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#1
Posted June 7th 2012, 2:51pm
Let me say upfront that I take no credit for the following finds. They are all the result of the dedicated pavement pounding of Kyle Long of UnTours, Shanghai. He graciously shared these finds, and agreed to my posting them here on LTH. Kyle is a Portland-raised American expat who originally went to China to learn Mandarin, then ended up staying to teach English. Fortunately for us, he also has an entrepreneurial streak. He and his business partner, Jamie, write for Shanghai Talk Magazine. A shared dedication to running and eating well led to UnTours, which guides tourists to places off the beaten path in Shanghai, as runners or as eaters.

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Kyle Long, UnTours, Shanghai by Josephine2004, on Flickr

We are eaters.

Of the reasonably priced group excursions, street food breakfasts and shopping/cooking with a local chef looked promising, but we were most interested in the noodle tour. Since our schedule did not permit joining the group, we booked a private tour, which still struck us as a bargain for a long half day. Kyle met us in a taxi at our hotel on the north side of the city. He brought water and napkins and sanitizing wipes, all good things to have. It was our experience that having a guide was essential, in order to manage the logistics, the crowded shops, and the ordering, as well as the choice of dishes. On our own, we might have covered half as much ground with twice as much frustration. With Kyle as our guide, our day was as productive and painless as being in the hands of another LTH-er familiar with the territory.

That territory was the Former French Concession, site of some of the most interesting juxtapositions in Shanghai.

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Untitled by Josephine2004, on Flickr

We were in line well before A Niang Noodles opened. Along with the regulars, we staked out seats while staff set out the steaming chopsticks and put the final touches on the mise.

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Untitled by Josephine2004, on Flickr

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984c3f68-dd7f-4dda-9e0a-db89b2f3b059 by Josephine2004, on Flickr

Our first dish was Yellow Croaker Noodles. These noodles had the bounce of freshness. They were submerged in a rich broth that seemed to be meat-based, rather than fish-based. The noodles were topped with tender, somewhat oily filets of yellow croaker. There was no problem with bones. I thought this an unusual and interesting dish, a great start to the day.

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Untitled by Josephine2004, on Flickr

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1cae82c2-ea81-4f14-a503-1b353ccdb87d by Josephine2004, on Flickr

We spotted Marx and Engels looking on as we cut through this park on the way to the second noodle shop:

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237c3dbf-0b82-479c-9fce-19c7beb27175 by Josephine2004, on Flickr

The entrance to Ding Te Le Noodle Shop gave me a thrill. It was down a little alley, hidden from view, quite the insider find. The interior consisted of two teeny-tiny levels, too small to yield intelligible photographs.

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Noodle Shop #2 by Josephine2004, on Flickr

The pork and preserved vegetable noodle soup had nice heat, a bright broth enlivened by the preserved vegetables, and thin fresh noodles. But the black, caramelized onion noodles with pork were my second favorite dish of the day. Complex, rich, oily, umami-centric, and slightly bitter, I regretted having to pace myself, and stopped short of eating the entire bowl.

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60738795-b27b-4159-a605-9f3a2cce6335 by Josephine2004, on Flickr

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Untitled by Josephine2004, on Flickr

By the time we got to our third destination, Wei Xiang Zhai, the lunchtime crowds were fierce. This must be the place, because it was as packed as a New York subway car from Times Square to Grand Central on a Friday at 5:15 PM. Everyone squeezed in, chest to chest, making inches of progress every few minutes. It seemed a miracle when we were able eventually to sit down. Fellow diners asked us how we found this place, and shared that the appeal of this place is nostalgic. Everyone seemed to be having Majiang Mian (peanut sesame noodles) or noodles with a breaded, fried pork cutlet on top.

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5c9393bc-f105-4672-917f-7ad4ee4dc502 by Josephine2004, on Flickr

The sesame noodles were similar to some I recall from my old New York days. And they were nice and spicy, but soooo rich that I had to abandon them halfway through.

