Chinatown NYC, August 2013: I discover the Chinese egg tart. I love it. I marvel at the layers of the shatteringly-crisp crust, and the scorched creamy center. I wonder why it’s so European in technique and flavor. I shove another tart in my mouth and forget to Google an answer.
Belem, Lisbon, November 2013: I come across a bunch of Chinese egg tarts at a cafe and wonder why the Portuguese are selling Chinese desserts. Am told said tart is a pastel de nata and was actually invented by the Portuguese “you stupid idiot.” I shove another tart my my mouth and again forget to Google the connection.
Nanjing lu, Shanghai, January 2015: I take a Chinese street food tour, which ends at a Portuguese bakery selling, of course, egg tarts. Am told the tarts grew popular in Macau and Hong Kong, where locals have a major sweet tooth. Briefly consider how odd it is that a Portuguese tart chain is so wildly popular in China. Shove another tart in my mouth and try to forget the sea snake murder I just witnessed.
Belem, Lisbon, March 2015: I return to Pastis Belem, order way too many warm custard tarts, pull out my phone and finally (!!!) Google the diaspora of the pastel de nata. Continue reading
If you look at Shanghai through a wide lens, it doesn’t differ too much from any other major city. You’ve got skyscrapers, people with jobs, traffic jams, highway systems, schools and hospitals. But if you zoom in say, to the vantage point of a tourist walking on the street, you’ll start to pick out the little oddities that make this particular city so unique. Here are a few gems that made me stop do a double take: Continue reading
After a day of street food binging in Shanghai, I sent my mom this photo along with the caption: “Amazing scallion pancakes.” Her reply was something like: “Wow, looks so good! Just found a recipe. Can’t wait to try.” And I just shook my head and sighed, because unless she had an actual barrel full of fire (and maybe a touch of cigarette ash), there’s no way she could ever mimic the magic of the pancake man.
If part one of my Shanghai street food binge was a bit tame for your liking, this post will right that wrong. Follow me now down this dark alleyway and into the night markets where squirmy, slimy, stinky things become tonight’s dinner.
The Bund. People’s Park. M50. All that Shanghai tourist stuff? You can do it in two days if you really try. The food scene however, with its street vendors, wet markets, Michelin stared restaurants and farm-to-table hangouts…that would take years to explore. Continue reading