Using simple ingredients instead of the usual professional items and making do with the limited gear at hand, it’s fun to create our own delicacies during home quarantine. Carrots, cabbages, even rice — the unexpected ingredients in your government gift packs can be turned into savory foods and street snacks.

Over the past 50 days, I have moved from being a novice to a master baker. So did all my friends who live in the city. I’ve seen their progress in the photos they have posted on their WeChat moments.

Here are some recipes.

Turn rice into a Shanghai street snack – zifangao

The simple street tastes are what we have missed the most.

If you only have rice and cooking oil, you can try this — the Shanghai traditional street food called zifangao (粢饭糕). It is a rectangular block of compressed rice cake that is fried until golden brown.

I have always bought the savory Shanghai breakfast snack from street vendors, but never tried to make it at home. This is a homemade recipe for beginners. I succeeded the first time.


1 cup rice, cooking oil, salt


Rinse the rice and put in the electric rice cooker; add 1/5 more water than normal, add a teaspoon of salt. (You can use a 1/4 cup of purple glutinous rice to make it chewier and get a better shape.)

Steam the rice. Put it into a lunch box container. Press the rice so it sticks firmly together. Leave it in the fridge overnight.

Remove rice from the container, cut into 3-centimeter slices.

Heat frying pan, add the oil and swirl it around to coat the bottom.

Fry the rice cakes for two minutes on each side, until the surface becomes crispy.

Too many carrots? Make Shanghai carrot cake

Break the dried noodles into flour again, beat the eggs with an electric screwdriver and a fork, use yogurt instead of cream, and even use the electric rice cooker as an oven. It’s perhaps the most popular cake recipe among Shanghai families during lockdown days. That’s why I call it Shanghai carrot cake.


250g shredded carrots, 2 eggs, 90g granulated sugar, 100g vegetable oil, 150g flour (or break 200g of dried noodles in a blender), 100g coarsely chopped walnuts, 200ml yogurt (I used Bright Dairy Momchilovtsi yogurt from the gift pack).


In a large bowl, beat granulated sugar and eggs with electric mixer on low speed until blended. (If you don’t have an electric mixer, you can put a fork on the electric screwdriver/drill, or adapt a half plastic bottle as a mixer.)

Add oil, beat on low speed for one minute.

Stir in carrots and nuts. Add flour and blend well. Pour into pan or any glass container.

Heat oven to 175 degrees Celsius. Bake for 50 minutes. If using the electric rice cooker, push the heat preservation button, one hour.

Cool around 10 minutes; remove from pan to cooling rack. Cool completely, about one hour.

Pour yogurt onto the cake. Sprinkle on walnuts, if desired.

Only got fat pork and flour? Try making pork mooncake

Standing in queue to buy fresh pork mooncakes used to be a daily routine for many Shanghai residents. Using the fat pork and Fuling pickle in the gift pack, as well as … lipstick, I achieved the same tastes at the Shanghai time-honored brands.


Meat filling: 200g pork, 50g Fuling pickle, 8ml dark soy sauce, 8ml light soy sauce, 2g pepper powder, 20g granulated sugar, 3g salt, 5ml liquor

Soft dough: 110g (or 210ml) flour, 5g granulated sugar, 15g lard, 15g peanut oil, 55ml water at 80 degrees

Pastry dough: 60g (or 115ml) low gluten flour or 48g (or 90ml) flour and 12g (or 25ml) starch, 30g lard


Fry the fat pork to get the lard, cool to home temperature.

Make the meat filling: Chop the pork into mince, mix and combine all the ingredients well. Cover and set aside in fridge.

Make the soft dough: Add the flour, sugar and lard to a mixing bowl, and mix until thoroughly combined. Then slowly add the water in three to four batches and knead the dough to form a smooth dough ball. Set it aside and cover with a damp cloth. Make sure the dough is not too dry.

Make the pastry dough: Combine the flour and lard, and knead to form a dough ball. Cover with clear plastic wrap and let it sit in fridge for 20 minutes.

Press the soft dough into a round shape, put the pastry dough in the center, wrap up, close to seal and use your palms to flatten. Then roll it out into a large oblong shape. Then roll it up from the long side.

Cut into eight small pieces, press edges together.

With a rolling pin, roll the dough bundle out into a 10cm circle. Add about one tablespoon (about 20g) of meat filling to the center, and seal tightly. Be careful with the filling — make sure they are tightly sealed or they will burst open during the baking process.

Lightly press the dough to form it into a flat mooncake shape.

Write the Chinese characters on the mooncake with lipstick, a signature of the time-honored brands.

Heat oven to 190 degrees. Bake for eight minutes. Turn upside down. Bake for eight minutes again.

Too many cabbages and zucchinis? Ideal for a vegetable pancake

Cabbage, carrots, onions and zucchinis, the four most dominant types of vegetables in the kitchen of each Shanghai family during the past weeks. Chop them up, add an egg and some flour, fry the batter and you’ve got a Shanghai-style vegetable pancake.


300g cabbage or zucchini, carrot, onion (optional), 1 egg, salt, pepper


Cut the vegetables to shreds.

In a large bowl, mix the vegetables, egg and flour, add some salt and pepper.

In a large frying pan over medium heat, heat two tablespoons of oil.

Scoop the batter into the frying pan and spread into an even layer. Fry until golden on the bottom, about three minutes. Then turn it over, fry the other side.

Don’t waste it, pickle the watermelon rind

Do not waste any food — Shanghai auntie’s cooking wisdom prevails during these tough times. According to their shared recipes, I tried to cook some vegetable leaves or rinds that are usually tossed away. Spicy watermelon rind pickle is the best.


Half watermelon rind, 3g salt, 5g sugar

5ml light soy sauce, 20ml rice vinegar, 5g sugar


Cut rind from watermelon. Trim off the pink flesh and the green and pale green outer portions of the watermelon rind; discard those portions. Cut the rind into 1cm slices.

Mixed the rind slices with sugar and salt. Marinate for one hour.

Rinse mixture under cold running water. Squeeze out water. Drain well.

Combine red chili, sugar, rice vinegar and light soy sauce in a bowl. Mix the sauce well with the rind slices. Put the mixture in a container. Refrigerate at least two hours or overnight.

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