Shanghai noodles always bring back fond memories. The first time I tasted an authentic bowl of steaming hot shanghai noodles was during my trip to Jiangnan with my cousins and sister in 2003.
We were strolling outside the hotel at night in Shanghai City, hoping to do some late night shopping at the stalls when we chanced upon a tiny shop doing a brisk business serving steaming hot shanghai soup noodles. The night was cold (about 8°C ) and with the wind blowing whiffs of tasty soup smack into our face, was simply too irresistible. Wow wouldn’t it be heavenly to warm the stomach with some hot noodles in such weather. So four of us filed into the shop and crammed ourselves into a 2-seater table (biggest table available) and wasted no time in placing order for 4 bowls of “suet chai noodles“. Our 1st bowl of noodles arrived. It was such a big bowl. No way any of us could finish it alone. We apologetically cut our orders to 2 bowls and luckily for us, the “lau barn neang” (lady boss) was very accommodating and understanding.
We shared out the 2 bowls amongst the four of us. Only when we started to eat did we realize that we didn’t even have any elbow space to eat but that did not deter us from enjoy slurping down those long stringy steaming hot noodles, right down to the last strand. The shanghai noodles were simply “super duper” so soft, smooth and fine in texture with clear broth topped with some “suet chai” (a type of preserved spinach which until this day I just could not get locally). And all it costs was merely 4Rmb! So here’s a classic example of great tasting food without paying a bomb for it.
So when I caught sight of this Shanghai noodles place called Crystal Palace located at Lot 10, Jalan Bukit Bintang, with the impressive spread of menu displayed on the glass windows, I was all excited to try it out.
They had an open kitchen concept to showcase their kitchen staff preparing the shanghai dumplings and pulling, stretching and occasionally smacking the dough ever so loudly on the table to make their presence felt and remind their patrons how much strength and effort went into making every strand of noodle. Despite all the fanfare, we came out disappointed. The noodles were a far cry from the those I had in Shanghai. In fact even those mass produced packets of dried shanghai noodles or mee suah that we get from the supermarket taste better. But price-wise, it’s 10 times higher. One may argue that the price difference goes to the ambience, decorations and the life demo. But the best dacor and most expensive tables and chairs can never compensate for mediocre food.