Yet for all the shape shifting and tourist baiting one key aspect of the city appears to be lacking. The street food. Bizarrely, for a city founded on foreign trade, Shanghai doesn’t seem to have any central markets (with the exception of the Friday Muslim Market – which we missed) Neither did any local street specialities readily present themselves. Instead, the street food I witnessed in Shanghai tended to lean towards the lower end of the scale – temporary set-ups outside construction sites, or grubby grills set amongst piles of rubbish at the side of the road. As such most of what I came across didn’t really appeal.
That’s not to say there weren’t notable exceptions however. I found these hard-boiled eggs close to our hostel. The eggs had been lightly cracked and simmered in what looked (and tasted) like soy sauce and water. The result was that they were tangy and marbled on the outside, soft and crumbly in the centre.
I also happened across some truly excellent lamb skewers. These things seem to be getting better and cheaper the more I travel through China. The ones I had in Shanghai boasted substantial chunks of meat cooked to order then coated with generous amounts of cumin and chilli powder. What I love most about these skewers is how hot, dry and immediate the spices are in your mouth, closely followed by the fatty goodness of the lamb.
Whether Shanghai’s great leap forward will help or hinder its street food culture remains to be seen. Street food or no, however, it’s an infinitely interesting city and one to which I’ve vowed to return.