Thursday, April 21, 2011: Banana Leaf, Super Brand Mall – Shanghai
After the 1 hour stroll by the river, we went to eat, again. Actually, I thought we were going shopping, because we stopped at one of the most grand malls in Shanghai, 正大廣場 Super Brand Mall, smack in front of the Oriental Pearl Tower. The entrance was too girly cute to resist: fat, pink columns, accordion-style glass windows, and the squeaky-clean steps and façade! From the outside, it just looked like any building. Once you step inside, it’s like a MEGA, modern fairy tale castle, better than Smith Haven Mall or Manhattan Mall. Asian malls tend to stretch upwards towards the sky, versus American malls are flat like pancakes, rarely beyond 3 floors. The other thing about Asian malls is they are NOT shy about cuteness, extravagance, diversity, or mile-high heights. Many malls in Asia are built in this manner, with multiple levels, a dizzying central atrium for a panoramic view, and ornate window displays. I was absolutely awed by the brand name merchandises, the colorful and elaborate decorations from ground level to the upper decks, and the overall comfort walking around in circles. There, it was like feeling the Christmas spirit every day. I had the indescribable urge to shop my heart out, but that was not the goal of the day. We passed a Korean salon with rather dashing looking Asian guys who could definitely pass off as the boys of Super Junior, U-Kiss, or 2pm. There were plenty of trendy clothing/shoe stores and adorable children’s shops. There was also a fitness center on one of the floors, where fit Asian guys and gals were running frantically on treadmills. Just think about going to the gym, in a gorgeous mall, and seeing passersby look at you exercise. It would certainly be awkward, but different than simply staring at yourself panting before a mirror or having macho men at the gym look at you lecherously.
Distractions aside, we proceeded to eat our hearts out. Qing Qing took us to an exceptional Southeast Asian restaurant called 廣州蕉葉 Guangzhou Jiao Ye (Banana Leaf – Curry House). Blending the best flavors from Thailand, Malaysia, India, and just a dash of China, Banana Leaf was a spectacularly magical place to wind down a long day and treat your palate to a diamond class expedition. Now, I knew this place had celebrity status because upon walking in, Kelly and I recognized several of the most famous figures in Asia: 劉德華 Andy Lau (Hong Kong’s sexiest big shot in movies and Cantopop), 姚明 Yao Ming (China’s most prized export in sports, namely basketball; give it up for some Shanghai pride!), 曾志偉 Eric Tsang (another Hong Kong superstar actor, also known as my Dad’s long-lost twin), and 梁朝偉 Tony Leung (yet another Hong Kong brand name actor who performed rather well in Lust, Caution). God, after nearly a week, I realized how Asian I’ve become, after singing to several songs played in restaurants or shops and now getting excited to see my Cantonese idols! Aish~
The restaurant was scantily populated during the lunch hours, but that would all change once the dinner bell rang. The interior design was exotic, exquisite, enlivening, and enlightening. The lights were dim and calming. The walls were a pleasant shade of pastel green or mahogany brown. Plants and flowers were situated throughout the place to accent the natural order. Artful, traditional vases with running water sat along a nearby counter. The atmosphere was hospitable and soothing, a perfect match for the palate.
Oh my God, I will get hungry detailing the slew of dishes we consumed that day. To start, we tried this unique appetizer, spicy minced pork with peas, carrots and peppers stuffed in either sesame, flaked pancake pockets or crunchy, watery lettuce. It was small-portioned, but the right size to kick the taste buds into high gear for what was to come!
By far one of the most delicious dish was an Indian-inspired beef curry with assorted potatoes and vegetables! The spicy beef literally MELTS in your mouth. The curry sauce loaded well over a plate of rice.
Then came a sampling of different meats and specialties: mini zhong-zi with chicken, fried shrimp balls, spring rolls, fried tofu, and meat skewers.
Last but not least, we had pineapple-fried rice, packed with pineapple bits, sausage, cashews, and assorted vegetables. This smoky, savory cuisine complemented all too well with the curry bonanza!
As you would likely expect, I hit my food coma. It was already 5pm when we left to catch the taxi back to the apartment. I believe I was reaching my limits, since I have been traveling up and down Shanghai and Beijing from morning to evening. Atop the exploration, I was eating more than I’ve been accustomed to, because normally I practice portion control due to 1) health reasons and 2) money matters for a meager medical student. My family here has pampered me like a baby and showered me with culinary delights, of course I was going to pass out one of the days. Well, Thursday was the day I passed out from my food coma. I napped in the taxi. I got home and flopped to bed at 6pm and did not wake up until 9 hours later. Such an awkward sleep schedule, but I was super tired and super well fed. Amen~