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Joachim Textor
featured chefs joachim textor Joachim Goes To China
August 26 - 31 , 2001

I had been invited by the Shanghai Chef’s Association to be a on the panel of international judges for their annual FHC 2001 or better known as Food Fair and Convention -Exhibition. I must say not being back there since 1991 the city and particular districts have been through an enormous change. The Food Fair itself including the final Black Box competition has also shown an increase of 40 % compared to the previous event held and we had distributed quite a few medals in various categories.

Shanghai actually was a little town in 1800s. As a gateway to he Yangtze River it was an ideal trading port. By the end of 1920s there were more than 60.000 foreign residents in Shanghai. The city was built on trade - opium, silk and tea. During that period it was the busiest port in whole Asia. After forty years of stagnation the great metropolis of Shanghai is currently undergoing one of the fastest economic expansions that the world has every seen. Indeed the city with more than 16 000 000 people now seems certain to recapture its position as East Asia's leading commercial center, a status it last held before World War II.

In the early 1990s China's central government decided to push Shanghai once again to the forefront of the country's drive for modernization, thus releasing an explosion of economic activity. City planners are creating a subway network, highways, shopping malls, hotel complexes and the "New Bund", or also better known as “ Pudong “ across the river, already crowned by one of Asia's tallest buildings, the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, Grand Hyatt, Shangri-La Hotel and many other futuristic buildings.

The long-suppressed Shanghai's ability to combine style and sophistication with a sharp business sense is once again riding high. Not that the old Shanghai is set to disappear overnight. Large parts of the city still resemble a 1920's vision of the future; a noisy, crowded and grimy metropolis of monolithic, pseudo-classical facades. It is also still possible to make out the former foreign concessions, with their elegant European-style buildings from the early 1900s, while the old city's Chinese heart consists of a bewildering tangle of alleyways. The city's most interesting districts lie to the west of the Huangpu River and its classical colonial waterfront, the Bund. Nanjing Lu, a busy shopping street, runs east from beside the Peace Hotel through the heart of downtown to westerly Renmin Park and the Shanghai Museum. The city's other main sights are found about 1.5km south of Nanjing Lu in the Old City, while to the southwest lies the marvelous former French Concession, with its colonial-style housing and revolutionary relics. It is also there where over the past years a few western free standing restaurants has opened their doors. One of which is called “1931“ which played also music from that time.

Presently there is also already another district for food connoisseurs blossoming just behind the Huai Hai Zhong Road. Beside all those fancy hotels dotted around in town I believe that this area will become the hottest food scenery spot in Shanghai very soon. We had twice excellent meals there, respectively at the
“T 8 Restaurant “ and “ Café Luna Bistro and Bar “. French bakery products can be enjoyed in the same building before going into the Moulin Rouge show up on the second floor. We felt like we were sitting some where in Europe .

On our last day I took also a day tour by coach to the ancient city of Suzhou built 514 B.C.located 89 kilometers outbound of Shanghai on the Yangtze River Delta in Jiangsu province. It is also known as the home of silk - over the past 5000 years and famous for its embroidery (quite a few Japanese and Korean factories were located in the vicinity there already )

We were shown a few most characteristic and exquisite gardens (Lingering Garden , West Garden Temple, The Master- of- Nets Garden ) and houses, which dated back to the Song Dynasty. Furthermore we also paid a visit to the renowned Hanshan Temple.

For myself the highlight of the day were the Zhou Zhuang Water Village .Surrounded by several lakes , the old township of Zhou Zhuang / Tongli has a network of canals reminiscent of Venetian scenes. With dozens of humpbacked stone bridges , ancient lanes and winding walkways, delicious local food, and talented street artists paining their picturesque surrounds. It is no wonder that Marco Polo called Suzhou the Venice of the East !

Our last visit of the day was to the Tiger Hill ( Hu Qiu )with old trees and cultural relics everywhere. I also have got to known the millennium-old Yunyan Pagoda or better known as the Leaning Tower (even 400 years older than the leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy) which stands on top of the hill and is regarded as a symbol of Suzhou.

Finally the day came to return to Singapore. I have took with me some vivid memories and some extraordinary experiences and I’ve

promised myself that one day I ‘ll refresh them and return to the awakening giant that is China. For another exiting vacation maybe and maybe visit the high plateau in Tibet or even towards the old silk road starting in Urumuqui / Xinjiang province. Read our interview with Joachim

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Joachim on Singaporean Food
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