Easter is approaching fast and the time is ripe for an egg hunt! However, we’re not going for the traditional plastic eggs filled with milk chocolate, but rather the most eight most EGGceptional egg dishes in Shanghai. Peter T. Hooper, eat your heart out.
8. Tea eggs (茶叶蛋, cháyè dàn)
Tea eggs are pre-boiled eggs that are cracked and re-boiled in tea and spices, usually a mixture of ground cinnamon, star anise, fennel seeds, and cloves. Easily the most ubiquitous eats in Shanghai, you see these cappuccino-colored orbs everywhere from street carts to small eateries like Zhouli Laoya Fensi, where they’re paired with rice, duck leg, and veg. They’re even sold at Family Mart out of what look like assorted vats of brown gobbledegook. Don’t be deterred by the appearance, they taste like even more savory boiled eggs infused with smoked duck. They’re around 2RMB each.
7. Century eggs (皮蛋, pídàn)
Contrary to popular belief, the century egg’s preparation doesn’t involve burying an egg underground for a hundred years, nor does it call for horse urine – despite its Chinese name rhyming with “pee’d on” (that’s another kind of egg). The cooking process instead requires curing eggs, usually duck eggs, in an alkaline concoction of mud, lime, ash, tea, salt, and rice hulls for around 100 days. After the 100 days or so, the eggs are EGGxhumed and served sliced like oranges with soy and vinegar, or cubed and scattered over tofu or congee. The result looks a bit like normal eggs that were corrupted by the Nazgul, but they taste quite good; if a bit ammonia-rich and sulfury. Our favorites are the unadulterated egg slices at Bandao Jiu Lou (10RMB).
Bandao Jiu Lou // 95 Huanghe Road, near Beijing Road (黄河路95号, 近北京路). Closest metro stop: People’s Square, lines 1/2/8.
6. Chinese omelette
Chinese omelettes aren’t your usual ham and cheese affair, and can contain anything from whole fish to stinky tofu. We like to keep it simple with Charmant’s scrumptious basil omelette. As Charmant’s open until 4am, this dish presents a deliciously oily landing pad to deaden the blow of the Friday night booze-fest.
Charmant – 1414 Huaihai Zhong Lu, corner of Fuxing Lu (淮海中路1414号, 近复兴西路). Tel: (0)21-6431-8107. Hours: 10am-4am. Closest metro stop: Changshu Road, lines 1/7.
5. Chinese egg dumplings (蛋饺, dàn jiǎo)
Resembling baby omelettes, these parcels of minced ham enveloped in scrambled egg wrappers are a traditional Chinese New Year treat that symbolize wealth. You often see them in freezers at the wet market or sizzling in skillets on the street come winter time. You don’t eat them there but rather shlep them home to cook in hotpot or freeze for later. Our favorite is Xin Nongcun’s supersized version (农家自制蛋饺, nongjia zizhi danjiao, 38RMB) which evokes the mothership of the regular danjiao.
Xin Nongcun – Exit 2, Shanghai Indoor Stadium, 666 Tianyaoqiao Lu (天钥桥路666号八万人体育场2号通道旁). Tel: (0)21-6426-5757. Closest metro stop: Shanghai Indoor Stadium, lines 1/4.
4. Scrambled eggs with tomato (西红柿炒鸡蛋, xīhóngshì chǎo jīdàn)
You know it, you love it. Scrambled eggs with tomato is the expat catnip of Chinese cuisine, because no matter what your tolerance for Chinese food, you’ll enjoy it. I mean, it’s scrambled eggs with tomato.
Chunfu Shui Jiao – 275 Nandan Lu, near Caoxi Bei Lu (南丹路275号, 近曹西北路). Tel: (0)21-6468-5858. Hours: 7am-12am daily. Closest metro stop: Xujiahui, lines 1/9.
3. Pigeon eggs (鸽子蛋, gē zǐ dàn)
Only the size of ping-pong balls, pigeon eggs are truly the tastiest eggs around. They make a goose egg seem like well, a “goose egg” on the flavor scale. You can find them in the poultry section of your local wet market. Take a dozen home to boil, poach, fry, scramble etc.
2. Hairy crab scrambled eggs (蟹粉蛋, xièfěn dàn)
Shanghai’s answer to the truffle-scrambled eggs gimmick in the West, eggs scrambled with hairy crab meat and roe with a dash of vinegar, is much tastier. It’s much cheaper too at only 16RMB at Hai Jinzi! If you’re an expat who can’t abide the tedious dissection required to eat the whole crustacean, this is a safe bet.
Hai Jinzi – 240 Jinxian Lu, near Shaanxi Nan Lu (进贤路240号, 近陕西南路). Tel: (0)21-6255-0371. Hours: 11am-1:45pm lunch, 5-9:30pm dinner. Closest metro stop: South Shanxi Road, lines 1/10.
1. Portuguese egg tarts
Portuguese egg tarts originated at a monastery in Lisbon, but later arrived in a Portuguese colony in Macau, then at Dim Sum restaurants in Hong Kong, and finally the mainland. They consist of a small pie-shaped crust containing a banana-yellow egg custard lightly seared on top like crème brûlée. Perfect pastries such as the ones at Lillian’s Cake Shop sport flaky, airy, slightly fluffy crusts resembling an apple turnover’s, and molten custard which combines the textures of mousse and jello. Our favorite aspect of Portuguese egg tarts is how non-artificial they are. Instead of typical sweets with cloying, bikini-pink frosting, pre-frozen flour, and a crust that crumbles like a sand castle you get a scratch-made pastry whose sweetness almost seems to occur naturally in the egg and crust. All this makes them clock in at number one on our countdown.
Lillian Cake Shop // Subway B2 level, 939 Huaihai Zhong Lu, near Shanxi Nan Lu, Subway B2 Level, Paris Spring Mall (淮海中路939号, 近陕西南路). Tel: (0)21-6474-1399. Hours: 7:30am-10pm daily. Closest metro stop: South Shanxi Road, lines 1/10.
Related: 5 overrated Shanghai eating experiences and their tastier alternatives
Benjamin Cost is Shanghaiist’s Food Editor. Email tips, recommendations, and news updates on Shanghai’s dining scene to [email protected].