Insider’s Guide to Bagels in Shanghai

I’ve had at least a dozen people ask me where they could find bagels in Shanghai. While bagels in Shanghai do exist, they’re not an easy find… unless you know where to look that is. For a Shanghai newbie, they’re as hard to find as smoke-free restaurants. So I’m writing this insider’s guide to bagels in Shanghai to reunite the bagel lovers out there with the breakfast staple we all love!

So take note and indulge. Here’s where you can find em’.

Haya’s Mediterranean Bakery

No.415, Dagu Rd. (near North Chengdu Rd.)

Haya’s is the longest standing bagel purveyor in Shanghai. Mass produced and easy on the wallet, these bagels strike me more as a bread than a bagel. They’re slightly on the larger side and can easily satisfy your carb cravings.

Appearance: Haya’s bagels are generally larger and perfectly shaped – no doubt these were not handmade.

Taste: The plain, cinnamon raisin, and garlic bagels were all tasty =]

Texture: Rather soft on the exterior, these bagels hardly resemble their NYC cousins.

Variety: Plain, Onion, Garlic, Cinnamon Raisin, Sesame (sized – small, medium, and large)

Egghead

455 Shanxi Bei Lu, (near Beijing Xi Lu)

Recently opened in the Jing’an area, Egghead is hailed as the first bagel-only shop in Shanghai. Their bagels are a notch above Haya’s, and I’ll give it to them for their bagelwiches.

Appearance: No doubt that these look like the real thing. These babies have an appealing glaze and uniform color. They are also on the large side, but that’s more carbs for you right?

Taste: The cinnamon raisin and garlic bagels were my favorite out of all the varieties. Nice and flavorful. However, I was disappointed to discover that they were a bit on the dry side.

Texture: Slightly crispier out of all the other bagel shops. A little more CRUNCH and SNAP would do the trick. The inside could be denser but at least there was some chew.

Variety: Plain, Sesame, Onion, Garlic, Cinnamon Raisin, Everything

Baker & Spice

1/F, 195 Anfu Lu (near Wulumuqi Lu)

This little bakery on the quaint street of Anfu Lu is one of my favorite carb havens in Shanghai. A pet project of Wagas, Baker & Spice doesn’t discriminate – bagels aren’t the majority but they do have the “traditional” fruit selection – cranberry and raisin.

Appearance: Just the right shape. Not too big or too small. These had a decent amount of raisin and cranberry surfacing the bagel… mmm. The plain bagel had a nice golden color to it. Lovely!

Taste: Surprisingly, these were not as sweet as I expected. A bit of a disappointment on my side. Not that bagels should be TOO sweet, but it could of used a little more tang. Just a little.

Texture: I love bagels with a chewy interior and I really wish these bagels had that authentic quality to them. I’ll stick to their poppy seed muffin.

Variety: Cinnamon Raisin, Cranberry, and Plain

Paris Baguette

Various locations in Shanghai

A one-stop shop for those needing a quick carb and coffee fix. The best part about this joint is the value for your money. Unfortunately, bagels aren’t available at all locations, but if you frequent Paris Baguette you probably don’t go there for bagels.

Appearance: It’s hard not to mistake these for Lender’s bagels – the kind you get at a grocery store.

Taste: The plain and five grain bagel were flavorless and unimpressive.

Texture: Soft and bread-y. Not so bagel-y.

Varieties: Plain, Five Grain, Sesame

So folks there you have it. If you need to satisfy that bagel itch then now you know where to find em’ in Shanghai! Oh, but not to forget! I must say that we bake a fine bagel here at Spread the Bagel.. maybe even the best. Well, even though we might sound biased, we’d like to think they’re the best in the city.. but it’s up to you to decide!

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Battle of the Bagels – NYC Edition

So during my recent trip to NYC, I decided to try out some of the most well known bagel shops in town. While there are a lot of excellent bagelries in New York, I had to narrow down to a choice of three due to time constraint.

My first stop was Murray’s Bagels in the Greenwich Village. My roommate and I used to live close by and she would always rave about the bagels there. For whatever reason, I never went myself and apparently I’ve been missing out all this time!

Location: 6th Avenue between 12th and 13th streets

Murray’s is a neighborhood bagel shop with only one retail location. Inside looks like a regular deli with a ton of spreads and bagels on display. The bagels were huge! Much bigger than what I was expecting but I’m not complaining.

Murray's cinnamon raisin bagel with regular cream cheese

Appearance: The bagel had beautiful marble streaks of cinnamon speckled with plenty of raisins. For me, it had just the right raisin to bread ratio. The size was a little bigger than usual and was thicker in some parts than others, which meant that it was hand rolled. Overall, it looked delicious and I couldn’t wait to bite into it.

Taste: The crust was the perfect firmness and gave the bagel a consistent chewy texture. The bread inside was dense and doughy and tasted exactly like how a bagel should.

Cream cheese: Look at all the cream cheese oozing out of the bagel hole! Murray’s is definitely generous with their cream cheese portions. The spread was whipped to a creamy and slightly airy consistency, but the saltiness was a bit overpowering.

