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A culinary tour of Shanghai, from street food to hot pot

14th August 2018

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Shanghai is a bustling and ancient, gleaming and modern, hectic and unexpected - and that‘s especially true when it comes to its culinary scene.

From street food in the narrow alleyways that surround the 1,000-year-old Cheng Huang Temple, to the local restaurants where old men and teenagers hunch over to cook dripping meat in boiling vats of stock, eating here is a unique experience - and one where old-style Chinese nourishment collides headlong with the 21st Century. You only need to witness the buffet spread at The Bund’s W Hotel to see the contrast between the new China and the old.

Above: A very small selection of the breakfast spread at W Shanghai - The Bund

Below: Street food being prepared in the street near Cheng Huang Temple



I (National Student Editor Lucy) spent two days eating my way through Shanghai - here’s how I got on…

It’s fair to say that it started pretty well.


And there’s no exaggeration, it really was THE best mango ever.

Here’s how it’s made…



It rapidly went downhill, though.


Yes, those are chicken feet. And no, we did not sample them. Yes, this started life as an Instagram Story and yes, that is Kristen Wiig.

Maybe some dumplings will make everything better with their carby, vegetably goodness?


Praise the lord for the creation of dumplings.

Moving on, here’s a big carton of fried, breaded prawns. This is the food that sustains your editor through sweltering afternoons walking around a temple that’s dedicated to the gods of street food. This is what we need more of in our lives.


More of these too, please…


And these cookies!



And it’s a good job we’ve got these dumplings/breaded prawns/delightfully pastel-coloured sesame ball drinks, because it’s about to get a whole lot weirder…

Are you ready - are you ready - to enter the Shanghai Pan-Fried Bun Stuffed with Monopoly Store?

I’m not sure you’ll ever be ready, but here we are - in a sort of school canteen/utterly traditional Shanghai food extravaganza.

Inside, I’m sampling some treats - like, um, Dandelion and Burdock flavoured jelly...?



What about that old classic, eyeballs in sugar?



Not sold? What about this somewhat yogurty, somewhat bubble tea-esque dish? Note the incongruous lemon, which we didn’t hang around to discover the purpose of.



The single cherry looks a bit lonely here.

Here are some other things that I ate, which were just a little bit more palatable…


The Shanghai Pan-Fried Bun Stuffed with Monopoly Store might contain some curiosities, but an hour spent inside it’s steamy, Cantonese scent-infused walls is one of the best ways you can spend an afternoon in Shanghai - an afternoon that’s real, and filled with local flavour. Literally. A monopoly of it.



Later that night, and it’s time to head out to sample a traditional Chinese hot pot - at the very imaginatively named Hot Pot restaurant (you can’t deny that their branding is strong.)

Like a slightly risky Chinese version of the raclette, the hot pot bubbles away in the middle of the table whilst expert locals and not-so-expert, burn-wary Westerners dip and try to retrieve the various foodstuffs that have been happily cooking away.



Hot pot restaurants have been around in China for a millennium, and have acted as a tool for social cohesion. People from all walks of life have gathered around the bubbling stock to get their nightly nourishment - usually of various types of meat, vegetables, and seafood.

It’s no different today, as we gamely try to work out what it is that we’re cooking - and are enthusiastically informed, through the wonders of Google Translate on our waiter’s phone, that it is mainly, in fact, meat.

(Side note: it’s not the first time we’re told that something is “meat”. We quickly learn that it’s best not to ask, and to just accept the unknown.)

And what did I eat at Hot Pot?

Well, first there was - you guessed it - meat:



And then there was blood.



Blood of what? We don’t know. But we can tell you one thing - it did not taste like black pudding.

Phew. What can we wash that down with? What about some neat 48% spirit?



So, as we’ve learnt - eating in Shanghai is eclectic. So eclectic, in fact, that sometimes you’ll be provided with something even more unexpected. Sometimes, this guy will turn up and perform whilst you’re dipping your blood/meat/bean sprouts into your hot pot and trying your hardest not to get third-degree burns:



Cheers - or, as they say in China, yám sing!

Lucy visited Shanghai as a guest of Huawei, and all images and video were shot on the Huawei P20 Pro.

See more images at #HuaweiTravels and #HuaweiP20Pro

Follow Huawei on social @HuaweiMobileUK

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