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Mar 29, 2009 02:29 AM

Doggie Bag Culture in Shanghai?

I'll be dining with at least one or two other people during most of my time in Shanghai, but anticipate a few solo meals. There are so many places I want to try that appear to only serve in family sized portions, and so many dishes I want to try at each! Would it be considered tacky to order a variety of dishes at a restaurant and have leftovers wrapped up to go? (I know many Europeans find this gauche, while Americans generally find this acceptable.)

I still have a few weeks to practice packing in some big meals, but I fear I am a bit of a lightweight. And even with practice, I don't think the size of my actual stomach will ever catch up with the size of my theoretical stomach. ;)

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  1. Hi cimui:

    We "meet" again, this time in Shanghai. Some Mainland Chinese business people have a habit of over ordering and yet refuse to pack due to "face" issue. But I think this should be your least concern. The restauranteurs are more interested if you order more dishes, because it means higher profit for them. Most Chinese are very entrepreneur now, they would gladly pack them for you. Your bigger concern is that most dishes in restaurants are prepared for group rather than solo diner. Even like Shanghai cuisine, it usually started with a few cold appetizers, the proceed with soup, meat, vegetable, end with rice/noodle and dumplings. So that's a lot of food even if you are willing to pack the leftover.

    41 Replies
    1. re: FourSeasons

      Yes, we meet again, in pan-global pursuit of a good meal! Interpol has nothing on us, eh?

      You're quite right that the full five courses will be far too much for one person (or even three, probably). I'll probably end up shaving a couple of courses here and there.

      Do you think it's worth an ask that portions be made smaller?

      You're right that I don't much mind "losing face" over this kind of thing. I'll be the ol' grandma who's forcing all my colleagues to take home leftovers. As some great Chowhounds before me have said, wasting food is a sin.

      1. re: cimui

        Right, pan-global pursuit!!! If I recall correctly, started from Singapore, then to NYC, and now to Shanghai. Where is next destination?

        I am sure it is ok to ask the portion to be made smaller. Worst case scenario is that you get a confusing look from the server.

        Yes, I agree "wasting food is a sin" but I have to confess that I do sometimes commit such sin when I travel oversea. First, it is not easy to bring doggie bag to the hotel room where there is no microwave to heat it on the next day and the fridge to be too small to even leave it there. Second, for just a few days of stay, there is tons of food that I want to try. Moreover, unlike western food, Chinese food (except noodles, dumpling etc) is never designed for solo diner. For some Shanghai dish, may be too over-whelming heavy for solo diner (such as braised pork belly 红烧肉). My advise is that you have to carefully plan your itinerary, and for those with family size portions that you described, it is better to bring your friends/colleagues along. Anyway, when you have finished planning what dishes and which restaurants you want to try, post it here, maybe we can help you sort it out.

        1. re: FourSeasons

          Thanks for the good advice, FourSeasons. I may attempt to order smaller portion sizes and have leftovers wrapped just once (partly out of curiosity to see if it can be done... I will have a full kitchen with refrigerator where I am staying). But you're right that it makes sense to not attempt too much when dining alone. These will be good opportunities to sample street fare, if nothing else. Can't wait to see how the street-food scene in Shanghai stacks up to Singapore's... It's going to be hard to beat chili crab, stingray sambal, Hainanese chicken rice and custard apple! (But a 红烧肉 stand, if that exists, might come close... ;)

          1. re: cimui

            I am not into street-food scene in Shanghai, except the lamp skewer 羊肉串 that I like to eat on the road, especially in winter time. There is this well known chicken chain in Shanghai, I forgot the name of the chain, that serves really good free range chicken (as opposed to fatty chicken in Tian Tian at Maxwell Singapore that you loved) with noodle that I think you will like and no problem dining alone there too. I will get back to you if I found out the name. And there is a past thread on Xiao Long Bao by Xiao Yang that will provide a good guide for solo diners looking for XLB.

