Thursday, March 02, 2006

Tujia Minority Chinese-style Pizza

I've said it before and I'm sure I'll say it again: Shanghai has great street food. My favorite remains Manapua, and the most common is probably grilled meats, but there's a lot to choose from; you could easily make a meal out of a little of this and a little of that. The street food will be sold from booths set up right on the sidewalk, or more normally from small booths along the side of the road. Here, there's a little alcove next to the entrance to the subway, with four or five stalls.

If you notice the people eating from the brown paper wrappers, it's interesting. Just a couple of months ago the snack was nowhere to be seen, but now the snack is everywhere. It's called Tujia Minority Chinese-style Pizza, and no the unwieldly name hasn't been shortened.

It's a big trend, and the places that sell it can have weirdly desperate lines form up. These things are made quickly and sold just as quickly. Even though the shacks are so small, these are often assembly line operations. I've heard the places that sell them can stand to make huge profits - the cost is maybe 25 cents, but they cost about 10 cents to make. Whereas, I've heard the profit margin on a Babi Manapua is only 1 cent.

So what do they taste like? They certainly aren't pizzas, although with the thin, oily bread and the greasy, spicy meat, they do have a sausage-pizza-like vibe to them. There's also a strong herbal taste, however. I asked some locals what they thought, they told me they smell very good, but are really nothing special - the main complaint being that they're far too greasy. If you look at the slicked-up wrapping paper it's difficult to disagree, but I'd like to add that they're also far too salty. Still, on occasion they make for an excellent snack.


Lawgal said...

where is that place? Can you provide the address. I'd love to try in may when i am in town.

Jeff Rutsch said...

The pictures were taken at the #1 exit to the Caobao Lu Subway Station, but these are all across town, and I can't imagine walking for more than 5 minutes without seeing a place selling the exact same thing. Definitely they are worth a try!

acidelic said...

Do you ever get sick eating food from a street vendor? We spent our honeymoon in China (wife is from China) and our tour guide strongly suggested we avoid eating food from street vendors and local restaurants. We were in Beijing at the time and I can honestly see not eating food from a guy cooking on the back of a bike, but are they really all that bad?

Jeff Rutsch said...

Interesting question. I got a reallyy bad case of Montezuma's Revenge about three or four weeks after I got here - even though at that point I was using bottled water even to brush my teeth, and only ate at really clean sort of places. However, since then, I haven't gotten sick once, and I eat plenty of street food, and go to all kinds of restaurants. I've also had friends visit for a few days, and they've never hesitated to eat anything, but never got sick.

I'd say that most restaurants and street foods are OK, as long as they look OK. Many street foods are cooked at high temperatures immediately before you recieve them, so there's less concern than, say, getting a salad or a hamburger at an American restaurant. I understand you'd want to err on the side of caution, though, nobody wants to spend their honeymoon sick.

On the other hand, I believe tour operators have kickbacks with the restaurants they steer you towards. And to be honest, going to China and not going to random restaurants, or eating the street foods, would really be missing out. It's one of the highlights of being here.

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