Flavour Shanghai

· Thursday December 1, 2016

When people think about venturing out to Ashfield for a meal, dumplings often come to mind. And unless you live there already, it’s a chance to explore a different neighbourhood and swallow whole a few pork and chive steamers as an alternative to “Grapes on the Ceiling” in Haymarket. But what else is there to try in this Inner West suburb besides dumpers? Plenty, of course.

Anyone who has visited will likely be familiar with the string of ‘Shanghai’ restaurants one after the other on Liverpool Road, the main drag of Ashfield. There’s Shanghai Nights, New Shanghai Nights, Taste of Shanghai, New Shanghai Chinese Restaurant… the list goes on. Another option is Flavour Shanghai, a smaller place with a large window boasting what could be called a ‘Bain Marie of Delights’– large trays of pre-cooked cold and hot foods including many variations of meats, fish, tofu and more than a few vegetarian options. But, the highlight of eating from the bain marie at Flavour Shanghai is, for me, the offal.

For all you non-offally, meat-eaters out there, let me tell you about it. It’s delicious, it’s cheap and it’s ethical. Rather than turning a tongue, hoof and brains into rubbish, you eat the entire animal. And if you’re not eating it, I’m going to be bold and say what you really are: a wimp. Understandably, innards and alternative meats can be intimidating when they’re unfamiliar. So, here’s to the beginning of you familiarising.

Shredded pig tripe in chilli sauce ($10.80) is an easy place to start. Covered in a delightfully herbaceous chilli oil, it’s a textural sensation moving from soft and unctuous to chewy and dense. This dish is so good and clean-tasting. It feels similar to eating mock meats, like fake duck or beef and I’m going to feed it to my vegetarian housemates after telling them I picked it up from Lotus Blossom in Newtown. Moving on, the pig ears ($10.80) are similarly delicious. Heavy on the star anise, these soft slivers of skin and cartilage are piled between thin layers of aspic and then sliced into thin pieces. Lastly, the Thai-style chicken feet ($8.80) taste like really pure chicken stock—a, with a fun-filled bouncy texture only made more enjoyable by the involved process of chewing the skin off the knuckle. Add a few bowls of white rice and what you’ve got is a really special meal.

We also ordered some pork and chives and a plate of green beans with pork mince and fermented vegetables to appease my white boy lunch mate (says the white girl, lol), and while they were truly delicious, nothing beats those intestines. Go on, just try it. Or if you already like it, get your friends on it ASAP.