Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >
Aug 8, 2010 01:49 PM

Favorite dishes at Little Shanghai, San Mateo?

I had dinner (previously lunch only) at Little Shanghai last night, and felt a little at sea with their menu. The english translations seemed even shorter than usual.

What do people like there?
We had:
- 5 spice fried fish, which were little anchovy-like critters crispy fried in 5 spice. Yum.
- xlb, pretty good but not great
- "braised meatballs" , which I guess were lion's head. I prefer them in clay pot, but this version was tasty, light, lots of ginger.

And specificly from their menu:

- there are a lot of "casseroles" in the soup menu. What's that? There's a seperate "claypot" section, so it's not that. Because they have "meatball casserole", and if that's meatball in claypot, I'm ordering it next time.

- there are two separate items "dong po pork" and "pork knuckle". Another table got "dong po pork" and it was in this unusual clay contraption taller than a standard clay pot. What exactly is dong po style?

- what is "jian nan reminiscent dishes"? These look more sichuan. Any point in ordering them here?

- there are a number of eel dishes. Are these the large flat eel as is native in north america, and served in sushi as unagi, or is it those funny worm-like small eels I've had in other chinese dishes. What is a shanghai eel?

- how do Shanghai spare ribs differ from Wuxi ribs, given that they have wuxi eel so must know wuxi style?

- the claypot section has a lot of dishes that seem challenging, like #1 pork tendon w/sea cumber in clay pot. Some seem just odd, like crab curry, or cabbage beef stew (irish?!?!). Are any of these particularly recommendable?

I should scan the menu so folks can see the chinese.
Here, at least, is the english version of the menu.

Any hints appreciated. Really liked the place and want to dig a little deeper.

Little Shanghai
17 E 25th Ave, San Mateo, CA 94403

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Eels at Shanghainese restaurant are like angulas (baby eels). Once they stir fry it and add the thick sauce (with yellow chives) it tastes really good over rice. 5 Joy in Foster City has an "orange eel" dish that is basically deep fried. The plate has a pool of grease in the middle but the eels are fantastic with a strong citrus accent.

    I believe "Salted Pork W/ Bamboo Shoot Casserole" is Yen Du Xian, which was one of the best preps I ever had. It's essentially a claypot soup with salted pork belly (sometimes with bone), bowtie tofu ribbon, bamboo shoots, and a few other things. If it tastes as good as 2+ years ago, it's a must order.

    Pork Knuckle in Soy Sauce must be "Ti Pang" or "Yuan Ti" which is typically....upper leg? Usually served on a bed of green veg and smothered in some brown sauce (sometimes a bit too sweet for my liking). It is interesting that this dish is known as "pork pump" on the English menu in some Southern California Shanghainese restaurants (in the SGV/MP area).

    Dong Por Pork or Dong Por Rou, is supposed to be a Hangzhou specialty dish, although Hangzhou cuisine is more often absorbed into Shanghainese restaurants. I haven't had DP at Little Shanghai, but DP is supposed to be the 5 layer pork belly: skin on top, then a layer of fat, followed by a layer of lean, then a layer of fat beneath, then another layer of lean. The traditional way is to cook it in soy sauce, rock sugar, Chinese rice wine of some sort (plus other marination/spices/herbs), not sure if some frying is required first, but ultimately is steamed for upwards of 6+ hours in a small container with saran wrap over, and the end result is a perfectly soft piece where a dull knife would slice through like butter.

    Noodles W/ Dried Onion & Small Shrimp is probably the brothless hot noodles with soy sauce, scallions/shallots, dried shrimp and oil. Toss and mix it up, and is quite delicious.

    Their red bean paste pancake is excellent. Order it the same time you order the entrees, as it takes time to prepare.

    Little Shanghai
    17 E 25th Ave, San Mateo, CA 94403

    5 Replies
    1. re: K K

      Thanks! Lots of good info.

