Whether it be on the streets, tucked into an alley, or clustered together on the corner ,Shanghai starts to fill up with stands and mobile street carts plying a wide variety of foods at night. Fried rice , skewers of meat and veggies , soups , you got it. Some of these vendors have the proper permits and many . many, do not.
Some nights , due to police or city management, areas which are hot spots for late night eats can be totally deserted.
Last week, while waiting for my girlfriend to get out of her company dinner I was standing on the corner of Fuxing Zhong Rd. and Xiangyang Nan Rd. drinking a beer and watching people go by.
A lady had set up a little fried-rice cart in the bike lane on Xiangyang Nan Rd (21:45ish so the street wasn’t busy) and was busy frying up some rice in her wok. I noticed out of the corner of my eye that all of a sudden she started to pack away her cart , grab all the things to secure them on the table , cut the propane tank’s gas , turn the cart around , dash maybe twenty meters down the street , and then turn into a little alleyway to lay low. After maybe about 40 minutes , with no city workers or police coming by, she emerged from the alley , and re-setup show in the exact location she was in before. My guess is that a friend / fellow vendor called her with a warning that city workers/police had been seen somewhere around and she booked it until another call told her it was safe.
Stay in China long enough and you will see this scene plenty of times or maybe even catch the city management harassing some of the vendors.
I witnessed a particularly funny scene in Nanjing near the Confucius temple. An old lady and little boy approached a pineapple vendor who cut the pineapples up and served them skewered up. While the lady was trying to decide the vendor noticed cops making their way over. He urged the lady to hurry up and that he had to go . She fumbled around in her purse looking for coins in the slow way old ladies do things and the guy rode off leaving the lady still looking for change. Haha.