Cooking with nerds

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Anyone recognise this wallpaper? Yes, there is a Sherlock themed cafe in Shanghai. This was actually the very first thing Emily came up with when the possibility of a Shanghai holiday was mentioned. I’m still not sure how she found it, other than the fact that she* is a massive nerd and has a radar for things like this. The place is entirely decorated in Sherlock themed decor, with quotes all over the walls and a shop full of memorabilia

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Look! A teeny tiny Sherlock dolls house!

Once Alix and Emily had sated their squealing fangirl tendencies in the gift shop (I remained sensible but I’m not going to pretend I wasn’t sorely tempted by the novelty – there was Sherlock cross stitch for goodness’s sake), we met up with the lovely girls from Cook in Shanghai to make a hefty lunch of pancakes, noodles and dumplings. All should be reasonably easy to recreate at home, though I will most likely employ western methods. If you think eating with chopsticks is hard you should try beating eggs and mixing dough with them.

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Touring the local market to buy our ingredients. I’d never seen ox tail before but I’m pretty sure it’s going to haunt my nightmares.
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Scallion (spring onion) pancakes for a very late pancake day

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Wrapping dumplings. I discovered I’m actually quite good at this, so I’m looking forward to trying that again at home.

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The dumplings can either be boiled, fried or steamed (we didn’t bother learning how to steam them since none of us own a bamboo steamer)

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Food! There were also noodles but they didn’t last very long – they were our dumpling making fuel. The fried ones are the best! Mmmm, crispy bottoms.

We stuck around drinking tea and chatting with our teacher Helen for a bit afterwards, with Alix explaining about English history and Emily taking about law and me mostly sitting there nodding because my friends are much more intelligent than me. We learned that Helen was actually her third name, as along with her Chinese and English names she had a temporary name as a baby, which is common for infants in China. Because babies are believed to be more vulnerable to evil spirits they are given non human names to trick the spirits into thinking they aren’t worth taking. She was quite embarrassed to reveal that she used to be called ‘sweet potato’ (or whatever the Chinese equivalent is). Personally, I think it’s adorable, and beats what a lot of parents in the West are coming up with for baby names.

The next evening we went to Shanghai circus world, which is great and all (trapezes, bendy people, juggling with bowls, spacemen running around a giant wheel!), but doesn’t come with any photos. Booo. So instead you get some photos of our afternoon trip around the antiques market area, which includes such priceless souvenirs as:

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The biggest mixer in the world (for the sake of your sanity don’t zoom in on my face)

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Waving Mao watches

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ObaMao t-shirts. Yes really.

I still didn’t buy anything, because I’m clearly quite boring.

On our last day (the last! How did it come round so soon?) we went to Jinjiang amusement park, which I fully expected to be a bit of a rubbish fairground, but actually has some pretty decent rides.

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The weird part was how long it took us to ride them. We arrived quite late (mainly because I was picking up my ferry ticket, sorry guys), so the crowds were on their way out. In a western theme park this would be brilliant because it would mean you could just jump on the rides without a queue, but here for some reason they had to wait for the seats to be as full as possible, which means sitting on a rollercoaster for half an hour with no one in the queue wondering when on earth we were going to start moving.

Thankfully not all the rides were like that. We were utterly thrilled to find that we could go on the ‘It’s a small world’ knock off without a wait at all.

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Emily doesn’t quite share our joy at Joyland.

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I can’t think why.

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One final piece of educational information before i leave China – there was bizarrely a Japanese Gundam statue in the Chinese park (well why not, I’m sure there are many foreign characters in our parks), so I had to take a photo for my nerd boyfriend, which led to me trying to explain the difference between Gundam and Transformers from my second hand knowledge.

‘Well, rather than robots or aliens, gundam are weaponised suits of armour. That can fly.’
‘Like Iron Man then’
‘Yeah, except much bigger. The pilot is tiny compared to the machine’
‘So, like the alien from Men in Black’
‘What?’
‘You know, the prince who’s hiding the galaxy’

So there you have it, if anyone asks you what a Gundam is, it’s like a squished up alien inside an old Jewish guy with a cat. Except with more guns.

*OK, we. All of us. I surround myself with obsessive types.

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