            BTW, how familiar are you with Shanghai cuisine? Chinese food in NYC is dominated by Cantonese and Fuchow cuisine, so I suspect if this is your first trip to Shanghai or Mainland China, it will be something different that you may not be familiar with. And would you want to try other regional food as well? Are you into spicy food (some awesome dishes from Southwest regions like Hunan, Si chuan, Guizhou, Yunan etc)?

            1. re: FourSeasons

              My father was born in Shanghai, though he grew up in Hong Kong, so I am fairly familiar with the more mainstream offerings. He waxes poetic about the food of his childhood. But I'd definitely welcome suggestions for more obscure dishes.

              Fat chickens, free range chickens, I love them all. =) They taste like very different animals, but both are delicious. I should note that this year, for ethical reasons, I am trying to cut down on my meat consumption. (This is a terrible time to do it, right? I didn't know about this trip when I made that New Year's resolution!) So non-meat dishes are particularly welcome.

              That said, I don't have too many qualms -- other than the moral prohibition against eating more meat than I need -- about eating almost anything and almost any part of almost anything. I may pass out if I attempt real mala food... but heck, I'll try it!

              The lamb skewers are Muslim Chinese, right? I think I've had what you're talking about at Muslim Chinese street vendor stalls in Beijing (along with these fantastic, five-spice tofu "skin" skewers that I haven't been able to find, since).

              I have about five separate threads from Xiao Yang (hopefully not the one you skewered) saved as "favorites". Can't wait to eat my way through his guides!

              1. re: cimui

                Just realized you have Chinese blood. Do you read Chinese characters? I don't know what the English translation are in the restaurants so will include Chinese words below.

                Yes, lamp skewers are prepared by Xinjiang people; most of them are Muslims. The food is popular as snacks and available in most cities in China.

                I recommended a vegetarian restaurant Zao Zi Shu in Shanghai on a past thread. It is very good even for a non-vegetarian like me. I will highly recommend you especially you want to cut down on meat. You can get the address here:

                A few of the the must-try Shanghai dishes when I travel to Shanghai:

                1. Shanghainese love crabs. You have to wait till October for hairy crab, but meanwhile, there are still lots of dishes the are flavored with crab roe 蟹粉 or 蟹黄. There is crab roe shark fin 蟹黄大排翅, crab roe with vegetable such as 蟹黄芦笋, crab roe with noodle 蟹粉担担面 crab roe bean curd 蟹粉豆腐. There are also few high end restaurants that specialized on crab feast, such as Xin Guang 新光
                or 凌泷阁. Just warning: these crab feast are pretty expensive.

                2. Pork. Of course, the famous one is braised pork belly 红烧肉. The Hunan-style is supposed to be the favorite dish of Chairman Mao. The consensus favorite restaurant for this dish seem to be Jessie 吉士 that cooked very traditional Shanghai cuisine but the food is rather greasy there. I personally prefer braised pork trotter 红烧元蹄 which I usually order it at 上海人家 at nanjing xi lu. This Shanghai restaurant is more modern with reasonable pricing. And of course, not to forget lion head 狮子头, a very typical home cook dish in Shanghai cuisine. Just warning: you should not order any of these dishes when u dine alone.

                3. Another common dish is stir fried Shanghai river (or lake?)prawns 清炒虾仁. Shanghai prawns are small and sweet, so they are very different from what you get outside of China. Vinegar is added to enhance the flavor. It is served in all Shanghai restaurants but my favorite is at Sophia's 原创私房菜 at Hua Shan Lu with its rose leaf prawn 玫瑰水晶虾仁. Sophia has an awesome chicken dish 别有天功夫鸡too. You probably can consider this place as most of their dishes are prepared in small portion with very cozy atmosphere too.

                There are still a lot more awesome dishes but I will stop here for the time being to let you digest the information. Another warning: I have not been back to Shanghai for last two years (though a regular visitor from 2002 till early 07) so hopefully, the quality has remained consistent and my information is updated.

