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Dumpling follies

xiao-yang-sheng-jian-001.gif

By Ezra Klein

The reason I'm in China is to learn about the country's roaring economy. The reason I'm excited to be in China is to learn about the country's cuisine, which regular readers will know to be a longtime obsession of mine. Sadly, my eating in Shanghai has been -- what's the word? - inauspicious.

I don't blame myself for the first night's mistake. We'd just gotten into the city and my group didn't want to trek all over town for dinner. The place we ended up, however, clearly catered to, well, tourists who'd ended up there. It turns out that Chinese food in America that caters to Americans isn't all that different from Chinese food in China that caters to Americans.

By the second night, I was ready. Armed with recommendations and maps, I led an excursion to Yang's Fry-Dumpling on WuJiang Road. But as if to prove the pace of change in China, the dumpling shop, which I gather was open and legendary as recently as a few months ago, is now closed, as the entire street it's on has been taken over for a new business district. If nothing else, it was a good way to acquaint myself with the downside of Shanghai's rapid development. So we asked someone on the street for a recommendation, and they sent us to the Godly Vegetarian restaurant down the block. Don't go there. If you do go there, don't get any of the things we ordered.

Meanwhile, a quick morning Google suggests that there's a perfectly good restaurant -- certainly better than anything I've had so far -- in...my...hotel. Sounds auspicious, right? Sadly, no. I'm off to Yiwu today, so I won't be able to try it. Hopefully I'll have better luck there.

Photo credit: Shanghailist.

By Ezra Klein  |  May 24, 2010; 8:21 PM ET
Categories:  China  
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Comments

whatever you do,
may you not be tempted to go to a hot pot dog restaurant....
i think they are not so popular anymore....thank goodness.

Posted by: jkaren | May 24, 2010 9:11 PM | Report abuse

Yikes man, get your blood pressure checked when you come home.

Posted by: jdworkin1 | May 24, 2010 9:26 PM | Report abuse

Crazy, I went to Yang's last October. The soup dumplings were delicious, and SO CHEAP (something like $1 for 4 hearty broth/meat filled dumplings). I sure hope they relocated somewhere. Also, that entire street was totally packed with street food. There must be a new go to street meat locale in town.

Sadly I don't have any other killer food recs, but I did love the the (admittedly pricy) tea at the Antique Garden Tea House in the French concession:

http://outonadate.blogspot.com/2010/04/antique-garden-shanghai.html

Posted by: eerac | May 24, 2010 9:42 PM | Report abuse

--"The reason I'm in China is to learn about the country's roaring economy."--

It's roaring because before the citizenry could escape an overlong running feudalism, it found itself shackled to communism's ten ton stone of evil, and has nowhere to bust but up, even as the modern commies clamp things in all the ways they can.

Count on Klein to learn lessons that bear no relation to reality, and to believe all the nonsense the government propagandists tell him. If he can't find food that suits him, perhaps he'll recommend that precise regime to the FDA.

And "hopefully" is trademark stupid.

Posted by: msoja | May 24, 2010 10:05 PM | Report abuse

I think you said you would be going to Beijing. If so, check out http://www.blacksesamekitchen.com/index.html. Jen Lin-Liu runs the school, but she's also a journalist and an American, so I am sure she can cue you into lots of good stuff locally. And you might be well-fed too.

Posted by: glenerian | May 24, 2010 10:13 PM | Report abuse

If you get to X'ian, make sure you try the street food- AMAZING. The naan-like bread in particular is really great.

Once you get out of Shanghai, finding authentic food is much, much easier. One of the other tricks is to ask for recommendations from your driver... we had an incredible meal in a city about an hour outside of Shanghai in a "restaurant" that was someone's living room. The food was incredible, though, and certainly authentic.

