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.
River snail season is here, hence why bins of mottled gray-green periwinkles are starting to dot every food street. These dwarf escargot (青壳螺蛳, qīng ké luó si) populate the waterways of Zhejiang and Jiangsu, with the most sparkling specimens hailing from Zhujiajiao water town. If you don’t want to travel an hour out of Shanghai, we recommend Hao You, arguably the city’s most authentic spot for Jiangsu country fare.
Most river snails come steamed with chilis, some veg, and not much else. Hao You realizes that unless you’re a shore bird, spending a half-hour dissecting a mound of these thimble-sized gastropods becomes tedious. There needs to be some filler. Hence tese luosi (特色螺蛳), river snail soup with ginger, both pickled and regular chilies, and squares of Shanghai-style salted pork (20RMB). Yes, the Chinese knew that bacon makes everything more delicious thousands of years before Wendy’s. The real kicker is the stock, which is simmered from pork bones and river snails until rich and milky. The river snails sponge up all that goodness, and become that much more delicious
Logistically, this dish is a bit of a nightmare. Eating it feels like eating ham and veg off of a bed of river pebbles, and after you’re done gobbling the distractions, you’re going to have to tackle the monotonous mollusks themselves. The best way is to put your finger on the tiny hole at narrow end to and suck on the other like you’re smoking a miniature pipe so the corkscrew of meat springs out in one piece. Noobs will want to enlist a toothpick. Don’t mind those gritty white pellets in the snails’ midsection, they’re just eggs. However, come late spring, these start to become more numerous, so you’re going to want to eat this dish between now and mid-April.
If you’re a bit hesitant, start with their larger pork-stuffed cousins. They’re a good primer course.
Hao You (好友汇土菜馆) – 2/F, 657 Dingxi Lu near Fahuazhen Lu (above the Tesco Express) (定西路657号2-3楼, 近法华镇路). Tel: (0)21-5178-6617. Closest metro stop: Jiaotong University, line 10.
Last time on Dish of the Day: Steamed pork with sticky rice @ Dapai Xiaochu
See a complete list of our Dish of the Day series here.
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