                1. re: FourSeasons

                  Thanks for these suggestions, FourSeasons! I've added your restaurant recs to my Google Map for this trip.

                  I read and write like a five year old who was taught mostly traditional characters... but I can get by for most everyday stuff. I think I'll probably be really good with food words by the time I return to NYC.... ;)

                  Most of the must try foods I've had (with the exception of rose leaf prawn) and some of them I even make -- but I very much look forward to trying them at their source!

                  1. re: cimui

                    Good to hear that you are already familiar with Shanghai dishes. I thought you were a typical 老外. Rose leaf prawn is my own translation; maybe different on the menu. But it is their signature dish. Just one more recommendation if you are looking for more obscure esoteric stuff: steamed fish 清蒸鲥鱼 (I don't know the name of the fish 鲥鱼 in English; as far as I know, it is only available in China/HKG region, if someone thinks I am wrong, let me know.). Again, not for solo diner, lots of bones in the fish so one has to be quiet and focus on the dish when eating, but it is very delicious. A place for this dish is Jade Garden 苏浙汇, a famous Shanghai restaurant chain in the city. Food there is pretty good too. Maybe I recommend too many places to you; how many days will you stay in Shanghai?

                    1. re: FourSeasons

                      nope, not a 大鼻子. though many of my 大鼻子 friends make fun of me for my infantile grasp of the written language, when they are perfectly fluent. hopefully you can help me out food-word them, at least. ;)

                      i've actually heard a lot about jade garden and plan to visit, when i'm there. i'll look for the 鲥鱼. i am not familiar with that type of fish and can't even find mention of it in my dictionary. do you know the pinying so i can ask for it, if need be?

                      i always welcome additional recommendations and i know other chowhounds will profit from your additions to the collective chowhound consciousness.

                      i'll be in shanghai for a month and will take a few weekend trips out of the city to hanzhou, souzhou and probably somewhere further inland, yet to be determined.

                      1. re: cimui

                        鲥鱼 I am not sure if this is the correct pinyin, but it is pronounced as "shi yi". Again need to remind you when you eat, don't talk to your friends since there are so many bones. Last thing you want is to have a bone stuck in the throat!!! And you need to focus to acquire the taste.

                        Jade Garden is a well know chain restaurants. It is higher end compared to Shanghai RenJia 上海人家 chain that I recommended on above post.

                        One month...plenty of time and choices to chow then. Hanzhou, Souzhou, Shaoxin, Ningbo food share similar traits to Shanghai as well. You should try other regional cuisine too. I can only recommend Guyi, a Hunan restaurant since I tend to go for regional food in Beijing instead. But you should also go for Si chuan ma la hotpot, Dong Bei (just remember I went to a chain Dongbeiren 东北人, the food is just average but with interesting atmosphere), Yunan, Guizhou; all these you won't be able to get in NYC.

                        1. re: FourSeasons

                          Having a lunch break, so did a slight research on 鲥鱼.'s baike (chinese's wiki) states the English translation as "Reeves shad". Almost went extinct. In Chinese history know as one of the four famous fish (中国历史上的“四大名鱼”). A Chinese immigrant in US wrote Americans do not understand how to appreciate this fish ("鲥鱼在美国没人吃。倒不是因为它不好吃,而是美国人不会吃") so now I am not sure if I should have recommended this dish to you.

                          1. re: FourSeasons

                            Hmm, is 鲥鱼 endangered, still, do you know? (And which tone is "shi"?)

                            All in all, you're making 鲥鱼 consumption sound like a super duper double dare -- and unfortunately, I have a hard time resisting super duper double dares. ;) Possibly I could muster sufficient focus to shut up and eat.

                            1. re: cimui

                              I don't think it is endangered anymore. If it were, I assume it will not be served in restaurants. I think it disappeared from the restaurant scene for sometime in the 80s/90s because of its endangered status but reappear again this decade.

                              I don't know how to describe the tone. Pronounce it like "石" (stone).

