Teaching the elite youth of Shanghai

I spent the last month working as a counselor at an English camp in Shanghai. This camp markets itself as one linked closely with the Ivy Leagues and charges an exorbitant amount of money to wealthy parents wanting to send their kids off somewhere that will be an investment for their future. To give an idea, the cost for just one two week session could pay for at least two months of rent for my room in San Francisco, or one third of yearly public university tuition.

As you can see, these kids come from money, and I mean ridiculous loads of money. As an example, one of these kids said, “My dad is in charge of all of space” (He means that his dad is in charge of the company that is one of the sole providers of airplanes to China). One child’s dad is an elite director for the Shanghai Stock Exchange. Another’s father invented a chemical that is in widespread use throughout China.

While that’s great and all, problems come with trying to lead a group of wealthy children.

Firstly, there’s already the problem of trying to manage a group of squirrelly children. My first day on the job, I was exhausted trying to play tag and Sharks and Minnows with my class. Children, as you know, seem to have unlimited energy and never seem tired of playing any sort of running/chasing game. However, when they coerce the adult to act as “It” for almost every game, it becomes tiring, especially for someone who hadn’t really run like that since being in high school. Furthermore, constantly telling children to “Sit Down” and “No, we can’t play on the playground now. It’s not playground time” becomes not only annoying but tired. By the end of the month, it became reflex. I didn’t even think about saying the words. They just came out.

Secondly, there’s the language barrier. While I had studied Mandarin Chinese for one year and knew enough to find the bathroom, I definitely didn’t have the capability to manage a group of Chinese children who had poor English ability. For example, a kid pushed over another peer and I told him, “Say sorry to her”. Rather than saying “I’m sorry”, he said “Sorry to her”. In another case, my older 13 year old kids constantly went around saying “Lao Si Ji” or Old Driver. Now being a non-Chinese speaker, I had no idea that this was a curse word implying someone who is more sexually experienced. So I just let them say it naively. This definitely leads to some hilarious antics but also much frustration as it’s hard to communicate or even build a close personal connection with the kids.

Thirdly, there’s the spoiled factor. Most Chinese children are highly valued in their home. As a result, many of them end up very sheltered. This is something that man of Chinese coworkers also attested to, something that surprised me. For example, it is normal in United States camps for children to fall over while running and get scrapes. Parents will usually just pick them up, dust them off, and let them continue running. However, Chinese parents called to complain not only about those similar bruises and cuts, but also paper cuts, and walking around in light sprinkling rain in the short 50m distance between the gym and the school building. As a result, the nurse will put a protective soft eyepatch when a kid gets a ball to his/her face, even though there’s no bruising. She will heavily gauze up a foot just because someone stepped on it. These are only a few examples of the ridiculousness that I observed from the American point of view.

Most of the children are also only children and have never been accustomed to knowing how to share. As a result, when I take a class of 9 to the gym to play basketball, rather than playing a game all together, each kid takes a ball and plays with it by him or herself. It’s not that these kids don’t know how to play, as each one says “I’m so good at basketball” and is excited to go play. If there are no more basketballs, kids will try to dribble a soccer ball, and when even that is gone, they will just sit out simply because they don’t understand the idea of sharing. You can only imagine the fighting that breaks out when there aren’t enough scissors or tape during arts & crafts. One problem child actually said that he didn’t like playing with other kids and would physically sit out of activities if it wasn’t an independent game/activity.

These children are also very competitive to the point that cheating is prevalent in every game. In the United States, and probably everywhere outside of China, we are all used to the idea of shaking hands with the opposing team and saying “Good Game” or something similar. Furthermore, we believe most of the times that games aren’t really fun if you have to cheat. It defeats the purpose of playing. However, whenever I introduce any sort of game, kids will do anything to win. It becomes their sole purpose. And non-competitive games don’t perk their interest. These kids will peek at other peoples’ work and steal answers for example. And at the end of the game, when someone wins, everyone else will instantaneously scream “HE/SHE CHEATED!” and this argument will not end even after I tell them to shut up several times. For example, we played Jeopardy and there was no way to cheat in this game since all the answers were in my head, and not anywhere that children could look or search up. However, one particularly bright kid was able to answer many of the questions and all the other kids yelled that he cheated, even though, again, there was definitely no way this was possible.

Other crazy things I noticed: I’m sure you’ve heard of the tiger moms. I found out that there are actually other crazy moms out there, that goes beyond the standard craziness. These moms are wealthy wives. Many of them come in with five inch heels, fake eyelashes, and ooze a gaudy sort of showiness. One of them was going with her child to a camp in the U.S. for two weeks and was given $6,000 by her husband for shopping, just shopping.

Another story: One girl played Blind man’s bluff and stubbed her toe against a table. The next day, her mom put her in a wheelchair, said her toe was broken, and demanded proper compensation. And what indeed was that compensation? Basically she and her family were meant to go to London after camp ended. However, because of this broken toe, she stated that the family couldn’t go. Therefore, she demanded the camp reimburse her for the entire London vacation. The arguments went on for awhile between her and the camp. The hilarious part was: During camp, the girl would physically get off her wheelchair and run around and play with the other kids. And only upon asking, “Hey, are you okay? Shouldn’t you be in the wheelchair?” would she return to the chair in a sheepish manner. And finally, her mother sent photos of X-rays to the camp as “evidence”, except that the X-rays clearly showed that there was nothing wrong.

