Culi­nary Jour­ney

SHANG­HAI TO­DAY IS HOME TO UP­SCALE GLOBAL DIN­ING BUT SEARCH HARD ENOUGH AND YOU CAN STILL FIND LO­CAL GEMS.

World Travel Magazine - - Contents - BY MARK ANDREWSOR

Un­cover Shang­hai food se­crets in a man­ner that would have made An­thony Bour­dain proud.

Glitzy IAPM Mall on Shang­hai’s Huai Hai Zhonglu, one of the city’s two main shop­ping ar­te­ri­als, seems a strange place to start to delve into the city’s food cul­ture. But as Lost Plate helps you dis­cover, shad­ow­ing it a cou­ple of blocks ei­ther side are hid­den lo­cal eater­ies.

Shang­hai for the late An­thony Bour­dain meant two culi­nary ob­ses­sions, namely soup dumplings (xi­ao­long­bao) and noo­dles. Un­for­tu­nately the fa­mous Nanx­i­ang ver­sion fea­tured in Parts Un­known has suc­cumbed to the tourist hordes. In­stead Lost Plate takes you to a shop off Changle lu.

Be­hind a glass win­dow a young chef dex­ter­ously wraps pork dumplings. “There are three im­por­tant things with

xi­ao­long­bao. First the size – they should be bite size. Then there is the del­i­cacy a good one has 20 pleats whereas many street ven­dor ver­sions only have 10. Thirdly the soup should be light coloured. If it is dark they have added soy sauce and sugar be­cause they are not con­fi­dent of the taste” says Nick Zhang, guide and man­ager Lost Plate, Shang­hai.

Xi­ao­long­bao makes for an ex­cel­lent ap­pe­tiser un­til the next stop, one sure to have met with Bour­dain’s ap­proval. Duck­ing down a li­long (al­ley­way) of old shiku­men build­ings the tour en­ters the Yu fam­ily’s front room. Wait­ing on the lazy Su­san are fried rice and a cold dish of cu­cum­bers in sweet­ened vine­gar. Soon they are joined by the piece de re­sis­tance glis­ten­ing plates of sliced hong­shaorou pork. Yu cooks the quin­tes­sen­tial Shang­hai dish the old way – a method that takes much of the day and where the sauce is added only at the end. The re­sult is pork that melts in your mouth with lit­tle hint of all the fat of the cut. Strictly in­vite only the Yus, for­mer gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, first opened their home six years ago. Like with many old style build­ings Mr Yu cooks in an open kitchen around the back.

Cross­ing Huai Hai Cen­tral Road the groups call in on what was one of the first pri­vate res­tau­rants in Shang­hai af­ter China opened up. Run by the same fam­ily for over twenty years it looks as if not much has changed dur­ing that time, and why in­deed change when the food is this good? Most of the ta­bles are con­vers­ing in the lo­cal di­alect and not only is the menu here in Chi­nese but you also have to write down your or­der mak­ing it near in­ac­ces­si­ble for out­siders. Food is a mod­ern in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Shang­hai style. There is mar­i­nated beef cov­er­ing baby bok choy with a raw egg on top, morn­ing glory (wa­ter spinach) with a fer­mented soy­bean sauce, and fi­nally deep fried win­ter melon chips.

Noo­dles were a soli­tary af­fair for Bour­dain and given the com­fort food rep­u­ta­tion of scal­lion oil noo­dles many Shang­hainese would agree. In a tiny shop just off the main shop­ping street noo­dles come topped with caramelised green onions har­bour­ing tiny piece of pork which are then mixed. The ex­pe­ri­ence is all about the food, Bour­dain would have loved it.

This Page, from top left, Chef wrap­ping xi­ao­long­bao dumplings; freshly steamed xi­ao­long­bao with vine­gar for dip­ping Op­po­site,clock­wise from left, a dish of red cooked pork at the Yu Fam­ily home. Mr Yu in his open kitchen; a dish of morn­ing glory; mar­i­nated beef with a raw egg on top over baby bok choy; mix­ing scal­lion oil noo­dles

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