Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Mangosteen and My Shanghai Adventure

One of the perks of my line of work (one of the many) is that I get to do some international travel. Since moving to New York almost a year ago, I've already gotten to venture to China for my new job. The trip was an exhausting two weeks with what seemed like endless traveling and factory visits, but fortunately I was able to squeeze in some personal time to explore a new city.

It was my first time in Shanghai, and although it seemed to be overwhelming in size (and this coming from a girl who lives in NYC), I found the city to be very charming and European, with a lot to offer in terms of history, culture, and food. I was also very lucky to have a personal tour guide, a friend of a friend and 4 year resident of Shanghai. He gave me the "local" experience, which means less crowds and limited tourist attractions - Hallelujah! As I travel more and more, these are the experiences that I appreciate the most. Being able to do what the locals do and eat what the locals eat really gives you a perspective on how others in different countries or cities live their lives. It's a lot like getting a break from your own life to enjoy all the good in another's.

In an attempt to document my trip and to recommend activities and restaurants to those who may travel there in the future, I present to you my 27-hour whirlwind visit:

  • Chinese lunch
  • Quick tour of the French Concession (this is the area where I spent most of my time)
  • Tian Zi Fang Market
  • Tibetan restaurant in the market for tea and cold noodles
  • Ex-Pat cookout on the roof of an old Shanghai-style house (They had made burgers and guacamole - 2 things I know I couldn't live without. Considering how difficult it is to find these foods in China, especially avocados, it just proves that where there's a will, there's a way.)
  • Dinner at an Uyghur restaurant, called Yeli Xali aka "The Silk Road"

  • Walk along the Bund during sunrise
  • Massage on Dagu Road
  • Lunch at a Thai restaurant, Qing Mai Heaven = best Thai I've ever had
    *Highlights: Green Papaya Salad, Lemon Fish

My temporary tour guide is actually who I have to thank for my introduction to this interesting fruit, the mangosteen. I know your first question is if it is related to the mango, but it is not, and a quick Google search will confirm that genetically they are totally different. It is both delicious and has health benefits, which makes me extremely jealous of its native locale.

The vast majority of the gems are grown and sold in Southeast Asia, and finding them anywhere else in the world, especially in the States, is very difficult. I have yet to investigate my Chinatown, so it's possible that I will find them here someday.

So what's the big deal? Well, they're certainly a different taste than anything I've had, and color too. You only eat the white, citrus-like sections inside, which are protected by a thick, bright pink layer. They are both sweet and tart at the same time, and remind me of a cross between, well, a lot of things; sections like oranges, sweetness of peaches, fleshy texture of plums. That perfect balance of acidity and sweetness left me craving more.

If you ever have the opportunity to jet set to that part of the world, this is one fruit you don't want to pass up.