This morning, we’re skipping the hotel buffet breakfast (as yummy as it is) because we’re embarking on a street food tour! We meet bright and early at Tilanqiao, a quiet suburb in Shanghai with some delicious local street food to try out.
There are so many little shops everywhere selling tasty bites that they’ve been perfecting for years and years. Our guide takes us to our first pitstop—a stall selling spring onion pancakes. They’re even kind enough to give us a demo of how to make them too! This particular stall folds their dough with some lard and a generous handful of chopped spring onion, then pan fries these pancakes in lots of oil for a super crispy, sinful treat. They even do a version with a fried egg in the middle for an even more filling brekky.
After our first bite to eat, our guide helps us burn off some calories by taking us on a walk through the neighbourhood, giving us a glimpse into the daily lives of the residents of Tilanqiao. We even get to meet some of friendly locals and stop to have a quick chat (via translations from our guide of course).
Our next street treat is jian bing, a delicious crispy savoury pancake made with mung bean flour, and filled with a combination of sauces and toppings like egg, deep-fried wonton skin and spring onion that make for a yummy mouthful. This is followed by some more exploring of the alleyways and backstreets of Tilanqiao.
Another interesting experience comes from exploring the local fresh food markets, which is full of vibrant veggies, meat and freshly caught seafood. Here, we get to see where all the locals shop for their groceries to cook at home. There’s all kinds of interesting Chinese herbs and veggies you can’t get in Australia, as well as a whole bunch fish and crustaceans we’ve never even seen before.
The rest of the street food tour becomes a blur after we try snack after snack. There are two kinds of pan-fried dumplings, Chinese doughnuts, traditional rolls baked in a clay oven, and we’re even daring enough to take a sip of some snake wine. At this point, we’re almost in a food coma.
After eating so much food, it’s now time for us to make some. We’re lucky enough to have a private cooking class with Chef Mike at the headquarters of Lee Kum Kee, one of China’s leading brands for sauces and condiments. Chef Mike is a talented chef who holds classes to show people who to create delicious Chinese food. On today’s menu are a few Shanghainese classics: braised pork belly, Shanghai stir fried noodles and the famous Shanghai soup dumplings—xiao long bao. The first two dishes are easy enough for us as home cooks, but the complicated folding of the xiao long bao proves a bit tricky for us. Practice makes perfect, I guess! After we’re done, we get to taste test all the food we cooked up during the session.
Because we clearly didn’t get to eat enough today, we’re dining at Fu 1039, an acclaimed Shanghai restaurant that has featured in the Michelin Guide the last two years. The food here is exquisite. We start off with some appetizers. Although this restaurant goes for traditional Shanghai flavours, the presentation is elevated to a higher level beyond just your regular Shanghai eatery. Everything is plated in such an elegant way, and the salted cold chicken even has shaved frozen Shaoxing wine on top! That’s how fancy this restaurant is. And that’s not to take away anything from how good the food tasted. The braised pork belly melts in our mouths, and the sweet and sour Mandarin fish is cooked to absolute perfection. The three desserts we tried are also really delicious—the standout is definitely their herbal jelly with coconut juice.
And with dinner coming to an end, it’s time to retire to our hotel rooms for a good night’s sleep.