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Night owl street treats

AFTER a night of barhopping or clubbing, there's nothing like a streetside bite of noodles, dumplings, glistening kebabs, or spicy seafood soup. But take your own chopsticks. Jiang Kunyang takes a nibble.

It's 12am. Sara Stefini from Italy sits at a simple round table with two friends in a tiny courtyard opening in a traditional Shanghai longtang (lane). They are waiting for their late-night supper.

They just left a bar on Taikang Road and want to grab a bite to eat on the street.

So they do what the locals do - eat at da pai dang, street stalls that open late at night and cater to the late-night crowd. Some are mom-and-pop stands in the neighborhood. Some are open until dawn.

These food stalls and carts seem to be everywhere and they offer a delicious and authentic taste of Shanghai. Da pai dang is part of the culture.

Those near clubs or spots in downtown areas and those favored by foreigners tend to be cleaner than others and may have refrigerators, but mind the hygiene, especially in summer. Look carefully at the oil and always take your own chopsticks or spoon and sanitary wipes.

"I'm always amazed how Chinese girls manage to remain slim given their appetite for street food, fried noodles or dumplings," says Stefini, who can speak to cooks and vendors in simple Chinese. "I enjoy da pai dang-style food and that's just a part of what Shanghai has to offer."

Nearby mobile food carts offer tempting skewers of sausage and meat - all glistening with oil. There are all kinds of noodles (hot, cold, steamed, fried), spicy soup, mixed dishes of all kinds.

"Just do as the locals do," says Stefini. "I stroll around with sticks of skewered food."

Just follow your "unhealthy" instincts toward delicious and more or less questionable street treats.

Da pai dang, or literally big row stall, originates from Cantonese and means street food stalls or mobile carts. People sit at small nearby tables on the sidewalk.

Da pai dang is famously cheap and tasty. More important, it's cheap, really cheap. Usually, a bowl of fried noodle costs less than 10 yuan (US$1.47).

Sometimes late at night you can still find pot-cooked wonton served in casseroles, reminding old Shanghaiese of their childhood.

Usually they only start late, say after 10pm.

Nowadays, however, some da pai dang have moved indoors with air-conditioning and also operate during the day, but they generally remain authentic, not too fancy.

It is the street-side eating, however, that best represents Shanghai.

Outdoors or in, sharing tables with strangers is the norm. There are no set meals.

"Cross-stall ordering" is possible outside where several stalls or carts are clustered: You can get noodles at one stall, grilled meat or chicken from another, a mixed dish with vegetables at a third - and take them back to you table.

Tell the vendor shao la (not too spicy) if you don't want your dishes fiery hot.

Most tourists are usually wary of street food, but they give a real taste of local living, more so than restaurants.

Picks from the street

Tasty little sticks

Typically northwestern China flavor, kebab stalls are the mainstay of the late-night street food scene. Locals just stand around eating.

There are grilled lamb, chicken and beef - or try the innards if you dare. Grilled eggplant, cauliflower and mushrooms are delicious.

Canton-style seafood

You can get a taste of Hong Kong milk tea, toast, instant noodles with ham, luncheon meat or sausage, rice or noodles with roasted meats.

You can also find Chaozhou (Chiuchow in Cantonese, Guangdong Province)-style seafood. These food stalls sell cooked oysters, jumbo shrimp, salmon, and crab. Soft drinks and beer are also common.

Mala tang

Mala tang, or spicy soup, is another staple of the street scene - rice noodles topped by ingredients you select.

Collect your ingredients in a basket and give it to the vendor who blanches everything in a spicy tasty broth.

Mushrooms, tofu, crunchy seaweed strips, leafy greens and rice vermicelli are popular. There's sausage or chicken if you prefer.

Liang pi

The cold steamed rice noodles with toppings are popular on hot nights. They can be served spicy, sour or savory, with vegetables and fresh herbs.

Tips for healthy eating

1. If it's boiled, steamed, fully baked or roasted, chances are it's safe to eat.

2. If the oil smells old, looks old and everything looks deeply colored and totally "fried," take a pass.

3. Carry your own chopsticks or spoon.

4. It is safer to eat peeled fruit and vegetables.

5. Drink herbal tea to combat the oily and fatty food.

6. Choose bottled or draft beer with a short guarantee period.

7. Take hand sanitizer and tissues or wet wipes to clean up after a street meal.

Other popular late-night eats

1. Chaoshan Da Pai Dang (Chaozhou-style seafood)

Address: 88 Qufu Rd W., near Metro Line 8 Qufu Road Station

2. Lao Ban Niang Seafood Da Pai Dang

Address: Tongbei Rd, near Pingliang Rd

3. 369 Seafood Da Pai Dang

Address: 143-145 Tongbei Rd, near Pingliang Rd

4.Shanbei Da Pai Dang

Address: 246 Anyuan Rd, near Xikang Rd

5. Guangdong Rice Roll Da Pai Dang

Address: Corner of Duolun Rd and Sichuan Rd N., near Dongjiangwan Rd

Downtown outdoor da pai dang (open after 10:30pm)

1. Corner of Hengshan Rd and Gao'an Rd, near Metro Line 1 Hengshan Road Station

2. Corner of Taikang Rd and Ruijin No. 2 Rd

3. Yandang Rd, outside Fuxing Park

4. Shouning Rd


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