There’s more than Chinese dumplings in Shanghai, the city that has always had a reputation for it classy citizens and fancy party scene. Coupled with China’s rising economic prosperity and higher standards of living, a visitor can expect a burgeoning food scene that goes beyond Chinese dumplings. There are many places to eat in Shanghai, and here I show you the food options to tuck into!
What to Eat in Shanghai
For traditional Chinese food
City God Temple
City God Temple (Cheng Huang Miao) is named after a famous temple, but apart from going there to gawk at the gilded roof of the temple, it’s also the vibrant shopping that will draw most Singaporeans there. It’s a maze of shops selling anything from stylish bags to thoughtful postcards. Once shopping fatigue settles in for me, I duck into Nan Xiang for good xiao long bao in Shanghai.
Picture this: Your feet feel heavy, and you’re yearning to get out of this swelling mass of people. Tired traveller, rest ye feet at this classy restaurant. It’s in the middle of Cheng Huang Miao diagonally from Starbucks, and the dumpling is as good as their claim to fame.
I ordered crab meat dumplings but must say the soup in their dumplings was devoid of taste, and it wasn’t until the last bite when I could sample the flavour of crab meat in the soup. Nonetheless, for the price I paid and the number of dumplings I consumed, it was a good meal.
Not just that – service is impeccable. The waiters will put a seat cover over your winter jacket so as not to dirty it, run to respond to your every need, and toilets are spotless. In this crowded, bustling shopping street, a clean bathroom is an oasis.
Nan Xiao Guo
Head to another restaurant in Raffles City for another xiao long bao fix in Shanghai. Yes! There is a Singapore-style Raffles City in Shanghai. Nan Xiao Guo on the sixth floor of this familiar mall serves the Chinese dumplings in a little ‘hut’:
Exactly what is the function of this hut apart from giving your dumplings individuality and character? I think it works to drain out the soup from the dumpling. That didn’t quite work for me because I prefer to keep the soup inside.
That said, at Nan Xiao Guo I found even with the soup drained out, their dumplings remain delicious! Bite into it and taste the soft skin. I am no dumpling connoisseur, but I happen to like that slightly raw, undercooked taste. There was also a hint of fresh celery, further emphasising the earthy taste. Even without the soup, the skin and the meat itself kept me going back for seconds, and then for thirds.
Of course, that’s not the only dish on the menu. Traditional Chinese dishes like gluten, mains like fried rice, noodles are there as well. But seriously, when in Shanghai, eat those dumplings. Because you can always go back to Singapore for fried rice and noodles!
For the Hipster Foodie
Xiao long bao too mainstream for you? The hipster foodie would be keen to check out the edgier food scene in Shanghai. Dine at People 7 at Fumin Street. This very cool Taiwanese restaurant wowed me with the concept.
See that foreboding door with the eerie orange lights above? You need a passcode to get in; else you’re locked out. How? If you have time to visit this trendy restaurant, spend some time figuring out how to open the door. The tip is to place a reservation. In fact, if you need a place to impress a loved one (or maybe a first date?) this door makes a great ice-breaker.
This is not the only puzzle to solve. Make it inside successfully, and get a drink at the cocktail bar. You’ll find that other puzzles await, good for those who want to spend dinner time testing their intellectual prowess.
The interior is incredibly cosy, with plush chairs and round tables set at a comfortable distance from each other, so you have privacy eating with your family and friends. The restaurant is walled in by bamboo shoots and you don’t get to people-watch as much. if you want to have a quiet time to think or plan, this is THE PLACE to eat in Shanghai.
Taiwanese investors own this restaurant, so expect authentic Taiwanese food. Simple, unadorned and full of flavour.
Dishes came served on porcelain plates, making me feel like royalty. Every bite of food was so satisfying, testifying to the cook’s dedication.
House of Flour
Solor travellers, if you prefer cafes to while your time quietly away while contemplating your existence, then you must check out dessert places in Shanghai. One of the best patissiers have set up shop here, and trust me when I say Shanghai is the place for sweets done well. The Shanghainese like their palette sweet and dessert has a huge following here.
This little bar-café hails from famous Malaysian patisserie Brian Tan of Ritz Carlton (Singapore) fame. Set in the midst of the banking district, you’ll be distracted by tall skyscrapers lit up at night when you enter the DBS building in front before reaching this sweet spot. Try the “Death by Chocolate” chocolate lava cake; you’ll find heaven on earth for chocolate lovers.
For the homesick Singaporean
And finally! If you’re missing Singapore hawker food, then you have to drop by this restaurant aptly named “Tuas Village”. The Merlion seated at the entrance will tell you that it’s the right place. Find authentic tehtarik, milo, and kopitarik as drink choices, and fried carrot cake (not the English kind!) as breakfast options.
I tucked into chapchyepeng (that’s economic rice) for lunch and was hit with the taste of home. For the homesick, it is also interesting to try the Shanghainese spin on our hawker favourites.
So there you have it – the food options available the next time you visit Shanghai! Hopefully, this guide has emboldened you to explore the more unusual dining choices the city offers.
Where to Stay
As for where to stay, Holiday Inn Express(Gongkang) offers decent accommodation as it’s on the outskirts of the city and hence, not too pricey. It is just next to the metro station and easily accessible. I also like to stay at Les Suites Orient when the budget is not an issue, as this 5-star hotel is located in the heart of the city and offers a breathtaking view of the Huangpu river.
Best Time to Visit Shanghai
Best time to visit Shanghai
The best time to head to Shanghai, in my opinion, is from November to December. I love the weather then because if it gets too cold, I can grab a book from Shanghai Book City, a four-level shopping mall full of books, and hide out in a cafe nearby. When it’s slightly warmer at 11-degree Celsius, I get to browse around the shopping arcades and museums.