And lastly on a final bitter note: China became a very gender equal society after the Cultural Revolution. However, there’s still a definite play of gender stereotypes that both females and males play into, almost on purpose, because that’s how they feel they are supposed to be. It’s a little bit like how the United States is supposed to be racially equal on the surface, but racial stereotypes are definitely very active still. For example, I taught a leadership class in the camp. And for one session, all the students happened to be girls ages 11-15. Upon asking them questions like “Who is your role model?” “What is your dream job” and “Do you want to become wealthy and powerful in the future?”, many of them answered, Taylor Swift (and not because she just wanted to be a popular singer), Cinderella, Snow White, etc for role models. For dream job, a couple of them answered princess. And for the wealthy/powerful question, many answered no because they believed it would be too much work/pressure. On posing the same questions to boys, they answer with more substantial answers, like CEO, Engineer, etc. Girls were also more likely to say “Oh, we cannot do that because we’re girls” or “Can we do the girl version of pushups because we can’t do real ones. It’s impossible”.

Of course, there’s also the distinct and obvious difference between the personalities of girls and boys. The girls were so quiet, almost to the point of saying nothing. They enjoyed drawing and other “quiet activities”. Boys on the other hand said a lot, said they enjoyed fighting, and actually fought a lot with each other to the point of extreme violence.

And lastly, please take into account that this is only a brief glimpse into the gender divide and the qualities of the social elite in China and based off of only my one sided observations of a few children.

My Favorite Subway Stops in Shanghai

I’ve left Shanghai recently and as a last blog farewell to Shanghai, I wanted to talk about my favorite subway stops in no particular order.

  1. West Nanjing Road: Lots of shopping and malls. All the Korean makeup brands are here, along with Shanghai’s flagship Old Navy store.
  2. Dashijie: This area has lots of restaurants and food stalls all around. Definitely go and taste everything till your stomach’s content.
  3. Lujiazui: This area has the Oriental Pearl Tower along with all the other famous tall buildings of Shanghai.
  4. East Nanjing Road: The area is known for shopping and for restaurants as well. It’s one of the go to tourist stops.
  5. Dapuqiao: This stop is near Tianzifang, along with a bunch of small hipstery stores and cafes.
  6. South Shaanxi Road: Another road stop with a bunch of restaurants. The famous Din Tai Fung is also here.

Things to Do in Nanjing

These are the things I did in Nanjing. Of course, I only had 1 day so this is a pretty limited list.

Fuzimiao

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The photo quality is bad but Fuzimiao is beautiful, especially at night. In fact, I would recommend going only at night. Fuzimiao is known especially for the Confucian temple, where Confucius’ disciples were supposed to have gathered. However, the night view on the river and the buildings around are beautiful and definitely worth noticing.

Avant-Garde Bookstore

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This isn’t really your conventional bookstore. However, it’s a great place to go and buy postcards or other such souvenirs and take artsy photos. The bookstore also has a cafe and some uniquely designed rooms that you should definitely check out.

Mausoleum for Sun Yat-sen

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The mausoleum for Sun Yat-sen is considered a must go place by my friend, a true Nanjing native. Fair warning though, it’s a pretty steep hike, and in the hot Shanghai summer sun, you will get very sweaty. However, it’s interesting to see the place that many Nanjing natives deem the place to go to in the city. It’s also a huge area with lots of pretty scenic places.

Music Hall

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The music hall is within the area with the Mausoleum for Sun Yat-Sen. It’s a good side visit. It’s pretty if you have time to stop by for a time. There are also supposed to be live performances depending on the day.

Nanjing Museum

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The Nanjing Museum, according to my friend, is considered one of the top four museums in China. The place has exhibits from every time period in Chinese history, along with a digital exhibition (more interesting for kids), mock set up of Shanghai in the 1930’s, and a room full of dinosaur skeletons. Depending on what you’re interested, from art to calligraphy, this museum has something for everyone. You will get numb trying to go to every exhibit hall, so just shoot for the ones you’re actually interested in.

Nanjing Massacre Memorial

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The Nanjing Massacre is basically what Nanjing is known for. So I had a morbid interest in going to the memorial. It is certainly a very well designed memorial in my opinion and very educational for those interested in it. However, there are two things to keep in mind. Firstly, of course Japan did wrong China during this massacre. However, there’s a lot of negative bias that also occurs making some events in the war seem far worse than it was. Also, the amount of information and stories can be overwhelming to the point of becoming numbing. I do understand however, that this is the point of the memorial in that it wants to drill in its point.

Lanyuan Theatre

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A friend of my friend is very much into theatre. So she got us cheap tickets for the Lanyuan Theatre, which has Chinese opera performances. Supposedly, the Lanyuan Theatre has performances that surpass even that of the Shanghai Opera. And indeed, once you get over the high wheedling voices, the stories do become interesting. The Theatre also has English subtitles, so I recommend coming at least once.

Xuanwu Lake

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This lake sits right across from the Nanjing railway station. It’s a peaceful view and there’s a very nice scenic lookout at downtown Nanjing. I’d definitely suggest taking a look!

Food in Nanjing

I only spent one day in Nanjing but my friend, someone born and raised in Nanjing, brought me around to several food places during that time. Here are my thoughts.

Warning: Restaurants in China move around a lot, so make sure to check the address before going.

My rating system:

1 star: Horrible, wished I had never heard of the place

2 stars: Meh, I’m not going to recommend this since it’s not really worth going to

3 stars: Alright (Most of my restaurants will be rated with 3 stars)

4 stars: Pretty Good, I’d recommend to my friends

5 stars:  Magical, I would come back!

