Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Pictures of Duolun Lu

Duolun Lu is one of my favorite streets to wander. I'll have a few updates about the surrounding area, just because that's how much I enjoy it. This is a generalized take on the central street.

Duolun Lu's obvious comparison point is Taikang Lu, where an old shikumen was partially converted into a bunch of snazzy, chic boutique shops, the kind that foreigners just go wild for. Only, Duolun Lu isn't quite as snazzy, and is located near Hongkou Stadium and North Sichuan Road, a decidedly less chic part of town. The street has some really beautiful landmarks, though, and furthermore was the home of many of China's left-leaning literati, in the first half of the 20th century - including Lu Xun, perhaps the most important 20th century Chinese author. The area is dotted with statues dedicated towards these artists, or in some cases, to famous personalities from the era.

The main street has some interesting sites, like an Early Shanghai church, done in a Chinese/Western style. It was re-purposed after the Liberation, but is now again serving as an active church:

There's also this mansion that's still in use, I believe by the city government:

And then some buildings that aren't in a great state of repair, but still have a cool 30's Shanghai look to them:

Interspersed are some fancy newer buildings. They're generally such things as art dealers and cafes:

And a bunch of other older buildings, either old apartment buildings, or just older buildings that have been converted into curio shops. They're more interesting than one would expect - I bought an old-school Ruan Lingyu poster for a dollar.

Behind the main tourist street is normal shikumen living, with lots of narrow brick corridoors. This isn't a very exciting photograph, but it's a typical scene:

Bouquets of flowers decorate this door:

And there's the normal cheap street food available:

Really, this is one of the best areas of Shanghai to wander, not only because of Duolun Lu but also for the immediate surroundings. In addition to Wanshou Zhai Xiaolongbao, which I've mentioned before, there's Sichuan Lu and some cool shopping (Including Snaps Shop 2 and a branch of Lillian Cake Shop), Lu Xun park, areas of beautiful old brick buildings alongside Yishan Lu, and Hongkou Stadium. Oh, and there's also occasional decorative-rock markets on the street, but I'm not sure on which days.

It's a very photogenic area, and on a nice day there's a whole lot of people wandering around with cameras. While I'm on the subject, a number
of photos here were taken on the Seagull-branded toy camera I mentioned earlier.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Here's a short update about a favorite subject: danta! Danta is an egg custard tart. It's a dessert that's associated with Macau, although I've read that it originated as a slight riff on some Portuguese or English desert.

To my mind, Lillian Cake Shop, a chain that's located throughout Shanghai, creates pretty much the perfect danta. The reason it's better than the competitors is mostly that it's cooked at a higher temperature. Like a creme brulee, the sugar at the top of the danta hardens and forms a thin caramelized layer at the very top - most places don't do this. In addition, the crust is light and flaky, but salty, a very nice contrast with the intense sweetness of the cream. It all goes for just 3 kuai, and out of the oven it's impossible to beat.

These cakes are located all around Shanghai, including inside a large number of subway stations. If none of these other danta are quite as good, a number of them bear mention. The first is from Lisboa Macau Restaurant, a favorite restaurant which I've written about before on this blog. They make a standard danta, as well as an egg-white danta. The egg white danta is lighter, bordering on a meringue, and definitely worth trying:

The other I plan to talk about is a little embarassing: KFC! It's the most popular fast food in China, but KFC makes some efforts to localize the menu, and one of these localizations is danta. KFC's dantas are actually pretty decent. It's in the same vein as Lillian Cake Shop, and they even caramelize the top layer, just overall it's not quite as good. They offer standard danta, and then a danta with candied fruit on top. The candied fruit is disgustingly sweet and throws off the whole balance of the flavors! Anyway, the worst thing that can be said about KFC's danta is that the 5 kuai/danta price, about equivalent to seventy five cents US, is much more than charged elsewhere.