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.
You’ve no doubt encountered dozens of Shaxian Xiaochi locations while exploring Shanghai’s backstreets. Denoted by a logo that looks like a red Pac-Man eating a pea, this Fujian giant spans most of China. But judging from its small, rustic interior, the all Chinese-menu tacked onto the wall, and downhome Fujian cooking you’d never suspect it.
Shaxian Xiaochi serves simple working class eats; fried beef noodles, fried rice, noodle soups, and plate meals with braised duck or chicken legs or pork chops with rice, fried egg, preserved vegetable, pressed tofu, bean sprouts, and other sides. No smoke and mirrors here, just all the food pyramid categories on one plate to imbue your ruddy-faced day laborer with cheap, tasty “get up and go.”
And then there’s the willow leaf dumplings (liuyezhengjiao), cloud-white parcels perfectly pleated on top like regular dumplings that were stitched together with a sewing machine. By themselves, they taste like any old jiaozi at your neighborhood dumpling den. When paired with peanut sauce, soy sauce, chili sauce and scallions (piaoxiang banjiao, around 6-8RMB for ten) they attain dumpling godhood. The commanding creaminess of the peanut sauce proves the ideal match for the light, airy dumplings. After we wiped out our order we ordered an extra fen of plain willow leaf dumplings to sponge up the last streaks of savory sauce.
For whatever reason, you tend to find Shaxian Xiaochi locations in nondescript developing areas or on the fringes of bustling food streets. Our favorite for both willow leaf dumplings and everything else is on a side-street bisecting Ling Ling Lu across from Shanghai Indoor Stadium.
Shaxian Xiaochi – No. 13, Ling Ling Lu, Lane 751, across the way from ICBC bank (零陵路751弄13号).
Last time on Dish of the Day: Niu rou jia mo (mo sandwich with beef) on Caoxi Bei Lu
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]!