Today was grey and drizzly but I still managed to get about an hour of biking in (5th day in a row, yay!) in a quest for yummy edibles.
I set out first to find some 枣糕, a cake made with dates whose moist, spongy texture, at once fluffy and dense, makes it a winning substitute for even-harder-to-find banana bread. Not to mention it also tastes healthier coz of the dates, heh. I’d fallen in love with it about a year ago but hadn’t had it in months, since the shop at the intersection of Yuyuan and Zhenping (super convenient as it’s on my bike route 90% of the time) was transformed into yet another duck neck shop, 绝味, a couple weeks ago.
I still haven’t figured out why duck neck is soooo popular here, maybe coz I’ve never managed to muster up the appetite for it, but REALLY?! The date cake shop (a chain called 枣糕王) always had a line of people waiting for the next freshly baked batch: they couldn’t even make ’em fast enough. How could’ve they have lost out to this stupid duck neck chain??
Needless to say, I’d been devastated, especially as this closure came with a slew of other ones: my go-to shaved ice cafe, go-to massage place, go-to cheap delivery (Lanzhou Lamian—it’s under renovation now so hopefully it’ll be reincarnated as the exact same thing. Not gonna bet on it though). So today I finally looked online (dianping.com) for other shops in the chain. I scribbled down the two closest addresses and off I pedaled.
There was no sign of date cakes anywhere along the street of the first one. Disappointed and hungry (it was lunchtime), I set off on my second quest of the day, planning to hit up the other address on my way home.
Destination number two was Tsui Wah, the Hong Kong chain that’d made its way up to Shanghai. I’d come here a few weeks ago with some friends and bought a pineapple bun for the ride home, and have been craving it ever since. I suspect anyone growing up in HK or in a HK family will have developed a certain snottiness as regards their borlor and other baos, and will prob agree that Shanghai is hugely lacking in that department. The one at Tsui Wah, though, is good. Really good.
The bun was warm, mildly sweet, chewy, and bouncy, and the sweet crust had the requisite crunch, which is where—along with over-dryness or -oiliness—most wannabes fail.
I also got a cocktail bun, which was decent except for a bit of a cardboard texture on the bun’s outer edges. Either way, miles ahead of Shanghai buns, although maybe it’s just that we favour what we’re used to :)
My third mission was to find the Avocado Lady at on Wulumuqi Road, widely known among and loved by expats in the city for selling a variety of “western” products both packaged and fresh—including avocados!—at lower-than-supermarket prices. I’d read lots about her shop but since it’s a bit out of the way on my usual shopping route, never ventured over til today.
What began as a vegetable shop has become the destination for westerners looking for quality, reasonably priced ingredients from home. I won’t say much about it since many others have (just google “avocado lady”), except that it was especially heart-warming to see piles of yellow and green squash and fresh herbs. Although the prices weren’t displayed, both salesladies were friendly and helpful, and I left the shop 75 RMB lighter but carrying a heavy bag of goodies for my black bean chili and tomato/mozzarella/basil (just for the hell of it) tonight.
Which is when I saw… a DATE CAKE SHOP. Right next to the Avocado Lady. Well, technically it called itself a 老婆饼 (“wife cake”) shop—which is probably why I didn’t see it online—but the date cake was all I cared about. This place didn’t seem half as popular as the one on Yuyuan, since there was almost a full sheet just sitting there, but that was just fine with me.
10 RMB got me one 斤 (basically a pound) in a plastic baggy.
Ten seconds in the microwave will bring back its freshly baked warmth and bounce, and it goes down fantastically with a cup of tea.
Where to find…