Restaurants:

Dapaidang: Restaurant known for xiao chi’s (small eats)

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This restaurant works similar to dim sum in that you order many small dishes. We ordered the salted duck (a Nanjing specialty), Nanjing noodles (which were amazing and tasted a bit like ramen), Taro soup with Lotus Roots, Steamed Meatball, and Tofu Noodles (another Nanjing specialty).

Rating: 4 stars

Price: Depends on how much you order but anywhere from 30 RMB per person

Dish to Order: The salted duck and Nanjing noodles were a must have. Everything else, you can experiment with, since everything is supposed to be pretty decent.

Address: There’s one on 258 Nanjing Xi Road

Yin Shi Ji Zhi Tang Bao: A tang bao place (another Nanjing specialty)

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Tang baos are basically like xiao long bao, or soup dumpling. The only difference here is that these have a broth that’s a bit sweeter. I’m not a fan of the sweeter broth, but I’d recommend trying, as they are a Nanjing specialty.

Rating: 4 stars

Price: 10 RMB

Dish to Order: Tang Bao, They also serve duck blood soup (another Nanjing specialty, but I’m not a fan of it as I don’t really like congealed duck blood).

Address: 398 Mochou Road

Lee Ji Guo Tie: A dumpling place

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This is a pretty interesting specialty dumpling place that my friends say don’t exist outside of Nanjing. It is a cooking style that meets at the intersection of Nanjing and Western China cooking styles.These potstickers have a wrapper that’s very unique, and seem almost to be made of corn and tinged with curry powder. It’s a very interesting dish to try.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Price: 10 RMB

Dish to Order: Guotie

Address: Not a 100% sure where since my friend was the one who took me around

 

Things to Do in Shanghai

Here is a list of the things that I enjoyed doing in Shanghai!

MUST SEE:

Lujiazui

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This is a great area for seeing the classic high rise towers in Shanghai, like the Oriental Pearl Tower.

East Nanjing Road

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East Nanjing Road is another classic tourist place with a bunch of stores and restaurants. It’s a pretty decent street to walk through.

Xintiandi

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Xintiandi is also a shopping and upscale restaurant area. However, what’s really appealing is the architecture of the buildings in the area. Just walking through and seeing the modern buildings and its architecture was a really cool experience. There’s also a cool cafe/store, called Momi Cafe, within the Hubindao mall (which also has really nice bathroom…actual toilet seat covers) that has a cafe and allows you to send letters to yourself in the future. A park with a fountain is also right across from Hubindao mall, which is pretty nice. And within the Xintiandi walkway area, there are some cool galleries. One of them is Nancy’s Gallery on No. 2 Lane, 123 Xingye Road.

Yu Gardens

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A popular tourist place. It’s interesting to walk around and see the architecture and touristy souvenir shops. The highlight here is the actual Yu Garden, but because of the fact that there was too many people and the price a bit expensive, I decided to skip it. Nevertheless, interesting toursity walk through. Don’t buy food here. It won’t be worth it.

The Bund

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Another touristy site, I recommend coming by and doing a walk through. There are lots of photo points and you can see across the river onto Lujiazui. Good scenic point.

Tianzifang

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Tianzifang is a cool network of little alleyways filled with bars, galleries, food places, and stores, most full of souvenirs but a few with good quality goods (100% leather bound journals anyone?). It’s super interesting to walk through, and I’d highly recommend it.

50 Moganshan Lu

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I highly recommend this, especially for art lovers. There are so many interesting galleries here that I could probably spend half a day just hopping in and out of galleries. I especially recommend Island 6. It has a competition and shows exhibits of only the most interesting artists. There’s also artistic graffiti throughout the walls around here. Some of the graffitti was pretty trashy when I went there but a few were very nice.

SEE IF YOU HAVE TIME:

Shanghai Sculpture Garden

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Only do this is if you’re bored or have lots of time. It’s an interesting space to walk through, to see the various art galleries. The sculptures are not all that unique or interesting but the space makes for great photos.

People’s Park

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Right by People’s Square is People’s Park. It’s a huge park, again, interesting to walk through. The entrance right by People’s Square subway station opens up into the Marriage Market, which is a place where older parents/grandparents will set up resumes on umbrellas or anything else to try and marry off their children. A bit of a culture shock but very interesting to walk through.

Madame Soong Ching Ling’s Former Residence

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Madame Soong Ching Ling was the wife of Sun Yat Sen. And while Sun Yat Sen’s former residence is quite expensive to visit, Madame Soong Ching Ling’s was only 10 RMB for students. I recommend for anyone interested in history during this time. It’s not a particularly great exhibit here, but it’s pretty decent for 10 RMB.

Qibao Old Street

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Qibao Old Street is a pretty touristy area as well. But it makes for some decent night views and easy street food access.

 

Shanghai Library

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I recommend checking this out if you have the extra time. It’s probably the biggest library in Shanghai and is simply interesting to see what it looks like. The library also possesses a lot of old Chinese documents and texts if you’re interested in that.

Fuxing Park

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I would also recommend this only if you have the time. It’s a nice park that was designed with the Parisian parks of France in mind. Also check out the large statue of Karl Marx along with the hordes of old people dancing.

