Shanghai food freak out

Friends gave me lots of great tips on delicious places to eat when I was in Shanghai.

But I didn’t get to try any of them because the World Rope Skipping Championships were held in the Shanghai equivalent of Hornsby.

And Shanghai was so farking hot that I usually couldn’t face the 45 minute commute into town.

As a result, my meal times were mostly spent in the hotel’s breakfast room – which served entertainingly translated dishes such as Fried Cod Discharge – and the canteen at the Shanghai University of Economics & Finance.

The canteen food was … challenging … and I’m a fairly adventurous eater.

As I mentioned last week, it was very authentically Chinese, with non-English speaking staff serving it, so you had no idea what the dishes were.

When we did escape into the nearby streets, we had some hits … and some misses … and a lot of trouble understanding and being understood.

One night, for example, we arrived at the skipping venue to discover it was 90 minutes until the medal ceremony, so we ducked across the street to a restaurant that – judging by the number of photographs the staff took – had not seen many Westerners darken its doorstep. After an elaborate game of charades we got a few plates of tasty dumplings and some beer, but only discovered this amazing bread being fried on our way out again …

Cool, huh?

Another night, a bloke from Brissie told us there was a great burger bar down the road.

Another skipping dad who was familiar with Chinese food safety standards pointed out the non-smiley health certificate hanging behind the bar AFTER I’d ordered.

I decided to chance it … and deeply regretted it the next morning …

One sweaty day, the Team Teal mums headed to Yu Gardens where we spied a stall selling soup dumplings so big they came with straws, but no one felt much like eating soup dumplings in 37C heat.

We eventually ended up in an air-conditioned place perusing a menu that featured bullfrog cooked in numerous creative ways and other entertainingly translated dishes such as the one below:

I joked that you wouldn’t want to eat the unknown kidney …

We also eagerly ordered Shanghai noodles, which looked great, but weren’t a patch on the ones we eat at our favourite restaurant in Sydney.

I was very excited when DD ended up in China on business at the same time I was there for skipping. My initial thought was YIPPEE!

But again, staying in the Shanghai equivalent of Hornsby while he was in the centre of town meant our paths rarely crossed.

It was so weird to both travel overseas to the same – admittedly enormous – country, but not be able to see each other. He was traversing the countryside via trains and planes and at one point sent me a photo of his colleague during a ride from Beijing to Shanghai, as she was devouring a plastic container of duck tongues with a plastic glove …

Mmmmmmm, yummy!

Speaking of duck tongues, I was lucky enough to be invited along to a dinner with DD and his colleague one night at a private Shanghai restaurant.

Set in a little house in an alleyway, the restaurant is decorated with art deco furniture and calligraphy painted by the owner and only serves three groups of people a night.

It was such an amazing experience. Click on a photo for an explanation of what it is.


The exotic menu included duck tongues with abalone, chicken feet, eel, whole baby prawns and other local delicacies spinning around on the lazy susan.

I felt a bit sorry for the chook, he didn’t look very happy about being in a casserole dish, surrounded by his body parts.

I felt obliged to pop my chicken foot cherry and still remain totally mystified as to why they are so popular. Crunchy gristle is sooooooo not my thing.

In fact, my body decided the whole Shanghai dining experience wasn’t its thing. Every centimetre of my stomach lining still ached days after our return.

As we sat at the airport waiting for our plane home, the general agreement was that a juicy steak was the fantasy item on our menus and I’m not anticipating cooking a stir-fry any time soon.

If I ever get back to Shanghai it will be during cooler months and with a mission to try those fabulous foodie recommendations I was given …

Song of the day: The Angels “Am I ever gonna see your face again?”




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