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Published: December 30th 2019
The food in Shanghai is so incredible, it enhances the overall travel experience and can easily be its own memory. That is, if someone suggests recommendations for a culinary trip, I would hands down recommend Shanghai without a shred of hesitation (with the only other town being my beloved Chicago). From local Chinese cuisine to international fare, this city has it all. Everything I sampled, tried, and devoured – from small bites at the local coffee shop to full-on sit down meals at restaurants – was suburb. The combination of tastes and flavors astounded me every time. And what was clear in my experience is that whatever the Shanghainese do, they do it damn well.
Let’s start with the coffee shops. I for one adore coffee shops – they are my happy place. And it pleased me to no end to see that Shanghai rocks them. They are everywhere in Shanghai, and you can find several international chains on every city block and subway station in the heart of the city. You cannot get away from Starbucks, but even if the taste of the burnt beans is universal, their fare is not necessarily so. I ordered a seed and grain
muffin and it was delicious – I think they used pumpkin and sunflower seeds with cake flour. It did not taste like the muffins we have back in the U.S., which was a pleasant surprise. The first day I explored the city I stopped at a local chain called Baker and Spice and ordered a London Fog (sort of like a sweetened Earl grey tea latte) and a gnocchi and (Canadian) bacon dish. It was pure heaven. Although I did not get a chance to try it, my tour guide swore by a local chain called Hey Tea.
It must be mentioned here that there is a general lack of photos of said cuisine. My apologies – every time I ordered I was SO excited to feast I neglected to take photos. Please enjoy the few I was able to snap.
Because Shanghai is an international port city, expect a European and slight American influence to food. For instance, I had a glass of beer, some chili, and a German pretzel for Christmas dinner in Xintiandi, in which I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate the holiday away from home.
Chinese cuisine: Now if you
would like to try Shanghainese food (as you should for being in China!) dumplings and hot pot are the way to go. My tour guide, who is a Shanghai native, recommended a side street near Park Hotel in the People’s Square neighborhood in the heart of the city, which by pure happenstance was around the corner of where I was staying at the Pacific Hotel. The dumpling place on the side street of Park Hotel is called Yang's Dumpling, famous for its pan fried dumplings. On the opposite side is another famous steamed dumpling called Jia Jia (佳家汤包) (thank you Martin for the suggestions!) If you would like to know more about Shanghai cuisine, watch Anthony Bourdain’s Season 4, Episode 1 of Part’s Unknown.
Time absolutely flew in Shanghai, and unfortunately I did not eat all the hot pot and dumplings I wished I could have. I did not try all the tea and coffee shop delicacies that enticed me. I am kicking myself for not having a bigger appetite and trying more things. One thing was clear though, since so much of Chinese social life is poured over food, the Shanghainese take the culinary arts incredibly seriously (I
mean, even the churros at Disneyland were decorated to look like a scene from Frozen!) I think a large part of why this trip was so enjoyable was because in addition to all of the wonderful things to do (which, again, I ran out of time!) the food was incredible. And that created a memorable experience in itself.
Until we meet again, Shanghai! X
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