What’s For Breakfast?
Last week, the Financial Times ran a very interesting column by Patti Waldmeir about what people in China, Shanghai in particular, like to have for breakfast. (hope that link works…)
“Nobody loves things western more than the Chinese, but when the sun comes up on any Chinese city the east dominates the breakfast trade. Like their ancestors before them, even the most westernised Shanghainese queue up before bamboo towers of steamed buns, spitting woks of crispy bottomed dumplings and steaming vats of rice gruel, to eat food that proudly declares its Chineseness,” Patti writes.
During my couple of trips to China – Beijing and Shanghai (worlds apart though in the same country), I saw this first-hand. I’d get up early, so that I had some time to wander around before our work/shoot day started. I like being in a foreign city and watching it wake up.
I’d walk the nearly empty, but slowing buzzing, streets, and see where people were going. In and out of little markets, or stopping outside of a “take out” window for some early-morning sustenance.
While there are KFC’s, McDonald’s and even some Dunkin’ Donuts in the cities, the longest lines are those for the soup-filled steamed buns called shengjian mantou.
After trying one of these buns early one morning, I have to say…they’re great. Especially in the morning. Warm, salty, tasty. Hits your belly and makes you feel great. May not be the breakfast of champions nutritionally speaking, but it is the breakfast of China.
Apart from that, there are snacks and sugar buns that appeal to the sweet tooth. I tried these as well, but I’m more of a savory guy rather than a sweets guy.
My plan while on my walking around was to see which booth or market had the longest line or the most people coming and going. Figured that meant they have best food.
Of all my street-food excursions, though, I have to say…one of the best breakfasts I had was back at the Puli Hotel in Shanghai. I had been walking around for a couple of hours, saw the sky turn from black to flat sunny. Got a text from my crew saying they’d be in the restaurant as they were all just awakening. I worked my way back from The Bund to the hotel. Past the men flying kites there, past the older folks doing early morning tai-chi in the parks. The city was start to awaken. I got back to the hotel, made my way to the Jing’An Restaurant, scanned the menu, and went with some breakfast noodles.
Absolutely scrumptious. I ordered seconds.
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