Given the sometimes questionable hygiene standards of some of its vendors, plus the slight air of chaos, it’s something of a wonder that Shouning Lu still survives in central Shanghai. But survive it does, and we’re grateful that authorities have so far left it largely untouched. It’s a lively, friendly place to don some plastic gloves and get stuck in to a cheap seafood supper.
By far the most popular outlet for crayfish, The Crayfish House (numbers 17 and 23) is marked by the huge queues of young Shanghainese outside – usually a good sign, despite the long waits. As with most vendors on Shouning Lu, The Crayfish House keeps things simple with tables covered in thin plastic sheets and plastic gloves to attack the bright red crayfish (35RMB/bowl). It’s easy to see why the sweet, slightly spicy meat, boiled in chili oil in large vats outside the restaurant, is so popular – lip-smackingly moreish, the crayfish go great with a bottle of the house beer, Suntory.
The seafood barbecue at number 38 is usually a safe bet, even though they only have a ‘medium’ face food hygiene emoticon on the wall. Their sizzling oysters and scallops (6RMB each), slathered in garlic, ginger (which both kill certain strains of bacteria), chilli and oil are satisfying to slurp down. Importantly, they’re also yet to make us ill.
For a break from the seafood, number 32 sells traditional Shanghainese xiaolongbao for 6-12RMB/eight while there are more barbecues selling meat (chicken wings/8RMB) and vegetable kebabs next door. At the Taiwan Style Tea Shop at number 49 a refreshing lemon and kumquat drink (16RMB), made with fresh lemon juice, is perfect for washing it all down.