It's funny because I never considered myself as liking Chinese food. The whole glazed sweet-and-sour chicken on a bed of rice thing, just never interested me. I'm pretty sure this fact was almost a deal-breaker when I first met D, and he has steadily been trying to change my opinion since then, somewhat unsuccessfully. But the food we had in Shanghai was, as you can imagine, worlds apart from the cold, generic, 'China Garden' type "Chinese" restaurants we have here. And, in case it wasn't already clear, I have always loved a good dumpling. So without further ado, let me show you some of my new culinary discoveries and some of the primary reasons I fell in love with Shanghai!
I am of the strong opinion (and I'm definitely not the only one), that the best food in Shanghai is the street food. I noticed that it seems to come either in dumpling form (wahey!), or on a stick. Here's an article I wish I had read before going - we didn't try everything on that list but did get quite a few! I should note that to really get into the street food culture you need a somewhat open mind when it comes to hygiene and sanitation. I never got sick from anything I ate, but I probably have my dad's 'just-eat-around-the-mold' parenting style to thank for this. It's not for everyone.
Having said that, I seriously had some of the most tasty food ever. And Oh my Goood, so cheap.
"Meat on a stick" was one of my favorites for the taste but also the experience, because we were in Qipu Lu, am authentic old part of town where not many Westerners go, and where Chinese people go for cheap clothes and shoe markets. You get stared at a little more in places like this, but the trade-off is knowing you get the true Chinese experience and even cheaper food.
Divine spongey-cake type thing [most snacks are salty so my sweet tooth really appreciated this one] and fresh watermelon on a stick.
Dumps with crab soup inside- these weren't my favorite. Honestly, I was overwhelmed by their adorable-ness and got my expectations too high. But let's get real here- have you ever seen a cuter dumpling?!
In Hangzhou we discovered this really small back-alley crowded with loud, busy stalls and some benches and tables in the middle of the street. We just found it by chance near our hostel and these are the kinds of travel experiences I love best! The best part was this traditional 'beggar's chicken', which is a whole raw chicken wrapped in lotus leaves and covered in mud, which gets set on fire and cooks from within. I didn't get a good picture because sometimes there is no time to pull out your camera when you have a delicious smoking chicken in your face, and it smells good, and you're starving. We also had pineapple rice [one of my faves], and fried crab- yes, on a stick.
We also found insects and scorpions, but I was told these are mostly just a novelty for Western tourists, and in fact we only found them in one place and nobody was buying any. Shocking, I know. Ughhh, I could not bring myself to try this.
No idea what any of this stuff is...
Cool cats have no time for ordinary milk.
Of course we also tried some restaurants, and Szechuan hot-pot was one of my favorites! Kind of like Chinese fondue [except really, I should say fondue is like Swiss hot-pot, since everything in China is more ancient than in Europe]. Those spiky things are mini fish dumplings! And i got quite the veg-ucation with all the exotic-looking green things. This might sound ridiculous [more ridiculous than my lame pun perhaps] but it was nice to see that in today's globalized world, there is still a whole range of vegetables I've never tasted or heard of.
Happy Lemon was incredible! It's a little drink chain that sells Bubble Tea, which is weird, but ultimately fabulous. You really do need an open mind and you'll be fine!
Standard self-service cafeteria..
I loved the noodles. Notice the dumplings shaped like pumpkins in the background!!
Chinese people seem to love KFC more than McD's or BK as far as American fast food goes. The two back meals on the poster are just your standard KFC. But WTF is the first meal???
I will leave you with the next set in the series of super flattering pictures of me eating in various cities around the world. See NYC here. I should just say that however it may appear in these photos, I am honestly perfectly able to use chopsticks correctly. That's all I will say by way of defending myself for what you are about to see...
I don't regret a thing.