                              1. re: FourSeasons

                                Got it. I actually called my dad up and had him pronounce it. He knew what you were talking about. =)

                                Thanks, again, FourSeasons!! You've been immensely helpful, as always, and I appreciate it. If I come across anything very interesting in my travels, I'll try to write it up for progeny!

                                1. re: FourSeasons

                                  Hi FourSeasons,

                                  Nowaday, 鰣魚 (Reeves shad) is mostly from Vietnam and Malaysia area, import to Shanghai and then to Hong Kong. They are less fat and thinner, the quality is not the same as the real one back in the 80s anymore !

                                  1. re: skylineR33

                                    Hi skylineR33:

                                    Really??? But according to, it is still mainly in China, mainly in Yangzi river. It is only those in Pearl river that has disappeared. "主要产地在长江流域,以下游镇江、南京产量较多,珠江的西江在70-80年代也可见"

                                    1. re: FourSeasons

                                      I associate it with the Yangzi River, as well. Lao Zhengxing, an old-line Shanghai restaurant (556 Fuzhou Lu) is especially well-known for 鰣魚 dishes. They are usually identified on English menus (if any) as herring.

                                      1. re: FourSeasons

                                        Hi FS, I took a look at wiki china :


                                        There are still 鰣魚 in China, but not much as it has been over consumed, it is still one of the endangered first class protected fish in China. Yangtze River area only provides 500 kg a small amount of such fish every year nowaday, and restaurant can get cheaper one from other sources. It is very hard to get a real "wild" one these days. There are also farm one from America (Alosa sapidissima, American shad) which some restaurants imported and used as 鰣魚.

                                        1. re: skylineR33

                                          Thanks for the wiki china's website. So the current 鰣魚 in restaurants, even in Shanghai, may not be the wild ones, but farmed ones or alternate resemblance ones. If cimui has a chance to try it in Shanghai, will appreciate if you can check with the restauranter to confirm this information and let us know where the supply is from.

                                          The article also states the supply was more than 1000 tons in the 70s and declined rapidly since then. That explained why it disappeared from the restaurants scene in the 80s/90s.

                                          1. re: FourSeasons

                                            I'd be more than happy to ask around, FourSeasons. I'm not sure I'll be eating it this trip, though, since it still doesn't appear to be in such great shape.

                                            This article from 2007 notes that Reeves (or Chinese) shad "is presently on the verge of extinction" as a result of dam-building on the Yantzee and overfishing:


                                            Hopefully sometime down the line, it'll make a comeback and I can prove my prowess with fishbone removal, then.

                                          2. re: skylineR33

                                            Hi skylineR33:

                                            You are absolutely correct. I am in Beijing now, so check out Jade Garden at the Chao Yang district. The manager confirmed that the 鰣魚 is farmed, not wild ones. It is imported but she was not sure where the source is.

                                            1. re: FourSeasons

                                              Hi FourSeasons,

                                              Thanks for the update !

                                2. re: FourSeasons

                                  four, i went with thirteen other friends to guyi last night for a massive, banquet-style meal and left very happy. everything skewered (lamb, prawns) and everything seafood (stingray and mussels) were good / fresh; the braised frog legs were pretty fair; and the veggies were stirfried to my favorite degree of crisp/tenderness. guyi was a good suggestion -- so thanks! i do think the heat was dumbed down a bit, at least in the dishes we ordered, though for me, that was a good thing, since i'm a weenie on this front.

                                  1. re: cimui

                                    glad you had fun...where else have you tried so far in SH?

