The cold winter winds couldn’t hold back students’ enthusiasm to go out and taste the street foods of Shanghai. Long before the week of “Building Shanghai” programs arrived, everyone had been eagerly looking forward to it. Our project group, called “ A Local History on Street Food”, aimed to taste many of the local snacks of Shanghai, and witness how they contribute to the local culture, economy and people’s life.
Our group was in the charge of Mr. Joshua and Mr. Han. Mr. Han informed us of this week’s schedule, while Joshua assigned us different tasks to be performed on the way. By dividing ourselves into groups of 3, we went to Zhujiajiao Ancient Town, which is a tourist attraction nearest to our school. On walking into the ancient town, the students suddenly disappeared without a trace just like runaway horses. While searching for places on the map, I, together with some team members, was interviewing stall owners on the roadside and eating the foods they sold at the same time.
On the streets of Zhujijiao town, vendors’ hawking could be constantly heard. “Begonia cake...;Sugar cakes...” Those vendors spoke mandarin mixed with strong local accents. Vendors selling orange cakes and gorgon fruit cakes were busy attracting customers. Zhujiajiao’s meat products such as fried boiled pork hoof and boned and rolled pork were very popular with tourists. The storekeeper introduced the fried boiled pork hoof to us and told us that most of the customers came here specially for it.
Of course, there was the famous “Zongzi”, and nearly all the store selling Zongzi hung the signboard named “A Po Zongzi”. The culture and economy of Zhujiajiao town are spread by many brands.
Early next morning, we set off for two museums located in Nanxiang ancient town, Jiading District. We visited them to learn about the stories and history of the ancient town, the making and inheritance of the “Xiaolong baozi”, steamed dumplings, and famous people and events of the ancient town respectively. We learned a lot we had known nothing about before.
Later, we went on a sightseeing tour in the ancient town. Flags were hung at the doors to many stores in Nanxing ancient town, making it vigorous. On the way, we recorded what the ancient town looked like and also our trip by taking photos and shooting videos. In the afternoon, we headed for the Mixc Mall and spent a lot of time shopping around inside the mall, feeling relaxed and happy. The “Nanxiang steamed dumplings” had been enjoying a long-lasting reputation, so we were very pleased this time to be able to taste this local and traditional snack.
The “Yu Garden” located in downtown Shanghai is very famous for its delicious foods. On the early morning of the third day, we entered the Garden for sightseeing, and saw many stores displaying traditional and cultural elements, such as poem-inscribing, perfume satchel-making, and sugar painting. We also witnessed many crafts preserved as non-material cultural heritage, such as finger painting, paper cutting and micro carving etc.
After lunch, we tasted steamed stuffed buns and sweet dumplings together with our teachers. After we learned how to make steamed stuffed buns and the history of the store selling sweet dumplings, we headed for the restaurant in the centre of the Yu Garden, which sold Nanxiang steamed dumplings. All the students enjoyed trying making dumplings by themselves. It was already dark outside when we stepped out of the restaurant, but we found that the Yu Garden had more flavors than it did in the morning.
Walking on the zigzag bridge in Yu Garden, watching the lotus lanterns and other lanterns which are open to public only on the Lanterns Festival each year and eating snacks at the same time, we experienced the lifestyle of Shanghai people, which is exquisite yet suits both refined and popular tastes.
On the last day, we headed for the ancient town of Zhujiajiao again to collect our materials for our project. We realized something different from last time--- the ancient town appeared more quiet and peaceful; people were sitting on the slab stone and chatting under their porch and eave; kids were running around with toys in their hands. The vitality of Zhujiajiao was mixed with its prosperity, vividly showing us how the local townspeople lived.
The Food Project has left a deep impression on us. We broaden our horizon not only by learning the history of snacks, tasting different foods, making the steamed dumplings by ourselves, but also by witnessing unique customs and practices. We came to realize the real significance of “Building Shanghai” program--- to try to understand the culture of this city and feel its styles and features from one perspective; to acquire knowledge and grow up by playing and having fun. As a member of this project group, I was greatly impressed by this event, which will leave me a wonderful memory.