23 March 2018
You've got to be at A Da Scallion Pancake really early because their scallion pancakes are sold out by 6 a.m. Photos: HKEJ
You've got to be at A Da Scallion Pancake really early because their scallion pancakes are sold out by 6 a.m. Photos: HKEJ

When in Shanghai, eat as the Shanghainese eat

There was a time when I was a diehard fan of A Shan Restaurant in Shanghai.

After arriving at Hongqiao airport, I would immediately proceed to the restaurant, which was quite far from the terminal and next to the city zoo, to satisfy my craving for Old Shanghainese cuisine.

I’d order pork with fermented red beancurd and braised pork intestines with alfalfa. 

Once you tried these signature dishes, you would immediately fall in love with them.

The only problem is the authentic flavors are getting increasingly hard to find nowadays. You’d say the culinary legacy probably hasn’t been passed on very well.

Everything is getting expensive in the city, and so do the gimmicks. For example, the typical braised pork balls in brown sauce are topped with périgord truffle to fetch higher prices.

But if you’re after the real, homey tastes of Shanghai cuisine, my recommendations would be Rui Fu Yuan Restaurant, Home’s Private Kitchens and Nan Ling Restaurant.

For a more sophisticated fine dining experience, Fu 1039 and Fu 1015 Restaurants are my top choices.

Xiaolongbao, pan-fried pork buns, scallion pancakes and Shanghai pork ribs noodles are the classics.

However, given the countless food scandals reported across China, people stick to big restaurant chains for safety.

For example, diners go to restaurant chain Din Tai Fung for xiaolongbao.

Meanwhile, the quality of pan-fried pork buns largely depends on the price of pork, which means some restaurants may scrimp on the meat if the price goes up.

Fortunately, I came across Cai Ji at The Bund, which offers some of the best freshly pan-fried buns in town. They’re so good each bite gives you a full taste of the pork and meat juice.

As for noodles, A Niang Mian on Sinan Road is quite popular. You must try its signature yellow croaker noodles.

Wei Xiang Zhai on Yandang Road offer the best sesame paste noodles and pork ribs noodles.

Personally I love a bowl of sesame paste noodles (with added spices), a bowl of beef soup and fried pork chop at Wei Xiang Zhai.

Finally, if you want a truly traditional Shanghaiese breakfast, you should try scallion pancakes at A Da Scallion Pancake, which has been featured on a BBC food show.

The street vendor had once been shuttered for having no license, but it has reopened after securing the necessary permits.

I went there at 6 a.m., and walking along the street I could smell the inviting scent of scallion pancakes in the air.

But to my great disappointment, the tickets for the morning’s quota had all been taken by professional queuers as early as an hour ago.

And so after taking a brief, longing look at the other customers partaking of their cakes, I had to leave with an empty stomach.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan. 7.

Translation by Darlie Yiu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Sesame paste noodles (left) and fried pork chop from Wei Xiang Zhai. Photos: HKEJ

Hong Kong food critic

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