                                    1. re: Simon

                                      Hmm... In Shanghai, I've tried:

                                      1) a good number of vegetarian restaurants (including Vegetarian Lifestyle, aka Zao Zi Shu, which was kind of mediocre and overly sweet, in my opinion, but I know it has its adherents, so perhaps i did not order well);

                                      2) lots and lots of street eats... lots!! I am so deeply fond of jiang bing; those glutinous rice rolls filled with veggies, an egg and floss / sung if you want it; those gyro-looking things on spits, sliced and stuffed into a flat, white bun with cilantro; fresh squeezed juices, esp. cucumber; bao bing / cendol with mung beans and condensed milk; XLB, of course; zong zi; spicy, marinated duck liver; etc... this subject probably deserves its own thread...;

                                      3) lots of small, hole in the wall establishments that happen to be around when I'm hungry, including a pretty large number of muslim / halal restaurants, since a few of my most frequent dining companions are jewish and don't eat pork. i'm not so very fond of the ubiquitous lamb kebabs, but i'm really, really digging the "tiger salad", which is similar to a julienned version of Israeli or Turkish shepherd's salad, minus the green peppers;

                                      4) unfortunately a lot of mediocre / awful, european / american-aspiring places in the french concession, where friends insist on taking me because they think i'm homesick; and

                                      5) lots of wonderful fruits and veggies we have a harder time finding in nyc. every time i pass through a major airport, i pick up mangosteens, which seem to only be sold there for some reason. and i've been gorging on loquats, tiny yellow mangoes, rambutans, star fruit, dragon fruit, green-peeled fruits with white insides, which i think may be custard apples...

                                      i have about a week left to cram in as much as possible. i probably shouldn't schedule too many meals, definitively, since i kind of enjoy choosing places with friends at the spur of the moment, but if there's anything you think i absolutely cannot miss, please let me know!

                                      1. re: cimui

                                        for me, the Hunanese deep-fried eel w/ chilies is a "cannot miss"...the version at Guyi is good, though i prefer Dishui Dong...

                                        and Bao Luo, at 3am, is a grungey old-school must...

                                        and the tea-leaf salad at Lost Heaven...

                                        1. re: Simon

                                          my goodness... deep fried eel sounds so deliciously decadent (about as terrible for your arteries as deep fried bacon, probably!). i'll float this idea to the other members of my noshing collective.

                                          thanks for the tip!

                                    2. re: cimui

                                      You seem to miss the fish head at Gu yi, that is Hunan specialty and Guyi's signature dish.

                                      1. re: FourSeasons

                                        Yes, I was a little disappointed at that, but one of my friends took it upon himself to commandeer the ordering process and chose not to order this. Another friend, whose b-day we were celebrating, does not like fish of any sort. Sadly!

                                        Is it good enough that I should go back to Guyi for it? I should have lots of dinners free this coming week.

                                        (P.S. The shellfish were actually clams, not mussels. Pardon the earlier misstatement.)

                                        1. re: cimui

                                          Sure, if you like spicy and fish head. I know many 老外 cannot stand the sight of fish head, so I don't know how you feel. For me, the fish head is perhaps the most delicious part of a fish. Guyi has another prawn dish, not the skewerer one, I forgot the name, but the prawns are simmered on a hot pot with chilli, and that is one of my most favorite dish there too. And not to forget its Singapore-style Pork rib tea soup (肉骨茶), it is quite delicious if you have no fear of pork in this swine flu era!

                                          1. re: FourSeasons

                                            i've had fish heads a few times in shanghai, hangzhou and xiamen, but i'm not sure i'm getting the full experience, to tell you the truth. (what is this national obsession with eating heads in general, by the way? is it supposed to make you smarter, like eating certain male privvies is supposed to make you more virile? :) i love the cheeks and collar, of course, though i generally pass on the eyeballs for irrational reasons (linked to having seen certain indiana jones movies when i was five)... is there much more to fish head eating than that?

                                            1. re: cimui

                                              Your imagination went too wild!!! The fish head is just the most delicious part, it is as simple as that, nothing as far fetched as your imagination. The part surrounding eyeballs is awesome! Cheek is delicious. All the parts attaching to the bones, where you sipped and slowly appreciate the taste, is heavenly.

                                              1. re: FourSeasons

                                                Hehe! Darn it, I was going to ramp up my fish head consumption in hopes of combating the loss of brain cells due to lack of sleep, overindulgence in alcohol and the onset of senility. Ah well, guess there's no fighting it.