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Untitled by Josephine2004, on Flickr

After an impromptu tour of a fancy food shop and a stop for xiao long bao (covered in the main Shanhai thread), our final stop of the day was for Hui hand-pulled noodles at Lanzhou Pulled Noodles. The Hui are a predominantly Muslim ethnic group, mostly Mandarin speaking, and related to the Han, according to Wikipedia. The men wear white caps, and the women wear head scarves. A young man pulled the noodles for our soup. It was a graceful performance that I captured on video. (When I figure out how to post the video I will add it.)

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Untitled by [url=http://www.flickr.com/people/206

After the noodles were pulled, they were boiled in the kettle on the left. On the right is a soup kettle containing beef stock confidently spiced with cumin, Szechuan peppercorns and hot pepper. This broth made a smoky, hot, deeply aromatic bath for the stretchy noodles and bits of tender beef that just knocked my socks off. It was my favorite dish of the day. A counterpoint that was humbly good- a mild egg and tomato topped noodle finished the tour. I could eat that last one for breakfast every day of the year.

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Untitled by Josephine2004, on Flickr

Untitled by Josephine2004, on Flickr
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Untitled by Josephine2004, on Flickr

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Untitled by Josephine2004, on Flickr

What a great day. Thanks, Kyle. We will be back for a second helping of UnTour.

A Niang Noodles
阿娘面
36 Sinan Lu,
near Nanchang Lu
思南路36号,近南昌路
Yellow Croaker Noodles
黄鱼面

Ding Te Le
顶特勒
Alley 22,
494 Huaihai Lu,
near Yandang Lu
淮海中路494弄22号,
近雁荡路
Spicy pork & preserved vegetable noodles
(辣肉雪菜面),
Noodles with pork and caramelized onions
(白汁葱油肉丝拌面)
 
Wei Xiang Zhai
 味香斋
14 Yandang Lu,
near Huaihai Lu
雁荡路14号, 近淮海路
Peanut sesame noodles
麻酱面
 
Spicy pork & preserved vegetable noodles
(辣肉雪菜面),
Noodles with pork and caramelized onions
 (白汁葱油肉丝拌面)
 
Lanzhou Pulled Noodles
兰州拉面
316 Nanchang Lu
near Xiangyang Lu
南昌路316号,近襄阳路

Tomato & Egg noodles
 (番茄炒蛋面)
Beef soup noodles
 (牛肉面)
 
UnTour Shanghai
E: Jamie@untourshanghai.com
T: 186.1650.4269.
W: http://www.untourshanghai.com
_______________________________________

Man : I can't understand how a poet like you can eat that stuff.
T. S. Eliot: Ah, but you're not a poet.
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#2
Posted June 18th 2012, 10:28am
Great post. We are going to Shanghai this summer-hopefully some of these places will be near where we will be visiting.
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What disease did cured ham actually have?
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#3
Posted February 7th 2014, 4:59pm
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Fireworks, Shanghai by Josephine2004, on Flickr

With Chinese New Year still underway, I'm thinking about pictures from last March that I did not get around to posting. Walking through Shanghai, we came upon the debris from a noisy night, swept into the street. I asked our guide whether Chinese New Year extends into spring. Apparently not. However, unlike Americans, Shanghai residents are not stingy with their fireworks. The photos above and below show the aftermath of a restaurant opening celebration - something that any LTH-er should find relatable.

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Best Wishes on Your Restaurant Opening, With Fireworks by Josephine2004, on Flickr

The noontime Dumpling Tour of Shanghai proved just as enjoyable as the previous year's Noodle Tour. I joined Jamie, Kyle Long's partner in UnTour Shanghai and the blog, Culinary Backstreets, for a sampling of some of the best dumplings the city has to offer. This time, I was able to book along with a convivial group of 6 tourists - Brits, Yanks, and Aussies. Our first stop was for guōtiē (锅贴), fried dumplings. We got to watch while these cooks browned a batch of the drippingly juicy pork delights and graciously posed for photos.

