I’ll Be Lucky to Escape With My Waistline Intact: My Last Month of Eating Everything in Shanghai

 

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Sometimes eating here requires a pocket dictionary and three baffled waiters

 

This is going to be a major food porn post.

I just realized that after over four years in this city, I’ve really never delved into all things foodie on this blog. Mops, cats, pollution, water monsters, bad maps– sure. Food, not so much.

Or if I did write about it, it was in passing. Or in another country.

Which is odd, really, because the food is probably 75% of the reason why I’ve lasted so long here. It certainly isn’t the weather.

 

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Meh

 

No, aside from the fact that Shanghai has given me a rather interesting place to spend the last few years whilst travelling around China for work and filling my hours with experimental mop photography and the documentation of laser cats in urban settings, I’d say that the main reason why I haven’t gone mad from all the traffic, pollution, restricted internet and whatnot is the phenomenal access to all sorts of lovely things to eat.

And the past month, in the gentle wind down to the end of my time here, has been one mad, gorgeous feast after another. I’m starting to fear for my trousers.

 

Can I show you a few of my favourite things?

 

Like this mapo doufu, from a dinky little place above some shops on the corner of Guilin Lu and Qinzhou Nan Lu. Spicy and velvety and gorgeous.

 

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Or the eggplant, all silky and slightly vinegary and garlicky and spicy.

 

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And then if you head a bit further north on Guilin lu, there are a ton of little food stalls around Shanghai Normal University.  Along with some marvellous malatang joints, there is a gorgeous xiaolongbao place serving delicately floppy, soupy little dumplings, to be slathered with fiercely hot lajiao.

 

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Along the road there are also many little bakeries selling gorgeous little egg tarts, about 3-4 kuai each. The best ones are still hot, with the custard all blow-torched and the pastry all effervescent and flaky.

 

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When I’m not stuffing my face with egg tarts (蛋挞), I’m experimenting with various permutations of jian bing (煎饼). I’ve had them with the crispy wonton skin, the yóutiáo dough sticks, with lots of greens and cilantro and scallions, with lashings of chili paste, with fistfuls of minced fermented vegetables. They’re all awesome. Breakfast of champions.

 

Jian Bing monger outside SUFE

Jian Bing monger outside SUFE

 

If you head just a little north of Shanghai Normal University, there are a few tiny little sushi places that are excellent. The first one you’ll hit is just a window in a wall but makes very beautiful little salmon rolls untainted by the usual mayonnaise, pork floss and nasty wet ham cubes.

Salmon sushi (no mayo, no ham, no pork floss)

Salmon sushi (no mayo, no ham, no pork floss)

 

If you’re lucky enough to be a teacher at a university here (or to know one who is kind enough to ask you to join them for lunch every so often), you can stuff your face in the school canteens for almost nothing. I’m a huge fan of the Muslim canteens at the universities I’ve dined at- less oily and pleasingly spicier than the regular ones.

 

Cafeteria food at Shanghai Normal University

Cafeteria food at Shanghai Normal University

 

And then there is the danger of friends returning to Shanghai for whirlwind visits, craving dishes they’d missed while out of China.  Over the past few weeks, I’ve been happily hauled out for everything from Hong Kong comfort food to Beijing duck to Xinjiang lamb fests.

Here are a few of the best ones, with details in case you want to burst out of your clothes too.

 

Xinwang (Hong Kong simple fabulousness)

175 Changle Lu, near Maoming Lu  长乐路175号, 近茂名路

 

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Cantonese barbecued meatiness. Lovely and melty.

 

Molokai (Hong Kong-style cha canting)

3/F, Xintiandi South Plaza, Bldg 6, 123 Xingye Lu, near Huangpi Nan Lu

兴业路123号6号楼3楼, 近黄陂南路

 

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Er, more pork. This time with honey and sweet chili.

 

And then there was that matter of the strawberry ice cream and jam on toast.

 

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This is exactly what it looks like and it was excellent.

 

Earlier this week, one of my recently returned friends insisted on an excursion up to Nanxiang, up on line 11. Nanxiang, in case you don’t know, is home to the original xiaolongbao- remember those splatty dumplings I posted above from the place up the street? This town is where they hail from. Along with a relatively non-annoying old water town, it also has a classical garden, a temple or three, and a whole street of xiaolongbao restaurants.

You can also get them in the Yu Garden thingy in the old town, where the queue can be a bit long and the throngs and touts a bit annoying. We also had a few orders from there, earlier in the week. It’s been a dangerously dumplingy month.

 

Gulong Restaurant (古龙饭庄)

220 Guyiyuan Lu, near Minzhu Jie
古猗园路220号, 近民主街

 

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The crab ones were best but the pork ones were perfectly acceptable.

 

In Nanxiang’s lovely little old water town area, they had a number of snack streets. We were so stuffed from having crammed a few dozen xiaolongbao down our gullets that we weren’t tempted, but my friend did buy one sweet, nutty moon cake for old time’s sake.

 

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Sweet mooncakes on the bottom left.

 

In addition to Cantonese barbecue, dumplings, sushi, egg tarts, jian bing and whatnot, I also revisited the joys of Xinjiang food. Lamb, lamb, lamb, bread and, um, lamb.

 

Silk Road Restaurant

680 Zhaojiabang Rd, near Wulumuqi S. Rd肇嘉浜路680号, 近乌鲁木齐南路

 

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Lamby lovely samsas

 

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Lovely lamby pancakes

 

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Super spicy liangpi, I love you very much.

 

The friend who needed to revisit the joys of xiaolongbao also needed a duck fix. This was a proper quacky session.

 

Quanjude (Beijing Duck)

3/F, Purple Mountain Hotel,
778 Dongfang Lu,
near Zhangyang Lu
东方路778号,
紫金山大酒店3楼,
近张杨路

 

Quanjude

Duck demolisher

 

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Duck, well parsed

 

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I very carefully styled this one. Then I ate it. It was excellent.

 

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We did have veggies too. Here are the spicy pickled green beans. Gorgeous.

 

Further adding my my precarious waistline was the all you can eat dimsum at Lynn’s (weekends, 11:30 or so until 2:30 or so, 88 kuai). We ordered a ridiculous number of dishes that barely fit on the table. It turned out to be the only meal I ate that day, and again until nearly dinner the following day.

 

Lynn’s Modern Shanghai Cuisine (琳怡中餐厅)

99-1 Xikang Lu, near Nanjing Xi Lu

西康路99-1号, 近南京西路

 

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Not even the whole spread. Seriously. Lunch for two.

 

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Shanghai style wonton soup as well.

 

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And super delicate Cantonese style shrimp steamed dumplings.

 

I’m not even going to tell you about the mango pudding that tasted like a really good custard cream steeped in the tropics because I ate it before I could take a photo.

 

Shanghai, I shall miss your bazillions of restaurants and food stalls and push carts.

My waistline, however, needs to get away for a while.

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About MaryAnne

I live in Hanoi. I used to live in Shanghai (hence this blog’s title) but I left in 2013. I tend to travel. I cook stuff. I read a lot. I try to scare myself silly with regularity. I write about it all. A lot.