      I would love if someone would write a book or pamphlet explaining these things. Like, the section of the menu, common english names, chinese name, region, description of what the dish *should* be.

      1. re: bbulkow

        There's a wiki entry regarding Jiang nan that's a good read

        although it does not discuss the cuisine itself.

        The Chinese wiki page for Shanghainese cuisine basically describes that Shanghainese food comprises the cuisines of Hangzhou, Ningbo, Huizhou, Yangzhou (the "Yangzhou fried rice" you see at dim sum restaurants is NOT a Yangzhou was invented in Hong Kong), Suzhou, and Wuxi.

        I'm sure there's a reason the owners included "Shanghainese eats" along with Jiang Nan flavors. One guess is that some of them are from there or they feel offering something unique and regional gives them an edge over the competition.

        Also the dish "drunken chicken" is quite good. Room temperature poached chicken marinated with herbs and rice wine, served inside a cute ceramic bowl shaped and colored like a pumpkin. You'll see a clip of it around the 56th second mark on the youtube clip from their website:

      2. re: K K

        As a warning, my American palate was unable to appreciate Dong Por Pork or Dong Por Rou. It sounded very different and interesting, but the gelatinous texture and the strong funky + sweet taste was too much for me.

        1. re: goldangl95

          Hmmm. . . I guess the textural thing, especially with the pork skin, can be a bit odd for some, but I never noticed any strong funkiness in the meat. We've had it many times as DH, who is French, can rarely be dissuaded from ordering it. He loves that melt-in-the-mouth richness. (I actually find it a bit bland, though it really hits the spot on a cold day.)

          1. re: pilinut

            I have a bias against strong meat + fragrant/sweet flavors together (I prefer char/salt/unami flavors). It probably wouldn't bother someone who likes lamb, say, in a sweet fruit sauce.

      3. Ask and ye shall receive... Here's my notes on the appetizers including the Chinese characters, pinyin, their translation, and my translation.

