Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Xiao Bai Hua

Xiao Bai Hua is a Shanghainese restaurant near Xujiahui, a big shopping mall of a district. It's become one of my stand-by places when I go out for a fun meal with friends, because it's good food, not terribly expensive (even by Chinese standards), at a cool location, and has a fun, casual atmosphere. The insides are clean, brightly lit, and whimsically decorated, and it feels something like dining in a home:

I first heard about the restaurant off the yelp-like, where I looked up, uhh, fish-head soup. That brings up images of a soup-pot full of fish heads, but here it's just a slightly creamy, well-flavored soup with an entire fish inside of it. The fish gets cleaned of the offal, but the head is left on – diners can just choose not to eat that part. The soup is excellent, and I get it almost every time I go to the restaurant. It's 88 kuai (about twelve dollars) for a bowl, but there's enough soup that two or three people could make their entire dinner out of it.

There's a very extensive menu full of Shanghai specialties, with an emphasis on seafoods. The menu is fully translated into English, and it's all very good, although I don’t quite think it rises up to the level of the soup, or of Chun, for that matter. The prices are decent, generally 20-40 kuai for a dish, and I usually end up spending about fifty kuai per person when I go. Here’s another picture of their food, again with the soup:

The restaurant is a little tricky to find the first time. I take the subway to Xujiahui, and then the #12 exit, across the street from Best Buy. It's a five or ten minute walk down Zhaojiabang Lu, past the park, to Wanping Lu, where I cross the street and take a left. Half a block down, on the right, is an alleyway, the address is 299 Wanping Lu, and the building is #3. There's a pink sign.

It's hard to pass by at night, because it's lit up like a Christmas tree!

It's a good idea to make a reservation if going at peak times, sometimes there'll be a short wait. The phone number is 21-6472-1867.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Songjiang Mosque

Shanghai has a visible Muslim population, with Chinese Hui Muslims all about town (often seeming to run Pulled-Noodle Stands), and the generally-Muslim Eastern Turks visible as well (often seeming to sell barbequed meats or raisins). However outside of the food services, there doesn't seem to be much of a Muslim presence – for instance, businesses that aim themselves at a Muslim clientele. The only mosque I've seen in Shanghai has been the underwhelming Peach Garden Mosque, near the Old City of Shanghai.

I'm curious about the Islamic religion, so I've wanted to go to the mosque in the suburb of Songjiang for a long time now. The mosque was originally built in 1391, I had read it's one of the oldest mosques in China. However Songjiang is quite a ways out of town, so I never made it out, until I heard that Shanghai's new line #9 went out to Songjiang, and I decided to give it a try – the line also goes to Qibao Old Street.

The subway ride and transfer there is so annoying, worlds beyond the terrible People's Square Station. There are two stations, both named Yishan Lu – the line #3 version is the proper one to transfer from. From there, the two lines don't actually connect, and there's a long line for a free bus to the line #9 station, and then after the short bus ride, it's about an hour long subway ride to Songjiang terminal station, and a further ten minute taxi ride.

To my untrained eyes, the mosque didn't look all that different from a Chinese temple:

The largest difference being that there were gardens on site:

And also a small graveyard:

As well as the occasional Arabic sign or calligraphy:

There weren't any people worshipping when I went to the Mosque, although I went on a Saturday rather than a Friday. However, I understand it's still an active mosque, here's a snapshot of the Prayer Hall:

So honestly I found the mosque a little disappointing. However, it's worth a gander for those who are already in Songjiang, for whatever obscure reason.