Posted by: eirinn22 | May 24, 2010 10:44 PM | Report abuse

Last time I was there, I just kept poking my head in different places and seeing what the reaction of people was, making sure to find a place with no English menus. You always know you are in for a treat when they laugh at you after you order something. At one shop I ordered tofu that cost about $1.50. It came in a bowl big enough to cover the entire table. That night, I went to a restaurant where I picked my fish from the tank- $75. Tofu was better.

Posted by: staticvars | May 24, 2010 11:01 PM | Report abuse

I went to the Yang's Fry Dumpling on Huanghe Rd just north of People's Square (not, I believe, the one pictured in your post that you tried to go to, which must be the one in Jing'an) on Saturday the 15th. If you get a second chance you should definitely track it down.

Posted by: joXn | May 25, 2010 12:43 AM | Report abuse

Sorry for the inauspicious culinary adventures, Ezra. Try to channel Tony Bourdain. That great Chinese meal is out there somewhere, awaiting you, when you least expect it.

Count on msoja to weigh in on on a travel post about cuisine to waste readers' time with to blast his tiresome belief system from a cobwebbed dead-locked small mind that has no connection to (or experience with) world-wide reality, and to believe all the nonsense that his right wing fringe propagandist sources spoon feed to him. If msoja can't travel (or even take any interest in) and take part in personal experience of other societies, he'll recommend that his tired and discredited anarchist beliefs continually explain the world to him, in order to preserve perfect maintenance of his uninformed self-centered interpretation of things that his closed mind refuses to even attempt to comprehend.

Behold the modern anti-intellectual wingnut, in full bloom: our very own msoja.

Posted by: Patrick_M | May 25, 2010 1:58 AM | Report abuse

For food experimentation, you may want to check some of these: http://www.travelchinaguide.com/cityguides/shanghai/dining/snackstreet.htm

Enjoy your stay in Shanghai.

Posted by: bozinku | May 25, 2010 3:37 AM | Report abuse

Your reaction to the disappearance of the legendary, small dumpling shop was really rich. The whole block had been "taken over" for "development" and that caused you gastronomic inconvenience. The reality there is that all real estate and business is subject to state confiscation. But YOUR problem with all this was that you couldn't find a good place to eat.

Posted by: truck1 | May 25, 2010 6:56 AM | Report abuse

Yiwu is famous for its marinated frog testacles. Be sure to ask for them in whatever restaurant you go to. (It's called ha jin qiu.) They might be hesitant to serve them to you, since you're a foreigner, but if you insist longly and loudly enough they'll bring some out for you - i.e., it could be a lot of trouble, but they're worth it. Trust me on this one. They're delicious little things.

Posted by: ostap666 | May 25, 2010 8:41 AM | Report abuse

Ezra, that's really too bad! It's really hard to get a lot out of Shanghai if you don't know what you're doing. But if you follow the advice of those who have lived there for a while....it has the most exciting, random, unique, and accessible cuisine imaginable. Next time you come through, hit me up and I'll point you to all the right spots!

Posted by: celdred | May 25, 2010 9:17 AM | Report abuse

Shanghai has some of the most delicious Chinese food in the world, but the key is to be guided by Chinese friends. If you have a trusted Chinese friend (or one of your friends has a trusted Chinese friend), tell that individual what kinds of foods you like and don't like, and ask if you might eat out together. It'll mean an immeasurably better experience for you.

Posted by: esdahl | May 25, 2010 9:35 AM | Report abuse

Ezra, you need to email James Fallows - he should be able to recommend some places for you.

Posted by: lcrider1 | May 25, 2010 11:03 AM | Report abuse

That's pretty sad that Yang's Fry Dumpling is gone. In any case, my favorite thing I had to eat in Shanghai was Xinjiang food. See if you can find a Xinjiang restaurant while you're there. The food's amazing, and it's pretty impossible to find in the US.

Posted by: goinupnup | May 25, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

What I did in Hong Kong.

Walk around. Look for a crowded place with moderately well dressed people.

When you find one, eat what most of the people are eating.

Posted by: grat_is | May 25, 2010 5:48 PM | Report abuse

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