It’s half-past one in the morning and you’ve had a few beers sampling Shanghai’s eclectic nightlife options and the stomach is yearning for a quick supper bite, Chinese style. Follow the locals and head for a plate of shaokao (sticks of skewered and grilled meat, heavily seasoned with cumin and chilli) at one of the street stalls that open after dark. Park yourself on one of the tiny plastic chairs and dig in. It’s perfectly acceptable to pop over the road to the local minimart to pick up a bottle of beer and continue your wobbly night. Always look for stalls that are busy and have a high turnover.
Prices start from: Meat skewers from S$0.40 (RMB2) and seafood skewers from $1.60 (RMB8)
Where to eat: You’ll find popular shaokao stalls in the city centre include at the junction of Zhenning Lu and Yuyuan Lu (these guys even do barbequed bullfrog) and at the junction of Kangding Lu and Yanping Lu
Getting there: Walk from Changping Lu metro
Mix and match your shaokao for a perfect midnight feast. Photo Credit: Dietrich Ayala Flickr
2. Fu Chun Xialongbao
No discussion of culinary experiences in Shanghai would be complete without a nod to the city’s iconic xialongbao (soupy pork dumplings). Hungry Shanghainese punters flock to Fu Chun, a traditional two storey lane house eatery, for a dose of these steaming parcels of porky goodness. The skin is just thin enough to hold the xialongbao’s integrity for that first savoury bite, but don’t wear your best shirt, as these dumplings are generously filled with scalding hot broth with squirty tendencies. For a luxuriant twist on a traditional favourite try the heavenly crab roe xialongbao. Fu Chun is a fast and furious eating experience; the tables are sticky and there isn’t a great deal of English spoken, making this truly authentic local experience.
Prices start from: S$2 (RMB10) for one long (set of six xialongbao) and S$4 (RMB20) for crab roe xiaolongbao
Address: Fu Chun Xialongbao, 650 Yuyuan Lu
Getting there: Walk from Jiangsu Lu metro
Bite into Shanghai with a plate of xiaolongbao. Photo credit: Charles Haynes Flickr
3. Yershari Xinjiang Food
This lively Uighur restaurant echoes with the music of Central Asia and tantalises with the big bold flavours of the Silk Road. The lamb chops are so popular that if you haven’t got them on your plate before 6.30, you won’t have any at all as they are invariably snapped up by the international crowd of hungry diners. For those that miss these delights, never fear as there are big bowls of da pan ji (spicy chicken and potatoes), sumptuous lamb kebabs with crispy fat and rubbed with hearty cumin, oven fresh flat bread and light and zingy tomato and onion salads washed down with bottles of Sinkiang black beer. This place is big on flavours and equally big on ambience; if you’re lucky (or unlucky) you might get called up by a waiter to show off your Central Asian dance moves.
Prices start from: S$3 (RMB15)
Address: 106 Nandan Dong Lu
Getting there: Walk from Xiujiahui metro
Plate of delectable Xinjiang lamb kebabs. Photo credit: Alpha Flickr
4. Hang Yuen Hin
Located in a two storey house in the middle of a park in Xuhui, Hang Yuen Hin is renowned in Shanghai for its delicate dim sum. Grab a table on the second floor for views over the trees and park before diving into the menu. All the favourites are there; egg tarts, char siew buns (steamed pork buns) and the restaurant’s signature shrimp rolls with almonds. For those looking to indulge further, you have to look no further than the whole spotted crab served on a bed of jasmine rice cooked in a broth and with dried scallops. Washed down with several cups of delicate Chinese tea, this makes for one of the greatest Sunday brunches of all time.
Prices start from: S$4 (RMB20)
Address: 290-292 Wanping Lu
Getting there: Walk from Xujiahui metro
A heavenly morsel on a spoon. Photo credit: William Cho Flickr
5. Lan Ting
Shanghainese food divides the people of China; its sweet undercurrents, liberal use of wine and braised, well-sauced meats can prove too rich for some, but for many, it’s addictive. Lan Ting offers a no-nonsense introduction to Shanghainese fare the way mothers have cooked it for centuries. Half the adventure is finding the place; there’s no English sign, so look for the number 107 and the queues of punters sitting on stools and drooling at the menu. Come here to experience melt in the mouth hong shao rou (fatty layered pork in a rich sweet sauce), you bao xia (flash-fried river prawns) and the intensely flavoured jigujiang (chicken cooked with fermented tofu).
Prices start from: S$5 (RMB25)
Address: 107 Songshan Lu, near Taicang Lu
Getting there: Walk from Huangpi Nan Lu metro
Melt in the mouth fatty hong shao rou. Photo credit: ruocaled Flickr
6. Hunan House
Owned by Ding Cotton, proprietor of some of the classiest bars in town, Hunan House is tucked away down a small lane in the French Concession. Prices are a bit higher than the norm, but the restaurant is stunning; set in a rambling three-storey house with a winding staircase, warm red tones and plush seats enveloped in velvet. Locals and expats alike flock here to drink the well-made cocktails and chat over hearty Hunan fare. Hunan cuisine is often lumped in with Sichuan food, but the flavours are quite distinct with lots of pickled chillis, sour flavours and dishes covered in diced la rou (similar to fatty smoked bacon). Must-try dishes include the sautéed pork with cumin, double cooked fish head and sublime mashed aubergine. Chilli fans will want to give the innocuous sounding wood ear mushroom salad a try – it’s guaranteed to clear the sinuses.
Prices start from: S$5 (RMB25)
Address: No. 2, Lane 49, West Fuxing Lu (near Wulumuqi Road)
Getting there: Walk from Shanghai Library metro
Spicy Hunan double cooked fish head will make your eyes water. Photo credit: Krista Flickr
7. El Willy Saturday Brunch
Brunch is a Shanghai institution, and one of the best ways to kick off a weekend is a boozy brunch at top Spanish restaurant el Willy with a six-course brunch at S$40. With the two hours of free flow wine for an extra S$20, it’s an unbelievable offer. The food served here is some of the best in town with an ever-changing menu of regional Spanish dishes including Basque rice with clams, gazpacho and eggs cooked sous-vide with foie gras and potato chips. The views over the Bund are superlative, so take your time over brunch to soak up the city.
Prices start from: S$8 (RMB40)
Address: South Bund 22, 22 Zhongshan Dong Er Lu, near Jinling Lu
Getting there: Walk from Yuyuan Road metro
Visit their website here
Brunch dishes not to be missed at El Willy. Photo credit: KwanKwan Flickr
8. Mr & Mrs Bund
Considered one of the best restaurants in the world, this French restaurant has expansive views over the river to the skyscrapers of Pudong and a lengthy menu of innovative twists on French classics. With at least half the space dedicated to a bar, this is also a top spot to mingle with Shanghai’s beautiful people over cocktails and wines. If the prices on the a la carte menu make you wince, check out the Late Night Menu on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights from 11pm until 2am and get a la carte items at slashed prices, drinks deals and join the towering Louboutins on the dance floor. Bingo Night Fever takes place one Thursday a month with prizes including iPads and free meals. Eating here is a truly quirky and glamorous must, so be sure to wear your best dining and dancing shoes.
Mains start from: S$25 (RMB125)
Address: Sixth Floor, Bund 18, 18 Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu, near Nanjing Dong Lu
Getting there: Walk from Nanjing Road (East)
Visit their website here
Striking view over to Pudong from Mr & Mrs Bund. Photo credit: FacebookCheap flights to Shanghai
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