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.
Fried chicken doesn’t exactly jump to mind when you think Chinese cuisine, but there are many renditions, among the most famous being la zi ji, a Sichuan speciality of cubed and fried chicken tossed with garlic, ginger, peppercorns, chilies, sugar, and salt. I’ve heard that people call it “Chinese KFC.” If so, then the street delicacy of salt and pepper fried chicken (椒盐排条) is Chinese Popeye’s. It’s ghetto with a capital “G.” But like with Popeye’s, we’d be lying if we said it doesn’t hit the spot.
Salt and pepper fried chicken stands used to dot Shanghai’s streetfoodscape, but are now being phased out over food safety concerns. And yeah, if one street food embodies all of China’s major food scandals, this is it. Nebulous strips of street meat so cemented in batter they could be anything? Check. Bird flu concerns? Check. Cooking oil? Probably not premium. And who knows how long the raw chicken strips have sat soaking up the sun?
But seeing how the Colonel’s reputation isn’t exactly shimmering, this is arguably the best value chicken fix around. Our go-to is everybody’s go-to; the husband and wife-run stand on Wulumuqi Lu – essentially a wok, tubs of ingredients, a dangling light, and a pile of chicken strips thoroughly chalked with flour. After you order, the fingers are crisped in oil, and jostled about with dried chilies, scallions, ginger, garlic, sesame seeds, and five-spice powder. They’re then crammed in basically a mini-version of KFC’s chicken bucket with toothpicks stuck in them as eating utensils. We also like to think of them as grave-markers for your arteries. The flavor’s worth it. It’s a little like Sichuan salt and pepper squid but with chicken instead, and the perfect thing to soak up the Suntory. 20RMB gets you two cups.
Fried chicken stand – 328 Wulumuqi Zhong Lu, near Fuxing Zhong Lu (乌鲁木齐中路328号, 近复兴中路). Hours: 5-8pm.
Last time on Dish of the Day: Yellow croaker noodles @ A Niang Mian
See a complete list of our Dish of the Day series here.
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