Hospitality News Middle East - - BUSINESS - Maya Bek­hazi Noun Founder and Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor The Food Stu­dio

Just back from her culi­nary ex­plo­ration of Chi­nese cui­sine, Maya Bek­hazi Noun, founder and man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of The Food Stu­dio, pro­vides us with an in-depth look at Shang­hai’s au­then­tic culi­nary scene

In Shang­hai, even with the many Wester­nadapted and high-end Chi­nese op­tions, eat­ing like a lo­cal re­mains the pre­ferred choice.

Dumplings are king

We came across an abun­dance of small and medium-sized restau­rants, which were suc­cess­fully com­pet­ing with some of the city’s most fa­mous fine-din­ing spa­ces. The lit­tle eater­ies served food from steam­ers and the city’s fa­mous soup dumplings, which were un­like any oth­ers found else­where in the world. An­other del­i­cacy was pan-fried pock­ets, usu­ally filled with pork, although beef op­tions were avail­able, soft and juicy in­side, com­plete with a crispy base. The noo­dle dumpling dish also proved well worth try­ing. We were given a bowl of noo­dles or noo­dle soup, topped with silky, thin lay­ers and very juicy, de­li­cious dumplings.

Coffee for locals, tea for me

Although coffee seemed to be rapidly in­creas­ing its share of the hot drinks mar­ket, with a great many fresh-roast­ing, fresh­ground, fresh-brew­ing style coffee con­cepts in ev­i­dence, we tourists re­mained in­trigued by the tea of­fer­ings avail­able. Found on each street cor­ner and com­mand­ing lengthy queues, the city’s Chi­nese-style milk tea con­cepts clearly re­main hugely pop­u­lar. The vast choice of hot and cold tea se­lec­tions in­cluded fruit, thick foamy cream, chewy tapi­oca bub­bles and other herbal jelly va­ri­eties, in­clud­ing the de­light­ful co­conut jelly (nata de coco).

A thriv­ing street food cul­ture

Wan­der­ing off the main road into some of the city’s nar­rower al­leys, we came across an all-en­com­pass­ing abun­dance of street food. Shang­hai clearly still boasts a cul­ture of cheap, clean and easy-to-find street food. Pek­ing duck rolls - crispy duck morsels in very thin pan­cakes, topped with hoisin sauce, green onions and cu­cum­ber juli­ennes – quickly be­came a firm fa­vorite. My sug­ges­tion is to buy a dozen from the out­set as I can as­sure you you’ll want more – that way, you’ll avoid hav­ing to take your place at the back of a lengthy queue.

For west­ern­ers, un­usual del­i­ca­cies, rang­ing from in­sects to oddly-shaped seafood, might be a lit­tle too ad­ven­tur­ous for some in the first in­stance. How­ever, when served bar­be­cued on skew­ers with pa­prika and spices, with a fa­mil­iar taste and tex­ture sim­i­lar to crab, cala­mari or oc­to­pus, it’s easy to see why they’re so pop­u­lar with locals.

Small lo­cal street units also show­case de­light­fully col­or­ful and rich fruit dis­plays. I was par­tic­u­larly in­ter­ested in the cashew fruit, with its unique taste and tex­ture, and the beau­ti­ful dragon fruit.

Shang­hai is home to many award-win­ning restau­rants

The in­ex­pli­ca­bly pop­u­lar con­gee

Given that this dish is es­sen­tially a fairly bland por­ridge made by boil­ing rice in un­salted wa­ter, it’s dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand why locals are so pas­sion­ate about it. Some­what gluey, gluti­nous and lack­ing in fla­vor, it’s found ev­ery­where and eaten at any time of the day. I spot­ted con­gee at the break­fast buf­fets of five-star ho­tels, be­ing sold by ven­dors on street cor­ners, as a side dish at restau­rants and even at top chefs’ ta­bles!

The in­ter­na­tional scene

Shang­hai is home to many award-win­ning restau­rants, fea­tur­ing beau­ti­ful in­te­ri­ors and truly amaz­ing food. A few to look out for are: Mr. and Mrs. Bund, Flair, El Willy, Jin Xuan and Lost Heaven

And of course, there's the in­ter­na­tional chains, such as Hakkas­san, Joel Robu­chon and Jean Ge­orges, among oth­ers. Many top venues also of­fer lo­cally-sourced in­gre­di­ents, such as fresh black truf­fles, caviar and high-end char­cu­terie, as well as a se­lec­tion of rich, lo­cal wine. HOS­PI­TAL­ITY NEWS ME AUG-SEP 2017 |

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