I just got back from two weeks of travel in Shanghai and Singapore. A lot of that trip was spent going totally off diet and eating lots and lots of delicious food. Basically it was two weeks of cheat days.
Here are some highlights of the amazing food and drinks I had in Shanghai.
Soup Dumplings. That's the first thing people tell you to eat in Shanghai. And yes, I had A LOT of soup dumplings (xiao long bao).
Din Tai Fong, the popular Taiwanese soup dumpling chain, is huge here in Shanghai. I had an epic first meal at Din Tai Fong in Xiantiandi my first night there with my friends Orchid, Tasha and Sing.
The soup dumplings there were of many varieties, with different meat and veggie fillings. All of them were amazing (and spendy.)
I had more soup dumplings from one of the top contenders for best soup dumplings in Shanghai, Nanjiang Restaurant in Yuyuan Garden. I got there early, around 11:30am, to beat the huge lines for these famous dumplings. They did not disappoint. Hot out of the steamer, dangerously greasy and soupy. Amazing.
The video above is one of the hard working dumpling makers from Nanjiang.
Shanghai is full of awesome street food. I had several versions of their savory pancakes, which were cheap and filling. My favorite version had yummy greens on the inside, that was a perfect breakfast food on the run.
The other variety of soup dumpling is the Shengjian mantou, a smaller version of the soup dumpling that is fried on a grill to give it a nice crispy bottom. I actually prefer this kind to the steamed larger version.
There's another giant soup dumpling that you are supposed to just drink with a straw, forgoing the wrapper completely. My friend Ana and I got one and were underwhelmed. Who wants to drink soup through a straw?
Tianzifang was one of my favorite neighborhoods in Shanghai, a dense warren of alleyways full of lovely shops and cafes.
One of the best meals was in a tiny Japanese bistro call Cafe Dan that my friend Ana took me to. Hidden away in a tiny alley, we ascended some very steep steps to end up in a very charming and homey setting with huge windows overlooking the hubbub of Jianxifang's crowds.
We had delicious homestyle Japanese cuisine, the likes of which I have not had for a long time. This was followed by some of the best handpoured coffee I've had during this visit.
Also in Tianzifang was this wonderful chili sauce shop with like a dozen varieties of Chinese chili sauce. You were given tiny paper bowls with rice to sample them, and each one was better than the last.
S. Engine in Xiantiandi serves incredible pourover and espresso coffees, as well as some damn fine croissants. I actually went twice to try both of their signature blends.
Seesaw is another local coffee shop that has several spots around the city. I had a lovely visit to the one new Jian Temple, where the baristas happily chatted with me about their favorite beans and flavors. The Yunnan variety I had had notes of longan and jackfruit, but was perfectly balanced and not too acidic. Would have again.
I couldn't leave this post without mentioning Starbucks. I know, eww. Starbucks are everywhere in Shanghai. I couldn't believe how many shops I saw in every neighborhood.
I didn't really understand why until I was informed that the Chinese tech giant Ali Baba has invested heavily in Starbucks in China. They opened an enormous roastery in Shanghai, which I didn't visit but you can check out here.
Kind of neat, but mostly obnoxious, in my opinion. I'll stick with local businesses with personal service and quirky charms.
The best meal I had was with my friend Orchid, who took me to this tiny, cramped traditional Shanghainese restaurant call Ji Shi. Orchid ordered an incredible spread of food for me to try, each one better than the last.
The standouts for me were the pork belly and mushroom stew, cold jellyfish in vinegar, and mochi-stuffed plums. So many neat flavors, textures and sauces that I had never had before.
Overall, I had a great time eating my way through Shanghai. That said, I don't think I can eat another soup dumpling for awhile.