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Waiting for Guo Tie, Shanghai by Josephine2004, on Flickr

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Pot Sticker Cook, Shanghai by Josephine2004, on Flickr

Just a few steps from the guōtiē stall was the booth of Jamie's favorite practitioner of the art of making breakfast crèpes, aka Shandong jiānbing (煎饼), though he was away on an errand. A quick consultation with a woman selling bao in a neighboring stall and the young man was summoned by phone. He arrived in moments on a motorbike, delighted to see Jamie, a regular customer:

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Reporting for Jian Bing, Shanghai by Josephine2004, on Flickr

It was a good thing, since I'd been longing to try jiānbing since reading Dmnkly's ecstatic account of the specialty in the main Shanghai thread:.

Dmnkly wrote:Jian Bing
...which completely kicked ass. The "griddle" was a flat piece of metal over a rusty drum. He ladled out some really viscous batter and spread it around. When it started to set, he cracked an egg on top, salted it and kind of scrambled it around. Then he flipped the crepe, smeared on bean paste, chucked on some chopped scallions and cilantro and tossed in a little chili paste. Then, before he served it, he laid across these really crisp, brittle sheets of fried bean curd, folded the whole thing over a few times, sliced it in half, stacked the halves and wrapped them, and handed them to me. This was seriously awesome. Not especially refined, of course, but just hot and delicious. The flavors were huge, nice balance of sweet and spicy and the aromatics. The texture was amazing, with the thin crepe and the really, really crisp bean curd in the middle. I'm sure this would have lost 90% of its awesomeness if it sat for five minutes. No fear of that. I think I finished it in about 30 seconds flat.


I, too, finished the jiānbing in 30 seconds, too late for a picture. But one of my fellow dumpling tourists obliged with a look at her rapidly disappearing specimen:

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Jian Bing by Josephine2004, on Flickr

Although Dmnkly enumerated the steps to making the jiānbing, I did find out this additional tidbit about the ingredients: the batter is made with millet. Although I have not worked with millet flour, it is possible that millet flour, like rice flour, lends crispness to batters. This may account for some of the crunchiness of the pancake. (I'd love to try making a GF version on my crèpiere - what an excellent brunch that would make!)

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Spreading the Millet Batter by Josephine2004, on Flickr

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Spreading Bean Paste, Shanghai by Josephine2004, on Flickr

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Jian Bing Shanghai by Josephine2004, on Flickr

The culinary enthusiast in me is both disheartened and encouraged that every dish in China seems to have a thousand-year-old story attached to it. Here's one about the origins of jiānbing from Jamie's post on Culinary Backstreets: "Legend has it that jiānbing was invented when an army during the Warring States period (475-221 BCE) lost their woks in a battle. The general had to figure out a way to feed his troops and hit upon the idea of using shields over an open fire – hence the circular griddle today. After fighting their way out of an ambush the next day, the well-nourished troops couldn’t help but credit the new dish at least partially for their success, and jiānbing slowly won over stomachs around the country."

Next stop: a pleasant sidewalk eatery where a young son is "helping" his father set up,

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Sidewalk Restaurant, Shanghai by Josephine2004, on Flickr

- and then engaging Dad in a game of "cards,"

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Little Darling Playing "Cards," Shanghai by Josephine2004, on Flickr

- and acknowledging this photographer's smile.

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Little Darling, Shanghai by Josephine2004, on Flickr

The xiao long bao were full of soup; since others were pacing themselves, I saw no reason not to finish the remaining bao to fortify myself for whatever might lie ahead.

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Xiao Long Bao, Shanghai by Josephine2004, on Flickr

Fortunately, our itinerary did not include a full plate lunch. I might have regretted those extra bao after a meatball and some ribs.

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Serving Up Lunch, Shanghai by Josephine2004, on Flickr

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Blue Plate Special, Shanghai by Josephine2004, on Flickr

Next we repaired to an oasis of calm with soft chairs, a hotel dining room looking out on this lovely park.

