Every few days our team will scour Shanghai’s dining scene for scrumptious dishes that’ll fill your belly without emptying your savings. Not to discriminate, we’ll search everywhere from bicycle carts to chic venues with twenty-course tasting menus, knowing that any spot could have the next Dish of the Day.
The majority of people we’ve encountered who have an aversion to Shanghai cuisine cite its overpowering sweetness as the main turn-off. However, as any Shanghainese foodie will tell you, properly executed Shanghai food is never overpoweringly sweet.
Case in point; Lan Ting, a hovel-like space dishing out Shanghai classics like hongshao rou (red-cooked pork), ji gu jiang (chicken in fermented tofu sauce), and xun yu (smoked fish) the way a Shanghai aunt would, and for an agreeable price. Even with the sweetest of these eats, the sugar never entombs the natural flavor like with one of those bug lollipops but rather complements it as if the sugar occurs naturally in the food.
The best example of this and the dish we’ll weather Lan Ting’s consulate-like line and snarly staff to get is huangsan or eel (38RMB). Though it doesn’t look like much – squiggly ribbons of meat mired in brown sauce – the eel’s tenderness rivals that of the best white-meat perch, while the texture’s as easy on the mouth as those wisps of meat found in the fingers of crab claws.
And rather than induce teeth-clenching because of the sweetness, the sauce syncs so nicely with the meat you’d think it was the eel’s natural habitat.
Just remember to bring someone along when venturing out to Lan Ting, as they frequently turn away loners due to limited seating. I made that mistake tonight, and ended up slurping my eel out of a plastic container on the stoop of a Lawson convenience store during a torrential downpour (hence the picture). But hey, how often do you get to eat takeout that good, right?
Lan Ting – 107 Lan Ting Lu, near Taicang Lu (嵩山路107号, 近太仓路). Tel: (0)21-5306-9650. Hours: 11am-9:45pm, daily.
Last time on Dish of the Day: The Montana Burger @ Blue Frog
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Have a recommendation for Dish of the Day? Let Shanghaiist’s food editor Benjamin Cost know at [email protected]!