Sichuan (or Szechuan) cuisine has become a trendy and very popular type of food to have in Shanghai and probably all around China. This is especially so amongst young people as some of them are constantly trying to find an even chillier restaurant to challenge their taste bud limits. Sichuan is a province located on the southwest side of China and is famous for its spicy dishes that use many types of chillies and is also where Szechuan peppercorns originated.
Near where I live in Shanghai, there is a restaurant called Hou Wei Xiang La Guan (厚味香辣馆打浦店) in the Da Pu area in Lu Wan Qu. I don’t believe they have an English name though but it is a franchise with numerous locations around Shanghai. The interior was spacious and for the three of us (my cousins and I) we got to sit at one of the couched areas so were nice and comfortable during the meal.
We ordered a set menu which gives you 4 dishes for $69Yuan plus a few extra dishes. I couldn’t quite remember if the jug of sour plum juice came with the set or whether it was ordered separately, but nevertheless, sour plum juice is a good drink to have when your tongue is feeling numb from the chillies. Another good drink is milk or soy milk but those are not as regularly ordered at a restaurant.
My favourite dish of the day was the cold noodles. The topping was a light peanut butter, sesame and soy sauce with mince pork, shiitake mushrooms, peanuts, bean shoots, celery and some sort of pickled bok choy and just a tiny bit chilli. It was very refreshing, tasty and just the right saltiness. We managed to finish it instantly.
Next was daikon and beef brisket claypot. I didn’t particularly like this dish that much, partly because it tasted like any other claypot dish I’ve had back in Melbourne and partly because the beef wasn’t cooked all that well. By all means it wasn’t a bad dish but I’ve had better.
However, the worst dish really that day was the braised pork trotters. The skin was still hard so it wasn’t cooked through, the taste was on the bland side and frankly just wasn’t to my taste. The bok choy was also fairly average, any Chinese household could have made such a dish. I have no idea why my cousin ordered these. Anyway, that’s what was ordered so I had to stick to eating them. :S
One of the highlights though was the boiled fish pieces with bean sprouts in hot chilli oil (沸腾鱼片 Fei Teng Yu Pian). It’s one of the must get dishes when you visit any Sichuan restaurant. This restaurant makes it nicely, with a generous serving of fish and a fairly chilli but tasty sauce. The chillies on top gets taken away by a waitress (hopefully not to be reused). There’s bean sprouts underneath the fish, one to suck up the taste of the soup and provide a secondary ingredient and another is to make the dish look like there’s more fish than there really is. We thoroughly enjoyed this dish (as compared to the other ones) and eventually finished it off despite how big it was. This dish though in my opinion is a bit too oily so I usually don’t order it unless if I’m eating with people who can eat lots of this dish.
The last dish of the day was stir fried cabbage in a chilli bean paste. This dish is slightly boring in my opinion and a bit on the ugly side. The first thing that impresses me is looks so this dish failed. It was still tasty but nothing special as this dish is readily available at many restaurants, even ones in Melbourne.
That concluded our meal. Not the most impressive meal, believe me, my food saga in Beijing (where I’m at right now) is wayyyyy more impressive. It’ll make you want to travel there just to eat the food. 😀 Shanghai was more of a place to visit relatives and relax at home rather than eating out all the time so restaurant food was limited. I will bring you more delicious food in coming posts. 🙂
Hou Wei Xiang La Guan (Da Pu Shop) – 厚味香辣馆(打浦店)
Hai Xing Guang Chang Level 3，Rui Jin Nan Lu No.1, Lu Wan Qu, Shanghai (卢湾区瑞金南路1号海兴广场3楼)
Talking about chilli food, I also had great Chong Qing vermicelli in sour and chilli soup on a few occasions. It’s one of the nicer street food around in my opinion. I ate it at a place where I often go shopping called Qi Pu Lu. Qi Pu Lu is an area with numerous buildings dedicated to wholesale clothing and accessories. I can spend a whole day just walking around and will get dizzy and flustered by the end of the day as there are just so many shops and so many things to look at.
I see a lot of foreigners there haggling with the shop owners in broken Chinese (the shop owners in broken English) for one of the many tops or pants and often bags or suitcases and shoes. However, if you were to visit, don’t get fooled by the starting prices, haggling usually goes down by 70-80% of what is quoted. The quality of clothing is also not the best so don’t expect to buy something that will last you many years but of course, prices are reasonably cheap as well. If you’re lucky though, you might find some export goods that are fairly good in quality.
The vermicelli in sour and chilli soup I had was in the main building as you get off buses or out of the subway. The store I purchased from is better than the one directly opposite it as it gave me fish balls and more soup, most of the stores ask for $6Yuan. As it’s freshly made in front of you, you can choose which ingredient you want more or less of, in my case, I asked for less chilli (the first time I asked for regular chilli and it made me cry). I’m not sure if this shop makes the vermicelli soup in an authentic manner but its ingredients consisted of thick vermicelli, fish balls, lettuce, peanuts, coriander, pickles and chilli paste. The soup is very sour and quite chilli (depending on the amount of chilli you ask for) and definitely suits my taste. I loveee sour things. 😀
It is quite filling for a snack so if you feel like having something else, there’s other options available such as takoyaki (fried octopus balls), Taiwanese sausages, egg tarts, cooked corn, many flavours of pancakes and there are also many fried skewers outside. Or if none of these tickles your fancy, then there’s also KFC and other food outlets upstairs and across the road in the other building.
You can reach Qi Pu Lu by taking subway number 10 to Tian Tong Road Station, the same station also goes to Yu Yuan and Xin Tian Di which are major Shanghai attractions which I will be blogging about later. The subway line #12 is currently being built and will also run to this station when it is complete. Alternatively, you can take many buses, within that is number 17 which is the bus I take. If you want to inquire about bus routes around Shanghai, comment below or send me an email and I can look it up for you.
Qi Pu Lu markets
Qipu Road, Zhabei (闸北区), Shanghai