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 Mid-Autumn Festival has almost arrived, and honestly, I previously didn’t care too much as I thought most moon cakes were overpriced discs of saccharine gluiness that would better serve as hockey pucks or paper weights than food. This was until I realized that those wonderfully flaky and savory pork pastries (above) that I chowed on weekly, were actually moon cakes.
Hailing from nearby Suzhou, these scruffy, crude-looking cakes look nothing like the ornate Cantonese variety found in gift sets (maybe like Cantonese moon cakes that molted), but trust me, they’re way better. Suzhou moon cakes are served piping hot at street side stands, and come with a variety of fillings from black sesame paste and chopped walnut to seaweed. Our favorite and the most popular are the “fresh meat moon cakes” (xiān ròu yuè bĭng, 鲜肉月饼), which contain basically the same minced pork filling as a rou bao. You bite in and the turnover-like crust crackles against your lips before giving way to the hot, succulent squish of the meatball. UK denizens, Australians, and other fans of savory pies will rejoice.
Lao Da Fang near People’s Square easily serves the best meat moon cakes (35RMB per box). This snack shop is also no secret so those arriving after eight AM will likely have to brave a line of locals that stretches a ways down Nanjing Dong Lu, especially with the Mid-Autumn Festival approaching. But it’ll be worth it.
Lao Da Fang – 536 Nanjing Dong Lu, near Fujian Zhong Lu (南京东路536号, 近福建中路). Opens at 7:30am.
Last time on Dish of the Day: Suanni bairou (cold marbled pork slices with chili paste) @ Hei San Niang
See a complete list of our Dish of the Day series here.
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