It's What's for breakfast
The golden yolk of the sun rises over the glorious world of breakfast beyond the doldrums of fruit loops and sliced bread. The Shanghai street food stands begin their daily service at 5AM, first greeting the bleary-eyed taxi drivers, then the meandering supermarket cashiers and the army of beauty salon workers, and finally ending their morning with lazy stragglers like me who pick up their wonderfully hot, crisp, and spicy pancake on the way back from the farmers' market down the block.
The most characteristic foods of Shanghai are found and eaten on the street, on the way from somewhere to somewhere else. The best breakfast stands in the neighborhood are not decorated by framed newspaper write-ups or fancy storefronts (actually, there tends to be a lack of storefronts entirely), but one can always tell where the good ones are by the miniature mob hovering about, waiting for their order of freshly made flat bread, steamed buns, dumplings, rice balls and of course, the crispy pancake turned pita thing... No kidding, it is sort of hard to describe what exactly this is, but in Mandarin Chinese, if it's flat and made of dough, it is universally called a bǐng (并), for example "pizza bǐng". This number here is made of whole wheat and corn flour dough, sprinkled with chopped cilantro and Chinese pickles, all wrapped around a crispy fried flat bread (brown and hot pepper sauce optional). It is the inverse of a toasted marshmallow, soft on the outside and crispy on the inside, with zesty green cilantro and tangy pickles throughout, plus a touch of spicy goodness. It is an amazing way to start the morning.
The types of bǐng in China can rival the number of McDonald's in China, but these bǐngs go for a fraction of the cost of a Big Mac (≈¥12.5). This one here can be yours for ¥2.3 plus however much the airfare is to China nowadays (just hope you arrive in the morning, the breakfast club ends at 10AM).