Neighborhood noodles

Updated: 2012-09-15 07:49

By Li Xinzhu (China Daily)

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Neighborhood noodles

Crab roe noodle soup is one of two of the most popular dishes at Shimian Maifu Seafood Noodle in Shanghai. Photos provided to China Daily

Noodles. Seafood. These two perennial favorites combine to make one shop in Shanghai a favorite with the city's young foodies. Li Xinzhu browses the menu and tells us why.

It is hard to trace the origin of the seafood noodle, since it seems to have equally significant roles in cuisines both Eastern and Western. Italians love them smothered in a white sauce. Singaporeans like to add king prawns to rice noodles. And, for Chinese everywhere, seafood noodle soup crops up often.

In China, most restaurants will have noodles listed on the last pages of the menu, recognizing their role as a traditional staple.

Apart from restaurants, the neighborhood noodle shop is another place to get your noodle fix, since these often operate close to residential areas, and are usually small and featureless but functional. Sometimes, they get so popular that they expand beyond the neighborhood.

A noodle shop named Shimian Maifu Seafood Noodle has attracted much attention on the popular Chinese micro blogs. It, too, started small with the first shop located on Changle Road in Huangpu district, Shanghai.

The second shop has just opened on Dingxi Road in Changning district, where dozens of congee shops, grill restaurants and snack bars are congregated.

Unlike the first cozy little shop, the second outlet is a four-story building that can accommodate about 90 customers.

Some care has been taken to make it look good, and there are lots of white wooden tables and chairs, steel banisters and decor that follows a roughly nautical theme, with shells and starfishes artfully scattered around.

Neighborhood noodles

In many noodle shops, the steam from the boiling cauldrons can generate haze and heat but not in this one.

Zhou Beibei, the 30-something owner of the shop, wants to make sure the ambience is neat and clean to attract younger patrons. But it is the food that's doing the job.

Crab roe noodle and crab roe noodle soup are two of the most popular dishes. They are also Shimian Maifu's signature dishes, served with a whole crab accompanied by lots of shrimp and baby squid.

The taste is unbelievably fresh and sweet and worth every cent of the 68 yuan ($11) price for a bowl.

Since crab is a seasonal ingredient that may not always be available on the Chinese market, Zhou's strategy is to import the crustaceans from Sri Lanka and Indonesia.

"That ensures we have the best quality, and stable supplies all year long," she says. She explains she decided to open a shop selling seafood noodles because she herself is a big fan.

"I ate the most delicious seafood noodles in Zhejiang province, and that encouraged me to open my own shop," Zhou says. In Zhejiang, she not only found her inspiration but also her chef.

Another hot favorite among diners is the noodles with crab roe and yellow croaker soup.

All orders are cooked after they are taken, so waiting time is a little longer, up to 15 minutes. But while you are waiting, you can try the appetizers - stewed chicken wings, chicken feet and gizzards.

Beer is available, but you have to order at the counter and pick up your bottle from the chiller near the entrance.

Zhou says many of her clients come for a bowl of seafood noodles after a night at the karaoke or bars.

"People always get hungry after getting drunk. I offer them a place to sober up and feed their stomachs."

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(China Daily 09/15/2012 page12)