|Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park street food night market|
Happy Lunar New Year! Here's to the Year of the Sheep, and plenty of eating in good pastures for all of us.
I've been searching Shanghai recently for that elusive place, a night market full of atmosphere and great cooking smells, bursting with people. Shanghai has to have one of those, right?
There is the tourist-y one on Sipailou Lu near Yu Gardens. It has great hustle and bustle, but the vendors are jaded and routinely rip-off tourists of any denomination. Locals don't go there at all.
I was looking for a local street food market, where people might go to hang out after work with friends. I followed several blind leads, and took late night jaunts with my family in tow to the campuses of various universities in Shanghai where I heard night markets existed, only to discover they were sad jumbles of a few stalls and a strip of indoor restaurants.
The crackdown on street food vendors in Shanghai has meant that impromptu, unauthorised gatherings of street food vendors are becoming a thing of the past. And, I wondered if the rising wealth in Shanghai meant people no longer wanted to eat outdoors, especially in winter.
It was with a sense of impending failure that I dragged my long-suffering husband, children and brother-in-law to the Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park station to see if this, the last on my list, might be the one.
Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park is not really a park, but a zone dedicated to technology research and development. Thousand of people live and work in the area, possibly providing the critical mass of people necessary for a night market to flourish.
When I stepped out of the metro into the frigid night air, the first thing I noticed was the welcome smell of char-grilled meat and roasting chestnuts, and a stream of people eating street foods as they walked. Success!
The market has about forty regular vendors, with a great variety of street foods. Here's a tour:
|Dumpling vendor, Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park|
The Auspicious Thousand Miles Dumpling Shop will serve you twenty delicate hundun 馄饨(wontons) in a bowl of soup for 10 yuan (about $US1.60). Or choose from one of nine dumpling varieties including pork with Chinese greens, pork and celery, or Three Treasures.
|Baozi street food vendor, Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park|
This vendor makes giant fried beef baozi (牛肉包子), as big as a man's fist. These were utterly new to me - soft baozi fried to a crisp n the outside, and filled with a steaming savoury beef filling. The vendor told me they're Hui Muslim in origin. Five yuan (about US80 cents) each.
|Hanbaobao street food vendor|
Hamburgers, yes, but not as you know them. Hanbaobao 汉堡包 (or hanbao for short) are really filled fritters. Batter is poured into the circles on the griddle, then the vendor cracks an egg, adds minced beef, scallions and in this case, carrot, before pouring more batter on the top to seal the whole thing. She then flips it to brown and serves it with hot chilli sauce in a paper bag. Five yuan (about 80 cents) each.
|Cooking chao mian|
No market would be complete without a chao mian 炒面 fried noodle vendor. And yes, that's where chow mein comes from. Pick your noodle type, then the add-ins (meat and vegetables), and he will turn it into one big delicious bowl of fried noodle goodness in about two minutes flat. About 7 yuan/bowl depending on add-ins (about $1.30).
|Fried potatoes, Zhngjiang Hi-Tech Park|
"What are these called?" I asked the vendor, looking at a griddle tightly packed with baby potatoes, slowly bathing in oil until they turned golden and crisped.
She looked at me strangely. "Potatoes," she replied.
That there is no special name for this incredible street food snack is a crime. They are the most delicious potatoes you will ever taste, as you pop a whole one into your mouth and the buttery, salty crisp outside bursts into soft starch. Thousand Mile Golden Potatoes? Prosperity Gold Nugget Potatoes? Five yuan per bucket (about 80 cents).
Shao kao 烧烤 or barbecue is always one of the most popular stall at any night market. We chose grilled squid and char-grilled chicken legs, both salty, smoky and tasty. We paid 32 yuan (about $5.10) for three chicken legs and a giant skewer of waving squid tentacles.
|Jiucai hezi street food vendor, Mrs Pan|
At the Pan Family jiucai hezi 韭菜盒子 stall, Mrs Pan fills a soft square pancake with egg and lots of bright green jiucai, or Chinese chives, which she then fries on a griddle until crisped. Four yuan (about 65 cents) each.
|Roujiamo vendor, Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park|
My husband Matt has been telling me about this roujiamo 肉夹馍 guy for years. "He makes the best roujiamo in Shanghai!" Matt always told me. The problem was, we didn't know where his stall was.
"On our way to the foundry in outer Pudong we always stop at this one metro station" Matt said, by way of directions.
"Which metro station?" I asked, but Matt could only guess it was "one on the way to the airport", which narrowed it down to twelve possible locations.
So you can imagine how happy I was to finally run into the guy at Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park. And yes, his roujiamo are excellent - a bread bun toasted on the griddle then filled with slow-cooked meat chopped together with green peppers.
If you're visiting the night market and not sure if you have the right fellow - he's the one grooving to techno-pop and wearing a Hello Kitty apron.
|Rou jia mo, Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park|
|Roasting chestnuts, Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park|
A night of street food wouldn't be complete without the sweet, nutty taste of roasted chestnuts, a street food I always associate with Shanghai in winter. Ten yuan's worth (about $1.60) is plenty for several people to share.
There are many more stalls at the night market - smoky Uighur lamb kebabs, fresh fruits, noodles, xiaolongbao and more. Next time!
Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park Night Market
Pudong New Area
Open every day from morning til about 9pm
(some vendors keep longer hours)
Take Line 2 to Zhangjiang High Tech Park station. The market immediately surrounds the station exits.