 

Food in Shanghai Part 2

To continue from Part 1, I want to provide an update of all the restaurants that I’ve tried throughout the rest of my trip in Shanghai. I’ve also repeated a couple things here that I feel are important.

Warning: Restaurants in China move around a lot, so make sure to check the address before going.

My rating system:

1 star: Horrible, wished I had never heard of the place

2 stars: Meh, I’m not going to recommend this since it’s not really worth going to

3 stars: Alright (Most of my restaurants will be rated with 3 stars)

4 stars: Pretty Good, I’d recommend to my friends

5 stars:  Magical, I would come back!

Restaurants:

 

河南拉面馆: Another hole in the wall

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I didn’t want to go very far for dinner so I went to a nearby subway stop to eat at any random store. I again pointed to a dish that someone was eating and had a really delicious bowl of noodles. The closest thing that I could compare this to is a Korean dish called seoleungtang, or ox tail soup. Basically the broth was made by boiling either beef or lamb bones for a very long time, giving it that clear white color. It was very flavorful, but with an extra gamey taste, probably from what I think is the lamb meat. It then has both clear glass noodles and a wider flat noodle in it. The wider flat noodles were definitely hand pulled, as I saw a man tossing the noodles in the kitchen. And I could definitely taste the difference in the noodles’ flavor and texture. The added shreds of lamb was good, and there’s also the surprising addition of what I think are boiled quail eggs. The chopped green onions round out the broth. I added chili oil as well, which gave it a better extra kick.

Rating: 4 stars

Price: 13RMB

Dish to Order: Although I think I saw other dishes that looked just as good, here is what I got: You zhi yang rou hui mian

Address: 138 South Lingyan Road

Qibao Water Village: If you go to the old water village of Qibao, you’ll see tons of different hole in the wall shops/restaurants.

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Some of the stalls will sell Tang Tuan, which are basically soft dumpling like spheres made out of what seems like glutinous rice. They’re are a bunch of different kinds of fillings, from pork to peanut butter to mint. Supposedly, pork is the one that most locals get. However, I didn’t like the pork one as much because it tasted a bit too sweet for my taste. I did however, love the black sesame one, something I would highly recommend.

Rating: 4 stars

Price: 2 RMB/1 Tang Tuan

Dish To Order: Pork and Black Sesame Tang Tuan, There’s also other stores that sell other goods that you can taste if you want. I personally liked one stall that sold fried sweet sesame bread. But Qibao is also known for things like stinky tofu, xiao long bao, and banana sticky rice in bamboo shoots.

Address: Qibao Old Street

Sulbing: Korean shaved ice chain

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This isn’t a Chinese restaurant as you can tell, but I was craving Korean shaved ice so we came to Sulbing, a pretty popular shaved ice place. It is most known for its Injeolmi shaved ice, which is a shaved ice with condensed milk, red beans, mochi, and something called injeolmi, which is the brown powder you see in the above photo. Injeolmi is a powder made of dried soybeans. It doesn’t sound very appetizing but it evens out the sweetness of the shaved ice by adding a sesame-like rich flavor.

Rating: 4 stars

Dish to Order: Milk Red Beans Snowflakes Sherbet

Price: 40RMB+ (But the portions are big enough to split among several people. We split 1 among 7 people.)

Address: 2/F, 1078 Hongquan Road

Cold Wontons: Hole in the Wall place that serves cold wontons

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I found this place on GB Times that supposedly makes great cold noodles. It’s especially known for the shansi lengmian or eel noodles, cold noodles topped with eels. The article also mentions how the writer mispronounced the food and got sansi lengmian, or noodles topped with pork, green peppers, and bamboo shoots. Unfortunately, this happened to me too. However, these noodles are pretty good. The sauce and the noodles mixed together very well. The only thing is that the noodles weren’t very cold, so I wouldn’t come here expecting cold noodles. I’d come just expecting some pretty good sauce noodles. I also tried the cold wontons that the article mentioned. They were okay but not good enough that I would recommend them specifically.

Rating: 4 stars

Price: 13RMB

Dish to Order: Shansi Lengmian, although the sansi lengmian was pretty good too

Address: 379 Changhua Road

Myungdong Kalguksoo: A Korean chain restaurant known for shabu shabu (Japanese version of hot pot) and Knife cut noodles in soup

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Yes, I know the description makes this restaurant seem like it’s all over the place. But in reality, this is a very famous chain store in Korea known for its knife cut noodles. Craving Korean food, I went and gave the Shanghai branch a try (I’ve tried the Seoul branch before). And the noodles and soup were what I remembered it as: Chewy noodles with a great bite and a refreshingly clean tasting broth. However, the one I had in Korea definitely had more toppings, which was sorely lacking here. That being said, I didn’t regret this dish and the kimchi that came with it was refreshing and perfect.

Rating: 4 stars

Price: 45 RMB

Dish to Order: Kalguksoo (knife cut noodles)

Address: 2/F, 1051 Hongquan Road, Building 209

Baozi/Other Small Bites Place: I didn’t know the name of this place as I had stumble upon it.

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As I was walking to the cold noodles restaurant, I stumbled upon this baozi (huge dumplings) place with a long line of locals outside of it. So I decided to try it, because why not. Most of it was sold out by the time it was my turn since it was only an hour before closing time. However, I got 2 of the red bean ones and 2 of the vegetables baos. I also went across to get these sweet sesame buns you see above. The red bean ones were nothing to write home about but the vegetable baos (or cai bao) was very good, so much so that I have to wonder how good the meat buns would be. As for these sesame buns, they were good, but I think they would’ve been better if fresher. Furthermore, I would recommend not eating all of them in one sitting, as it’s too much.

