Shanghai Street Food

This was what I really came to China for: the dirty, quick, terribly tasty stuff they eat on the street. I don't really know where to begin to describe how indescribably great this peanut-filled wonton in pork broth tasted. It was, like, oh my god, I need to eat these every day for the rest of my life. It was, like, wha… oh… baby… more… again…

Like that thing Meg Ryan did that time.

Or the moment they opened the Ark of the Covenenant in Indiana Jones (but in a good way, and without any burning Nazis).

It was like a culinary crash-zoom, when everything else goes blurry, and your taste buds take over every other sensory input.

It was quite good.


And I have chef Austin Hu of the fantastic modern American restaurant, Madison, to thank for introducing us. He took me there together with a few of his chef friends and staff. Don't know what the place was called, nor it's address or telephone number. All I can tell you is that it was close to the junction Zhao Zhou road and Hefei Road.

Next stop was the fabulously chaotic Shouning Rd Night Food market. This is 2am on a Monday morning, and it was still buzzing.


I have never had anything quite as garlicky as these grilled oysters. I can still taste the garlic. And it was a few days ago now.


These were fabulous: grilled tofu with cumin (the latter an influence from the Chinese muslim community). Why can't we get tofu like this in the West?


Shouning Rd is famous for its crayfish. Here are some of the little blighters. Frankly, I can live without them, but they were a must-try.


The next day I met up with the wonderful Shanghai food blogger, Fiona Reilly, whose is one of the city's best English-language food blogs. We went to Jia Jia Tang Bao, probably the most famous xiaolongbao restaurant among visitors. It was excellent. For this xiaolongbao novice, as good as they get.


And, then across the street to Yang's for some sheng jian bao, kind of like fat gyoza – steamed then fried pork dumplings with sesame seeds. Of course, sesame seeds (like bacon and parmesan) could make clay taste good, but these really were terrific. If only there was one of these places on the corner of my street. Then again, I'd probably end up sheng jian bao-shaped if there were.



Any guesses what this is? Mm-mmm, congealed duck blood. Well, shame to waste it.


And thanks to Shirley Huang for taking me to this incredible chong yu bing place the next day. It looked like a janitor's closet, but chef A-Da's truly heroic spring onion pancakes are said to be the best in the city. He only makes 300 a day, and when he's made 'em, he packs up for the day. We made it just in time – in fact, Shirley had to beg with some people ahead of us in the queue to be able to buy the last two. 


Here is the master at work. I really feel there is hope for the future of humanity when I find someone who has dedicated their life to making one particular food stuff to the best of their ability, gradually honing their technique over the years, and who couldn't give a stuff about opening chains, branding, franchising, or industrialising their product.


And yet another great Shanghai street food highlight, their version of a crepe which I found in the French Concession: jiang bing, with a spicy bean paste, fried egg filling instead of ham and cheese.


You will not believe how great these taste. My god. Almost worth getting a hangover for.


And if you're still feeling peckish, take a beak, sorry, peak at these lovely duck heads.


They are partial to their deep fryers, the Shanghaiese…


Less partial to Japanese-style department-store basement food halls. This one was virtually empty.


The classic Shanghai ice lolly flavour is pea. I can imagine pea ice cream can be fantastic…


But this one was a little past its sell-by.


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