Shang­hai’s other win­ter fa­vorites

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI - By XU JUNQIAN in Shang­hai

xu­jun­qian@chi­ cn

While color­ful frosted cup­cakes and donuts dom­i­nate the win­dows and coun­ters at Shang­hai’s bak­eries and cafes dur­ing the fes­tive Christ­mas sea­son, tra­di­tional street snacks have never lost their ap­peal in the eyes of the lo­cals. To many, th­ese snacks are an in­te­gral part of Chi­nese cul­ture and tra­di­tion and they al­ways man­age to evoke mem­o­ries of their child­hood. As th­ese snacks are al­ways served warm, they also of­fer cus­tomers a com­fort­ing re­prieve from the cold dur­ing win­ter.

Be­sides chest­nuts, Shang­hainese peo­ple also love their baked sweet pota­toes. This root veg­etable is so pop­u­lar among the lo­cals that it was even analo­gized in China’s most cel­e­brated con­tem­po­rary novel, Fortress Be­sieged with au­thor Qian Zhong­shu com­par­ing it to an il­licit af­fair and how “hav­ing it isn’t as good as not hav­ing it”.

Like chest­nuts, the aroma of baked sweet pota­toes is one of the main rea­sons why peo­ple are drawn to this snack. Most of the baked sweet pota­toes are un­sea­soned, with the fla­vor de­pend­ing solely on the fresh­ness of the pro­duce. Be­sides the small carts manned by street ven­dors, there are hardly any other places in Shang­hai that sell this in­ex­pen­sive treat that is usu­ally costs less than 10 yuan ($1.6).

An­other lo­cal fa­vorite is the deep fried radish cake, which the Chi­nese be­lieve is an ideal veg­etable to eat dur­ing win­ter as it helps to pro­vide a bal­ance to the co­pi­ous amounts of meat that peo­ple tend to con­sume dur­ing this pe­riod. Shred­ded and mixed with aro­matic spring onions, the muf­fin-like Chi­nese cake is a snack many like to con­sume be­fore din­ner.

Last but not least, there’s Shang­hai’s own version of pop­corn (also known as “pop rice”), which is made by re­plac­ing corn ker­nels with the sta­ple food for Chi­nese. But in­stead of us­ing the sort of pop­corn ma­chines seen at amuse­ment parks, pop rice in China is usu­ally cre­ated us­ing a very rudi­men­tary method of heat­ing — the rice is cooked in a black­ened, vase-like pot that is sus­pended over a large flame.

The ven­dors of pop rice are of­ten el­derly men and women, and some of them of­fer slightly fancier ver­sions by adding sugar syrup over the snack to en­hance the fla­vor. Ven­dors can usu­ally be found near the en­trances to schools, where chil­dren can al­most al­ways be seen run­ning away in fear when they hear the rice pop­ping. They al­ways re­turn, though, to buy a few pack­ets of this well-loved crispy treat that is just as pop­u­lar with the adults.


Rice pops are cre­ated in­side a rus­tic pot along the street in Shang­hai in win­ter.

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