My next destination was Tal Bagels in midtown. I stumbled across some good reviews online and decided to give it a try since it was relatively close to work.

Location: 1st Avenue between 53rd and 54th streets

Tal Bagel’s is another neighborhood gem. Inside was spacious with plenty of seating, but the decor was stale and slightly run down looking. Most of the customers were the elderly crowd, a testament to its staying power?

Tal's everything bagel with regular cream cheese

Appearance: Tal’s bagel has a nice brown color on the outside but lacked “everything” on their everything bagel. It barely had any seeds left by the time I sunk my teeth into it.

Taste: The bagel was served warm and smelled like it was fresh out of the oven. The outside was hard but not crusty. The inside was somewhat airy and bready and was missing the chewy texture that’s characteristic of an authentic bagel. The flavor was also a little bland and could’ve been confused with a plain bagel.

Cream cheese: The cream cheese was light and fluffy but was slightly melted by the warmness of the bagel. The flavor was plagued by the same saltiness as in Murray’s cream cheese. Do they all use the same recipe or get it from the same vendor??

Overall, Tal Bagels failed to impress and I quickly moved on to my next stop – Ess-a-Bagel.

Ess-a-Bagel can be considered an institution in NYC and has two locations in Manhattan. It is one of the most popular and beloved bagelries in the city so I went with high hopes.

Location: 3rd Avenue between 50th and 51st streets

Ess-a-bagel is decorated with a wooden exterior and had a homey feel to it when I walked in. There was a short line while I tried hard to choose amongst the myriad of bagel and cream cheese flavors.

Ess-a-Bagel's onion bagel with scallion cream cheese

Appearance: Ess-a-Bagel’s onion bagel was just the right size with plenty of onion bits to cover its entire surface. It was evenly molded on all sides and had an almost-too-perfect round shape. I’m gonna venture to guess that it was machine produced. The hole in the middle was also nonexistent as it was swallowed up by the surrounding bread.

Taste: The bagel crust was right on – not too hard or too soft. The bread had a hint of onion flavor which was further enhanced by the onion bits on the outside. The texture was bready but slightly chewy and noticeably denser than Tal’s.

Cream cheese: Thrown off by the saltiness of the regular cream cheese in my previous experiences, I decided that scallion was the way to go – and it did not disappoint! The cream cheese was super creamy and had a strong scallion flavor with just a hint of sourness. It definitely made the bagel 10x better.

Final verdict: Judging only by the bagel, Murray’s is by far the best among the three bagel shops. Its hand crafted bagels have the perfect texture and consistency. I would recommend Ess-a-bagel for those who prefer a lighter bagel and I would definitely go back just for the scallion cream cheese.

The History of Bagels

Where did the humble bread with a hole in the middle migrate from? This question has been an ongoing debate amongst historians and bagel purists alike. So let’s start with the facts. Bagels have been a major breakfast staple in the U.S. for almost half a century. They’re also the only bread that’s boiled before baked. I was quite surprised to learn about the many etiologies of the word bagel – beygel in Yddish, bouc and boug from German meaning ring or bracelet, and begul, a German word meaning a round loaf of bread.

The most popular legend traces as far back as 1683 when a Vienesse baker wanted to commemorate the victory of Polish King Jan III Sobieski over the Turks. One version has it that the bagel was formed as a stirrup to represet the king’s passion for riding. The other claims that the liberated Austrians ran and clung on to the king’s stirrups as he rode by – not quite sure which one to believe, but they both sound plausible to me =]

King Jan III Sobieski

King Jan III Sobieski

Leo Rosten’s “The Joys of Yiddish,” dates back even further to 1610, in the “Community Regulations of Cracow,” where it is stated that “bagels would be given as a gift to any woman in childbirth” – Coincidentally, the Shanghai Mama’s were our first customers… or was this a coincidence??

It wasn’t long before bagels became a staple amongst the Jewish residents in Eastern Europe where they were regarded as boobliki in Russian, oazanki in Polish, and as mentioned earlier, beygel in Yiddish.

Despite the popularity of the bagel in Eastern Europe, it wasn’t until reaching American soil that bagels became widely popular, especially in Chicago and NYC. The making of cream cheese was also another big breakthrough for the bagel (mmmmm thinking of it now is making me salivate!). Even though the bagel had traversed the Atlantic and gained a wide following, the art of bagel-making was a union-inherited secret. In 1907, the International Bagel Bakers’ Union was founded, also known as Bagel Bakers Local 338, in NYC with the “regulations permitting only sons of members as apprentices.”

In 1927, the Polish baker Henry Lender left for New Haven, Conneticut and set up the first bagel factory outside of NYC. It was in New Haven where he started mass producing bagels to be sent to supermarkets, chains, etc. As a bagel purist, not sure whether to thank or frown upon the birth of the frozen, ‘grocery store’ bagel, but for those ‘roll with a hole’ lovers out there, it’s thanks to this bagel entrepreneur. Plus, I reckon if not for him bagels would’ve never stumbled upon sunny California =]

Bagel vs Donut

This made me smile today =)  (Thanks Jeremy!)

http://buttersafe.com/