One of the better places for ma la tang in Shanghai, the Xiangyang Lu branch of Chuan Chuan has been open for well over a decade. Dirt cheap and good -- you can walk out full for 20rmb. Go for the peanut sauce.
Even in Shanghai, some places never change. And sometimes, to find really old SmartShanghai articles, you need to use web search.
So last month when I was lost on Xiangyang Lu at 2am trying to remember the address of a ma la tang place I swore I read about in an article written by Dada-founder Michael O in 2008, I hit Google and sure enough, the SmartShanghai listing came up.
The article was real, and amazingly, Chuan Chuan Xiang Ma La Tang is still open and just as good as back in 2008. Same peanut sauce. Same soup that tastes better than any other mala tang. Same orange walls and yellow baskets. Same neighbourhood vibes and friendly aunties. Same big jars of huajiao fen on the table.
I've returned four times in the last month. It's always just as good.
Ma La Tang is one of the best Chinese foods, but most ma la tang shops have cheap salty broth and / or cheap ingredients, or good ingredients and corporate vibes. Chuan Chuan is the ultra-rare ma la tang that tastes good and has that local restaurant charm. They actually serve a bunch of other dishes like pork chops and noodles, though I always just fill up on ma la tang for like 24rmb.
Cheers to another 20 years in the game!
Tips: Always ask for peanut sauce. They only have Snow beer, but don't seem to mind if you low-key bring your own Asahi from the Family Mart Across the street.
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