Eating in Shanghai

Breaking Down Two Mileage Runs for 30,000 EQMs to get AA Executive Platinum
Getting a Chinese Visa
Planning a Mileage Run to Shanghai
Vegetarian Economy Meals on American Airlines
Hotel Review: Crowne Plaza Shanghai
Eating in Shanghai
Getting a Chinese Massage aka Tui Na
First Class Lounge (No. 69) Shanghai Pudong PVG
Concluding Thoughts on My Mileage Run to Shanghai


Yang’s Fry Dumpling
Holy moly, this was possibly the best $1 I’ve ever spent on food. I went to a location on the day that I arrived and loved it so much that I knew I had to eat it again the next day. Yang’s is a chain that serves pan-fried soup dumplings (生煎包), and I’ve eaten plenty of dumplings in my life, but these are probably the best I’ve ever had (including Din Tai Fung). It’s like a soup dumpling, but it’s pan fried on the bottom so it’s crunchy and textured, and it seems all the more miraculous that there’s so much soup inside.

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One of the locations that I visited

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People making deliciousness

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It’s 6 yuan (~$1) for 4. Given how meaty and soupy and fried these are, 4 was a good number for me as a mini-meal or hearty snack.

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Hot sauce and vinegar

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The juicy innards

If you go to Shanghai, I think you must go to this place at least once. It’s so cheap and ridiculously delicious, and I’ve never had anything even close to this in the US. And there are a number of locations in the city, so chances are you’ll be able to find one not too far from you.

Jian Bing (煎餅)
This isn’t a place, but rather a street food that you can get. I got mine on Fengyang Road between Huanghe Road and Xinchang Road just north of People’s Park (bonus: there’s also a Yang’s Fry Dumpling on Huanghe Road around here). Essentially, this is a Chinese version of a crepe, and it’s also ridiculously delicious. If Yang’s was the best $1 I’ve ever spent on food, this might have been the best 60 cents I’ve ever spent on food. After waiting in line, the man made me a crepe that was sweet, savory, spicy, crunchy, and pliant. All for 3.5 yuan.

The storefront

The storefront

The master

The master at work

All those delicious layers: crepe, onions, cilantro, crispiness, savory sauce, spicy sauce, and probably lots of other stuff that I can't identify

All those delicious layers: crepe, onions, cilantro, crispiness, savory sauce, spicy sauce, and probably lots of other stuff that I can’t identify

This is another must eat, again because I’ve never had anything like this in the US. And it’s also ridiculously, ridiculously cheap. You should only be limited by your stomach space.

Dou jiang (豆浆) and you tiao (油条)
Again, another food item(s) rather than a place. Not far from where I got the jian bing, I saw some tables on the side of the street and lots of locals sitting down over bowls of dou jiang aka soy milk. I was super full from eating other things, so I just watched for a while as I marveled at these two people cooking up all sorts of food and locals coming and going, but eventually, one of the women goaded me into ordering something. How could I say no to a hot bowl of soy milk and a Chinese donut (literally translates to oil stick, but it’s like fried dough)? So I sat down with my food, dipped my donut into my milk, and relished an extremely local experience.

The "restaurant"

The “restaurant”

Some of the foods on offer

Some of the foods on offer

My soy milk and donut. Total cost: 2.4 yuan (~40 cents)

My soy milk and donut. Total cost: 2.4 yuan (~40 cents)

This isn’t a must eat, as you can find this in the US pretty easily, but it was extremely enjoyable.  And again, it’s super cheap, so why wouldn’t you try it? Warning: you probably won’t find much English at places like this, but you can probably get by using gestures and pointing. You might end up with things that you might not expect (e.g. salty soy milk), but it’s all so cheap that it probably doesn’t matter that much.

Lillian’s Egg Tarts
Egg tarts are very common in the US, but the egg tarts from Lillian’s are the best I’ve ever had. Living in SF, I don’t understand why people go orgasmic over Golden Gate Bakery’s egg tarts and wait in long lines, but I could totally understand waiting for an hour for Lillian’s egg tarts. But in Shanghai, there aren’t any lines for Lillian’s! Imagine the perfect cream for a creme brulee with a flaky but not dry crust and an almost cheese-like quality because it’s so rich. All for only 4 yuan. Yes please.