Rating: 4 stars

Price: Prices are fairly cheap at about 2-4 kuai per bun, depending on which type you get.

Dish to Order: Any of the baos that seem to be popular with the other locals in line

Address: 81 Jiangning Road, or one or two doors down from that

Fried Pork Stall: This is a popular snack item in Shanghai so when I saw a small line out of this stall, I decided to try it

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This is pretty good. Very oily and fatty of course but if you can get beyond this, it’s a great snack food. Just make sure you don’t eat beforehand because this is pretty filling. While the deep fried breaded pork was good, the sauce, sort of like the Chinese version of a sweet barbecue sauce, didn’t quite do it for me. However, that might just be because I don’t like barbecue sauce quite that much. The pork also comes with some slices of fried rice cake. I took a bite of that, but it was quite flavorless and tough so I would recommend just skipping that altogether.

Rating: 3 stars

Price: 12 RMB for 2

Dish to Order: Deep Fried Pork

Address: On the corner of Shuoning Road

Master Kong Chef’s Table: A small restaurant in the hall between the Pudong airport and the Pudong subway station

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I really only ate here because there were about four food places there when you get off the subway and I picked the one with most people. I got the Sichuan style spicy noodles with beef. All in all, it was pretty good, with chewy noodles and soft beef. However, I would say that I’ve had better noodles in Shanghai for better prices, but this was okay.

Rating: 3 stars

Price: 32 RMB for the bowl of noodles

Dish to Order: Just pick what you’d like, since this is just a random store

Address: Get off of the Pudong Airport subway station and walk towards the airport. It’ll be right there after coming out of the turnstiles.

Blue Frog: A Chinese chain restaurant specializing in craft burgers (by Shanghai standards)

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I came here because of a field trip to Shanghai’s Disney Town, funded by the camp I was working in. It’s a pretty fancy restaurant for China’s standards. It serves everything from burgers to pasta to sirloin steaks. I had the original Blue Frog burger cooked at medium (it’s the lowest they cook it) along with the side of fries. The burger was okay for American standards, but I’ve definitely had very good quality burgers for the price (around 12 USD). The fries were of a good texture but could have used more flavor and salt. The thing that I would come back here for, however, was the mojito. I got a virgin mojito since I was technically working and with my students. However, this mojito was delicious. It had the regular taste and refreshing quality of a good mojito. But what set it apart from other mojitos was the addition of passionfruit. Maybe that’s something that has been done before, and better, but I hadn’t seen it before so I was blown away by it.

Rating: 3 stars for the food but 4 stars for the drinks

Dish to Order: Passion Fruit Mojito

Price: 65+ (It’s definitely a pricier place in Shanghai)

Address: There a couple different locations, but I went to the one in Shanghai’s Disney Town. There’s also one in Xintiandi, which is a more central but more crowded location.

Cha for Tea: A bubble tea place

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On this hot Shanghai day (Around 99 degrees Fahrenheit), I was walking along the street, looking for lunch and saw this place. I love ice cream and green tea and saw that Cha for Tea was selling green tea ice cream for 8 RMB so I thought why not. For 8RMB or about $1.50 USD, I thought this was pretty decent. The green tea ice cream was decent, if a little bit sweet for my taste, but I was fine with it. The only thing was that it melted a bit too fast, so it’s not for you if you take your sweet time with ice cream. But this could’ve been just because it was too hot on this day. The cone was also very decent for 8RMB. I was expecting your standard cheap cardboard like cone, but this was pretty good quality. I would recommend for 8RMB.

Rating: 3 Stars

Price: 8RMB

Dish to Order: Green Tea Ice Cream (Lu Cha Bing Qi Ling)

Address: 80 Xizang Road

KFC: Yup, it’s that American fast food chain.

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I went to KFC for two reasons: first, there were no other places to go to and second, I’d heard a lot about KFC in China so I wanted to try it. I got the spicy crispy chicken sandwich and the mango soft serve (which came highly recommended by friends). And no surprise, it was your average spicy crispy chicken sandwich. The mango soft serve, which was 8 RMB tasted a bit like a mango flavored hi chew in soft serve form. If you’re into that, you can get it.

Rating: 3 stars

Price: About 35 RMB for the sandwich

Dish to Order: It’s fast food…You can probably choose whatever sounds good to you.

Address: There’s KFC’s all over Shanghai, so you can just scope around.

贵阳小小餐厅: Another hole in the wall place that I walked into based on which restaurant had many customers

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This place seemed pretty popular and it was near Tianzifang so it worked out. The noodles were okay and the soup was fine. The way it works here is that you ask for noodles, which I did by yet again pointing at a dish someone was eating, and then point at the things that you want to add on to the soup. Now I’m not really sure what I added but it tasted like tofu and something that tastes like chicken but could have easily been frog. Either way, it was okay.

Rating: 3 stars

Price: 15 RMB

Dish to Order: Just point at what others are having

Address: 310 Taikang Road

Zhu Que Men: This place is known for its food from the Shaanxi province of China.

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So I found this place on Culinary Backstreets, but I’m pretty sure it was mentioned in other sites as well. Supposedly, this is supposed to be one of the best places to go to for noodles in Shanghai. However, I must have done it wrong because I was pretty disappointed. But for context, you should know that I didn’t go to the address that these articles pointed readers to. And that is because they were written around 2014. I didn’t want to make the trek out there only to be disappointed because the restaurant had moved, or worse, closed down. So I tried to find a more recent article, which pointed me to a different location, but I’m not 100% sure that this is the real place.