                                                In general, I think you're right that there are cultural differences in the way Chinese (and S. Americans and lots of other folks), *as a starting point*, tend to appreciate meat on the bone, while Americans tend to appreciate it more off the bone. But the nice thing about food is that it is so fundamentally and universally accessible, in the end. I'm sure there are plenty of 老外 (like a friend of mine who has taught as a Chinese history college professor at various universities in China for nearly a decade), who have learned to sincerely enjoy the subtle joys of sucking meat off a fish's head.

                                                Of course you're right that as a starting point, a lot of us American-born barbarians aren't going to know what to do with, and how to enjoy, a fish head. (For the record, my parents, Taiwanese and Shanghai/Suzhou-born, never ate fish heads when I was a kid and I'm pretty sure that when we had whole fish, Dad may've picked off the cheeks with his chopsticks, but left the eyeballs in place.) But even barbarians can be reformed, especially when we have guides who expound on delights so eloquently! :) I do really, really like that in China, almost every part of the animal is consumed. Less waste is always a good thing.

                                                Thanks for the add'l details re: Guyi. I think I'll head back there this week, with a smaller group of non-fish / crustacean phobes, rather than trying to do Ji Shi (unless you think the pig trotters are a can't miss?). I'm pretty dong-po rou'd out. Not terribly afraid of pork, except when undercooked, which I think is by definition impossible when you're eating it in braised form.

                                                1. re: cimui

                                                  Yes! The edible bits in the head are always tender and moist, filled with flavor and must be sucked or teased away from the myriad of funny shaped bone parts.

                                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                    My absolute favorite parts of a fish are the two longish triangular pieces either side of the bone that runs from the base of the skull forward on the top of the head. I think of them as forehead meat.

                                3. re: FourSeasons

                                  Hey! some of us 老外 understand and love real Chinese food.

                                  1. re: buttertart

                                    You miss my point. What I really meant is that for most 老外, the exposure of Chinese food is mostly just Cantonese and Fujian cuisine since the source of immigrants has been mainly from these two areas. China just opened up not too long ago, so the exposure to other Chinese cuisine is still very limited. I have no doubt the 老外 in chowhound are passionate about Chinese food!!!

                              2. re: FourSeasons

                                Four, it's a bit too late, tonight, to post a full review, but I just wanted to quickly note: Sophia's was so very pleasant. What a fantastic suggestion!

                                I have to confess that I did not love the rose petal prawn (was that the dish you meant?), which was beautiful to look at and used good, fresh prawns, but was slightly bland, IMHO. The taste of rose petals was not actually infused in the dish, as they were added after cooking, and there did not seem to be any other seasoning in the dish, other than salt and cornstarch. To be fair, my tastebuds have probably been partially fried by all the strongly seasoned Schechuan and Hunan food I've been eating, lately.

                                I very much enjoyed the crispy tea smoked duck. We also ordered seasonal vegetables in broth, which came topped with a light sprinkling of shredded squid, and chicken in peanut sauce served with julienned cucumber and pancakes.

                                I didn't see your chicken dish on the menu, alas.

                                Overall, I think the atmosphere at Sophia's is unique and wonderful. It's cozy, as you said, very civilized and the staff were welcoming in every way, without being fake. It's very much conducive to good conversation. If I lived in Shanghai, I think I'd be a regular.

                                1. re: cimui

                                  Hi ciumi:

                                  I am glad you enjoy it. I was wondering it took you so long to try this place. It is a hidden gem, for some reasons, no fellow hound ever tried this place even though I have recommended a few times on the Board. But I have not been back there for 3 years, and it has changed the Chinese name, so I have always wonder if there is a change of ownership/chef that may impact the standard or consistency of the food. I am glad your review confirm the standard has been maintained.

                                  I don't read the menu in English, but I suspect it is the same prawns that I first recommended. Sorry you did not enjoy this dish. Did you add some vinegar on top of it to enhance its flavor? And the prawns are supposed to have fresh and firm texture.

