Inside Shanghai’s street food
February 27, 2012

– By Dev Lewis

No matter where you go in Shanghai, one thing you will not be in shortage of, is a meal to eat. Shanghai is a global city, and you can find just about any cuisine that your palate may desire. But for me, what sets this city apart, is its street food. Tasty, flavorful, and unending, oh and so cheap you cannot get enough of it. You can find “street food” at almost any corner of the city, but perhaps my favorite spot has been the back street right behind my University.  Chinese food is no doubt one of the most popular choice of food in Bombay, and over the years has evolved into its own unique cuisine. However, the true local food offered here bares almost no resemblance to most Indian Chinese restaurants.

So here’s my guide.

One requirement to enjoy (and actually eat the food) is an open mind( expect the unexpected). Although, for most Indians, dietary restrictions can spoil the fun.

Disclaimer:- Oh and my fellow Indian and American friends, do not expect to see Manchurian chicken & General Tsao’s 

Street Snacks

First on the Menu – Zi shushao kao 子树烧烤 or self-service roast (see pic)
If you’ve travelled around South-East Asia you will be no stranger to the guy with his make shift griller, BBQing an assortment of meats. This is pretty much staple to this side of the continent, and the smell of the cooking meats draws you in like a shark to blood. The choice of meat at this vendor ranges from your usual chicken, pork, beef to Cow heart (personal favorite), lamb, frog legs (actually delicious) eel, octopus, sting ray, a wide range of fish. In terms veggies you have mushrooms (a wide variety), corn, been sprouts.  It’s the perfect day , or post-night out snack, because you can usually find them grilling till the wee hours of the morning.

Each one usually costs about 2  kuai ( Rs.15), place the ones you fancy in a metal tray or plastic one like you see above and then let the chef do the rest.  You have the option of adding a spicy seasoning to it, & trust me you want it on there.
Next Up
Laobing 老兵 or Breakfast Burrito
This is something I came across by accident when I was starving, and it’s probably the best discovery I’ve made (yet!). A very simple, tasty street snack.  Its mad by frying a naan like bread on a tawa with egg added as batter and then you could eat it plain or add ham, bacon with a choice of a spicy sauce and mayonnaise. On cooking it looks like a wrap and its soooo good. Theres a lady who makes a really good one about an eight minute walk from my place.

This one cost me about 2.5 kuai (Rs.18), some can be about 4 or 5 kuay based on where you buy it and how much meat you put on. Perfect street breakfast, or just about anytime you get hungry. Stalls like this are fairly common.
Bao Zi or stuffed bread buns
So this is staple Shanghai on-the go food, think hot dog or sandwich. It’s quite simple really. Soft bread buns stuffed with either pork, beef, chicken on veggies. You can pick them up at a slightly more “upscale” place and have it cooked fresh for you, or visit you local family mart ( 7/11) and pick one up. Whenever I’m on the walk and confused whether I’m actually hungry or too busy to wait for any cooking it’s my go-to food.

So if you can’t tell already, I’m absolutely loving the choice of food here. I wish it was available in Bombay or the US, but then again part of the charm of the food is eating it on the streets of Shanghai.  For the record, these are just your typical street snacks. Next week I’ll get to the more wholesome street meals and drinks that make me love this city more and more.

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