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.
Rui Fu Yuan is a stronghold for masterfully-executed Shanghai staples including drunken crab, xia ren, and a mountainous red-braised pork shoulder (78RMB), all of which were Dish of the Day candidates. They’re the kind’ve dishes you eat and realize what a knucklehead you were for thinking Shanghai food was too sweet and oily before. Sure Rui Fu Yuan’s food is oily and sweet. But too much so? Never. We almost wrote about their pork shoulder (which is def worth ravaging), but since our series already features more ripping of meat hunks than a BBC special on carnivores of the Serengetti, we thought we’d switch it up.
So we went with the pork-stuffed snails (te se tian luo sai rou bao, 特色田螺塞肉煲) (38RMB), rotund river snails the size of golfballs filled with a mix of hand-chopped pork and their own minced meat. To cook, these slimers are clacked about in soy sauce, rice wine, rock sugar, white pepper, and star anise. And man do the boys in the back know how to braise. This isn’t that colored sugar water that coats the hong shao rou at your neighborhood sit-downer but a brawny, dark, slightly viscous marinade that everybody claims their Shanghai aunt does best. The sourness tempers the sweetness perfectly.
Simply roll a snail about in the sauce, plug one hole with your finger and suck the sweet, fatty meat conglomeration out the other. We’d say they’re the Chinese version of escargot, but let’s face it, the Chinese were likely doing this dish back when “haute” French cuisine entailed two-legged mutton gobbled off a trencher.
Rui Fu Yuan – 132 Maoming Nan Lu, near Fuxing Zhong Lu (茂名南路132号乙, 近复兴中路). Tel: (0)21-6445-8999. Hours: 11am-2pm, 5pm-9:30pm.
Last time on Dish of the Day: Water spinach with shrimp paste @ Yi Sheng Yue Wei
See a complete list of our Dish of the Day series here.
Have a recommendation for Dish of the Day? Let Shanghaiist’s food editor Benjamin Cost know at [email protected]!