                                  Surprise the chicken dish was not on the menu. It was their signature dish before...well, that was 3 years ago.

                                  Good to know that you liked all my recommendations: Lee Tong Kee in Singapore, Guyi and Sophia's in Shanghai.

                                  1. re: FourSeasons

                                    yes, you give great recommendations, fourseasons. i still fantasize about lee tong kee. hope to make it back there, soon!

                                    1. re: FourSeasons

                                      I had Sophia's on my list at one point, but was put off when I looked into the pricing and saw the slickness of the marketing, which made me wonder why I had it on my list in the first place. (I don't think Glen Campbell is ever going to sell me on a Chinese restaurant!) Maybe it has changed in the last three years.

                    2. The rule in China is that if you eat all the food they haven't ordered enough, in my first trips over here I would be embarrassed at the amount of food left at the end of the meal and attempt to finish off my favourite dishes, but as I finished off the last morsel the customer/colleague would raise their hand and order the same dish again, as apparently there wasn't enough.

                      Don't worry about ordering doggy bags (just ask for Da Bao), it's an acceptable practise. At our factory opening ceremony we hired a boat on the Huangpu River for a dinner cruise, it was a very average buffet with customers, company directors etc present. As we left the boat and boarded the coach to take us back we were followed by a stream of waiters pushing trolleys of packaged food which they proceeded to load onto the bus after we'd got on, turned out one of our finance team had asked for "Da Bao". In the west this would have been somewhat embarrassing but over here it's a different world!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: E Woks

                        Hah, good story. Thanks, E Woks. Da bao it is!

                      2. When we were in Shanghai we definitely have taken leftovers with us, no problem. It's considered tacky by some people who wants to show they have too much money and not enough sense.

                        Question is whether you will have facility where you will be staying to handle leftover food.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: PeterL

                          I probably don't have enough sense, but luckily, I also don't have too much money, so that keeps me in line. ;)

                          Thanks a bunch for your take!

                        2. You'll have a kitchen and ref. Definitely take home the leftovers. eat them for breakfast/lunch each day.

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                            I will, Sam, promise. I quoted you without attribution at some point in the thread, if you notice. You have taught us well. =)

                            1. re: cimui

                              Thank you. What are you planning to bring back? Tea, different dried mushrooms, ...?

                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                I was just wondering about this. My parents claim they're well stocked with Dragon Well tea, but I think they're just being polite. So some of that, certainly. I'm open to suggestions!

                                1. re: cimui

                                  The traditional tea shops with the rows of big glass jars of tea are always a favorite (do they still exist in modern China?). I bring back teas. Then there are different types of dried mushrooms not so available elsewhere. And I always bring back packets of random dried animal parts. And, Chinese dried seaweeds are another must.

                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                    There've been plenty of tea shops where I visited, before, so I assume so!

                                    Not sure Chinese game meat or that kind of thing would get through customs, but various mushrooms and seaweeds I could probably do. I'll look for the more obscure ones not available in NYC.

                                    Beyond that, I guess it'll just be the latest in Chinese pop music. It's delightfully appalling. :)

                                    If there's anything you can't get in Cali or DC or on any of your other travels, let me know, ok?

                                    1. re: cimui

                                      cimui, thank you so much. I'm a global scavenger and can't burden you with more. I'm off to DC on Sunday and will do my best to bring back what I can. My last trip I brought back Lao NE Thai sticky rice!!! From a grocery store!

                                      Have the best, most memorable, and best dining trip of all time!!!

                                      Take time at one of those traditional tea shops to sit down and taste. Then take your folks a bit of the couple of the best.

                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                        hmm, okay, but don't be polite, since i'm not. think about it and e-mail me anything you come up with. dana zsofia might like obscure chinese mushrooms.

                          2. hi...i've found that it's totally normal/fine to ask for a doogie bag in China...i lived in Shanghai for six months last year and i often took food home to have as a midnight snack...

