 网红 ‘viral’ which means that celebrities and locals alike will queue just to get a taste of it. My favorite location to visit is the Xintiandi branch, which is really in the heart of Shanghai. The key is to go after 2pm you want to miss the lunch crowds! After all, you really can’t leave Shanghai without trying a bowl of these yellow croaker noodles, it’s a Shanghai-must.
Xie Huang Yu 蟹黄鱼 Address// 200 Taicang Road, by the intersection of Taicang Road and Madang Road Hours// 10am-late
When in Paris, there is no better treat than a fresh croissant paired with un café. “Paris is a moveable feast” as Hemingway once said, so the occasional indulgence is almost a must. Last year, I traveled to Paris frequently for work and found myself revisiting many pâtisseries and bistros for French desserts. Some blew me away at first bite and some were simply classics. Here are three spots I personally adored in Paris, alongside some neighbourhood favourites for a post-feast stroll.
Every time I take a bite of the pistachio-stuffed chocolate escargot at Du Pain et Des Idées I’m reminded of why I love french pastries. Buttery, flakey and decadent–it doesn’t get better than this. Du Pain et Des Idées is a must-visit in the 10th arrondissement and worthy of a “bread pilgrimage” according to Condé Nast Traveler,
A gorgeous rustic bakery with limited seating, open only on the weekdays
This legendary pistache-chocolat escargot pastry is a Paris icon for me and worth trekking to Du Pain et Des Idées for
Rows of fresh pain au chocolat and croissants, this is what bread-lovers’ dreams are made of
A sneak peek of the bakery’s legendary recipes (all in French!)
The charming old bench outside is the only seating available but it’s more than enough for people-watching as you scarf down your pastries
Waking up early to arrive, order, and devour a fresh escargot before grabbing an assortment of pastries for my colleagues was a delicious routine of mine. Note that Du Pain et Des Idées very recently added a coffee list to their menu. I can never resist a coffee with my croissants but be warned you’ll find much better options elsewhere. That being said, the pastry selection is more than impressive and the escargots are simply irresistible. Truly an icon of my Paris trips.
Previously the pastry chef behind Fauchon, Sébastien Gaudard has a charming pâtisserie next to the Tuileries Garden. The shop is bright and airy, with a gorgeous display of decadent desserts on the first floor and tea salon on the second floor. Sébastien Gaudard has quite an extensive menu. Among them the Paris Brest stuffed with praline cream is a crowd-favourite and so is the Mont Blanc cake. Because I like to visit in the morning, I also gravitate towards the viennoiserie and pick out a Chausson aux Pommes as well.
Like all Parisian institutions, rows of charming outdoor seating
PC: Sébastien Gaudard
Surprisingly, one of my favourites at Sebastien Gaudard is actually the Chausson aux Pommes, which is a French Apple Turnover that’s extra flakey and buttery
Stroll through the Tuileries Gardens afterwards–I love to sit by the fountain and people-watch before making my way to the Musée de l’Orangerie
Musée de l’Orangerie was designed with maximising natural light in mind
Visiting Giverny, where Monet painted his Nymphéas, is on the top of my list for my next trip back to France
Sébastien Gaudard is a lovely spot for classic French desserts in the 1st arrondissement and perhaps that’s also why you do pay dearly for it (~8 euros per cake!). That being said, the shop is tucked in the corner of the Tuileries Garden and therefore conveniently on the way to Musée de L’Orangerie. A sweet start to the day followed by a visit to the Tuileries Garden and surrounding museums is the perfect Paris itinerary.
When done right, soufflés are fluffy as a cloud and just dreamy–pretty much what I captioned on my Instagram post after my first visit to Le Récamier. My Parisian roommate back in university days said that Le Récamier had some of “the best soufflés in Paris” (and Vogue apparently thinks so too). So when I finally had a spoonful of the chocolat noir soufflé with a glass of chardonnay, I was pretty thrilled that it exceeded my expectations and more.
Le Récamier, located on Rue Récamier, is a chic Parisian institution that’s beloved by locals and high-profile celebrities alike
Terrace seating was quite cozy under the heat lamps and even more lovely in the summertime
A DECADENT chocolate soufflé with a glass of chardonnay, simply perfect
There are quite a lot of savoury soufflé options as well–we ordered the famous Henry IV, a chicken gravy soufflé that was bursting at its seams a bit!
Visit the nearby Bon Marché afterwards to enjoy the seasonal displays and some shopping
The food hall in Bon Marché is possibly my favourite place to pick up gifts in Paris, just look at the assortment of jams and spices available! PC: La Grande Épicerie, Interstore Design Team
Personally, my favourite thing to gift is Marlette–an organic baking kit with a nice selection of traditional French recipes to choose from
As Le Récamier is in the luxurious 7th arrondisement, there’s also a lot of nearby shopping available. For gourmands, visit Le Bon Marché and its adjacent food hall, La Grand Épicerie, for some gourmet shopping. You can most likely pick up all the ingredients needed to whip up your own French dessert!
I kept the list short but hopefully sweet. I have a long list of places I loved in Paris and I can’t wait to share it with you guys. Anyways, I’ve been told a dessert a day may not be the secret to Parisian chic but sometimes… it’s simply too good to resist.
Sense 8 誉八仙 is a gorgeous old-school Cantonese tea house in Xintiandi. From hairy crab shumai to truffle mushroom dumplings, you can find every style of dim sum and Cantonese delicacy at Sense 8. The name 誉八仙 comes from the old Chinese legend of “Eight Immortals” and brings a dreamy element to the restaurant’s decor.
Walking into Sense 8 is quite a lavish experience. Filled with Chinese antiques and hues of red and gold, the main dining room is constantly buzzing with servers refilling teapots and carrying bamboo baskets of fresh dim sum. It is said we often feast with our eyes and in that way, Sense 8 is a crowd-pleaser and Shanghai gem. Many have asked me for my favourite dim sum spot in Shanghai so here it is finally!
Similar to a traditional tea house, you’ll have a separate dim sum menu where you note down your order and hand back to the servers
Dim sum spread begins! Most dim sum are in a trio so best to double the order if you have more than 3 people
In front, you have the crab and pork shumai and in the back, the scallop and black garlic shumai
Fatty and succulent char shiu pork, this is a must get for meat lovers
Shrimp har gau is possibly my favourite dim sum–simple but excellent when done right
In the bamboo basket up front is the assorted mushroom dumpling topped with truffle; the beautiful translucent jade green comes from spinach juice
Pan fried radish and taro cakes are classics and great with Sense 8’s special chili sauce
Notice the teapot and background antiques are decorated with the characters from the tale of “Eight Immortals”– a nice nod to the restaurant’s dreamy name
Sense 8’s old-school opulent interiors
Sense 8 is best during brunch time where fresh dim sum is served. Sometimes you’ll even find servers walking around with off-the-menu dim sum! My favourites include the shrimp har gau, crab roe shumai and assorted mushroom dumplings with truffle. Don’t forget to pair your food with some pu’er tea served in a beautiful “Eight Immortals” themed teapot.
