Given the cost:enjoyment analysis we put our dining experiences through, I'd have to say that Shanghainese street food delivers.
Breakfast is served
We reserved this for breakfast time where dad would march out at dawn and select a few items from the different vendors available (and there are always many available) before coming back and sharing his bounty.
Lamb skewer vendor
Frequently, the food for the three of us would come under $5AUD, and we were going for variety i.e. purchasing more than we could finish so that we could sample more things.
Cheaper than cheap? I dig it.
Layered sesame pastries
Not just great in terms of price, I love the kind of food you can get from vendors. All kinds of buns and pastries, freshly made. There are even wonton and soup vendors. Some sell you the uncooked goods so you can take them home and boil yourself.
Pan-fried pork buns aka sticker buns
Some popular items include…
- Layered sesame pastries (called chang bing)
- Sweet and savory pastries (called da bing which means big pastry :D)
- Deep-fried oil bread (very versatile… can be wrapped in plain glutinous rice to create a rice ball type thing)
- Lobok fritters
- Rice cakes (like hashbrowns but made with rice rather than potato)
- Little wontons
- Big wontons
- Fried pork dumplings (guo tie)
- Sao mai (steamed with a meat and sticky rice filling)
- Meat, veg and various combinations thereof
- Sweet fillings (e.g. red bean)
- Whole meal, extra-fiber, corn and others
- Sweet, neutral and savory soy milk (savory has seaweed, dried shrimp and oil bread)
- Sweet, neutral and savory soy custard (as above but with soy custard)
- Wrapped crepes with pork crackling or oil bread
- Lamb skewers
Savory soy milk
Neutral soy milk with sweet da bing
Fried oil bread
The other thing is we like to head where there are large crowds, under the principle that locals will know what they’re doing. If one particular stall is very popular, it must be for a reason. There’s nothing like word of mouth in China for directing you to the good stuff.
On the topic of that, dad also researched this noodle shop online called 'Big Mamma's Noodle Shop' (literal translation). I'm putting it under 'street food' because it's just a hole in the wall tiny eatery. It's got huge internet acclaim and we went to personally judge for ourselves.
The little shop was quite full when we went at the obscure time of 8am. I guess more people like noodles for breakfast than expected?
Soup noodles with kidney and prawns
The menu is simple but has quite a lot of variety. Their signature noodles are soup noodles and you pick a 'topping'. The topping (different types of meat and veg) has its own soup that goes with it (as in, that's what the noodle is served in) but you can pick extra toppings if you want to try more than one thing.
Soup noodles with eel and fish
We had the noodles with kidney, prawn, eel and fish. I liked the eel topping best. We all agreed the soup was really nice. It was natural-tasting (as opposed to MSG laden) and still very flavorsome.
Examples of other, more substantial food from street side eateries are below:
Spring onion mixed noodles
Chinese white cut chicken (bai zhan ji)
Curry beef broth (with a sticker bun on the side)