Either way, this place is known for the You Po Mian (Oil Sprinkled Noodles) and the Rou Jia Mo (Shaanxi’s version of the hamburger). The Rou Jia Mo was super disappointing, just a thin layer of decently seasoned shredded meat between two flaky pieces of fried dough. The You Po Mian was better. The beginning was okay: the sauce was spicy sour and the noodles had a good bite to them. However, as I got closer to finishing the meal, the flavors and the noodles had a more sickening sour taste rather than anything else.

Rating: 2.5 stars

鸣鸣麺家常莱: A Chinese Restaurant I stumbled on. I’m not sure of the Pinyin name.

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I was walking by Dashijie subway stop for a quick lunch. Fed up with food blogs, I decided to walk along side streets to find a place that seemed to be popular and pop by. This place had several people come by so I came in and pointed to a dish that many people seemed be getting, which turned out to be a soup noodle dish topped with well seasoned mushrooms and tender pieces of beef. While the mushrooms and beef, along with the soup was good, the noodles were just okay for me. It’s my opinion that good noodles will absorb the flavor of the soup or sauce they’re in, and elevate the overall flavor of the noodles. However, here, it seemed that the soup and noodles were separate pieces that didn’t really cooperate.

Rating: 2.5 stars

Dish to Order: I’d just recommend pointing at a dish that many customers seem to be ordering. The other one I noticed was a dish of noodles covered in some sort of sauce with ground pork. It could’ve been zhajiangmian, but I’m not 100% sure.

Price: I paid 21 RMB for this dish.

Address: 271 Beihai Road

Shu Xiang, which may or may not have changed its name to SiChuan Restaurant: As the name shows, this restaurant serves Sichuan food.

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I found this website on a blog called On China and it highly recommended the dan dan mian, something that I hadn’t really been able to appreciate in China yet, at least not one of good taste. So I ventured out here to West Nanjing, thinking that this would be it. However, not only was the sauce not spicy enough at all, but the noodles were overcooked. They were far too soft and soggy, making me very sad.

Rating: 1 star

Food in Shanghai Part 1

Food in China is beautiful. It’s an orchestra of various flavors and spices in your mouth. There’s also a wide variety of food but here I’ve covered the restaurants that I’ve visited so far during the first half of my Shanghai trip. You’ll notice it’s mostly of the noodle and dumpling variety, and that’s pretty much because those are the foods that hold a special place in my heart.

Warning: Restaurants in China move around a lot, so make sure to check the address before going.

My rating system:

1 star: Horrible, wished I had never heard of the place

2 stars: Meh, I’m not going to recommend this since it’s not really worth going to

3 stars: Alright (Most of my restaurants will be rated with 3 stars)

4 stars: Pretty Good, I’d recommend to my friends

5 stars:  Magical, I would come back!

Restaurants:

Yu Xin: Restaurant known for being the most authentic/best Sichuan restaurant in Shanghai. Spoiler: I agree and my coworker from Sichuan province agrees.

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Before coming here, be sure to find a large group of people to come with, try and make a reservation, and be prepared to eat copious amounts of spicy food. What can I say about Yu Xin. Basically almost every dish I had consisted of bites of flavor and deliciousness, all compounded with a huge spicy kick that builds and lasts for quite a while, which was pleasant (I love spicy food). I would highly recommend that you go at least once while here, especially if you won’t be going to visit Sichuan province any time soon.

Rating: 5 stars

Dish to Order: This place is known for its shui zhu yu (fish boiled in hot spicy oil) so get that. Also get liang fen (the picture above, mung jelly noodles drenched in a spicy sauce. it’s better than it sounds; I promise), tea smoked duck (the duck is beautiful…and it’s not spicy), and the mapo tofu. We also got some other dishes that were equally as good but I’m not sure of the name: Some sort of sweet lotus root filled with things, a fried asparagus dish, cauliflower that was most likely fried in pork oil because it tasted like bacon, and a spicy frog dish that was surprisingly tender and good (I didn’t think I would like it).

Price: Come prepared to pay anywhere between 50RMB to 150RMB+ per person depending on what you decide to order. It’s a bit pricey but totally worth it.

Address: 5/F, 399 Jiujiang Road

Zheng Zhong He Nan La Mian Guan: Lanzhou Noodle Restaurant

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I found this place on GastronomyBlog and let me tell you, this was probably the best noodle place I had been thus far in China. Lanzhou is a region in China known for hand pulled noodles. Therefore, the quality of the noodles will be very different from the standard noodles that you get in other restaurants. And indeed, I could taste the difference in the flavor, the texture of each bite, and even how it absorbed the broth. It was perfect. On top of that, the broth of the Lanzhou Lamian was beautiful. Each spoonful was definitely full of the flavor of the beef but it was also light and slightly tinged with the taste of cilantro and curry. It was heavenly and I wish I could bring it back to America. The area around on Renmin Road, from South Yunnan Road to Wanzhu Road also has a variety of food stalls that look pretty appetizing.

Rating: 5 stars

Dish to Order: Niurou Lamian (Beef noodles in soup). The cong you ban mian’s also supposed to be good. But I feel like any noodle dish here will be good to be honest.

