Gastronomical Tourism: My Weeklong Exploration of Shanghai's Food Reviewed

Adam Dalton
March 30, 2015


As promised on my previous blog post, I have written a post pertaining to all of the interesting foods I have eaten in the past week! So, if you are dying to know, “What on earth could Adam have eaten in Shanghai in the last seven days?” I have a few answers…


ITEM: Poutine


                So…I bet you didn’t think I would ever be able to find the Canadian delicacy that is poutine in China (and to be honest, neither did I). However, I visited the trendy and authentic French-Canadian Deli near to my apartment and decided to give poutine a try, since I had never tasted traditional Canadian comfort food. My initial reaction was that poutine was very excessive (it basically consists of fries topped with cheese-gravy), as it turned out my initial judgment was correct but, poutine was indeed very tasty. It had a charming, warm, and had a comforting taste which I would describe as a cross between mashed potatoes and gravy and mac and cheese. I gave a food rating of 7.5 due to the poutine being quite good and the restaurant having a fantastic atmosphere however, poutine is just not quite up my alley gastromically and I have no previous poutine eating experience to compare it to, so this rating is likely biased by my personal food preferences.


ITEM: Ma La Niu Rou Mian (Spicy Beef Noodle Soup)


                Ahhhh, a Chinese staple, beef noodles…being a fan of spice I generally order the spicy variety and hope and pray that the soup is not Sichuan-Burn-Your-Mouth-In and Burn-Everywhere-Else-Out level spicy. The above soup was a fairly cheap and a supremely adequate dinner. The aforementioned restaurant is a short 1.5 block walk from my apartment and is part of a Chinese “chain” which serves traditional Chinese noodle dishes albeit prepared quickly and relatively cheaply. There was nothing too special here, the noodles were average, the soup had the classic 3 sprigs of obligatory greens (this time bok choy), the broth was somewhat spicy but not too much so, and the restaurant had an o.k. atmosphere; hence the 6 rating.


ITEM:  Home-Style Curry Vegetable Medley and Naan


                Another surprise here; Indian food! Being a fan of Indian food I was extremely skeptical of what quality of Indian food I could possibly have in Shanghai however, I was pleasantly surprised by Saffron. Upon entry the restaurant proudly displays its multiple awards it has achieved for having the “Best Indian Cuisine in Shanghai” and those awards are much deserved; the home-style curry was incredibly flavorful and had a nice hint of spice. The accompanying naan (bread) was piping hot and likely the best naan I have ever eaten (which is saying something as I have had my fair share of naans) due to its simultaneously light but not too doughy consistency and complex (but not overwhelming) flavor. Finally, for the food quality and classy restaurant atmosphere the price of my curry was very affordable, therefore creating a comprehensive rating of 8.5.

RESTAURANT: Terracotta*

FOOD:  Kung Pao Chicken

RATING: 7.5/10

                To dispel any misconceptions you may have here; kung pao chicken is actually an authentic Chinese dish and basically the only one of the “American Chinese Foods” which is genuinely eaten in roughly the same forms in both China and America. Being in serious withdrawal from American-Style Chinese food (my culinary guilty pleasure) I was over the moon to find a plate of kung pao chicken! The aforementioned restaurant is not actually named Terracotta (hence the asterisk), it is a family-style dumpling restaurant attached to the Phoenix Youth Hostel, which is a measly two blocks from my apartment. The atmosphere is very authentic, the kung pao chicken meal is beyond cheap (roughly $2.50 USD), and the chicken had exactly the mixture of peanuts, peppers, and spice that I had hoped for. This meal is actually my go-to if I am in a pinch and don’t have ingredients to make dinner/want to go out, it is consistently good (albeit not amazing), therefore leading to the comprehensive 7.5 rating.

RESTAURANT: ??? (1/2 Block away from me on JinLing Road)

FOOD: Jin Dai Niu Rou (Gold Medal Beef)

Rating: 9/10

                Dang….this is what I dreamed that Chinese food would be like! At a sit-down family style restaurant a mere ½ block from my apartment I inadvertently found one of my favorite things I have eaten while in China! I looked at their “specialty menu” (all in Chinese of course) read and understood the top item (Gold Medal Beef) and decided to give it a shot. A few minutes later a plate of steaming tender deliciousness arrived! The beef was so tender and had tangy, sweet, and rich flavors simultaneously ; a veritable party in my mouth. Finally, this dish is pretty cheap ($4 USD) so I definitely plan on eating it again and will award it a 9 rating overall.


FOOD: 3-Course Brunch (Portuguese Fish Soup, Portuguese-Style Braised Pork Ribs, Citrus/Honey Flan)

RATING: 9.5/10

                If there is one thing ya’ll should know about me, it is the fact that I am a “brunch guy”, every Sunday around 11am, no matter where I am, I’m out on the streets trying to find the best brunch available. I can definitively say that Sol Y Mar did not disappoint me on last Sunday’s brunch quest. In the trendy Xintiandi area, Sol Y Mar offers a minimalist, light, and classy atmosphere; with well-prepared and flavorful food. Don’t let the regular menu’s prices scare you; if you order the brunch special, you get a pretty fantastic deal! It was a mere $11 USD (albeit pricy by Chinese standards) for a 3 course brunch with a complimentary cup of coffee included. All of the food that I ordered (from the soup to the dessert) was expertly prepared, had a light and fresh feel/flavor,  and had perfect amounts of traditional Portuguese seasonings. Overall, this meal was not just food, it was an experience, hence the 9 rating.

RESTAURANT: Night Street Noodle Cart

FOOD: Chao Mian (Noodles with Veggies and Meat, Quick Stir-Fried)

RATING: ∞/10

                Oh.My.God. STREET NOODLES!!!! If there is one thing that is right with this world it is street noodles. Every night, an army of people manning wok-carts descend from the heavens to serve the masses cheap, delicious, and MSG-filled noodles. There are about a half-dozen carts in the area of my apartment and all of them have the exact same ingredients and cooking techniques (which leads me to believe that there could possibly be a street-vendor franchise system?),  the only thing that differs is the sassiness of the person making your noodles. Every time I buy my noodles I order a scoop of spicy peppers, scallions, garlic, greens, and a bit of pork…the aforementioned meal is the absolutely perfect way to end literally any night no matter what you had done before (anything from studying to clubbing is best ended with street noodles). Finally, street noodles are only 10 kuai ($1.40 USD), meaning that if I really needed to, I could indefinitely survive on street noodles if I was struck with some unforeseen financial tragedy. Seriously America, get on China’s level regarding street noodles…..∞/10! 

Adam Dalton

<div>My Name is Adam Dalton and I am currently a junior at Grinnell College majoring in Economics and Chinese Studies. I am originally from Mason City, IA and will be studying abroad in Shanghai with IES Shanghai next semester. Aside from academics, my interests including playing guitar, enjoying the great outdoors and running (I am a member of Grinnell&#39;s T&amp;F and XC teams).&nbsp;</div>

2015 Spring
Home University:
Grinnell College
Chinese Language
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