Street treats — cray­fish to ke­babs

Shang­hai is fa­mous for its street food stalls and on warm sum­mer nights they’re crowded. Chen Ye takes a tour of top side­walk eater­ies for cray­fish, ke­babs and other treats.

Shanghai Daily - - BUSINESS -

glass of icy beer in one hand and skew­ers of lamb in the other, Ryan Wang eats, drinks and jokes with his friends on the street, to­tally ig­nor­ing the heat and what some con­sider ques­tion­able food safety. But all those happy, re­turn cus­tomers must know what’s good.

It’s 11pm and Wang and his work mates sit out­doors on Xianxia Road in Changn­ing District. Nearby food stall own­ers are busy stew­ing, steam­ing, grilling or stir-fry­ing var­i­ous snacks, from noo­dles and pot­stick­ers to squid and oys­ters, and ke­babs.

“I love the ca­sual at­mos­phere,” says Wang, 27, a mar­ket­ing spe­cial­ist. “Although the food might not be as safe and good­look­ing as those in the fancy restau­rants, at least I can have a va­ri­ety of op­tions at one time — Xin­jiang-style shash­lik, Sichuan hot pot, Can­tonese soup, and lots of other things — it’s like a hodge­podge.”

It’s not fine din­ing, but it’s fun to check out the night mar­ket of­fer­ings. Some peo­ple sug­gest tak­ing your own chop­sticks.

China en­joys a long his­tory of culi­nary cul­ture, and var­i­ous re­gional cuisines are rec­og­nized world­wide.

But one form of eat­ing out — munch­ing on street food and ye xiao (mid­night snacks) — brings it all to­gether in one place, some­times un­der one roof.

Mid­night snacks are fa­vored by con­struc­tion work­ers get­ting off shift, taxi driv­ers, pro­fes­sion­als work­ing late, and any­body who wants a snack af­ter a movie or a hard night of club­bing.

At a time of food safety con­cerns, ex­perts warn snack-seek­ers to be care­ful.

“Night snack stalls fill a need, but most have no li­cense, so peo­ple should choose care­fully and go to stalls that are at­tached to restau­rants serv­ing guests out­doors,” says Xia Xiangqing, a food ex­pert with the Shang­hai Restau­rants As­so­ci­a­tion.

Though snacks are de­li­cious, most are high in fat, far higher than or­di­nary food, says Yang Ke­feng, a noted nu­tri­tion­ist. Peo­ple who don’t want to gain weight should not make it a habit to eat these night treats, he says.

In ad­di­tion to tak­ing in more fat- calo­ries than usual, night snack eaters tend to gain weight be­cause they of­ten go to sleep af­ter eat­ing, he says, adding that metabolism usu­ally de­creases by around 10 per­cent dur­ing sleep.

But many peo­ple aren’t too wor­ried, and ex­pats go where the lo­cals eat.

“I don’t need to dress up — shorts, slip­pers and even vests are fine; man­ners don’t mean much,” says Wang. “I love it.”

Some for­eign­ers are also mak­ing and sell­ing their own mid­night snacks, such as crepes. At the South Gate of Tongji Univer­sity, two French stu­dents sell their hand-made French pan­cakes and one over­seas stu­dent makes “Bri­tish fried rice” near the South­west Gate.

Gen­er­ally, bar­be­cue, cray­fish and stir­fried dishes are the most pop­u­lar ye xiao.

Here are some of the city’s pop­u­lar ye xiao sites.


A stall owner ( right) pre­pares while eaters en­joy their food on Wux­ing Road in Shang­hai. ( mid­night snacks), one form of eat­ing out, brings all va­ri­eties of snacks to­gether in one place, some­times un­der one roof. — Wang Rongjiang/ Dong Zao

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