Shanghai is said to be home to the best and most authentic xialongbao (dumplings) and the number one place to sample such a delicacy has to be Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant in the Yuyuan Bazaar area which has been around for about 100 years and almost constantly has massive long queues outside. A mix of out-of-town Chinese tourists make up the majority of the lines with a fair few foreigners in line too.
A year ago I would never ever have queued up for an hour to get some food but my tastes have become far more appreciative of good food since then. Accept poor imitations at your peril as this is the best and was brought to my attention by Anthony Bourdain in his ‘No Reservations‘ TV series which I watched a lot of last year.
The steamed buns are famous for the special gravy-type taste of the first bite and is a superb mix of pork stuffing, soup and thin dumpling skin. It has to be said, they were absolutely delicious and to quote Bourdain himself you really will have a hard time finding a more perfectly constructed food item. Next up was the steamed bun with crab roe soup stuffing which is incredibly hot and has to be consumed through a straw. This was also awesome and way better than I thought it may be. A shame it had to to all be eaten outside but it was just so chaotic inside. Still, at least they were consumed amid fine views of the Mid-Lake Pavillion Teahouse.
This Shanghai institution was actually found by accident having given up on finding it only 30 minutes prior to locating it. Having just had lunch at a very, very local place on a back lane nearby where a funny but pushy lady persuaded us to sit down and eat even though neither of us could communicate with the other at all! We had some pork, tea eggs (eggs soaked in soy sauce) and noodles at a dirt cheap price and glad of the experience I was!
French Concession was up next and a place I went to without knowing too much about it. I still don’t to be honest! It seems to be a big wide tree-lined street with a host of restaurants and shops. The area is supposedly given its name for the tudor mansions and French-influenced architecture. I can’t say I was too bothered by it all although the former Russian Orthodox St Nicholas Church (below) was quite impressive.
Seeing a C&A department store (above)was a nostalgic reminder of my youth. The Shanghai Metro was cheap, efficient and easy to use and truly lived up to the stereotype of people pushing to get on the train as soon as the doors opened and before others were allowed to even get off! There is also a scan machine for bags at all stations as can be seen in the picture below left. People’s Square was the next destination via metro but the rain, which had been prevalent all day, started to get harder. The cherry blossoms in the park there were rather nice with the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center looming above in the near distance.
Nanjing Road East rounded off the evening as it did indeed on all three of my nights in the city. This was another long shopping street with bright neon lights everywhere and an example of how modern parts of the city are in contrast to the more run down parts. I dined out on the same street most of the nights and after unwrapping all the plates and cups (which is something I’ve only ever seen in Shanghai. Very hygienic indeed!) each time I had my regular holiday fix of beer and dumplings along with a few other dishes.