Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Mexican Food in Shanghai

I'm an avid reader of the city's English-language magazines, and the city site Shanghaiist.com. I even clip out particularly promising reviews from these magazines. However, I just as promptly entirely ignore every single piece of advice they give. No good reason for that - mostly it's because the restaurants they recommend are more than half a block from my apartment. Either I'm at home and feeling lazy, or I'm out and about and not carrying magazing clippings with me.

However I was motivated out of my wan slumber when Shanghaiist.com recently put out the good word for NYC Deli's burritos. I'm a big fan of Mexican food, it's definitely one of the top fifteen foreign foods I miss now that I live in Shanghai. Here's a look at what they have:

Ha Ha I wish. Actually that was ordered in a burrito shop in San Francisco's Mission district, last year. Obviously it's California-style Mexican food, as opposed to anything served in Mexico City. For those not familiar it might look disgusting but it's a glutton's dream food. I'd like to mention that I prefer the much less decadent burritos, without the sour cream and cheese and guacamole. Well maybe the sour cream is OK. Anyway, that's much closer to what I actually got from NYC Deli:

The keen eye of the gentle reader may notice that it's missing some crucial ingredients: namely beans and salsa, additionally the sour cream was few and far between. I was willing to forgive because the ingredients that did show up were all of excellent quality, particularly the pulled pork which was way delicious. I spent the extra $2 and got a tub of salsa. This is a lot of food:

The burrito was more than a foot long and fairly wide. My god. This is probably enough food for two, three might be stretching it but just a little.

So in the end I wouldn't call this an outstanding contribution to the Shanghai quality of life (which a taco truck in Shanghai would be), but the food was decent and I'll probably order there again. Enough about that, I'll move on to my favorite Mexican food in Shanghai, although it isn't actually Mexican food. It's a roadside snack, one without an interesting name. I'll just say roasted pork and tortilla, or something:

This snack is associated with the Eastern Turk minority from North-Western China, definitely I hope to blog about the ethnicity in the future. But for me, while I realize it's a Turkish thing, the main connection is what I could find in East Oakland, ordering the al Pastor style pork. It's the same basic idea, with the rotating spit and the meat gets sliced off the sides. A host of lettuce, tomatoes, hot spices, and even cilantro gets added to the mix, have a gander:

If the connection between Turkish-Chinese roadside snacks and California-Mexican food still seems weak, here's a look at the inside of one of these. I could straight up be given one at an Oakland taco truck, and I wouldn't think about it twice! The largest difference would be that it's still a little dry. I tried adding the salsa I had left over from NYC deli, which was OK - it would have worked better if only they had given me green salsa.

Other Mexican food in Shanghai? Well there's not much to speak of, and what I've had has been pretty weak. Taco Bell weak. Really, as in Taco Bell Grande. It's a souped up version of Taco Bell, re-imagined as a sit-down restaurant with slightly higher-quality ingredients and totally uninteresting meals, along with a locally high price. I went a couple times when I first came to Shanghai, it's OK I guess, but who wants to pay $8 for this (and, in fairness, an additional appetizer):

There's also Taco Popo, which places itself next to foreign bars and stays open late - the logo is at the top of this update. I've also been a couple times, I'd put the food as a step or two below Taco Bell Grande's, but at least it's cheaper.

As far as I know, that's about it - although if there's anyplace else worth knowing about, I'd be happy to hear about it.


Shanghai Bunny said...

I've had some really tasty chicken quesadillas at Zapata's..but then it's a hit and miss.

Anonymous said...

I am from the San Franchisco Bay Area and just about the only think I miss is the Mexican Food. My first stop whenever I go home from the airport is the mission district for some serious burrito action.

Where is the location of that Western Chinese al pastor like roadside snack place?

Jeff Rutsch said...

Actually, that al Pastor place closed. But al Pastor pork is a fairly common snack, just go to a place with a bunch of street food. I'll try to post a specific location soon.

Furthermore - Cal Kitchen cranks out fairly authentic San Francisco burritos. It's not great, but it's decent enough for a burrito fix. It's on Dagu Lu.

Oh, and Taco Bell Grande closed, no great loss. And my update didn't emphasize just how much Taco Popo sucks.