To a Shanghai market

One of the best restaurants in Shanghai is Jason Atherton's Table No.1 at the too-cool-for-school Waterhouse Hotel. Atherton is apparently there a few times a year, but the rest of the time the kitchen is in the more than capable hands of Dundee-born chef, Scott Melvin, who has previously worked at Atherton's Maze and Pollen Street Social in London.

Scott and his lovely South African partner, Kim (who is also his highly skilled pastry chef), kindly offered to take me on a market tour on Sunday, to one of Shanghai's best produce markets. 'Actually, I don't often get the chance to come out here myself,' Scott told me. 'If the stallholders see me, then the prices go up.' He usually gets his ingredients delivered to the restaurant, so it was a bit of a spree for all of us.

First stop was the astonishing seafood section. Now, I like to think I am pretty au fait with just about everything that's edible from the sea – after all, I have spent quite a lot of time at Tsukiji over the years – but the fairly grotesque creatures in the top half of the picture were a new one on me. Some kind of sea cucumber, I guess…


Then there were the various species of clam, some no larger than a finger nail – presumably used for flavouring soups.


There were several shops specialising in dried sharks' fins. Don't worry, I am sure the fins were removed under anaesthetic, and replaced on the donor shark with a prosthetic. Or perhaps not…


Unlike the Japanese, the Chinese are far from squeamish when it comes to offal.


Look at the size of those fins! They've got to be from a Great White, no? (Bear in mind, I am well over six foot. Ish.). 


Is there really money to be made by counterfeiting Lea and Perrins? Hard to believe, but here's the evidence. Not shown: Jeinz Tomato Ketchup and Jaggi Seasoning.


As mentioned in a previous post, one of the big ticket restaurant items in Shanghai is sea cucumber. Here is a shop filled with dried ones – I'd love to know how they prepare them, or whether all the ones served in restaurants are dried.


Though the market was far, far more hygienic, clean and better run than the markets I visited in India last year, there was still quite a relaxed attitude to certain items.


Here's a true foodie test for you: Does this tray of sheep's brains a) revolt you to the very pit of your stomach, or b) remind you of that great lunch you once had at Ribouldingue?


Kim bought this astonishing citrus fruit, whose name (and use, other than ornament) escapes me.


(STOP PRESS: It's called a Buddha's Hand! At least, by some.) And then they took me to the cricket market, where old blokes buy fighting crickets, exchange stories of great fighting crickets of the past, and sit around watching old bouts of cricket fights on DVDs. Really.


Now, this is more like it. I'd definitely be more up for a spot of scorpion fighting.


Try teaching your grandmother to suck one of these:


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