It was spring 2013 during the height of the bird flu epidemic. H7N9 had claimed 13 lives in China, including nine in Shanghai. Most wouldn’t be caught near a sparrow sans a hazmat suit, let alone eating chicken. However, reports emerged of Shanghai stalwarts refusing to give up Xiao Shaoxing’s bai zhan ji, a cold chicken dish notorious for seeping blood from its bones.
Bai zhan ji is as spartan a chicken dish as you’ll find. In accordance with its name, the bird’s placed in a boiling pot of stock or water, whereupon the flames are then switched off, allowing the residual heat to cook the meat. This renders the bird lush, tender, and rosy at the bone. The bird’s then chilled, chopped, basted with sesame oil and served with a mixture of soy, scallion and ginger or a similar dip. A lot of people like Zhending Ji, which we view as the KFC of white cut chicken with big buxom, feedlot fodder. We prefer Xiao Shaoxing due to its rangy, supple specimens.
Xiao Shaoxing cooks its chicken for 30 minutes, around 40 minutes less than is recommended by WHO. But if it was up to those buzzkills, the chicken would be served morgue-cold rather than at room temp in this case. Don’t chicken out; bird flu’s dormant now. And this chicken’s dirt “cheep” at only around RMB35 for two.
Ordering anything else at Xiao Shaoxing is akin to ordering kale at a steakhouse. But we recommend supplementing it with something equally minimalist: cong you ban mian (RMB6), a spool of wispy noodles blanched in stock, lubricated with scallion oil (made by frying minced scallions until they become wilted and black), mixed with soy sauce and adorned with scallion flecks. Some are topped with pork or shrimp, but Xiao Shaoxing prefers them in the “nood.” The fragrant scallion oil is the nut graf.
The only thing more minimalist than the dishes are the cafeteria tables, which are packed with locals who smoke incessantly, inhale the chicken in one side of their mouth and then spew the bones onto the table like carnivorous combine harvesters. And the staff won’t suffer your Jiaotong University Chinese. Bring a local friend to help translate.
Where: 69-75 Yunnan Nan Lu (near Ninghai Lu) 云南南路69-75号(近宁海东路)
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