À la carte dim sum is not served during dinnertime but there is a dim sum platter with some of their classics. So if you cannot make it for brunch, be sure to ask for the dinner dim sum basket.
Closing out the year with a Shanghai favourite of mine. It’s been a hectic year and I haven’t posted on this blog as much as I would’ve liked. Posting more will be on my list of New Year resolutions for 2019! A lot of you have asked me for recommendations and contacts in Shanghai, Yunnan and other parts of China. I’m always happy to share some local favourites–just drop me an email.
Happy holidays from Shanghai with love,
Sense 8 誉八仙 Address // Lane 8 Xintiandi, 181 Taicang Road Tel // 6373-1888
Breakfast is served from 8am-10.30am daily and Brunch from 11am-3pm.
The spectacular snowy peaks of Haba Snow Mountain in Shangri-La, Yunnan should be on every wanderlust traveler’s bucket list. Situated opposed the famed Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and above Tiger Leaping Gorge, Haba Snow Mountain means “golden flower” in the language of Naxi, the local ethnic minority. In order to visit Haba Snow Mountain, it is a 3.5-4 hour drive from the Old Town of Lijiang. The drive from the airport to the mountain is incredible however, as it includes the most spectacular journey through the Tiger Leaping Gorge 虎跳峡.
I took a last minute trip to Haba Snow Mountain this past March in order to stay at the newly opened accomodation, Clouds Glamping. It was actually a spur of the moment trip, which started with a call from my friend Qiqi asking if I was interested in going glamping. Qiqi is a creative and like me, always interested in new off-the-beaten path experiences (that and she’s also a Michelin-starred pastry chef that whips up some of the best desserts I’ve ever had!). Of course, like the start of all good adventures, I said yes without any prior research and booked a last minute flight to Lijiang, Yunnan.
Glamping is relatively a new concept in China so I really didn’t know what to expect, but when I finally met the charismatic owners behind Clouds Glamping, I could see how their vision of hospitality and entrepreneurship was incorporated into every detail of their property. I’ll let the pictures tell the story first because at an elevation of 3000 meters, Clouds Glamping truly felt like a hidden gem above the clouds.
Clouds Glamping in Haba Snow Mountain with panoramic glacier views
Dreamy clouds with beautiful sunshine, truly Shangri-La at its finest
Each tent has a slightly different patio, all designed with afternoon lazing in mind
A large yet cozy tent with a queen size bed, equipped with all the essentials you’ll need
The tent is kept warm by a built-in-fireplace and once all the windows are zipped up, it’s quite cozy at night even when the temperature drops
Total of three tents in addition to the two pictured here, all with unique features (one of them even has a professional star-gazing telescope!)
Where I most frequently relaxed during my trip–these chairs are definitely the best seats in the house to take a nap in
Apart from the tents, there is a central kitchen and community area for guests to use. The first floor is a L-shaped kitchen, the second floor is closed off with a glass panel for late night tunes, and the third floor is open-air and great for some morning rooftop yoga
The bar area was always busy with someone making fresh Yunnan Arabica coffee, a huge perk of glamping in Yunnan
A surprise birthday cake by Qiqi! She managed to make a cake with all the random ingredients she found in the kitchen (some simple butter cake, banana cream, and fresh fruit)
If you stay at at the site for a couple of days, you’ll see that the sun rays hit the valley differently at every point of the day–I personally found the afternoon sun rays the most stunning
My favorite travel necessities recently: an edition of Magazine B and my Sunday Somewhere sunglasses
Highlight of our personal patio: taking an afternoon warm bath in the mountains
Spending a birthday with my feet propped in an outdoor bath and a clear view of the snowy Shangri-La mountains
Breakfast is a guaranteed feast with a view–we had steamed buns, fresh Yunnan coffee, eggs, pancakes… and if you fancy cooking, you are more than welcome to add to the breakfast menu
Chef Qiqi making some scallion pancakes on the grill (seriously, it’s a privilege to travel with a chef!)
The owners making some fresh congee for us in the morning; hands down the most charismatic couple you’ll meet
Boiling eggs with some mountain herbs–a little cooking secret Qiqi shared with us to make the eggs more fragrant
Skillet fried pork dumplings that were, for some reason, so amazing we had THREE skillet full of these!
A casual lunch with the Clouds Glamping team–all fresh, seasonal vegetables from the local Naxi village
Yunnan-style chorizo is fired up with Sichuan peppercorn and chili oil, it’s an incredibly tasty dish that is local to the region
In the afternoons, even though there was WIFI throughout the campsite, I found myself spending less time on my phone and more time listening to the other travelers share their stories
The Clouds Glamping team are all avid coffee drinkers, they can even give you a little brewing workshop for those that want to learn the art of hand drip coffee
(L to R): me in my happy place, Qiqi loving the kitchen she can cook and brew coffee in, our fellow campsite visitor who’s a coffee addict, and the beautiful owner Yoyo finally taking a moment to relax
At night, we grabbed Shangri-La beers (excellent mountain water means exceptional beer) over a bonfire
This clear shot of the starry night was taken by a fellow camper–it’s hard to capture how beautiful the night sky was at the campsite and how tiny I felt staring up at it
A very reluctant goodbye the morning of our departure
Leaving Haba Snow Mountain and driving down to Lijiang which is a 4 hour drive–we stopped to use the rest station, and this was the view right next to it (surreal, I know)
Before leaving Yunnan we visited the central market in the Old Town of Lijiang, Yunnan (you can still see the snowy peaks in the background)
Shangri-la, Yunnan is a fictional heaven on earth…
Clouds Glamping is run by Yoyo and her husband, both with incredible stories and vision. Yoyo use to be a national baseball player and her idea of good fun is basking in the sun with a coffee in hand. Her husband on the other hand is this comically funny, big heart, big personality type of guy that is always sneaking out to go on hiking trips with us. In the afternoons, we would all sit on the patio to admire the panoramic views of Shangri-la and discuss politics, travel, and what entrepreneurship looks like in remote areas of China. Clouds Glamping is a passion project they have built by hand (most literally) and that is why they so carefully curate all the items they provide for visitors. Whether it’s handpicking Yunnan Arabica coffee beans from a local plantation or choosing speakers that echo nicely in the mountains, the dynamic duo want to craft an unique glamping experience in China.