        上海風味涼盤 / Cold Dishes And Appetizers / [Shanghai Local Style/Flavor Cold Dishes

        101.五香烤子魚 / Wǔxiāng kǎoziyú / Five-spice fried fish / Five-spice roasted anchovy
        102.上海燻魚 / Shànghǎi xūn yú/ Smoked fish [ShangHai smoked fish]
        103.油燜竹笋 / Yóu mèn zhúsǔn / Braised Bamboo Shoots [Braised BambooShoots]
        104.葱油海蛰 / Cōng yóu hǎi zhé / Jellyfish [Scallion oil Jellyfish]
        105.紹興醉雞 / Shàoxīng zuì jī / Wine Chicken [Shaoxing drunken chicken]
        106.上海三黄雞(半只) / Shànghǎi sān huáng jī (bàn zhǐ) / Shanghai Style Steamed Chicken (half) [Shanghai Sanhuang Chicken; Sanhuang is a breed of chicken]
        107.雞絲粉皮 / Jī sī fěnpí / Chicken with mung bean pasta [Chicken shreds mung bean sheet jelly]
        108.本幫醬鴨 / Běn bāng jiàng yā / Five-Spice Stewed Duck [Local sauce duck; Traditional Shanghai cuisine is called "Benbangcai"]
        109.金陵鹽水鴨 / Jīnlíng yánshuǐ yā / Salted Duck [Nanjing brine duck; Jinling is the pre-Han name for Nanking]
        110.水晶餚肉 / Shuǐjīng yáo ròu / Marinated Jelly Pork Zhen Jiang Style [Crystal cured pork; a kind of pork in aspic]
        111.香干馬蘭頭 / Xiānggān mǎlán tóu/ Bean curd w/ ma lan vegetable ["Xiang gan" refers to pressed smoked or 5-spice pressed bean curd,, and malantou is
        ]112.四喜烤麩 / Sì xǐ kǎo fū / Fried puff bean curd with black mushroom / [Four happiness kao fu; Four happiness refers to use of four crunchy ingredients in this dish, Kau fu is a spongy product made from wheat gluten, and this dish is served in a dark rich soy based liquid]
        113.涼拌干絲 / Liángbàn gàn sī / Cold Tofu Noodle / [Lianban = "Cold and dressed with sauce" gansi = "dried bean curd cut into shreds"]
        114.蘿蔔干毛豆 / Luóbo gān máodòu / Soy Bean w/ Dry Radishes [Dried radish w/ young soy beans; 蘿蔔 = radish, 干 = dried]
        115. 酥炸小黄魚 / Sū zhà xiǎo huáng yú / Fried yellow croaker [Crisp deep-fried little yellow croaker]
        116a.順風耳(香茜) / Shùnfēng'ěr (xiāng qiàn) / Pigs ear w/ five spice sauce / [Pig ear with coriander; Shunfeng'er = "a person in traditional Chinese novels who can hear voices a long way off"; "xiang qian" = coriander]
        116b.順風耳(紅油) / Shùnfēng'ěr (hóng yóu) / Pigs ear w/ spicy sauce / [Pig ear with chili oil; Shunfeng'er = "a person in traditional Chinese novels who can hear voices a long way off"; "hong you" = red oil]
        117a.肚絲 (麻醬) / Dǔ sī (májiàng) / Pig's Stomach Strips in Sesame Paste / [Tripe shreds in sesame paste]
        117b. 肚絲 (麻辣) / Dǔ sī (málà) / Pig's Stomach Strips in Spicy Sauce / [Numbing hot tripe shreds ]
        118a.腰花 (涼拌) / Yāohuā (liángbàn) / Pig's Kidney Flowers w/ Soy Sauce / [Kidney flowers cold and dressed with sauce ]
        118b.腰花 (麻辣) / Yāohuā (málà) / Pig's Kidney Flowers w/ Spicy Sauce / [Numbing hot Kidney flowers ]
        119.夫妻肺片/ Fūqī fèi piàn / Spicy combination of cold beef, tripe, and tongue / [Husband wife lung slices; aka Couple's delight]
        120. 寧式黄泥螺 / Níng shì huáng ní luó/ Salted sea shell with wine sauce / [Peaceful style yellow mud shells]

        1 Reply
        1. re: hyperbowler

          Complementary spiced peanuts are consistently my favorite starter. I'm making my way through the rest with mixed results:

          101.five-spice fried fish: Crunchy and delicious. There are tons of these suckers, so i didn't mind that the ones at the bottom of the dish got saturated in oil.
          102.Smoked fish: didn't leave much of an impression beyond the smoke flavor
          103. Bamboo Shoots: a bit dried out and not especially fresh tasting
          105.Wine Chicken : tender chicken and a winey taste. A very good version of this dish.
          109.Salted Duck : salty and dense, this is good stuff. So salty I stretched this across four meals.
          112.Fried puff bean curd with black mushroom : the syrupy soy sauce gets soaked into the gluten and provides a bold flavor. Kind of one note, but one of the better vegetarian Chinese dishes I've had in the Bay Area.
          114.Soy Bean w/ Dry Radishes : terrible. Tasted like how an office refrigerator smells.

