Noodles are a treat to slurp, and each region of China has different creations to offer. In Shanghai, you’ll find delicate, seafood-rich compilations that are as comforting as they are tasty. Here are five unique, delicious Shanghainese noodle specialties that will take your tastebuds for a whirl.
Spicy Sesame Paste Noodles (Májiàng miàn, 麻酱面)
This twirl of noodles involves mellow sesame paste electrified with chilli oil and scallions. When in Shanghai, it is a rite of passage to eat spicy sesame paste noodles at Weixiang Zhai. Passing it up would be like thumbing your nose at tradition. The decades-old restaurant is notable for its grumpy staff and grimy, tightly-packed restaurant. But lines form every day at lunchtime, and once you dig in, you’ll understand what all the fuss is about. At the desk, order your bowl of noodles, hand the ticket stub to one of the roving waitress, and elbow your way to a stool (you’ll most likely be sharing a table with strangers). Soon, your noodles will arrive. Their perfect balance of sweet, hot, and chewy will make the restauran.t chaos recede into the background with every slurp.
Shanghai Scallion Oil Noodle (Cōng yóu bàn miàn, 葱油拌面)
The famous Shanghai Scallion Oil noodles require an incredibly simple ingredient list that, when well executed, come together as a heavenly snack or meal. The key is in the noodle itself: thin, firm strands just cooked through. Julienned scallions are then fried until brown and fragrantly caramelized and along with their oil, tossed with the warm noodles, with dark and light soy sauce and sugar. The results are seductively fragrant to the last slurp. At Dingtele, they add a little pork bone broth and shredded pork, which gives the dish richness (bái zhī cōng yóu ròu sī bàn miàn, 白汁葱油肉丝拌面). Another added bonus is that this restaurant is open 24 hours a day, so you can sate the craving any time it hits.
Hairy crab noodles (Xiè ròu miàn,蟹肉面)
The Shanghainese are notoriously wild for the sweet, tender flesh of the hairy crab (a species native to Jiangsu Province), and they eat it every chance they get, in every way possible. The little crustaceans are also notoriously fiddly to shell, especially for those unused to the process (or lacking the patience). A beautiful solution is to have someone else do the shelling, and then snarfing the results tangled over a bed of luscious noodles. For the best of the bunch, head to Cejerdary, a small 18-person spot where you’ll get the meat of 12 crabs per bowl. The crab is gently cooked, splashed in subtle vinegar and served in a cloud of luxury. A bowl will run you about USD12, but every mouthful makes it worth it.
Eel Noodles (Shàn sī miàn, 鳝丝面)
This is another type of seafood that the Shanghainese are crazy about. For those unaware of the joys of eel, it has a meaty flavor and is great stir fried in a gingery, dark soy sauce. This makes it both crisp and chewy once poured over al dente noodles and into a clear broth. To sample a great eel dish, head to Lao Difang, a tiny four-table spot where the boss has been doling out noodles for decades. This is another busy place serving lunch only, open from 11am to 2pm, so be sure to get there early so you don’t miss out. If there are no seats, do as the locals do and get your noodles to go.
Yellow Croaker Noodles (Huángyú miàn, 黄鱼面) –
The humble yellow croaker is a spiny little local fish with delicately-flavored, flaky white flesh. The best yellow croaker noodles combine chunks of (relatively) deboned fish and long strands of noodles, which come swimming in a dark lovely broth made with long-stewed fish stock, gently flavored and pale tasting. The best rendition of this dish is found at Aniang Mian, where a second generation restaurateur whips up his mother’s specialty noodles to hungry hordes of appreciative patrons. Be ready to wait in line – but trust us, you’ll be the all the happier once you eat.
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