Welcome to Postcards from China, a series of delicious snapshots from my summer in China and Taiwan.
Shanghai is the New York City of China. It’s the economic center of the country and there’s a significant migrant worker population. And it’s one of the only cities in mainland China where you can find bars and restaurants up to par to New York standards. Yes, think Sunday brunch deals, happy hours for ladies, and a popular Restaurant Week. Though in the past I’ve tried some of the fine dining establishments in Shanghai (Jean Georges Shanghai and Mr. & Mrs. Bund by Paul Pairet), I stuck with local food this time.
The best part? They were insanely cheap. The most expensive dish (the red braised pork) was $6.00. And the cheapest (the egg tart) was only $0.63. Here are five of the best things I ate in Shanghai and where to find these dishes in New York City. Turn the page.
5. Portuguese Egg Tarts: The flaky crust is what distinguishes Portuguese egg tarts from any other run-of-the-mill egg tart. The motto of the chain store where I got these from, called Lillian’s Bakery, claims that they are “quite possibly the best egg tarts in Shanghai.” Though I can’t vouch for the rest of Shanghai, they were most definitely the best I’ve ever tasted. You can find the Portuguese varieties at Natalie Bakery on the Lower East Side. 271 Grand St; (212) 226-8882
4. Small River Shrimp: These are freshwater river shrimps that come accompanied with a rice wine-based dipping sauce. Though this particular variety is difficult to find in the States (leave us a comment if you have seen these in NYC), a lot of the Shanghainese-style restaurants in New York do have “sauteed baby shrimp” on their menu. Try Shanghai Cafe in Chinatown. 100 Mott St; (212) 966-3988
3. Red braised pork belly: Momofuku’s pork bellies have nothing on these guys. The braised pork belly, or hongshao rou, is covered with a ginger, garlic, aromatic spices, chilli peppers, sugar, soy, and a rice wine sauce. Often served with a boiled egg on the side, this dish was apparently Mao Ze Dong’s favorite. I like to slather a piece over white rice. Though the dish is extremely popular in Shanghai, hongshao rou is hard to find in New York. All the locations of Grand Sichuan have it on their menu though. 229 9th Ave. New York; 212-620-5200
2. Stir-fried Egg with Tomato: It’s perhaps one of the simplest Chinese dishes of all time, but it’s my absolute favorite. It’s fluffy scrambled eggs with slightly sweetened tomatoes topped with some green onions. Some places add a hint of corn starch or oil for different texture variations. You know you’ve hit the jackpot when the dish is creamy and really saucy. If you’re in Flushing, hit up A Taste of Shanghai to try the dish. 39-07 Prince St, #1A; (718) 888-1636
1. Red Bean Popsicle: Made from red bean soup, these are simple, sweet and a perfect remedy for a hot, humid Shanghai day. You can find these in a lot of Asian grocery stores in the city. M2M has them in stock most of the times. 55 3rd Ave; (212) 353-2698