        2. Notes on the soups including the Chinese characters, pinyin, their translation, and my translation.

          201. 砂鍋魚頭 / Shāguō yú tóu / Fish head casserole / [Fish head casserole; Shāguō = casserole or "sand pot"]
          202. 清燉奔子頭(預定) / Qīngdùn bēn zi tóu (yùdìng) / Steamed meatballs (Reservation required) / [Stewed without seasoning lion's head (Fix in advance)]
          203. 什錦砂鍋(預定) / Shíjǐn shāguō (yùdìng) / Assorted casserole (Reservation required) / [Assorted casserole (Fix in advance)]
          204. 火腿扁尖老鸭湯 (半隻) / Huǒtuǐ biǎn jiān lǎo yā tāng / Duck soup w/ bamboo shoots and ham / [Ham biǎn jiān old duck soup (half only); biǎn jiān is a narrow type of bamboo shoot; jiān= point]
          205. 砂鍋雲吞雞(半隻) / Shāguō yún tūn jī (bàn zhī) / Chicken & wonton casserole / [Casserole wonton chicken (half only)]
          206. 醃篤鮮砂鍋 / Yān dǔ xiān shāguō / Salted pork w/ bamboo shoots casserole / [Pickled ??? fresh sand pot; ]
          207. 蘿蔔絲鯽魚湯 / Luóbo sī zéiyú tāng / Crucian carp & radish soup / [Radish shreds crucian carp soup]
          208. 砂鍋獅子頭 / Shāguō shīzitóu / Meatball casserole / [Lion's head casserole]
          209. 二斤一砂鍋湯 / Èr jīn yī shāguō tāng / Two kinds bean curd casserole / [Two Jin casserole soup; Jin is a unit of weight]
          210. 齊菜魚粒羹 / Qí cài yú lì gēng / Fish & Ji Cai soup / [Ji Cai (Shepherd's Purse plant) fish grain thick soup]
          211. 宋嫂魚羹 / Sòng sǎo yú gēng / Madam Sung's Fish Soup / [A fish soup that's supposed to taste like crab and contains fish, bamboo shoots, ham, dried mushroom]
          212. 酸菜魚片粥 / Suāncài yú piàn zhōu / Fish and preserved vegetable soup / [Pickled cabbage fish congee]
          213. 西湖牛肉羹 / Xīhú niúròu gēng / Minced beef soup w/ egg whites / [West Lake beef thick soup]
          214. 咖喱牛肉粉絲湯 / Gālí niúròu fěnsī tāng / Beef and vermicelli curry soup / [Curry beef vermicelli soup]
          215. 火腿扁尖冬瓜湯 / Huǒtuǐ biǎn jiān dōngguā tāng / Ham and winter melon soup / [Ham biǎn jiān winter melon soup; biǎn jiān is a narrow type of bamboo shoot; jiān= point]
          216. 窩雲吞湯 / Wō yún tūn tāng / Wor won ton soup / [Wor wonton soup]
          217. 酸辣湯 / Suān làtāng / Hot & sour soup / [Sour and hot soup]
          218. 雞片鍋巴湯 / Jī piàn guōbā tāng / Chicken sizzling rice soup / [Chicken slice rice crust soup]
          219. 雞茸玉米羹 / Jī rōng yùmǐ gēng / Chicken corn soup / [Chicken ?minced? corn soup]
          220. 菠菜豆腐湯 / Bōcài dòufu tāng / Spinach tofu soup / [Spinach tofu soup]
          221. 齊菜肉絲豆腐羹 / Qí cài ròu sī dòufu gēng / Bean curd w/ sliced pork and Ji Cai soup / [Ji Cai (Shepherd's Purse plant) pork shred tofu thick soup]

