If us laowai have our bacon, eggs and coffee as the standard trappings of any successful morning meal, for Shanghainese it is the ‘Four Heavenly Kings of Breakfast.’ That is: Chinese pancakes (dabing 大饼), soy milk (doujiang 豆浆)，sticky rice balls (cifantuan 糍饭团) and deep-fried dough sticks (youtiao 油条).
In the days of Old Shanghai, you’d see vendors for these four classic foods on the corner of every street and lane entrance, a sight that’s becoming increasingly rare thanks to increasing urban development and the demolition of such places to make way for malls.
Ironically, such malls now house places like Taoyuan Village, a Taiwanese chain serving traditional Chinese breakfasts.
More like a canteen than a restaurant, there’s a fast-moving queue and ordering till, so you’d best be sure what to order in advance. On paper the menu is brief, yet baffling for non-Chinese readers.
Arguably the best dish here is the savory soybean milk (咸豆浆, RMB12), a super filling soup-like bowl of creamy soy milk with chunks of crunchy youtiao, itty bitty dried shrimp, spicy oil and scallions. It’s really good, especially for the price.
Also excellent is the sweet tofu pudding (甜豆花, RMB10), a delicate and fragrant dish that will melt the heart of even the most ardent tofu haters.
Less visually enticing but surprisingly good is the sweet rice milk bowl (米浆, RMB10). It might look like a bowl of gravy, but it’s light and a good alternative to the soymilk.
Along with the classic iced soybean milk (冰甜豆浆, RMB8), these are dishes designed to be dipped with puffy youtiao (油条, RMB6). Taoyuan Village's are enormous and super filling.
Baked sesame wheat cake with bacon and egg (培根蛋烧饼, RMB25) didn’t do it for us. All lettuce and crumbly bread with no substance.
Luckily, the sticky rice rolls are where it’s at – hefty sausage with green onion and egg (香肠葱蛋饭团), a steal for RMB28.
Food verdict: 2/3
High ceilings and almost Scandinavian-looking interiors, Taoyuan Village’s hip exterior belies its functionality. Don’t be put off by the queue outside; you’ll be in and out within 30 minutes. The brusque manner of the staff, however, well that’s another thing.
In another brutal nod to modernity, don’t try using your old fashioned credit card to pay here. Cash or WeChat payment only, Grandpa.
Vibe verdict: 0.5/1
Value for money
It’s a tough one to judge value for money here. Yes, it’s cheap, but not as cheap as you could get it at one of the street vendors who don’t happen to be in a mall.
We won’t be the ones to tell you to eat your doujiang and youtiao here rather than at your neighborhood ayi’s stall, but if you've you yet to become acquainted with Chinese breakfast, Taoyuan Village is a delicious, good place to start.
Value for money: 0.5/1
TOTAL VERDICT: 3/5
Price: RMB25-50 per person
Who’s going: lunching locals
Good for: breakfast, quick eats, Shanghainese breakfast, snacks
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