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Shanghai street food comes alive

 | July 26, 2012

A Friday-only Muslim market serves up local dishes and more.


There’s no dearth of street food in Shanghai. The locals can easily tell you that. From handmade noodles to deliciously-filled steamed buns, you just have to turn a corner to find a scattering of tables and chairs occupied by an appreciative audience tucking into something hot off the flames.

For a taste of rural Shanghai, now that needs a bit of digging into. Hearty, rustic meals imported from Xinjiang with kebabs dripping with fat so tender; fortunately, it’s a scene played out every Friday at the Muslim market place near Huxi Mosque in Changde Lu.

There are seven mosques in Shanghai, and while it’s typical to find local Muslims setting up shop every Friday outside the mosques to serve the community, the gathering of food vendors at Huxi Mosque is by far the largest. Stalls are set up as early as eleven in the morning, with the crowd joining in soon after. It really gets busy after the Friday prayers are over, and here’s when the atmosphere becomes festive.

An entire amalgamation of tastes, sights and smells greet visitors and one needs no prodding to hop from one stall to another to begin the food adventure. Many vendors sell Uyghur specialities such as lamb kebabs and aromatic rice pilaf topped with mountains of onions and tender chunks of lamb or chicken meat. There are tasty naan breads fresh from the oven and fried dumplings with delicious meat filling you cannot stop from nibbling. At one particular stall, a vendor nimbly shaves off ice flakes from a huge chunk of ice block before adding to this a homemade a mix of yoghurt and honey. The taste was simply amazing.

Everywhere you look, there seems to be something begging to be tried, like the carrot jiaozi and cold shaved noodles topped with peanut sauce called langfen. At some stalls, there are tables and chairs laid out for visitors to have their meals. Others prefer to munch on the go, picking out food stuff and fruits they want to take home with them. All too soon, the market winds down. The crowd thins until all that’s left are the vendors, happy to have yet served another community of food lovers until they meet again the following Friday.


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