Storefront in the basement of the New World Mall near People's Park at the west end of the pedestrian part of Nanjing Road

Storefront in the basement of the New World Mall near People’s Park at the west end of the pedestrian part of Nanjing Road

So many delicious egg tarts

So many delicious egg tarts

The perfect egg tart?

The perfect egg tart?

Things That I Think You Should Pass On
Two other places that I ate at during my short trip to Shanghai were Lost Heaven and Nanxiang Mantou Dian, but I think both were overrated. Lost Heaven offers Yunnan cuisine and a decent ambiance (although it’s very reminiscent of an Asian restaurant in the US trying too hard to be ethnic and hip), but the food is pretty pricey by Shanghai standards (I ordered three dishes for 156 yuan or a little over $25) and not that memorable. Perhaps I ordered the wrong things, but I felt like I wasted valuable stomach space at this restaurant. As an aside, they also seemed really weirded out that I was dining alone.

Entrance to Lost Heaven in the French Concession

Entrance to Lost Heaven in the French Concession

It's a "nice" restaurant in Shanghai

It’s a “nice” restaurant in Shanghai

Green beans, Yunnan rice cakes, and Yunnan vegetable cakes. All pretty meh.

Green beans, Yunnan rice cakes, and Yunnan vegetable cakes. All pretty meh.

Nanxiang mantou dian is famous for their xiaolongbao (小笼包) aka soup dumplings, and people reportedly wait in very long lines for their dumplings. They’re cheap (20 yuan for 16 when I went) and good and better than most soup dumplings you’ll encounter in the US, but I’ve eaten at Din Tai Fung a number of times and prefer their soup dumplings, even though DTF’s are considerably pricier. But if you’re looking for cheap and delicious dumplings, I don’t understand why you would go to Nanxiang rather than Yang’s.

Nanxiang Mantou Dian in the Yu Garden complex. It's a fun place to walk around.

Nanxiang Mantou Dian in the Yu Garden complex. It’s a fun place to walk around.

16 dumplings for 20 yuan (~$3). The teapot is full of vinegar.

16 dumplings for 20 yuan (~$3). The teapot is full of vinegar.

Soup dumpling!

Soup dumpling!

Overall
I ate some ridiculously delicious food in Shanghai. I’m still salivating over the thought of Yang’s pan-fried soup dumplings and that jian bing I got on the side of the road. And it’s all the more remarkable that you can get both of those things for less than a dollar each.

5 thoughts on “Eating in Shanghai

  1. myhongkonghusband

    Yang’s Fry dumplings changed their adress to some shopping mall, but I don’t know the adress – last year my husband went first to the old adress, then we went to shopping mall and lined up for half an hour, but it was worth it. Besides dumplings we ordered a soup itself. there’s one place outside shanghai with great soup dumplings (not the fried one) but I don’t remember where – there’s some village with the gardens and they have some ‘famous dumplings’, I would need to take a look on photos later but it’s worth going there 🙂

    Reply
  2. Amy Ly (@amyly)

    Yang’s is hands down my favorite place in Shanghai! At the location I used to go to near People’s Square, there is a XLB place across the street, Jia Jia’s, that’s my family’s go-to. Good value for money.

    Reply
    1. EfficientAsianMan

      I was going to eat at Jia Jia’s (as in, I was in front of the restaurant and almost walked in), but I was too full from Nanxiang Mantou Dian, the jian bing, the you tiao and dou jiang, and the prospect of eating more dumplings from Yang’s a couple of hours later. It will be on my list for next time!

      Reply
  3. Eden

    Glad that you enjoyed my hometown and especially Yang’s Fried Dumpling which I have to go eat every time I go back. It used to be only 1.5 Yuan about ten years ago and had only one creepy place that sits about 10 people. No wonder how fast grow it was, both for its price and for its branching-out, because it is so damn good!

    I don’t think you order the right thing in Lost Heaven. And to be honest, 50 yuan per dish in Shanghai is not pricey at all! Next time to Shanghai, make sure to check out 保罗酒楼 on Fumin Road for some authentic Shanghai Food and check out the Pan Fried Dumpling there. Info from Chinese Yelp below.

    http://www.dianping.com/shop/500063

    Reply
    1. Edward Post author

      I’d definitely give Lost Heaven another shot, especially since I had some crazy delicious Yunnan food in Beijing. And thanks for the suggestion on the other place!

      Reply

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