Considering that Qiqi and I are avid food lovers, the farm-to-table concept at Clouds Glamping was the perfect addition to our stay. Even in Shanghai, I’ve always adored Yunnan cuisine for its seasonal delicacies such as foraged wild mushrooms and peppercorn-stuffed chorizo. But what I enjoyed most about dining at Clouds Glamping was the hearty mix of local delicacies and wholesome, Chinese comfort food. The typical breakfast repertoire every day includes coffee, eggs, steamed buns and congee. All the guests tend to dine together in the mornings so I found myself waking up everyday to the smell of delicious creations like scallion pancakes and soft boiled eggs with herbs. Lunch and dinners were free-for-all so you could utilize the kitchen, cook with local produce you pick up from the nearby Naxi village, or go hiking and have a picnic. We went with eating what the locals ate i.e. hanging out with the staff members and eating traditional Yunnan dishes with them. It’s a great way to converse with local villagers and try out the crazy spicy flavors they love!
There are things that will inevitably come with staying in the middle of a snow mountain. For one, the temperature drop at night is quite significant so Yoyo would heat up a campfire for us to huddle around and distribute local Shangri-La beers to warm us up. No electricity at night (Clouds Glamping mostly relies on solar power) meant we would all star-gaze and chat before retreating to our tents lit up by small oil lamps. Limited hot water meant we would be more mindful of our water usage and be courteous to everybody. In a way, these inconveniences were charming reminders of the luxuries we take for granted in the big cities we were all from.
In short, I am thankful that Qiqi kidnapped me on such an unforgettable trip to Haba Snow Mountain. I was inspired by the people I met, the good food I ate, and the snow-capped mountains of Shangri-La county. There are places you travel to that stay with you for a while. While very much off-the-beaten path, Clouds Glamping was definitely one of those for me.
Haba Snow Mountain 哈巴雪山 Directions // From Lijiang Sanyi International Airport, rent a car to Haba Village 哈巴村 which is the base of the Snow Mountain, or if you plan to stay in Clouds Glamping they can arrange a car for you to and from the airport for 600RMB/one way.
Clouds Glamping 云阶 Reservations // Add them via WeChat ID: clouds_glamping (or email me at email@example.com and I can arrange a reservation for you) Price// 1800RMB/big tent, 1500RMB/small tent (price includes breakfast every day)
Only 4 hours from Shanghai, Shengsi Island 嵊泗列岛 is perfect for a short getaway. Over a long weekend, my friends and I traveled to Shengsi in search of some quiet beaches and hiking. If you’re looking to explore a Chinese island that retains a lot of its local charms, Shengsi Island is just that. Still a little rugged and spotty with service, Shengsi is filled with friendly locals that are curious to learn about each traveler’s stories. Not to mention, excellent seafood and ‘sea-to-table’ dining.
When we were planning for our trip, we had first considered the popular Hainan Island 海南岛. Nicknamed the ‘Hawaii of China’, Hainan Island is more convenient for international travellers that prefer a resort getaway. But we felt there are too many less-traveled-to gems in China and were very tempted by pictures of Shengsi’s quiet beaches. After all, when traveling in China half the fun is not knowing what to expect.
Note that traveling to Shengsi from Shanghai requires taking a bus and then a boat. During peak season, ticket purchase a day in advance is highly recommended. Travel details are at the end of this post.
Getting to Shengsi Island
Ticket to Shengsi Island includes the 1 hour bus ride from Shanghai Nanpu Bridge to the boat dock
The bus drops you off here, head into the building on the left for the Tourism Center and boarding gates
Follow the crowd through this long walkway towards your designated boat
The slow boat takes around 2 hours while the fast boat takes less than 1 hour
Welcome to Shengsi! Get in line to hop on the official island taxis and make sure the meter is running
Enjoying Shengsi beaches and local eats
From our balcony, view of the hotel and private beach
One of the three swimming pools in the hotel–the large pool with the water slide is only open in the summer time from July onwards
We grabbed a friendly taxi driver and took an evening drive around the island, stopping at various lookout points
Some gorgeous greenery at dusk
Walking down to one of the quieter beaches on the other side of the island by the Fishermen’s Village
A lighthouse on the dock next to a pretty cluster of homes
“Three monks on a beach”
One of my favourite moments during our trip–sunset on this beach was gorgeous
Our long weekend spent on Shengsi Island was relaxing and spontaneous. The first day, our boat arrived on the island just in time for golden hour. To enjoy the pink skies before sunset, we grabbed a taxi driver and asked to be taken around. Our driver was friendly and chatty, he even took it upon himself to show us lookout points we would’ve never found by ourselves!
Among them, we found the the beach by Fishermen’s Village the most stunning for sunset. As we strolled along the beach, we met a couple of young monks picking up seashells and enjoying the sunset.
Hiking the perimeter of Shengsi Island via 六井潭 Liujingtan
We drove up to the eastern lookout point to look at the many untouched beaches on Shengsi Island
六井潭 Liujingtan is a must-visit on Shengsi Island with some nice views and relatively easy hike
Spring time on the island
The beautiful lighthouse with a paved pathway along the cliffs
Well-paved walkways, worth the climb
A short but pretty hike by the water (I could’ve done a couple hours of this!)
We even spotted goats grazing on the cliffs
Back at the quiet beach strip in front of our hotel for some card games
Beach, bikini and beer!
Favourite food finds on Shengsi Island
Island living means plenty of beers–we also tried this fruity, blackcurrant liquor that was quite strong
We went to Stars Inn Seafood for dinner. You can pick the seafood you want and the style of cooking you want (stir fry, steamed, with chilis, garlics, etc.)
Steamed octopus–this was INCREDIBLY tender we were really impressed by it
After dinner we found an ice cream that was trendy among island locals–salted egg yolk ice cream (it’s a little strange but quite nice!)
Next morning, we found this friendly Hawaiian-shirt local selling sweet mochi cakes that were incredible! Biggest regret we didn’t buy two bags to go…
Swung by the wholesale fish market in the island city centre
Many type of fresh fish–you can buy some seafood and take it a restaurant, they’ll cook it for you for a small fee
Chikadee is a patisserie (!!) we found on the island. It’s surprising to find a french bakery on this tiny little island but definitely worth a visit if you’re like us and missing wine and pastries
Assortment of madeleines and croissants
‘Traditional’ french.. on a very local Chinese island
We had our best meal on the island at Mr. Hou’s Seafood Noodles. It is a no-frills, family-run noodle shop where the owners wake up every morning at 4am to make Chinese-style gnocchi that’s incredibly chewy and flavourful, 10/10.
