The Most Authentic Regional Chinese Restaurants in Shanghai
Sichuan Chilies | © Alpha/Flickr
Chinese food is much more than kung pao chicken and egg rolls. The country is traditionally split up into eight great regional cuisines, all of which are available in Shanghai
. However, the “eight greats” ignore the more culturally diverse regions, such as Yunnan and Xinjiang, so Culture Trip presents you with a revised eight great cuisines. From spicy Sichuanese to hearty Tibetan, here are the best authentic regional Chinese eats in Shanghai.
It’s ironic that Shanghainese is one of the tougher cuisines to find in Shanghai. The local food too often gets overlooked due to its mild flavors and lack of history. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worthy of your attention. At Jianguo 328, Shanghainese food is cooked without MSG or low-quality oil, making it the favorite choice of foodies looking for some down-home cooking. It is so popular that it even gained the attention of former British Prime Minister David Cameron, who dined at the restaurant on one of his visits to China. Try the yellow croaker fish with spring onions, and Shanghainese cuisine will forever be one of your favorites.
is so broad, it’s almost a shame that it gets lumped together under one term. Referring to the food from China’s southwestern Yunnan province, the cuisine is inspired by the many ethnic minorities who call the province home. Dishes tend to be very natural in origin, with a focus on flowers, mushrooms, and insects. At Lotus Eatery, these dishes are enhanced with some of the most authentic Yunnanese spices, so don’t be surprised if you need to order some milk to extinguish the fire in your mouth. Highlights include the fried goat cheese, grandma’s mashed potatoes, and, of course, the fried bugs.
Save for the Friday Muslim Market, A Luo is the best place to get Xinjiang food in Shanghai. Due to the westernmost province’s proximity to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and other Turkic countries, the cuisine often bears more resemblance to Middle Eastern food than Chinese. At A Luo, you will feel like you’re on the other side of the Silk Road, both because of the décor and the authenticity of the food. Try the rice pilaf with lamb, the homemade sour yogurt, and the fresh milk cake, and you’ll surely want to come back for more.
Xin Rong Ji
Restaurant, Restaurant with Rooms, Chinese, Dim Sum
Xin Rong Ji tops crowd-sourced review website Dianping’s list of the best restaurants in China. That’s right, the upscale Cantonese joint was voted the most popular in the whole country, not just Shanghai. Cantonese is the favorite Chinese cuisine of many diners the world over due to its high availability and approachable flavors. At Xin Rong Ji, dim sum-style Cantonese is married with more local Zhejiangese dishes for a culinary experience you’re not likely to get anywhere else. Try the black and gold liusha bao for a dish that’s as beautiful as it is delicious.
Duo Jie La
Are you a proud carnivore? Tibetan food is the Chinese regional cuisine for you. You’re unlikely to find simple pork or chicken dishes. Instead, expect rich goat, yak, and mutton. This unique cuisine combines elements of Yunnanese and Xinjiang with Indian and Nepalese influences. And luckily, you don’t have to climb to the top of Mount Everest to get the best. In Shanghai, Duo Jie La offers an authentic Tibetan dining experience with the heartiest meat and potatoes around.
Restaurant, Chinese, $$$
Sichuanese food is everywhere in Shanghai, but how do you know what’s authentic and what isn’t? The biggest indicators of a true Sichuanese dish are the burn-your-face-off red chili peppers and tingly numbing peppercorns. This cuisine does not shy away from bold flavors, so if your spicy tolerance is low, you might want to pass on this one. At Pin Chuan, the dishes are authentic yet toned down a bit to appeal to a more Western palate. Of course, you’re always welcome to invite the waitstaff to kick it up a notch.
Equally spicy is Hunanese food, but where Sichuanese food is an oily spicy, Hunanese is a dry spicy. Ingredients and cooking styles are many and varied, from stewing and pot roasting to braising and smoking. One outstanding quality of the cuisine is its commitment to not letting the peppers obscure the freshness of the ingredients. Hunan House is run by the same woman behind Xujiahui favorite Cotton’s, Cotton Ding, who is from Hunan herself. With her, you know you’re getting quality in a cozy atmosphere, which is often lacking in other Hunan restaurants.
Da Dong Roast Duck
No list of regional cuisines would be complete without the addition of Beijing roast duck (Peking duck). The dish encourages addiction from all who eat its thin, crispy, fragrant skin. Unfortunately, it’s hard to get the dish right, and outside of Beijing, it is too often relegated to halfhearted attempts that fall short of glory. Luckily, Da Dong Roast Duck is a roast duck institution that does the dish so well, you’ll be surprised they didn’t invent it. The chain is present throughout many Chinese cities, having originated in the homeland: Beijing.
These recommendations were updated on March 14, 2019 to keep your travel plans fresh.