                            have fun in Shanghai...make sure you go to Bao Luo late-late at night and get the sweet eggplant w/ pancakes (listed on the menu as "aubergine sandwich"), the shrimps w/ cashews which are very delicately cooked, and pork shoulder...(some other things on the menu are less satisfying but it's a fun, cheap place and is open to 4am)...

                            some other places: i like Dishui Dong a lot for Hunanese...Lost Heaven is fun for a trendy meal of Burmese/tribal/Yunnan foods (get the tea leaf salad)...Southern Barbarian is fun for low-key trendy (feels like a place you'd find in Williamsburg Brooklyn) Yunnan food...and if you get a craving for French bistro food, Franck in a lovely place, good for lunch or dinner...

                            Have fun...

                            Back to the doggie bag issue: i was pleasantly surprised by how acceptable it was in China to get doogie bags...prior to coming to Shanghai, i lived in Thailand for six months and Thai people find it very very odd when one asks for leftovers (since the made-to-order food is so wonderful there and so inexpensive and so ubiquitous, Thai people think that you must be an extremely cheap person if you want to tote your leftover stuff with you (rather than just getting something fresh next time you're hungry)...

                            9 Replies
                            1. re: Simon

                              On the other hand, Thai street and market vendors are really set up for take away - packing all manner of foods, including dipping sauces, in different sized plastic bags and tying them off with rubber bands for easy opening.

                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                true...the streetfood places have all those things for taking food straight back to the office/home/park for consuming almost immediately or in the very near future...

                              2. re: Simon

                                Simon, thanks for this info. Sounds like Shanghai might even be ready for the next step of letting diners bring their own Tupperware containers. (I've heard people take the no plastic bags policy pretty seriously.) In Beijing, I was pleasantly surprised by how environmentally friendly all those little vendors that sell yogurt in the a.m. are. You eat your yogurt on the spot and return the terra cotta-like containers to the vendors, who wash them out and reuse them... Just like in India, where if you buy a Coke by the side of the road, you have to drink it on the spot and give back the glass bottle so it can be washed and refilled. The U.S. has a lot of catching up to do on these fronts...

                                Very curious about the sweet eggplant pancakes. I'll look for those.

                                1. re: cimui

                                  yeah, the eggplant w/ pancakes and the shrimp w/ cashews was my go-to 3am meal in Shanghai...*smiles*...(if you get in a taxi at 3am and say "Fumin Lu, Changle Lu", the cabbie will usually say "Going to eat at Bao Luo, huh?")...small entrance, but inside it's a huge barn of a place that's 50+ years old...

                                  What part of town will you be staying in?...i might be able to recommend a few more places for snacks, coffee, etc...

                                  1. re: Simon

                                    I'll be mostly based out of the Zhabei district of Puxi. Hopefully won't be jetlagged and up all night for too much of the month. I'm getting too old for those 3 a.m. shenanigans. ;)

                                    1. re: cimui

                                      awww, Shanghai is a great wee-hours city!...drink some coffee and seize the night!...sleep is for the weak!...heh...

                                      1. re: Simon

                                        AT my age I don't need the sleep but don't need the carousing, either. Fortunately, the Lanzhou La Mian place across the street from me is open until 4:00 AM, and I assume that's typical of the LZLM places in Shagnhai.

                                  2. re: cimui

                                    Cimui, I regularly do that, my office is out of town with no good food nearby, if I go out for dinner the night before I often take my "lock a lock" boxes and fill them up for lunch the next day (my girlfriend does too).

                                    Of course this also means we can order double the amount of dishes!

                                    1. re: E Woks

                                      That's very groovy, E Woks! As someone who has a significant amount of food left on my plate about half the time I eat out in the U.S. and who neurotically picks tiny bits of tinfoil off packaging to recycle, I've been wanting to bring my own takeout containers to U.S. restaurants for ages, but not yet worked up the gumption to do so. I really, really like that you're doing it.