The discovery of Shanghainese snackhouse/ restaurant Da Fu Gui (大富贵) was an accidental delight. As adverse I am to crowds, hungry hordes are hard to ignore when delicious (hence popular) food was involved.
Outside, long lines clustered for takeaways of golden roast meats and steaming buns and dumplings. Upon entering, the entire restaurant was a din of loud chatter and slurping noises. The smell of pork celebrated through frying and steaming, drifted and seduced.
The interior of Da Fu Gui is set up like a cafeteria with neatly aligned formica tables and welded down chairs. Patrons lined up as they do in Shanghai by pressing closely behind one and another while waving their money madly to catch the cashier’s attention. With a small ticket, everyone shuffles along to their desired snack and stock up.
Patrons clutched their trays of dumpling soups, paigu niangao (排骨年糕), steaming plates of xiaolongbao (小笼包) and pan-fried shengjianbao (生煎包) and looked frantically for seating. The food simply had to be consumed immediately, like right now.
Next to me, a woman dived into her plate of shengjianbao (生煎包). Peeling open the sweet steamed bun pan-fried to a deep brown on the bottom, a steaming morsel of pork flecked with seasoning and spring onions was revealed. To my left, a man slurped down a giant bowl of wontons swimming in broth. Across the room, I noticed two middle-aged ladies concentrated on demolishing xiaolongbao (小笼包) by the dozens. At RMB3-8 a dish (above and a little over USD1), dining was a cheap and cheerful affair.
Suddenly, the camera seemed a little heavy and I concluded a spot of nourishment would do the trick. I melted into the frantic lines of patrons and without thinking, walked away with 3 shengjianbaos (RMB 3) in a thin, oil-soaked paperbag. I had wanted to share it with my partner at home and suddenly realized, I had put an end to shooting for the day.
But priorities, priorities. Following a quick douse of vinegar to the already soaked bag, I hopped into a cab bound for home 5 minutes away.
Rarely has a photography expedition been so rudely interrupted by food. But sometimes, it can be worth it, especially if you have someone to share it with.
Addresss: Da Fu Gui (大富贵), 1409 Zhonghua Road 中华路1409号 (close to Fuxing Road East 复兴东路)