The best part about eating in a cultural melting pot like Shanghai, is being able to taste your way through all of China – without actually leaving the city! Fast paced and ever boasting with new amazing eateries, Shanghai has become the home of some of the best Chinese food, thanks to a huge influx of migrants bringing their own food culture to the heart of the city.
So much so, finding local (non-touristy) restaurants can prove to be a bit of a challenge, especially as many places don’t advertise and instead, rely solely on word of mouth. Here are some insider tips on how to eat your way through Shanghai like a local:
The French Concession is a great place to start with an abundance of epicurean delights on offer – from local street stalls to wet markets and little hole in the walls only locals know about, you’re sure to find something that will satisfy your taste buds!
First, grab yourself a stewed pork sandwich from Fresh Bread Roujiamo. A traditional snack from the Shaanxi province (northern China), Roujiamo is believed to be the world’s oldest sandwich since its bread dates back to the Qin dynasty (221–206 BC) and its meat to the Zhou dynasty (1045–256 BC). It is hard to find anywhere else outside of big hubs like Shanghai and Beijing, so it’s a must try on your food journey!
Next, make your way to Golden Phoenix, a Hong Kong style Cantonese restaurant for the best roasted meat platter you’ve ever tasted – including goose, duck and pork. 75% of all meat consumption in China is pork, with beef considered a delicacy. Accompany this with beef fried rice noodles, a traditional pineapple bun and mango pudding to finish. The incorporation of sweets at the end of a meal and the use of dairy derives from British influence.
If you feel like seafood, Ningbo Old-Style Restaurant is the place for you! Try their fried yellow croaker & seaweed, fried bamboo shoots with shrimp & duck, pickled jelly fish, stir-fried rice cakes and mashed favas as side dishes. With new exciting flavours and textures, you may find this to be the biggest departure from traditional ideas of Chinese food. Interestingly, in Chinese culture a meal isn’t complete without 5 colours, textures and flavours. So don’t be shy to try different dishes and have a few glasses of Baijiu with your meal, the most consumed spirit in China!
If you are feeling adventurous and like spicy food, try the famous rabbit heads at Shy Pepper Restaurant, along with cowpea noodles, scrumptious chili wontons and some ‘oh so satisfying’ rice cakes. Husking one of these rabbit heads is an art in itself, so you might want to ask one of the staff to show you how to proceed!