Can't get into your favorite hotpot restaurant? Try their milk tea instead!
Although we can't dine in as normal in restaurants in Shanghai, some interesting roadside stalls have popped up. Run by popular restaurants, they offer takeaway drinks and snacks with their iconic and cheery service style.
Many restaurants along the landmark Fengshengli area have set up small roadside outlets to attract guests to buy their takeout food.
Just in front of Exit 14 of Nanjing Road W. Station of Metro Line 12, a milk tea stall is attracting lots of commuters with music and dancers.
It's operated by Song Hotpot Factory, a popular Chongqing-style hotpot restaurant. Featuring fresh ingredients, fashionable decor and dancing performances, it always involved a wait of more than two hours for a table at dinner time. That was before the latest outbreak of the pandemic.
"Now we can only serve milk tea due to the current pandemic control measures," said an employee called Jungan. "Our restaurant reopened on June 1, but we cannot serve hotpot as usual. Most of our staff are in training during this period."
Now they offer three kinds of drink – the signature milk tea (24 yuan/US$3.58), with three free choices of added ingredients, the lemon tea (18 yuan), and the best seller, lychee smoothie (22 yuan), which is always sold out before noon. You can make an order on their WeChat mini-program.
Jungan and his colleagues invited me to dance with them at their milk tea stall, a special activity of the restaurant.
Another popular milk tea shop has opened near Coucou, a Taiwan-style hotpot restaurant. The restaurant now can only offer milk teas and two kinds of snacks – spicy tofu with duck blood (15 yuan) and deep-fried crispy pork (29 yuan).
The taste of the two snacks is the same as dining in the restaurant, but it's really hard to find the right place to enjoy the hot, fresh food.
Peijie Hotpot on Maoming Road N. has set up a bingfen stall at the entry that was always crowded three months ago before the lockdown was imposed.
Originating in Chongqing, Peijie attracted people who are willing to wait for more than five hours to enjoy its fresh ingredients and soup stock from their hometown.
Throughout southwest China, bingfen is known as a quintessential street snack and a local dessert with useful cooling properties. The word literally means "ice powder," though colloquial translations like ice jelly or crystal jelly are more common. It has been an antidote to the summer heat and humidity, and a foil to a particularly hotpot, for generations.
"We thought it could bring a touch of coolness to the hot summer days, so we put out this small stall," said the staffer selling bingfen.
A bowl of bingfen is priced at 5 yuan, served with a sprinkle of brown sugar with a few raisins or nuts on top.
"Now the hotpot is takeaway only. Wish we could serve hotpot in our restaurant next month," said a staff member.
Dozens of meters away from Peijie, Xiji Gangjiu's drink stall is selling Hong Kong-style lemon tea and milk tea, as well as the Cantonese specialty, tongsui (literally sugar water).
The milk tea (19 yuan) is sold in bottles and displayed in an ice filled tray so it can be an easy grab-to-go for passing buyers.
To get a drink, customers need to present a green Suishenma health code, show evidence of a negative nucleic acid test taken within 72 hours, scan the venue code and then the QR code of the restaurant.
The staff said they put out the drink stall when the restaurant reopened on June 1, and it's been welcomed by many customers during these hot weeks.
Jolie House, a highly popular South Korean hotpot store on Fumin Rd, has resorted to being a lemon tea shop – Paoxiaoning (literally means roaring lemon) – due to the pandemic.
On the reopening day, according to staff, they got a notice that indoor dining was prohibited, so they decided to serve lemon tea.
"The owner of the hotpot store also operates the lemon tea brand," a staffer said. "So we changed the decor of the store on June 2, and opened the pop-up tea shop on June 3," she said. "We didn't expect it would be so popular."
The tea shop now offers five kinds of lemon tea, priced between 20 and 23 yuan. The lemon tea is decorated with the iconic nameplate of Fumin Road, as well as an encouraging note that says "Go Shanghai!"
"The South Korean spicy hotpot is also available for takeaway," the staffer added. "We hope the pandemic will pass soon so we can enjoy the hotpot in the store as usual."
If you go:
1. Song Hotpot Factory (怂火锅)
Address: Exit 14, Nanjing Road W. Station of Metro Line 12
Opening hours: 10am-8pm
2. Xiji Gangjiu (细记港九)
Address: Bldg 1, 245 Maoming Rd N.
Opening hours: 11am-10pm
3. Peijie Hotpot (珮姐老火锅)
Address: 185 Maoming Rd N.
Opening hours: 10:30am-10pm
4. Jolie House
Address: 142 Fumin Rd
Opening hours: 11am-10pm
5. Coucou Hotpot (凑凑火锅)
Address: Room 230, LG2, IAPM Mall, 999 Huaihai Rd M.
Opening hours: 10am-8pm