Thursday, 21 March 2013

Pictures of the Day: Food Street

Lots of people on a Monday
An old river town that's a tourist site mostly for locals
On my last day in Shanghai, my friend took me to an old town on the far western edge of Puxi or the old part of the city.

The area was formerly farmland and only in the last several years have buildings sprung up, including gated communities for the super rich.

Not much business for giant White Rabbit candy...
Inside are houses -- free-standing homes that look like they belong in upscale neighbourhoods in North America.

But I digress.

After a short 20-minute drive, we arrived at what should be a quaint spot, traditional Chinese-looking buildings with the upturned roofs and a small river running through -- but it's heaving with people on a Monday thanks to a student field trip.

We brave the crowds, walking slowly down the path and are accosted by what we see, as well as sounds and smells at each stall. Hygiene is not necessarily a top priority here and so braised pork knuckle are stacked on a plate where dust can easily catch on them, or small birds are roasted on a stick and placed in a circle like a teepee.

We wonder what's actually in these "beggar chickens"...
And the pungent distinctive smell of chau tofu was in the air at one point -- and we saw the wok they were deep-fried in and the oil seemed... rather black...

There were some curious foods too -- like one wrapped in a bundle and it turns out it's supposed to be beggar's chicken, but one wonders if there is a decent-sized chicken in there after the layers of mud and lotus leaf. Maybe it's just a quail!

And yes -- we can't forget sweet snacks like massive White Rabbit candy. I've never seen any as big as those, but we didn't see anyone buy them. Maybe they're just for show?

For an early lunch, my friend took me to a steamed dumpling shop, where we ordered a few things to try. We grabbed a table upstairs -- a narrow steep staircase -- and sat by the window on very narrow benches.

Piping hot xiaolongbao that were tasty, the skin a bit thick
The end result? Everything here arrived scalding hot so we didn't have to worry about food preparation. The xiaolongbao were delicious, though the skins were a bit thicker than ones I'd had the day before in a posh-looking place, but the filling didn't have much flavour.

We also had some minced pork and vegetable wontons that were also very good, again very tasty. And we also had big dumplings Wuxi style, about one and a half times the size as a xiaolong bao and filled with a meat filling similar to pork knuckle braised in ginger and vinegar, though more on the sweet side. It's typical Shanghainese as they like heavier, richer flavours. I'd had about three of them and was pretty much full.

Wuxi-style dumplings that were quite filling and sweet
I'm glad I had a chance to sample some street food in Shanghai and despite the fear of eating pork thanks to the floating pig carcasses, managed to eat some xiaolongbao!

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