Seafood noodles in a clam-based broth–not the most beautiful picture but the soup was really flavourful
The aftermath of our dinner–we all agreed it was our favourite meal over the weekend!
When it comes to food, Shengsi Island is pretty much synonymous with seafood or ‘sea-to-table.’ All kinds of seafood are available and at extremely affordable prices. In the evening, the restaurant lights slowly turn on and soon the streets are lined with boxes of fresh clams, octopus, squid, sea fish, etc.
When it comes to dining, you only need to judge a restaurant by two things: 1. How fresh is the seafood catch you see outside the restaurant? 2. Do you know any familiar faces at this restaurant? These two tips are super important! The first one guarantees your seafood quality (pro tip: get all shellfish done with the signature chilli and garlic sauce!). The second guarantees a cheaper price for your seafood. We ran into our driver from the morning and he helped us get some extra dishes curtesy of the house. There’s definitely an art to dining on small islands!
The star among them all was Mr. Hou’s Seafood Noodles. It’s a family run store where the noodles are handmade every morning and are incredible when stir-fried with a dash of soy sauce. This was an awesome late night snack and went amazing with beers. Don’t miss this!
A last visit to Fishermen’s Village
Last stop before leaving the island, make sure to visit the colourful Fishermen’s Village–they sell grilled goodies all around town (left is rice cake brushed with sweet soy and right is grilled squid)
Fishermen’s Village is famous right now for its colourful revival–slowly adding murals to the public walls and painting splashes of colours to different buildings
A goodbye to the friendly people we met on the island, including this beautiful golden retriever that’s the unofficial mascot of the town
For all of its charm, Shengsi Island lacks that polished edge a lot of beach resorts and developed islands have. The hotel we stayed at was clean but still needed a lot more work on the interiors and service. Similarly, although taxi drivers now need to turn on the meter and have been more strictly regulated by island authorities since 2019, they still have the habit of arbitrary charging.
Traveling in China is an expectations game and it will take time to adjust. For every surreal moment you experience when traveling spontaneously in China, there will be significant inconveniences as well. But if you can get past the bumpy bus ride and hectic boat ride, Shengsi is nice for a weekend getaway.
Hope everyone is staying well and safe! These photos are from an old trip of mine in 2019, thought I’d take time to share some beautiful photos of traveling in China.
From Shanghai, buy a combo ticket (bus+ferry) at Nanpu Bridge Station for Shengsi Island. Take the bus and then get on the ferry for Shengsi Island. If you want to visit the moss-island Gouqi Island, you still must get to Shengsi first (Xiaocaiyuan Pier) and then get on a smaller boat from there.
2020 has been a whirlwind. I started the year with a month long trip to Australia, hiking incredible trails by the ocean and having plenty of Shiraz. I was savoring every moment of this once-in-a-lifetime trip when the news broke about coronavirus. Reading articles about the outbreak in China while very far away was both confusing and nerve-wracking. After all, Shanghai has been my home for the past 3 years.
Like many, I had exciting travel plans lined up for 2020 (Bangkok, Tbilisi, Tokyo and more) until COVID-19 came along. As the virus paralyzed China during Chinese New Year and eventually the rest of the world, I wanted to take this time to reflect on the past 3 months. I’ve had many international friends ask after my well-being so I hope this post can show what life under quarantine (‘strict social distancing’ if you’d prefer) was like in Shanghai.
Note:As I arrived in Shanghai early February, it was quite different from how international travel procedures are now. Things are much stricter in China as of March 2020, with travelers from certain high risk countries placed in group quarantine or refused entry.
Traveling from Sydney back to Shanghai
I started 2020 in Tasmania’s Bay of Fire, climbing fiery red rocks under beautiful blue skies
After a month of traveling, my flight from Sydney back to Shanghai was unsettling & nerve wracking–with a very uncomfortable mask on 80% of the time
Priorities upon getting back to Shanghai? Swapping out my (dirty) air filter to an added-strength, anti-bacteria filter
Meet Otis who was a little irritated with my absence at first, but little did he know he would go from weeks without seeing me to seeing me EVERYDAY
Quarantine Day 1: Coming back to an empty fridge so my first meal back in my apartment was pancakes with a jam tasting
As I prepared to fly back to Shanghai, my 3 must-haves were hand sanitizers, masks, and wet wipes. They helped me reduce anxiety and practice personal hygiene for airplane travel. But there is no denying, the flight from Sydney to Shanghai was extremely uncomfortable with a N95 mask on for 10+ hours.
By February, international travel to China had largely halted so there were no air traffic delays as we quickly landed at Shanghai International Airport. Stepping into the Arrivals Hall, we were met with temperature checks and health questionnaires to fill out. At this point, international travelers were still allowed but they were strongly advised to home quarantine for 14 days, followed by strict social distancing. The normally hectic airport was bare and intimidatingly quiet.
After airport security, the next step was getting back into my apartment compound which had started to enforce a strict entry/exit system. The purpose of which was to account for each apartment residents’ movements. I won’t share any pictures here out of respect for the security guards but they did institute a somewhat draconian procedure. First, I needed to register travel history and personal details with my property management, before a temperature check from my security guard in a hazmat suit. After entering the apartment, a strict quarantine was enforced and leaving the compound was restricted to one person a day per apartment, and only for necessities. Yes, vigilant security guards will ask you where you are going!
In my first weeks back, my impression of Shanghai was desolate, cold and eerie. Never mind that I couldn’t leave my apartment complex, I also didn’t have access to masks (I only brought 5 masks back with me from Australia). I relied on my well-stocked freezer and China’s (overloaded) delivery system for essential groceries.
Dealing with work & coming to terms with the uncertainty
Despite the Chinese government extending the Chinese New Year holidays, my startup team was back in full force to discuss next steps and emergency measures (C-A-S-H-F-L-O-W)
Welcome to the world of WeChat video, a simple yet powerful tool to get everybody on the same page for morning meetings
For lunch, I snuck in a glass of wine & pulled out shrimps from my freezer–for reference, I had this combo of pasta+shrimp for 3 days til I was able to get fresh groceries
My standing desk is right next to Otis’ favorite spot, a perk of working from home was spending more time with my clingy cat
Getting back into the grind of Shanghai was hard. Self-isolation made me realize a majority of my daily routines were based on physical interactions with people. At one point, I started wondering if I would ever see Shanghainese grannies chitchatting in the middle of the sidewalk again. They were essentially the vital voices of Shanghai streets.
