With such a short time in shanghai,only 3 days in Shanghai we wanted to experience as much traditional Shanghainese Food as possible. While we try to limit guided tours while we are on a major trip in order to cut down costs, one of things we don’t mind spending a bit of money on are food tours. One of the reasons we love food tours is that you all of the history and information you would on a normal walking tour while getting to eat some really good food. We choose to go with the Foodies Shanghai Authentic Local Food Tour in Central Shanghai; the tour was $69 dollars a person through Viator (which included all of the food) and was led by Jenny and Lu who were both really amazing and knowledgeable guides.
Our first stop on the food tour was Cobra Lily. Cobra Lily is an upscale Asian fusion restaurant in the Xintiandi area of Shanghai. Xintiandi, being the a more affluent shopping district of Shanghai the prices at Cobra Lily are more what you would expect in major cities outside of China (for example a beer could run you up around $7). At Cobra Lily we had a local IPA made by Boxing Cat Brewery. I am not typically an IPA person but really enjoyed this beer as it doesn’t have as strong of a hops flavor of most IPAs.
大时代美食面馆 (Great Times Cate Noodle House)
After Cobra Lilly we walked through the French Concession area of Shanghai to Great Times Cate Noodle House. I don’t know if this is the official name the restaurant as we were only provided the name in Chinese and Great Times Cate Noodle House is what popped out of google translate. This noodle house is without a doubt a hidden gem in Shanghai that is rarely frequented by tourists. It is an absolute dive of a restaurant, but as these things go with dives the food here was absolutely fantastic. The dish that we were served here was a Scallion Oil Noodle. This dish is created with relatively simple ingredients and topped with various meats/veggies of your choice. We got try the sweet pork and dried tofu, pickled vegetables, fried pork, and fish flavored pork. As odd of some of these toppings sounded every single bite was a savory heaven. Unfortunately I couldn’t read the menu as it wasn’t in English so I don’t know the prices but I couldn’t imagine this restaurant being expensive.
Our next stop was a small tea house located at No364 Hefei Rd. This again was an authentic local spot as it doesn’t even have a name. Here we met a local tea master who served us four different types of teas chrysanthemum tea with jujube, honeysuckle, dried orange peel, dried longen berry, liquorice and goji berry, Pu’er tea, tie guan yin oolong tea, Lemon chrysanthemum, and black tea. Our tour guides explained to us these various types of teas and how these teas and various ingredients were used in traditional Chinese herbal medicine. We were also told that these traditional tea shops are slowly dying out in China because of the growth in of the popularity of coffee and cheaper instant teas.
While at the tea house we were served multiple homemade dishes made by the tea master. We had fried string beans with sichuan peppercorn, edamame beans with luffa, moon cake with pork, sauteed beef with pickled cucumbers, and my personal favorite type of dumpling xiao long bao (Soup Dumplings). As we sampled these dishes Jenny and Lu explained to us the origins of each dish and how each was prepared. What I found the most interesting was the preparation of the xiao long bao. The xiao long bao is a small steamed dumpling that is filled with a hot meat soup which you eat in one bite almost like a soup shot. I always wondered how they get the soup into the dumpling. It turns out the soup when put into the dumpling is a gelatinous stock which when the dumpling is steaming the stock liquefies creating the hot soup interior.
In between teas and dishes we were served a Seesaw Craft Beer with coffee, Vanilla Peppermint Shake, and a Grapefruit, Mango, Tapioca, Coconut milk custard. While I enjoyed the shake and custard, I really did not enjoy the coffee beer. This may be because I am not a huge fan of coffee to begin with, but some of the other people in our tour did seem to enjoy it.
健康夜市大饼油条 (Healthy Night Market Pie Fritters)
Our next stop was 健康夜市大饼油条 which translates to Healthy Night Market Pie Fritters. While I highly doubt this was an accurate translation of the name, as nothing we had here was remotely healthy. At this stop we sampled an additional 5 most of which are traditionally breakfast foods in shanghai: sweet soy milk, salty soy milk, fried dough, red oil wontons, and fried rice balls. At this point I was starting to get full and only so I only had a little bit of each dish. The fried dough tasted great when dipped in the sweet soy milk, but the salty soy milk was definitely not something I would be eating again.
潘小烧 (Pan Xiaozhuo)
Healthy Night Market Pie Fritters was supposed to be our last stop of the night, but as we were finishing our tour guides asked us if we wanted to make one more stop. I am not sure why they decided to add this, but there were several no-shows that night because it was raining and maybe because of that they had extra money in their food budget. Whatever the reason I am glad they offered, Pan Xiaozhou was by far the best stop of a night of a night full of some of the best Chinese food I have ever had. Pan Xiaozhou is an unlicensed Chinese BBQ spot that is only open after the government inspectors are done working for the night. This has nothing to do with health or cleanliness, it is because it is extremely expensive and there are a lot of hoops to jump through to get your restaurant license. We had BBQ beef, chicken, Cauliflower wrapped in tofu skin, scallop w/ rice noodle and garlic sauce, chicken wings, and Eggplant with garlic sauce, rice noodle and minced pork. Literally every single dish was served here was a home run, they took some pretty standard and basic dishes (like meats on a skewer) and seasons and cooked them impeccably elevating these dished to a totally different level.
I have been on many food tours and even more guided tours. This was not only the best food tour that I have been on but one of the best guided tours I have ever been on. Jenny and Lu were extremely knowledgeable about the food, the city, and the overall culture of the country. There tour provided more valuable insight than most of the guided tour I have ever been on and the food was plentiful and each dish was better than the last. The best part was that this tour took us off the beaten path and took us to some restaurants we would have otherwise never experienced. If you ever find yourself in Shanghai and want to try the best food the city has to offer check out Foodies Shanghai, you wont regret it.