I’ve just spent a week in Shanghai and it was my first visit back to China after studying there 7 years ago...  

A lot has changed and the city feels even more cosmopolitan - the coffee on offer has drastically improved and you can track down whichever cuisine your stomach desires in any number of the fancy new restaurants that have sprung up around the city!  HOWEVER, my main mission for my week in Shanghai was not to eat Italian or American diner food (because, you know, I was in China!); it was to eat all of my favourite traditional Chinese dishes and hope that it wasn’t going to cost me a fortune!

I am very lucky in that I speak passable Mandarin Chinese and so it is easier for me to search out and eat tasty, cheap, authentic Chinese food.  I am aware though, that this is not the case for most foreigners visiting China, and so I thought I should share my hard earned knowledge by writing a guide on ‘How to eat like a local in Shanghai’!

Where To Eat

Firstly, I must say that this is not a definitive guide to the Shanghai food scene, but it does include all of the details of where I ate and my recommendations of what to order and how to order it in Mandarin!

My boyfriend and I stayed in Xintiandi which is famed for its giant air-conditioned shopping malls filled with Gucci and Cartier shops. You can easily eat a meal here that would cost you over £100 for 2 people!  Luckily though, when we went on a midnight wander on our first night we came across the junction at Jianguo Dong Lu and Shun Chang Lu.  Here we found a street full of busy little restaurants serving everything from noodles to hot pot to barbecue and everything in between!  Also good to know is that all of the restaurants are still open at 4am!

老北京 Lăo bĕijīng- Shun Chang Lu 531

This place very quickly became our local. A steamy, slightly smoky, hot pot (火锅 huŏ guō) and barbecue(烧烤 shāo kăo) restaurant inside, they happily put up a table outside for us every night and our first bottles of beer (啤酒 pí jiŭ) would appear without us asking for them! It is a family run joint with a fabulous matriarch who rules the roost. We ate here 3 nights in a row and mostly had a few barbecue sticks as a snack, but one night we had the hotpot.

To order the barbecue, you need to fill in a form and tick how many of each type of stick you want.  It is very much a match-up game as it’s all in Chinese, but here are my suggestions for what you should get and I’ve highlighted them on the picture below:

Vegetarian Aubergine/ egg plant 茄子 qié ziCauliflower  花菜 huā càiMushrooms 香菇 xiāng gūSpring onions 蒜苗 suàn miáo/ 韭菜 jiŭ càiGreen beans 豇豆 jiāng dòuBun 馒头 mán tou

MeatLamb/ mutton 羊肉 yáng ròuBeef 牛肉 niú ròuChicken mini fillets (the Chinese translates as ‘loin’ but I promise that bits of chicken were served to us!) 里脊肉 lĭji ròu or 里脊鸡肉 lĭji jīròu

红西...Hóng xī... - Shun Chang Lu 500 and something!

Our next favourite place on the street was opposite 老北京 Lăo bĕijīng. Alas, as we only ever took pictures at night, the neon sign characters aren’t very clear so all I know is that the name starts with 红西 hóng xī and the whole of the signage is red (see picture below for reference).

This place was fantastic for getting authentic Chinese home-cooked meals.  You can get varying choices of fried noodles  炒面 chăo miàn and could then basically pick and choose from all of the ingredients that are laid out on the tables.  They had everything from king prawns to eggs to tofu (just point!).  However, I was craving proper Chinese Kung Pao Chicken 宫保鸡丁gōngbăo jīdīng on my final night and I couldn’t see it on the menu, so I just asked and they made it for me!  I highly recommend asking for this as it is so tasty and I have not found it made authentically outside of China.  It is diced chicken cubes with dry red chilli, peanuts and garlic - heaven!  Order it with a bowl of rice 一碗米饭 yīwăn mĭfàn.

Award-winning pot sticker dumplings in the French Concession- corner of Nanchang Lu and Xiangyang Lu

These pot sticker dumplings are filled with pork and scallions and were only 7元 portion- bargain!  They are probably one of the cheapest snacks you can get in the French Concession area and their crispy goodness has been recognised by the Chinese government who have awarded them a certificate for making ‘Chinese Famous Snack’ 中华有名小吃 。 What other reason do you need to go try them?!

Flatbreads to go from Jin Yun Shao Bing 缙云烧饼 - outside 934 Nanjing Xi Lu on the corner

These flatbreads make the perfect on-the-go snack and it’s really cool to watch them being made!  They start life looking like dumplings before being smushed flat and stuck to the inside wall of a clay over.  3 minutes later they are taken out and have turned into crispy flatbreads stuffed with whichever filling you have chosen to enjoy!  Choose from meat and veggie options.  Be warned though, the scallion pancake has meat in it too!  Best bet for the veggie options are the Prune Cake and the Sesame Sweet Pancake.

Have you been to Shanghai?  Are you going?  Let me know what you think of my suggestions by leaving me a message below!  Happy travels!

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