Among all my routines, work was one of the more disorienting parts of this all. In January, the Chinese government had extended Chinese New Years holiday for an extra week to delay the mass migration of workers back into the cities. This meant factories were shutdown for an even longer period of time, causing major delays and disruptions to supply. Compounded with nearly 2 months of remote work afterwards, this was pretty much an unprecedented situation across China. Corporates and startups were all affected, from employee well-being to cashflow management.
Working from home also posed challenges for my startup team. WFH was such a foreign concept in China that the first week of remote work was all about identifying China-friendly collaboration tools and making sure all team members were comfortable with this new communication style. As I work at XNode, a Shanghai-based innovation accelerator, we needed to keep up to date with the fast-changing virus situation & consequent policies. Looking back, this seems simple enough but at the time China was the first country dealing with the outbreak and the policies literally changed everyday.
Some questions that we juggled with: What did all this mean to our overseas startup interested in acceleration in China? What about our corporate partners running innovation programs with Chinese startups that may have suppliers in high-risk areas? When should we go back to work in person and how do we check team morale everyday? Every day, the reality was so many questions and so little answers.
Cooking at home & coming up with indoor entertainment
Blogilates was my best workout partner during this time period, although it was still hard to prevent the inevitable weight gain
Making my way through Oscar films and thoroughly wow’d by Parasite, directed by Bong Joon Ho
These frozen shrimp wantons and frozen shrimps were the two bulk ingredients I had in my freezer when I arrived back in Shanghai
Taking time to experiment with new recipes (thank you Chrissy Teigen)
Going through Chinese social media (小红书 Xiaohongshu) and getting kitchen inspiration
Baking everything I could get my hands on (candied cinnamon apples in this case)
As I spent more time in the kitchen, I really put my small oven to good use
For me, finding indoor entertainment and establishing new routines were key to staying sane. I found a lot of comfort in planning my meals and cooking everyday. In the first couple days of being back in Shanghai, the food delivery system was still under a lot of stress. Meaning I struggled to get groceries delivered to my apartment because people were waking up at 7am to order large volumes of foods, thus overwhelming the limited number of delivery men. This meant I ate a lot of shrimp wantons (a handy item I always store in my freezer) and pasta. Quickly, I learned to plan my meals ahead of time and put in my orders early for fresh groceries.
In China, home workouts also became a thing via fitness apps like Nike Workout and KEEP. Personally I enjoyed Blogilates on Youtube and loosely followed a routine of morning stretches and afternoon workouts. Many people also joined live streams of trainers doing home workouts. For those that took it chill, the running joke on social media was how little steps one took a day. For reference there were days I did only 100 steps… hence the need for an occasional sweat.
Slowly venturing back into work with all the precautions
First day back at work, N95 mask on and fully covered
The team having a conference call with masks on–this is pretty much the max capacity of people in one room!
Treating myself to the (finally) reopened Shake Shack–they didn’t offer dine in but did do take out
As the number of COVID-19 cases started dipping in March, the local government loosened up policies and compounds slowly opened up. Once companies allowed for staggered working schedules, we slowly made our way back to the office. During this time, the Chinese government also implemented a health system with QR codes tied to individual IDs. Your QR code would be color coded green, orange, or red based on your travel history and health situation.
So what did this all look like? For example, going into work (and all public places) security guards will conduct a temperature check, QR health code check, name and phone number registration, and finally a visual check that you’re wearing your mask. In the buildings, we were also extremely careful and wore our masks at all time.
In late March, offices gradually filled up with staff that finished self-quarantine. Restaurants were slower to open up as local officials wanted to discourage social gatherings, but Shake Shack was among the first to get the green light. And it was such a treat to get a Shack Burger & fries!
When you emerge from quarantine, what happens next?
Shanghai’s West Bund area slowly resuming its outdoor activities
Flowers in bloom as the weather warmed up
My colleagues and I supported a local bar’s new product (canned cocktails) by organizing after work drinks in the office
Belated birthday celebrations with a couple friends via a homemade brunch
Wishing for a healthy 2020
Shanghai as a city is 70% back to life. When the weather is nice, the streets are full of people wearing masks while soaking up the sun. Local businesses and SMEs are struggling a great deal but a sense of ‘new normal’ has emerged. This ‘new normal’ is a mask-wearing and hygiene-conscious population that can go out to public places but still prioritizes homebody life.
How did I keep myself busy and fulfilled during the 2 months Shanghai was under quarantine? The honest answer was fear mixed with social pressure and the reality that I was very privileged. Shanghai had been walled off quickly with people strictly observing all government guidelines of social distancing and mask-wearing. Access to China’s advanced delivery system also meant I didn’t have to worry about necessities, I just had to stay home and be responsible.
Some of my basic learnings over the past couple of months:
Hygiene is everything–WASH. YOUR. HANDS.
Wear a mask if you need to be outside and in contact with people. This is the responsible thing to do even if it’s uncomfortable. But do not hoard masks!!
Use tissues or gloves when touching public surfaces (e.g. China started putting a tissue box next to the elevator so you would use that to press the buttons).
Support your local F&B and small businesses when you can. They are hurting a lot.
Social gatherings are a luxury you cannot afford until the infection rate tapers off. Find indoor entertainment and fully utilize video chat.
Read official sources and don’t share inflammatory news. Fake news is not helpful.
Be kind and realize we are all sharing one human experience. Discrimination generates hate. What we need is empathy and strength.
For my friends and readers that are scattered all over the world, I hope this post can offer a tiny peace of mind. This was my personal journey as someone living in Shanghai who was lucky to have a strong support network and stay healthy throughout the crisis. China had many first responders, doctors, and citizens that made many sacrifices to contain the situation. I’m immensely thankful to them. For my American friends and family, you are in my thoughts every day.
If you are interested, I’ll give an update next month of how Shanghai is recovering as the situation is easing and government policies relaxing. Please comment below or send me any questions you have, I will be happy to help answer.
When in Hokkaido, don’t miss a trip to visit Lake Shikotsu 支笏湖 and stay at this quiet yet luxurious onsen hotel. Tsuruga Mizu no Uta is an onsen spa and resort located in the Shikotsu-Toya National Park. With a warm fireplace and well-designed communal spaces, Tsuruga Hotel had me when I walked into the lobby and saw people roasting marshmallows in yukatas. It is rare to find such an effortless blend of modernity with Japanese onsen culture.
Oh and the food! In the mornings, we enjoyed traditional Japanese breakfasts with our own clay pot of steamed rice. With the rice, we indulged in unlimited ikura and fresh sashimi. Dinner comes with a selection of sake, and each guest is served a plated main dish alongside the buffet. By the end of our weekend stay, we tried everything from wagyu beef to local Hokkaido produce.
