I’m getting ready to go on a buying trip, and one of the things I most look forward to is eating Chinese food. There are too many wonderful dishes to choose from, but I’ve narrowed it down to a few personal favorites.
Scallion Pancakes are a Shanghai tradition. We find them on the street behind our hotel in the French Concession. Served up piping hot in the morning, these savory pancakes pack a flavor punch. Made from flour, onions and oil, they are flaky and fall apart like croissants. Chinese legend has it that Marco Polo missed them so much, he had a chef recreate them in Italy. Improvising Napolese chefs took the recipe a step further and created pizza. At the very least, you get the idea Scallion Pancakes are something worth missing…
Shanghai is also the home of Xiao Long Bao – steamed soup dumplings stuffed with pork, crab, and vegetables. There’s a lot of competition for “the best” Xiao Long Bao in Shanghai. Having stood in long sweaty lines pursuing such leads, only to end up with a rubbery, non-soupy dumplings, I cut the chase and go straight to Din Tai Fung for my dumpling fix.
Din Tai Fung originated in Taipei where it was awarded one Michelin star. (Din Tai Fung can be also found Stateside in Bellevue, WA and Arcadia, CA.) Din Tai Fung in Shanghai has now upped the ante by serving pork dumplings with truffles. Oh man, I’m drooling just thinking about them.
Nothing takes the chill out of a cold winter night faster than a bubbling Chinese Hot Pot. Hot pot originated over 1000 years ago, and spread all over China during the Qing Dynasty. The ingredients used, vary by region. Most hot pot restaurants in China offer both mild and spicy broths as well as thinly sliced meats, seafood, vegetables and tofu. There’s a place we found in Hangzhou that has tons of sauces to add to your pot, which was a lot of fun. I’m a big fan of chilis, sesame paste and garlic.
A great chain in Shanghai is Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot. They have locations in the US and Canada too.
Mapo Tofu is another one of those dishes that make my mouth water. It is a Sichuan dish made with tofu in a spicy chili and bean curd sauce with minced pork and garlic. It is topped with mouth tingling Sichuan chili peppercorns.
Ma stands for “mazi” (Pinyin: mázi Traditional Chinese 麻子) which means a person disfigured by pockmarks. Po (Chinese 婆) translates as “old woman”. Hence, Ma Po is an old woman whose face was pockmarked. It is sometimes translated as “Pockmarked-Face Lady’s Tofu”. Legend says that the pock-marked old woman (má pó) was a widow who lived in the Chinese city of Chengdu. Due to her condition, her home was placed on the outskirts of the city. By coincidence, it was near a road where traders often passed and they stopped and ate Ma Po’s tofu. (Wikipedia)
Sichuan Citizen is an expat favorite in the French Concession that serves up an authentic version of this dish.
I thought I’d end this post with something sweet. You can’t visit Hong Kong without eating Egg Custard Tarts. Custard tarts were introduced in Hong Kong in the 1940s by tea houses. One theory suggests Hong Kong egg tarts are an adaptation of English custard tarts. Another theory suggests that egg tarts evolved from the very similar Portuguese egg tart pastries, known as pastel de nata, traveling to Hong Kong via the Portuguese colony of Macau (Wikipedia). Regardless, they’re present street side in Hong Kong, as well as a staple of Dim Sum dining. Yum!