          1. Notes on the Shanghai specialties including the Chinese characters, pinyin, their translation, and my translation.

            上海經典回顧 / Shànghǎi jīngdiǎn huígù / Shanghai Traditional Dishes / [Shanghai Classical Review]
            301.糖醋排骨 / Táng cù páigǔ / Sweet & Sour Spareribs Shanghai Style / [Sweet vinegar spareribs]
            302. 紅燒獅子頭 / Hóngshāo shīzitóu / Braised pork meatball / [Red braised lion's head (meatball)]
            303. 揚州煮千絲 / Yángzhōu zhǔ qiān sī / Bean curd w/ chicken, ham, & shrimp / [Yangzhou many boiled (or cooked) shreds]
            304. 上湯百頁苞 / Shàng tāng bǎi yè bāo / Steamed pork wrap bean curd / [Above soup many leaf buds]
            305. 東坡肉 / Dōng pō ròu / Dong Po pork / [Dongpo Pork; pan-fried and then red cooking pork belly]
            306. 紅燒圓蹄 / Hóngshāo yuán tí / Pork knuckles in soy sauce / [Red braised round hoof]
            307. 炒蝦腰 / Chǎo xiā yāo / Sauteed shrimp w. pig's kidney / [Fried shrimp and kidney]
            308. 水晶蝦仁 / Shuǐjīng xiārén / Sauteed prawns Shanghai style / [Crystal Shrimp]
            309. 響油鱔糊 / Xiǎng yóu shàn hu / Sauteed eel Shanghai style / [Ring oil chinese yellow eel; Recipes seem to include bamboo shoots, and pouring aromatics (e.g., shallots) and hot oil right before the dish is served]
            310. 韭黄鱔糊 / Jiǔhuáng shàn hu / Leek w/ eel / [Yellow chives eel ]
            311. 無錫脆饍 / Wúxī cuì shàn / Wi-Xi Crispy Eel / [Wuxi crisp eel]
            312. 糟溜魚片 / Zāo liū yú piàn / Fish Fillet in Wine Sauce / [Wine pickled sauteed fish slices]
            313. 葱烤鯽魚 / Cōng kǎo zéiyú / Crucian carp in onion sauce / [Green onion roasted crucian carp]
            314. 紅燒肚睹 / Hóngshāo dù dǔ / Fish fillet in brown sauce / [Red braised belly ???]
            315. 紅燒划水 / Hóngshāo huà shuǐ / Braised fish tail / [Red braised fish tail; huà = "row water"]
            316. 蝦子海參 / Xiāzi hǎishēn / Stewed sea cucumber w/ shrimp roe / [Shrimp roe sea cucumber]
            317. 苔條魚片 / Tái tiáo yú piàn / Fish fillet w/ seaweed flavored / [Liverwort/moss narrow pieces with fish slices]
            318. 松子魚片 / Sōngzǐ yú piàn / Fish fillet in pine nut sauce / [Pine nut fish slices]
            319. 上海面拖蟹(預定) / Shànghǎi miàn tuō xiè (yùdìng) / House style crab (Reservation required) / [Shanghai noodles drag crab (fix in advance)]
            320. 叫花全雞(預定) / Jiào huā quán jī (yùdìng) / Jiao Hua over Chicken (Reservation required) / [Beggar's whole chicken (fix in advance)]
            321. 脆皮八寶鴨(預定) / Cuì pí bā bǎo yā (yùdìng) / Eight fortune stuffed duck (Reservation required) / [Crispy Eight Treasure Duck (fix in advance)]

            1 Reply
            1. re: hyperbowler

              301. Sweet & Sour Spareribs Shanghai Style : excellent (sorry about my lousy photo). Meat was firm and adhered to the bone, black vinegar and sugar sauce was not cloying, and there was a smokiness provided by a smoked something (it had a few seeds inside, could this have been a Chinese date?). This is much better than the molten corn syrup monstrosity at Shanghai House or the well prepared by less tasty version at Dumpling Kitchen. To answer bbulkow's question above, unlike black vinegar sweet and sour ribs, the recipes for Wu-Xi spareribs I've read or eaten have had a reddish sauce and the meat has almost fallen off the bone (not a Cantonese sweet and sour sauce, but a ketchup or some kind of red bean based sauce).

              308. Sauteed prawns Shanghai style : Shrimp have a great bounciness and their natural flavor really comes out. A restrained dip of each shrimp in black vinegar dip perks them up.

              Not on this section of the menu, but their Sheng jian bao are better than most around here, but still just okay. Nice crust on the bottom of the yeast dough, nice meat inside, and good sesame flavor from the seeds but lacking the juiciness and greasiness of what's now popular in Shanghai.

            2. Love the pork knuckle, although it is actually from the silshoulder.