While Mizu no Uta is off-the-beaten path, it is well worth the trek for those that want a cozy retreat from the hustle and bustle of Sapporo city. I rarely share hotel recommendations but this is one of my favorite gems I’ve discovered in my recent travels.
Head over to Lake Shikotsu in the Shikotsu-Toya National Park–it is much less visited than Lake Toya but no less beautiful
There are shuttles to and from Sapporo Airport to the hotel, as well as from Sapporo Main Station. Make sure to reserve with the hotel a day in advance
Tsuruga Mizu no Uta has has perfect lake view and many communal areas to relax in–our favorite one was the lakeside foot onsen
Pictures don’t do the hotel lounge justice because it was our favorite spot to relax in–incredibly cozy and warm, with live music and drinks at night (PC: Tsuruga Mizu no Uta)
After a complimentary upgrade, we stayed in the junior suite with outdoor jacuzzi pool (PC: Tsuruga Mizu no Uta)
The room was a mix of Japanese and Western styles, with tatami mats in our living room and western beds. I highly recommend visiting the Pillow Gallery to select your own pillow!
As the hotel is separated into multiple wings, there are Japanese yukatas and quilted coats for guests to use on the hotel grounds
Follow this beautiful corridor into the west wing for dining
This wood-pellet stove in the middle of the corridor was a thoughtful touch–we stopped here everytime we were in this corridor
The dining hall is bright and airy, with literal window seats and excellent views
Breakfast options are light, with plenty of pickled vegetables and fresh fish
The best part of breakfast everyday was this pot of rice, perfectly cooked in a cute Staub pot
For those that enjoy salmon roe, pour some over steaming rice with a little bit of soy sauce on top–it’s a perfect morning combo
Who knew you could find incredible viennoiseries in a Hokkaido hotel–I should’ve asked about their pastry chef because these were amazing croissants
Leaving this here because you will thank me when you catch the fresh pastry cart in the mornings
After breakfast, visit the outdoors ‘so-so no yu’ or ‘hot springs for foot’ and enjoy the lake view. This helps improve blood circulation!
Visit the onsen, located on B1, to fully unwind
No pictures are allowed inside but the open-air onsen is incredible especially when there’s light snow outside (PC: Tsuruga Mizu no Uta)
The onsen has showers, a massage lounge, and a small library to relax in afterwards
After our bath, we swung by the hotel patisserie to pick up some cakes
I highly recommend the Japanese sponge cakes with local strawberries and Hokkaido fresh cream
We decided to take our afternoon tea in our room, on our tatami mats
While our room had an outdoor jacuzzi, there are suites with private onsens–definitely don’t let it go to waste and take full advantage!
At dusk, take a walk out to the hotel deck
Dinner comes with your choice of a plated main dish–this wagyu beef was excellent and came recommended by our server
The ochazuke station was perfect for Hokkaido’s chilly evenings
Before another onsen soak, toast some marshmallows in the lounge and enjoy the relaxing sound of a crackling fireplace
There are also two session of live music in the evenings (when we were there, there was a beautiful harpist playing)
Explore the Lake Shikotsu Area
My pictures don’t do Lake Shikotsu justice so look online for its pictures during fall foliage, spring blossoms and winter snow! Pro tip: during sunset, walk along the lake and past the bridge for a nice panoramic view. We found Lake Shikotsu’s surrounding town, Shikotsu Kohan, very small but full of delightful finds as well. During our many walks, we spotted a hipster grandpa making hand-drip coffee through LOG BEAR’s large windows and couldn’t resist peeking in. That somehow turned into us having coffee and chatting with the owner for hours.
From the local eatery to the visitor center, there was a nice charm to Shikotsu Kohan. Things were not overly polished but everyone was genuine and eager to chat. I appreciate this small town type of feel–something very comforting about going to a foreign country and being shown a snapshot of locals’ everyday lives.
LOG BEAR is a bed & breakfast, as well as a cafe in the day
Run by the incredibly cool grandpa sitting behind me in this picture, LOG BEAR has a fun collection of magazines and wooden toys for you to pass time with
Having traveled to 20+ countries in his youth, the LOG BEAR grandpa has a lot of interesting stories to share so don’t be shy and chat him up! His English is perfect and he’ll share the journey of how he built LOG BEAR from scratch
Swing by the Lake Shikotsu Visitor Center to learn more about the local wildlife as well as surrounding activities to do
The visitor center was very well-designed and beautiful in the afternoon sun. We grabbed a warm drink from the vending machines & slowly read up on Lake Shikotsu’s history (hint: it was formed by a volcano eruption)
The local eatery was pretty much our guilty pleasure spot–we found all sorts of Japanese comfort food here, from yakisoba to cheesy mochi
From left to right: buttery soy-sauce scallops, fried mochi with cheese inside, and ginger pork yakisoba
It was our first time having this, but something about the fried mochi with oozing cheese was just insanely good
Lake Shikotsu has less tourists than Lake Toya so if you’re looking for a quiet onsen retreat, visit here instead
From hotel design to service details, Mizu no Uta was a luxurious onsen experience. As it is not part of an onsen town, Lake Shikotsu is a retreat for those that want to enjoy the slow life for a bit. Spend a weekend unwinding in Shikotsu-Toya National Park, with incredible food & access to open-air onsen. You’ll feel fresh-faced & well-fed in no time.
*The hotel is a 45 minutes drive from Chitose International Airport. Make sure to call the hotel in advance to arrange for a free shuttle. After your stay, you should also reserve an airport shuttle or ask to be put on the bus to Sapporo city.
From fatty miso pork ramen to the best cream puffs you’ll ever taste, Hokkaido is truly Japan’s ‘kingdom of food.’ My friend L and I recently visited Sapporo with the aim of eating our way through town. Here is a curated food guide to the local gems we found & would recommend. This is a follow-up to my 36 hours in Kyoto: Food & Omiyage. Different city, different must-eats. Enjoy!
9 a.m. Arrive at Sapporo Station
Fly directly into Chitose Airport and take the airport express to Sapporo Station (~30 minutes). Sapporo Main Station is at the heart of the city’s central business district. Make sure to fully utilize the underpass that connects Sapporo Station with all of Sapporo’s major department stores (Stellar Place, AEON, etc.). It is a blessing especially in snowy weather and you will marvel at this well-designed & extremely convenient underpass.
Make sure to pick an accommodation close to Sapporo Main Station, you’ll be able to access the very convenient underpass that seemingly connects every main mall and hotel in central Sapporo!
