SHANGHAI’S F&B SCENE
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 |