Price: 10RMB for the niurou lamian small size

Address: 322 South Yunan Road

Pyongyang Goryo Restaurant: Korean-style cold noodles

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I found this by scouring the Internet for a Korean cold noodle dish called Naengmyun. Basically, it’s a dish that originates from North Korea that consists of cold noodles in a cold beef broth that is then topped with radish, cucumber, beef slices, an egg, and a spicy sweet Korean chili sauce. Both the photo and the description might sound unappetizing but I promise you it’s good and refreshing on a hot day. To clarify further, I scoured the Internet looking for North Korean style Naengmyun and that’s because 1) North Korea is supposed to have mastered this dish and 2) It’s easiest to find North Korean restaurants in China as opposed to any other country for obvious reasons. Finally I found on in Koreatown on Daum, a Korean website.

And it was the best decision ever because this dish not only topped any other naengmyun dish I had ever had in my life, but it far exceeded any expectations I had. Every bite was magical. The temperature was a perfect level of chilled and each bite of noodle was of a perfect consistency and flavor. Normally, naengmyun noodles have very little flavor and serves as more of a vehicle for the rest of the flavors. However, here, the noodles served as a centerpiece and had its own beautiful flavor.

Rating: 5 stars

Dish to Order: Mul Naengmyun (Naengmyun in a cold soup). But I noticed that the samgyetang is also popular (the Korean version of Chicken Noodle Soup).

Price: 35RMB (this is including side dishes)

Address: 2/F, 1078 Hongguan Road

Ippudo: Ramen shop/chain from Japan

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This restaurant is pretty famous to anyone who has remotely any interest in Japanese ramen. There are also shops in New York and from what I hear, one is also coming to Berkeley soon. The ramen is pretty good with chewy ramen noodles and a rich broth. If you want to eat pretty good ramen/won’t be going to Japan any time soon, I’d recommend it.

Rating: 4 stars

Dish to Order: Shoyu Ramen but I’m sure anything here in terms of ramen would be good.

Price: 40RMB+

Address: There’s shops all over Shanghai, but the one I went to was in the IFC mall.

IFC Pudong,
LG1/F, 79-80, 8 Shiji Da Dao

Yang’s Fried Dumplings: Dumpling shop/chain in Shanghai known particularly for Shengjianbao

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This restaurant is famous in Shanghai as arguably the number one place to go to for shengjianbao. Shengjianbao is a dumpling that Shanghai is known for. It is like xiaolongbao (a soup dumpling that Shanghai is also known for). Basically it’s a big dumpling with meat, cabbage, and hot broth that is then steamed and then fried on the tip. It’s very good and if you like thick meaty carby dumplings, I’d highly recommend it.

Tip: Get 4-6 of these, although even that might be a bit too much for one meal as one of these is quite filling. When you do sit down to eat it, I’d suggest poking a small hole with a chopstick through the top layer and blowing at/slurping up some of the very hot broth before attempting to bite in to it. And even then, please bite carefully so that you don’t get hot broth all over you.

Rating: 4 stars

Dish to Order: Yang’s Fried Dumpling

Price: 6RMB/4 dumplings

Address: There’s stores all over Shanghai but the one I went to is by People’s Square.

97 Huanghe Road

Hong Lajiao: Hot Pot restaurant but I went there to eat noodles

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So I found this restaurant on Time Out Shanghai and had a hard time finding it. But it’s in a random building on the 3rd floor. Look for the large amount of people waiting outside (There’s always a line). So I came here to eat the Secret Noodles or Mizhi Banmian, which were fantastic but they give a much smaller amount than expected. It’s basically cold noodles drenched in oil with a slight kick of spiciness. It’s pretty great. And judging by the large crowds of Chinese locals here, I’d assume the hot pot here is pretty good as well.

Rating: 4 stars

Dish to Order: Secret Noodles/Mizhi Banmian

Price: 22RMB, slightly pricey for China

Address: 3/F, 828 Zhangyang Road

Wonton Restaurant: This isn’t the real name but it sells Boiled Dumplings, or wontons

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There’s nothing particularly special about this restaurant. In fact, a friend had stumbled onto it just by pure happenstance, and the fact that it was about a three minute walk from our hotel. However, its boiled dumplings are pretty good, and I’ve never particularly been a fan of boiled dumplings before.

Rating: 4 stars

Dish to Order: Pork and Cabbage Dumplings, but I’m sure anything here would be good.

Price: I ordered 14 Pork and Cabbage Dumplings and paid 10RMB. Price will differ based on what you order, but it’s pretty cheap nevertheless.

Address: I don’t know the particular address but it’s somewhere on E’shan Road between Dongfang Road and Yanggao South Road on the side of the road that the Lawson’s is on. I want to say it’s somewhere around 109 E’shan Road, but I’m not 100% sure.

Changli Night Market: It’s not a night market like the ones in Taiwan, but it is interesting to sample some of the foods and walk through the streets if you have some extra time.

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I found this on Global Times because I was craving night market food after my Taiwan trip last winter. However, again, it’s very different and a much a smaller scale than the markets in Taiwan. But this was still fun and looking at the various stalls was very interesting. In particular, I tried the Re Gan Mian, which is also called hot and dry noodles apparently. It’s spicy, sweet, and oily and the noodles were a good vehicle to transfer those flavors to my mouth. All in all, I’d recommend it. Next door/around the corner, there’s also a dumpling stall that I tried, but I would say you can probably skip it. It’s not bad, but I’ve definitely had better dumplings.