Sapporo makes for perfect hat weather, it’ll help when the snow flurries
11 a.m. Visit Kitakaro Honkan for brunch
A 10-minute walk from Sapporo Station, Kitakaro is a beautiful confectionary shop housed in Sapporo’s oldest library. Renovated by Pritzker-winning architect Tadao Andao, Kitakaro retains its high ceilings and every bit of old world glamour. As the Japanese love their interiors to be clean and white, this confectionary shop is truly where minimal design meets dessert.
Head upstairs first to Kitakaro Cafe and grab a table by the bookshelves. While the menu is light, the daily pasta choices are super tasty and fresh. Make sure to grab a cup of coffee & order a ‘Hokkaido Cream Puff’ to share. Fluffy sweet cream will spill out as you break Kitakaro’s signature dessert open.
Kitakaro Sapporo has limited gift boxes (they had this amazing apple cider baumkuchen cake when we were there!)
Renovated by Tadao Andao, Kitakaro Sapporo Honten is a gorgeous meeting point of design and desserts
Gorgeous old library steps
Matsutake Mushroom Pasta
Iconic cream puff made with Hokkaido milk, will be the best thing you’ve tasted!
Okaki is Japanese rice crackers made using sticky mochi rice and a great omiyage gift to take back home
1 p.m. Shop at natural beauty brand Shiro
While Shiseido and SK-II may be popular internationally, Shiro is the niche brand from Hokkaido when it comes to skincare. Shiro is known for using all of Hokkaido’s finest ingredients (such as Hakodate kelp and Kuriyama rice) in its skincare and moisturizing products. Alternatively, Shiro’s lifestyle products such as nicely packaged honey, jams, and curries are also worth browsing. Avid Shiro lovers can also visit Shiro’s flagship store & cafe in Sunagawa–it’s quite a beautiful outpost.
Shiro skincare & beauty products are luxurious with simple ingredients like rice & kelp (PC: Tripadvisor)
If you prefer not to gift skincare, Shiro Life (the lifestyle arm of Shiro) also has some cute gift sets made with local Hokkaido ingredients
If you have time to go out of the way, make sure to visit the Shiro store & cafe in Sunagawa, Hokkaido
Go off the beaten track and visit SATURDAYS Chocolate for a cup of creamy hot cocoa. SATURDAYS is a bean-to-bar chocolate cafe in Sapporo that offers small-batch chocolates with unique flavors. Walking into SATURDAYS is like walking into your grandmother’s kitchen as she bakes chocolate chip cookies (indulgent!). Order a ‘hot cocoa+baked goods’ set and while you wait, don’t miss out on the free chocolate tasting–the Genmai Puff (Ghana chocolate with roasted rice puffs) is amazing!
SATURDAYS cafe is a local favorite and a perfect break for a cozy hour or two
Hot chocolate everything (PC: SATURDAYS)
You can taste chocolate bars with beans from all over the world before selecting your favorite type of packaging to go with it
4 p.m. Warm-up with a soup curry from Ouchi Curry & Gohan
Cold weather calls for continuous comfort foods. Share a bowl of soup curry at Ouchi Curry and have some fun picking your toppings and spice level. Soup curry is one of those Japanese twists on foreign cuisine (yoshoku) that ends up being loved by the locals. Originating from Hokkaido, soup curry is a blend of chicken & pork broth with a ton of spices folded in. In Japanese cuisine, ‘spicy’ nearly always means slightly sweet and barely spicy. But when it comes to Hokkaido soup curry, be warned that the spice level has a peppery kick!
Soup curry with a serving of slightly buttered rice–make sure to order an extra drink if you share the curry, it is Japanese curtesy to have one order per guest
6 p.m. Browse through some home goods at Pasque Island
Before dinner, head to Pasque Island for some laidback jazz tunes and lifestyle goods. Travelers and locals alike will appreciate the effortless beauty of this small yet eclectic store. Run by Japanese owner Tomonari-san, Pasque Island curates items from local designers & artists. While he may not seem like the chatty type, Tomonori-san is known to share his interesting life story (from New York to Sapporo) and photography portfolio with those that ask. So don’t be shy!
On your way out, pick up a couple souvenirs to take home. Pasque Island has a great collection of Japanese ceramic bowls you didn’t realize you wanted until you see them in person.
Lifestyle goods store with some great handmade kitchenware
End your day with a bottle of sake & some A5 wagyu beef at Gyu no Ishizaki. Even if you have tried A5 Wagyu Beef before, Hokkaido Snow Beef is among the rarest find in the Wagyu family. The Hokkaido wagyu cows have an extra layer of marbling from the snowy conditions the cattle grow in, creating a more buttery taste. At Gyu no Ishizaki, you can select between a light shabu shabu style or slightly sweeter sukiyaki style. Your server will help you prepare set menus alongside that so just sit back & relax. Pro tip: order one pot to share but add extra servings of snow beef.
Beautiful Hokkaido Snow Beef marbling
If you select sukiyaki, the server will lightly grill the beef–you should definitely eat it slightly rare to get the full buttery taste
Gorgeous beef coated in a raw egg
Service is attentive and your individual room server will help you cook your ingredients in front of you
If you’ve ever watched the iconic Japanese film Love Letter, you’ll probably have heard of Otaru. A port city in Hokkaido, Otaru is only 45 minutes from Sapporo Station. Take the JR train from Sapporo and enjoy the scenic ride with snowy mountains on one side and the Sea of Japan on the other. In the winter time, Otaru town is particularly charming–cozy stores next to each other, some with mulled wine and many with festive decorations.
For food, visit Otaru’s Seafood Market to try some fresh seafood and kaisendon. Afterwards, visit one of the town’s many LeTAO stores for something sweet. LeTAO is a brand originally from Otaru and now one of the most premium confectionary makers in Japan. Using rich Hokkaido milk to churn out their signature ‘Double Fromage’ cheesecakes, LeTAO also offers fresh cheese danishes in their Otaru stores.
Otaru Canal is the city’s most popular photo destination
Otaru Kitakaro is quite popular among visitors as they also have limited edition cakes for purchase
LeTAO was founded in the city of Otaru
Limited winter edition of LeTao danishes–this one is filled with Hokkaido cream & corn
If there is Sarutahiko in Tokyo, then Cafe Morihiko is Hokkaido’s coffee roaster counterpart. After Otaru, head back into Sapporo and visit Cafe Morihiko for a cup of hand-drip coffee. The Morihiko Blend is excellent and goes well with the cafe’s many sweets. Expect a slight wait but once you are seated, marvel at the cafe’s old wooden interiors. Avid coffee lovers from all over the world visit Cafe Morihiko to experience a cup of coffee.
