Things to see in Shanghai (for families)
Steam rises as morning commuters gather around fire pits, waiting for their breakfast to go ‘Shanghai style’.
It is 8.00am, wet, and cold – actually it is not simply cold, it is freezing. The coldest day since our arrival in Shanghai. It strikes me this is a perfect morning to have remained snuggled in my luxurious (warm) bed at The Langham Xintiandi. Yet , propel us forth on our day of ‘Things to see in Shanghai (for families) – with hosts UnTour Shanghai.
I confess to not being a ‘true’ Foodie. Certainly I love food, adore the discovery of new flavours, the adventure of sampling … yet I don’t feel the need to understand the minutiae of ingredients, nor do I want to replicate the recipes at home – I cook often, but probably reluctantly.
Our party of six is spread over three generations, some sixty years from oldest to youngest; a challenge to find activities that suit everyone.
UnTour Shanghai delivers, our 3.5 hour Street Food Breakfast Tour passes in a blur. We walk, talk, explore small alleys, glimpse a peek into centuries old homes and local businesses (cheek to jowl with ‘new’ Shanghai).
The verdict – we would go again tomorrow – every taste bud, age group and interest catered for. Our time was managed seamlessly, yet never did we feel as if the same old was being trotted out. Mixing with locals, moving amongst their neighbourhoods, sitting to eat with the regulars – we didn’t feel intrusive.
Then yes, there is the food. Even when taking a measured approach, a mouthful here, half a bowl there – tummies are certainly full to capacity by the culmination of the tour.
A snapshot of our fabulous ‘Things to see in Shanghai (for families)’ experience…
Shanghai is a destination for street food aficionados. A city where you can find burgers for $50 and noodles for $1.
Friendly, family-run stalls fill every neighborhood, however entire food streets are diminishing with the arrival of newer malls. A few pockets still survive and should be a part of any Shanghai itinerary.
We meet our lovely Guide at Xiangyang Park on the edge of the French Concession (think gorgeous tree lined streets, historic buildings and a fabulous buzz), UnTour groups are kept small and only one other couple joins us. Conversation flows easily as a brief history of the area is explained.
We are all hungry at the first stop – a cluster of breakfast vendors, queues already forming. We gather bags of goodies and find a spot to sit inside to unwrap the steaming, fragrant bundles.
Cups of hot soy milk – Doujiang – are produced, in which we dip warm, crispy Youtiao (much to the delight of the kids these are essentially Chinese donuts). Although not all members of our family enjoy the soy milk.
A favourite of The Youngest and I is the Jianbing. A savoury Chinese millet flour crepe, topped with a thin egg omelette filled with sweet soy bean paste (similar to hoisin), pickled vegetables, coriander then a dash of chilli sauce – finally topped with a deep fried wonton wrapper – adding a surprising crunch. A sublime combination of sweet, salty, savor and spicy in every crispy bite.
Dumplings (Baozi), fresh and steaming and lethal for the unsuspecting. There is an art to eating them, a nibble to make a hole, then you carefully suck out the soup before indulging in the soft bread and juicy meatball. Other variations of the baozi are the cai bao (green vegetables and tofu steamed inside the bun), doushao bao (sweet red bean) and sweet custard.
Shengjian are like small baozi but fried to a crisp on one side leaving the other side soft. Try stopping at just one.
With stomachs beginning to feel the effects of the eager sampling of new flavours, it is time to walk through the neighbourhood. A glimpse of life inside a Shanghai-style lane house in a traditional “lilong residence”, a fusion of Chinese courtyards and Western row houses, tall (three stories) and narrow residences, arranged in a grid-like pattern with east-west and north-south lanes. Generally off the main roads there is an air of calm, sealed off from the noise of the city.
We wander amongst stalls in the Market, live seafood, fresh poultry, colourful vegetables.
“Henan Pulled Noodles” on Changle Lu (Road) are next on the agenda; each serve of noodles is pulled to order by a gentleman best described as a noodle master. His dexterity at turning a lump of dough into perfect noodles with an expert turn of wrist, can only be called magic. Rapidly blanched for a minute in boiling stock or water, rinsed (cooling them to room temperature). Then they’re dressed with scallion oil (made by frying julienned scallions until they become dark, crisp shreds), mixed with soy sauce, and topped with the fried scallions, along with some fried and dried shrimp. Served in one long strand for special occasions like Birthdays (symbolising a long life) – ours are chopped into more manageable bite sized strands, hopefully not shortening our life expectancy in the process!
We have a side of Qingjiao fuzhu, stir fried bamboo tofu, capsicum and chilli, a perfect accompaniment.
More welcome walking before a pit stop at Egg, a cool, airy Cafe operated by a young American, Camden Hauge. A spot that feels like home – fantastic coffee and unbelievable Chocolate Brownie – just a nibble with no room for more.
Our last savoury stop is for Xiao Bao (a type of steamed bun), served in steamer baskets with a wonderful vinegar style sauce for dipping.
Our last stop is one I can not resist – the holy grail of egg tarts (custard with flaky pastry). Lillian’s Shanghai boasts a sign “Probably the best Egg Tarts in Shanghai” – one bite and I agree. Perfect eggy filling, slightly sweet, crisp, yet soft pastry – an absolute melt in your mouth experience.
I buy a Cheese Tart to go – although really you must eat on the spot – fresh is absolutely best.
Things to see in Shanghai (for families)
This tour is a perfect activity for families in Shanghai. Do you enjoy taking city tours?
Wednesdays and Sundays at 8.00am
The breakfast tour is 400RMB (approximately $94AUD) per person
** The Urban Mum was extended this tour complimentary for the purposes of review. The rest of our travelling troops paid their own way. xoxo