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Untitled by Josephine2004, on Flickr

My first taste of chrysanthemum tea did not disappoint, nor did the refinement of the dim sum, though I could not keep up with Jamie's descriptions of all that we ate.

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Untitled by Josephine2004, on Flickr

These flaky pastries were too perfect to be believed:

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Delicate Pastries, Shanghai by Josephine2004, on Flickr

A walk through one of Shanghai's wet markets followed. I will reserve the photos for a separate thread; however, I think that anyone arriving in Shanghai for a long stay and a kitchen should book with Jamie or Kyle to explore the best resources for Western cooks in need of direction. Jamie reported that she had been working with a small grocer who wanted to stock hard-to-find items for the expat community. The collaboration has been such a success that Jamie (and a few other expats) now have few unmet cravings for things like peanut butter.

Our last stop of the day was a tiny noodle shop with an intense orange-on-orange decor that belies with delicacy of the tastes offered within.

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Untitled by Josephine2004, on Flickr

Boiled Northern-style dumplings were rather light.

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Northern Style Dumplings, Shanghai by Josephine2004, on Flickr

A dish of cold bean curd sheets was lightly dressed and fragile.

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Cold Bean Curd by Josephine2004, on Flickr

But the standout of the whole day was the final, gently flavored soup, in which floated teeny tiny dumplings of astounding lightness. The dumpling skins themselves were nearly as thin as the sheets of bean curd. They held a stuffing too subtle to be pork, but I cannot recall what it was. I guess part of the charm of such a soup is its ephemeral quality.

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Teeny Tiny Dumpling Soup 2, Shanhai by Josephine2004, on Flickr

Somehow it helps to write a post about it.

Thank you Jamie and Kyle. We'll be back!

UnTour Shanghai
E: [url]Jamie@untourshanghai.com[/url]
T: 186.1650.4269
W: http://www.untourshanghai.com
Last edited by Josephine on April 13th 2014, 5:08am, edited 1 time in total.
_______________________________________

Man : I can't understand how a poet like you can eat that stuff.
T. S. Eliot: Ah, but you're not a poet.
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#4
Posted February 7th 2014, 5:08pm
These photos are fantastic -- delectable, really! Thanks for sharing!
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#5
Posted February 7th 2014, 9:40pm
Wonderful stuff Josephine. The XLB, they weren't from that sidewalk cafe, were they? I like the "twist" at the top . . . a little different than I'm used to seeing.
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I find the pastrami to be the most sensual of all the salted, cured meats. (Seinfeld)

Twitter: brbinchicago
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#6
Posted February 8th 2014, 2:12pm
BR wrote:Wonderful stuff Josephine. The XLB, they weren't from that sidewalk cafe, were they? I like the "twist" at the top . . . a little different than I'm used to seeing.


Yes, the XLB were from that young family's sidewalk cafe. They were as good as any I've had, including Jia Jia's. I'm not sure about the twist at the top. On the next trip, I hope to take a class in XLB making; maybe I can figure it out. My own efforts so far have turned out tasty but homely, and lacking delicacy in the twisted area.

This year, we've planned to join Jamie and Kyle's breakfast tour, which meets early, but after the big rush of most Shanghai breakfast eaters. I'm looking forward to some dumplings and cong you bing (scallion pancake). There is a man named A Da who is the acknowledged master of this simple breakfast food. People wait hours beginning at 5 AM to taste his wares. I've been thinking about A Da in the same terms as Burt Katz (Burt's Place - Chicago), or Dom DeMarco (Di Fara Pizzeria- Brooklyn). What I didn't know is that cong you bing has been portrayed in legend as a precursor to pizza via (who else?) - Marco Polo. I can't wait to wait as many hours as it takes.
_______________________________________

Man : I can't understand how a poet like you can eat that stuff.
T. S. Eliot: Ah, but you're not a poet.
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