Monthly Archives: September 2012

Ci Fan Tuan: Shanghai’s Breakfast of Champions

You may be thinking to yourself, “What on earth is that ungodly glob in the photo?!”  Well, my friends, that ungodly glob is called ci fan tuan, or rice roll, and is one of the tastiest breakfast foods that I encountered in Shanghai.

Chinese breakfasts tend to be savory rather than sweet, with the most ubiquitous dishes including rice porridge, or zhou, topped with thousand year old egg and scallions; long fried crullers called you tiao dipped in warm soy milk; and baozi, steamed buns filled with pork or fresh veggies.  For the longest time, my favorite Chinese breakfast dish was jian bing, Beijing’s version of a crepe, which typically comes with a fried egg, scallions, garlic, a crispy tofu sheet, hoisin sauce,and lots of chile sauce inside.  However, upon discovering ci fan tuan in Shanghai, I might venture to say that jian bing has been dethrowned of its top spot in my Chinese breakfast food hierarchy.      

When sampling ci fan tuan, it’s important to note that not all of them are created equal.  The best one that I ate in Shanghai was at a stand located behind Plaza 66, on Fengyang Lu and Xikang Lu.  You’ll recognize the stand by the long line of customers every morning, awaiting their beloved ci fan tuan.  

Ci fan tuan is definitely an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink kind of a dish.  Warm glutinous rice engulfs a whole soy braised egg, pork floss, ground pork,  black bean sauce, and a fried cruller.  It’s a symphony of flavors and textures in every bite: saltiness from the black bean sauce, sweetness from the pork floss, crunch from the cruller, and chewiness from the rice.  With so many ingredients and flavors, ci fan tuan is certainly filling and delicious, which makes it Shanghai’s reigning breakfast of champions in my mind.

To find ci fan tuan in Shanghai, go early in the morning and look for the roadside stands and small family-owned shops serving breakfast foods.  My favorite stand is behind Plaza 66 on Fengyang Lu and Xikang Lu, and there is another one on Xiangyang Bei Lu and Fuxin Lu.

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Beaujolais & Burgers Really Are A Perfect Pair

I was lucky enough to attend the press tasting for last week’s Beaujolais & Burgers event, hosted by renowned wine merchant Georges DuBoeuf and wine writer Mark Oldman.  The event was quite a success, proving that Beaujolais and burgers really are a fantastic pairing.

The press tasting was very comprehensive, as we sampled 6 varieties of Beaujolais, paired with burgers from 4 excellent Philly restaurants: Alfa, 500 Degrees, Rouge, and Spiga.

Mark Oldman began the tasting by explaining Beaujolais’ flavor profile, describing it as  a white wine straddling a red, meaning it has a lighter mouthfeel than most reds because it has less tannins. Beaujolais also tends to be very fruit forward, with notes of raspberry, cherry, strawberry, and black currant.  Unlike most reds, Oldman also recommends serving Beaujolais chilled, further highlighting its similarity to whites.

Of the 6 wines we tried, my favorites were the Georges Duboeuf Brouilly 2011 (pronounced broo-ey, $14.99) and the Georges Duboeuf Morgon Domaine Jean Descombes 2011 ($15.99).  Both are examples of affordable yet high quality wine.  The Brouilly was on the lighter, refreshing side, while the Morgon was full to medium bodied, with more pronounced red and black fruit flavors.  Both the Brouiily and Morgon paired nicely with the burgers, cutting through the richness of the meat.

And now, onto the burgers.  My two favorites of the night were 500 Degrees and Spiga.  500 Degrees cooked their burger to perfection, leaving the thick patty a lovely pink in the middle.  Topped with arugula, bacon, tomato, and a sunny side up egg, it was definitely very decadent and not for the faint of heart.  Spiga’s burger offered a completely burger experience.  With a much thinner patty, topped with herbed goat cheese, a sweet caramelized onion mostarda, applewood bacons, and sauteed spinach, Spiga’s burger was a success.  I was surprised that all of the accompaniments worked so well together, and did not overwhelm the flavor of the burger.  For more detailed descriptions of all the burgers, see Two Eat Philly and Burger Eaters‘ takes on the evening, who frankly, might be better qualified to evaluate these burgers than me!

Many thanks to Georges Duboeuf, and CRT/tanaka for organizing such a great event!  I definitely left with a much deeper knowledge of the wonders of burgers and Beaujolais

Win Tickets to Beaujolais & Burgers in Philly!

Attention all Unpaid Gourmet readers, burger and Beaujolais lovers in Philly!  On Monday, September 17, Georges Duboeuf, the renowned “King of Beaujolais,” will host a fabulous event in Philadelphia that is sure to excite foodies and winos alike–Georges Duboeuf’s Beaujolais & Burgers: A Night of the Perfect Pairing.  Wine expert and prolific writer Mark Oldman will lead the tasting at The Walnut Room, which will feature handcrafted gourmet burgers from 500 Degrees paired with different Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais wines.

While tickets for the event are $15, with all proceeds benefiting the hunger relief organization Philabundance, ten lucky readers of The Unpaid Gourmet can win tickets right here!  How can you win a coveted ticket to the event?  Join my Facebook page between September 7-10, and you’ll be entered to win.  Winners will be notified via email or Facebook message on September 11.

For more information about Georges Duboeuf’s Beaujolais & Burgers: A Night of the Perfect Pairing or to purchase tickets, click here.  Start liking The Unpaid Gourmet on Facebook to enter the giveaway, and I look forward to seeing all of you at the event!

  

 

Saved by the Sandwich at Sunflour

After a month of eating nothing but Chinese food, I hit a wall that every laowai (or expat) living in China must hit–I simply could not stomach anymore Chinese food.  The thought of another bowl of niu rou mian (beef noodle soup), or  another plate of sheng jian bao (pan fried dumplings), or even my favorite Shanghainese dish hong shao rou (soy sauce braised pork), made me grimace.

But thankfully for me, there is an abundance of delicious and affordable Western restaurants and cafes in Shanghai, catering to the thousands of hungry and homesick expats living in the city.  My favorite among them was Sunflour, located a few short clocks from my apartment on tree-lined Anfu Road.

Sunflour Cafe quite literally saved me from starvation, on that fateful day in Shanghai when I was lost amidst a sea of Chinese restaurants.  After a few hours of wandering around the French Concession in search of an affordable, non-Chinese lunch option, I was about to give up and go home, when I turned the corner onto Anfu Road and discovered Sunflour.  Immediately lured in by the smell of fresh baked bread and pastries, I decided to give their lunch menu a try and ordered the grilled chicken sandwich with tomato, rocket, avocado, and mayo on a baguette (50 RMB).

The sandwich was phenomenal.  The baguette, baked in-house, had a crisp exterior and soft, airy interior that held up well under the moist grilled chicken.  I loved the addition of tomatoes, avocado, and rocket arugula–a combination of fresh ingredients that one would certainly find in my home state of California.  Accompanied by a lovely bean salad, Sunflour’s grilled chicken sandwich was a steal at 50 RMB (just under $8 USD), and was just what I needed to refuel after a long and hot summer day in Shanghai.

I couldn’t leave Sunflour without sampling one (or rather, all) of their delectable macarons.  I split a gift box of macarons (50 RMB) with a friend, which included a lovely assortment of six macarons.  My favorite flavor was the lemon, a refreshing end to a refreshing meal.

Sunflour
Room 104, No. 322, An Fu Road, Xuhui District, Shanghai
上海徐汇区安福路322号104室
6473 7757