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Chinese Food Recs Ep. 1: Shanghai (Part 1: Breakfast and Soups)


Are you always hungry in the middle of class? Do you consider yourself a fellow foodie? Well, you are in luck! As an expert taste tester who lived in Shanghai during her elementary school years, I have compiled a professional, detailed list of all my recommendations for the tastiest Shanghai breakfasts and soups!



1.粢饭糕 (ci1 fan4 gao1)

Who doesn’t love a crispy, filling snack for breakfast? These glutinous rice crackers are a mixture of sticky rice and sushi rice, deep-fried in avocado oil. Coated with sugar, these crackers can immediately satisfy your long-desired cravings and fulfill your belly’s hungry demands. Crunchy yet sticky, bland yet savory, greasy yet pleasant—粢饭糕 possesses the perfect combination of contrasting tastes. These cheap, affordable, and convenient snacks are guaranteed to be worth their prices and can easily be found anywhere on the streets or in Shanghai restaurants. During Chinese New Year, they often serve as the traditional, celebratory food due to their symbolic meaning of a lucky and more successful future. Oh, and guess what? It’s already (a bit past…) Chinese New Year! If you manage to get yourselves some, I wish you a long-living, prosperous life ahead of you! If not, I hope bad luck will follow everywhere you go. Haha…just kidding, but please do try these delicious little crackers!

2. 大饼, 油条 (da4 bing3, you2 tiao2)

A simple yet fulfilling breakfast. 大饼 and 油条 are a typical breakfast combination that you could find at any Shanghai street food vendor. The first, 大饼, refers to a pancake-like, flaky dough sprinkled with sesame seeds on top. Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, 大饼 will surely surprise you with its plain, dull appearance! Whether you are a fan of sweet, crunchy cereals or an advocate for salty, chewy, salmon-filled bagels, 大饼 will satisfy all your preferences with its suitable, delicious taste. Just a pro tip: rectangular-shaped 大饼 indicate a salty flavor, while round ones indicate a sweet flavor. Even better, you can add any fillings to your 大饼 on top of the salty/sweet flavors, and it is, indeed, this customizable aspect of 大饼 that attracts many to this dish. Some common fillings include 榨菜, or preserved pickled vegetables; 肉松, also known as pork sung; and 火腿肠, basically sausages. 油条, a deep-fried, golden-brown doughnut-like stick, also makes a delicious accompaniment for 大饼. “The simpler, the better.” is the exact case with 油条. Made with only flour, salt, and baking powder, it produces the best addition to 大饼 by far. I highly recommend you enjoy your meal by videotaping yourself while eating. The clear, crisp sounds of 大饼油条 will prompt you to become the best ASMR mukbanger on YouTube. After all, sharing is caring, so we must share our joy! (…and provoke the jealousy of others…I mean…what?)



3. 腌笃鲜 (yan1 du1 xian1)

The most heavenly-tasting soup you could ever encounter…well, that’s what I think. As a must-try in a Shanghai restaurant, 腌笃鲜 is a soup boiled from 咸肉 (salted pork belly), 鲜肉 (fresh pork belly), 百叶结 (tofu knots), and 春笋 (fresh bamboo shoots), the essence of this whole dish. This soup is fresh, savory, and buttery, with a hint of saltiness. Combined with the crispiness from the bamboo shoots and the tender, spongy texture of the tofu knots, it makes for the perfect “beverage” to drink at any time. Just imagine a hot, steaming, tasty soup served to you on a cold, chilly winter night—my god…chef’s kiss! Aside from its mouthwatering smell and delicious taste, it provides a well-balanced, healthy diet with abundant amounts of protein, amino acids, and vitamin B. 腌笃鲜 is best enjoyed during the winter/spring season, from December to March. We currently have not passed this optimal period, so I encourage you to go try now! In Shanghai, this soup is said to be “打了耳光也不肯放的,” which directly translates to “you wouldn’t let go of the dish even when you are slapped.” Once you’ve tried it, 腌笃鲜 will undoubtedly become your number-one go-to comfort food forever after! 

4. 罗宋汤 (luo2 song4 tang1)

Another favorite soup of mine, commonly found in Shanghai restaurant menus, is 罗宋汤. Stuffed with beef, cabbage, carrots, onions, potatoes, and tomatoes, 罗宋汤 is essentially a small hot pot. With its visually appealing orange-red color, it catches your attention right away, in contrast to 腌笃鲜, which is a plain cream color. For those in favor of bolder flavors, this is the one for you. The blend between the sweetness of the carrots and the sourness of the tomatoes creates a rich burst of flavors that will leave you in awe. The creamy texture enables you to enjoy this with a piece of bread like a clam chowder, but you could also devour it alone. Ultimately, any option you choose will surely defy your expectations of this soup combination—I assure you it’s ten times better than it sounds!


If you made it to the end, congratulations!! As my thanks to you, I will reveal my family’s secret recipe for homemade 腌笃鲜! 

  1. Chop up your bamboo shoots and your pork bellies. Prepare some ginger as well. 
  2. Put water in a pot and add the pork bellies into the water. Let it simmer. 
  3. As the scum rises, skim it off. 
  4. When the water boils, add 2 tablespoons of cooking wine, the bamboo shoots, which you have prepared earlier, and the tofu knots. 
  5. Then, let it continue to simmer for around 3 hours. 

AND…TADA!!! You’ve got your own 腌笃鲜!

NOTE: there is no need to add extra salt (unless you want to make it extra salty) since the salty pork belly already adds flavor to your soup!


As always, these are my personal opinions, so don’t blame me when you dislike one of these dishes, haha! However, I do encourage you to try them. Keep pursuing your burning passion for food!

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