>> Muodu Shanghai Cuisine 沪味轩 | Eat the World Los Angeles

Monday, 18 January 2021

Muodu Shanghai Cuisine 沪味轩

CHINA 🇨🇳

COVID-19 UPDATE: The front room right at the door has been turned into a small order pickup room. Customers waiting do so outside. You can have your orders delivered as well.

Muodu is the pinyin version of the Chinese word 魔都, which means "magic city" but originally came from a more dark place. This was the nickname given to it by a Japanese author in the 1920's, describing the city's more seedy side, because in kanji the first character means "devil" instead of "magic." Whichever you prefer, citizens of Shanghai have come to use the latter, which folks have taken as their own.

On the awning you just see 沪味轩, which basically means "Taste of Shanghai." Either way, this restaurant that opened at the tail end of 2018 is somewhere those more sinister thinkers will want to eat anyways. What are the flavors found at Taste of Shanghai? More subtle, comforting, and less reliant on chili oils and peppers than some others for sure.
 

The things that you have already tried are good here, so order and get the need for them out of your system. The innocent-looking signature pan fried pork bun ($6.50, above), or shengjian bao, are ready to burst and send fountains of delicious hot juice in all directions the moment you bite down. The browned underside is like a sock keeping everything warm, evidence of the oils these cooked in just moments ago.

Doughy and soft, they hold up very well for takeout and can be steamed at home if necessary. So do the steamed soup dumplings ($7.25, below), or xiao long bao, as delicate as ever but durable until penetration. Use a soup spoon before trying to get inside, and let the sour vinegar dipping sauce mingle with the juicy, porky interior.


Both versions can be made with a pork and shrimp mix, and the xiao long bao can also be done with crab and pork, all delectable depending upon your mood. Either way, the vinegar sauce laced with strips of ginger are the perfect way to cut the richness and get the taste buds activated for the rest of the meal.

Folks from Shanghai are notorious throughout China for not liking a lot of spice in their food, as their cuisine is generally mild. When dining in the restaurant, you would find a small jar of chili sauce tableside, but this is only to fend off the requests of non-Shanghainese diners and is not part of takeout orders unless requested.


To stick with the various items on their special menu pages is to find some unique dishes from Shanghai and much less common than the "Demon City" favorite pork buns and dumplings. A compelling first order is Shanghai fried rice cake ($12.75, above), which combines those chewy, stir-fried ovals with just a bit of pork and cabbage.

Some might find this dish too salty, but it is deeply comforting and hits the spot. Paired with more earthy-leaning dishes like noodle with scallion oil ($7.50, below), the right balances can be found. While the southern regions of China might generally be full of more rice dishes, here at Muodu they seem to excel with perfectly cooked noodles. The aroma in these almost feels burnt, but in the best way.
 
 

Served on a bed of softer, longer-cooked rice noodles are the house special meatball ($9.25, above), which feature two large lion's head meatballs (狮子头). These get their name from the shape, supposed to mimic that of the head of the famous Chinese guardian lion.
 
This dish originates in the neighboring cities of Zhenjiang and Yangzhou, just up the Yangtze River from Shanghai in Jiangsu Province. More recently, it has sort of been absorbed by the catch-all term of "Shanghainese cuisine" especially as more people from those cities moved for work opportunities.
 

The most pleasing and unique dish on the menu might possibly be the potherb mustard with meat noodle soup ($8.75, above), which relies on small ribbons of pork like the rice cake dish but is notable because of its extreme herbal nature.
 
The mustard greens are pickled and combined with broth that again provides a deep comfort. Despite having so much competition in one bowl, the noodles again shine and are cooked just right. This is of course not a vegetarian dish, but feels bright and clean.

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