Don’t be fooled by the cafe’s snowy look! Cafe Morihiko is surrounded by luscious greens in the summertime, something akin to a treehouse!
Cozy interiors with wooden and brass tones
White bean soup with grilled mochi (similar to its red bean sister, Zenzai)
Excellent hand drip coffee with a crème brûlée cheesecake
The wooden house has a peaceful and rustic feel to it, very different from modern cafes
5 p.m. Pick up an award-winning bread loaf at Nogami
Stroll over to Nogami, an award-winning bread shop. Called ‘Nama Shokupan’ or ‘Fresh Bread,’ Nogami’s signature bread loaf is extra fluffy and soft inside. Originally from Osaka, Nogami uses raw and fresh ingredients to achieve this iconic shokupan people wait hours for. Luckily, the Hokkaido outpost is a little calmer although no less popular. The fresh smell of bread as you walk into the warm bakery will be a welcoming contrast to the cold weather outside. Locals order their loaves of bread ahead of time but do drop in and try your luck–you may walk away with a couple perfect loaves of bread.
Nogami bakery is inconspicuous but houses some of the best Hokkaido bread
Perfect loaves of bread
You’ll be reluctant to step out of the warm bakery back into snowy Sapporo
For dinner, head over to Sapporo Station. Baikohken 梅光軒 offers classic Hokkaido-style ramen that is rich, flavorful and hearty. Slurp up a bowl of ramen here and have an ice cold beer with it. The pork bone broth and soy sauce broth are both worth trying so order a couple diffferent bowls to share. Fun fact: Baikohken in Sapporo is actually an offshoot of the Michelin-recommended ramen store in Asahikawa.
Still hungry? Head on over to Sapporo’s Ramen Yokocho. It is the birthplace of miso ramen & perfect for satisfying your late night cravings.
Baikohken Honten (梅光轩)
9 p.m. Omiyage Shopping at Chitose Airport
As you head out from Chitose Airport, get there early to do some omiyage shopping. Instead of staying around the International Departures Hall, the Domestic Departures terminal (5 minute walk) is the better place to shop with its variety of fresh & packaged gifts to take home. Calbee potato chips and Shiroi Koibito cookies are classics but also check out the freshly churned butters and sake selection. Foodies will love North Farm Stock, a local brand that uses only the best Hokkaido ingredients to make assorted jams, sauces and more. Take a bit of Hokkaido back with you to savor at home, you won’t regret it!
Freshly churned butter with fruits & herbs mixed in
North Farm Stock sauces and pasta
Variety of sweet jams from North Farm Stock (PC: Anny)
Shanghai Michelin stars are increasingly more diverse with the types of cuisine they are awarded to. Among them, Yu Zhi Lan stands out with its Sichuan cuisine menu created by Chef Lan Guijun.
Yu Zhi Lan is housed in a beautiful villa in downtown Shanghai. In this tranquil setting, Sichuan cuisine is served on dinnerware designed by the master chef Lan and made in Jing De Zhen, the porcelain capital of China. From ‘golden silk noodles’ to braised abalone, each of Chef Lan’s dishes carries a sense of Chinese heritage.
I recently visited Yu Zhi Lan with my food partner in crime Cristina. In my previous Sichuan cuisine experiences, Sichuan peppercorn and chili oil consistently create this explosively spicy & salty combination. But at Yu Zhi Lan, we found the flavors varied and delicate. Dinner started with a beautiful box of appetizers which included Chef Lan’s original creation–chicken feet with pickled peppers. This much lauded creation may seem daunting at first, but I promise it’s worth a try!
Reservations at Yu Zhi Lan are highly recommended. Details down below.
Understated entrance on Julu Road, the heart of downtown Shanghai (Photo credit: Yuzhilan)
Box of appetizers served in a beautiful panda-engraved, wooden box
Notice the famous chicken feet with pickled pepper in the top center
Golden Silk Noodles made with duck egg yolk… not a single drop of water is added!
Rainbow noodles colored with all natural vegetable juices, with a side of deliciously spicy razor clams
Shrimp and caviar–admittedly this was not my personal favorite due to the jelly texture
Our first hot dish served in beautiful dinnerware designed by Chef Lan
Abalone in this incredibly rich sauce made from black pig and hen
Excellent baijiu 白酒 from Sichuan
Braised sea cucumber in a hot and sour broth
Delicate douban eel
Sticky rice with pork and red bean paste–this is a popular Sichuan dessert!
A shelf featuring all the dinnerware we used throughout our meal (Photo credit: Yuzhilan)
Reservations are highly recommended as Yu Zhi Lan is all private dining (Photo credit: Yuzhilan)
Sichuan cuisine is seldom described as intricate but that’s exactly my impression of Yu Zhi Lan
Over the course of a 3 hour dinner, Cristina & I were introduced to Chef Lan’s cooking dish after dish. The appetizer box was a fun start to the evening with an assortment of seasonal delights. As I mentioned, the chicken feet is a must try and and the bitter melon was excellent as well. Next we had two standout noodle dishes. First, the ‘Rainbow Noodles’ was beautifully plated and included an excellent ‘guaiwei’ or ‘strange sauce’. Sounds a bit funny, but it’s a signature Sichuan seasoning that’s soy-sauce based and quite delicious. Then came the famous ‘Golden Silk Noodles,’ one of Chef Lan’s most prized dishes. These thread-like noodles are made a beautiful gold by adding only duck yolks (in other words, no water).
To my surprise, my favorite dish was the braised abalone which came in a thick and creamy sauce made from 20+ hours of stewing and non-stop stirring. Apparently, the chef in charge of the sauce guards the kitchen all throughout the night to make sure it doesn’t burn. Bursting with umami, I couldn’t resist mixing it into the small serving of Dongbei rice on the side. A definite must-have.
Overall, dinner at Yuzhilan was an unique experience in Shanghai I would recommend alongside other Michelin star restaurants such as Fu He Hui. The food was the star but Yu Zhi Lan’s ability to weave a story around its food was what pieced it all together. As Yu Zhi Lan offers only private dining rooms, you can really sit back and enjoy the server’s introduction of each dish and its significance in Sichuan cuisine. There were a lot of fascinating details I learned throughout the night (why certain dishes were plated on certain porcelain, the significant of certain types of baijiu, etc.) which made it all the more enjoyable.
For all those that have asked for my Shanghai dining list, here’s a new Sichuan gem for you!
Yuzhilan* Address // 851 Julu Lu, near Fumin Lu
Tel // +8621 54665107 *Reservations are highly recommended