Rating: 4 stars

Dish to Order: Re Gan Mian

Price: To be Clarified, The price was definitely less than 10RMB though. Very cheap.

Address: 124 Licheng Road

Tianzifang: A cool network of alleyways in Shanghai with various food, shopping, and art shops

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Within Tianzifang, there’s a small popsicle small that sells popsicles made of what I’m pretty confident are fresh fruit. There’s different flavors, watermelon (which I think is the most popular, since it was sold out), Melon (which I got since watermelon was sold out. It consists of melon, then yogurt, then dragon fruit on the bottom), strawberry and a couple others. I’d really recommend it. It’s very refreshing in the summer heat.

Rating: 4 stars

Dish to Order: Watermelon Popsicle, or really any flavor that pops out to you

Price: Around 15RMB+ depending on the flavor, a bit pricey

Address: Somewhere within Tianzifang

Wonton Soup Shop: This isn’t the real name but it sells wontons and wonton soups as you can imagine

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I stumbled on this place and decided to try my luck. My luck was good. I pointed at the dish that most customers seemed to order and asked for that. Each wonton is filled with vegetables and pork. The wrappers are the perfect consistency for holding their flavorful contents. The soup is quite oily but also perfect for flavoring each wonton with brothy goodness.

Rating: 4 stars

Dish to Order: Wonton soup, though I’m sure the wontons by themselves are probably good as well

Price: Around 15RMB depending on what you order

Address: I don’t know the exact address but it’s not hard to miss. It’s the stall on the intersection between Xiangyang Road and Nanchang Road with a man boiling dumplings in a large pot.

Wei Xiang Zhai: Small shop selling majiang mian (sesame sauce noodles)

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The Internet really touts this restaurant and this dish in particular. However, to be honest, I didn’t appreciate it that much. It was okay but not great. The sesame sauce is a bit like peanut butter in that it sticks ever so slightly to the roof of your mouth and I don’t really like that. All in all, it didn’t taste bad but I just had higher expectations.

Rating: 3 stars

Dish to Order: Ma Jiang Mian (Noodles in a sesame sauce with a tinge of chili oil)

Price: 8RMB

Address: 14 Yandang Road

A Niang Mian: A noodle place known for seafood themed soup noodles

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This place is also pretty popular on the Internet. I think it’s pretty decent. It’s known for the huang yu mian (yellow croaker noodles), basically noodles in a fish broth and then garnished with the fishes themselves. While it was good, I’m not a huge fan of that specific fishy taste that comes in Asian fish dishes. Therefore, it didn’t completely win me over. However, if you do like fish, then I would recommend to you.

Rating: 3 stars

Dish to Order: Huang Yu Mian or Yellow Croaker Noodles, although it seems like most of the fish based noodles seem to be pretty popular upon looking around.

Price: 26RMB+ depending on what you order, which makes sense considering the price of seafood/fish

Address: 36 Sinan Road

Hai Di Lao: Hot Pot Chain that’s all over the world (There’s one in LA, over in Arcadia)

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We came here for my birthday at the recommendation of one of the Chinese teachers who works at the camp with us. Hot Pot in China was a fun experience that I would recommend to others who are coming here with a group of people. While the food here was good, from the meats/vegetables ready for dipping, to the hot broths, to the dipping sauces, I feel like you could probably find better places elsewhere for better prices. However, because I haven’t explored this idea, I’m not sure.

Rating: 3 stars

Dish to Order: It’s just one dish: Hot Pot. You can choose which broths, sauces, veggies, and meat based upon your personal preference. You can also order hand thrown noodles (a person will come and throw the noodles right in front of your table before putting it on your table. However, the noodles aren’t that great. They don’t have that bite and texture that comes with a really good noodle.

Price: It’ll really depend on what you order, but on average it should be about 100RMB per person, so a bit pricey.

Address: There are multiple locations but we went to the one near East Nanjing Road on the 5th floor of a mall.

5/F, 830 Nanjing Dong Road

 

 

Nong Tang Wontons: A wonton/dumpling place but I came here for noodles because apparently this place’s noodles are better than its dumplings

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I found this place on House of Haos. I got the scallion noodles, also known as Cong You Ban Mian. Basically it’s noodles with scallions but this one also came with bits of delicious silky soft tofu pieces. All of this was seasoned with chili and oil creating a pretty decent noodle dish. If you’re lost for noodle places to go to, I’d recommend it.

Rating: 3 stars

Dish to Order: Cong You Ban Mian or Scallion Noodles

Price: 9RMB

Address: 714 Weihai Road

Ding Te Le: 24 hour Chinese diner

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The Internet lauded this restaurant for its noodles so I paid it a visit. I got the Bai Zhi Cong You Rou Si Ban Mian as recommended by the Internet, or mixed noodles with shredded meat and caramelized onions (the brown stuff in the photo) all drenched in oil. It was pretty good, but nothing to write home about. Like Nong Tang Wontons, I would recommend only if you were looking for a noodle place and couldn’t find one.

Rating: 3 stars

Dish to Order: Bai Zhi Cong You Rou Si Ban Mian. I also hear that the fried pork chop (xiang zha da pai) and the spicy vegetable/meat noodle soup (la rou xue cai mian) are good.

Price: Anywhere between 15RMB and 40RMB depending on what you get.

Address: No. 22, 494 Huaihai Street (It’s tucked away in a little alley on the road so don’t be surprised if you accidentally miss it.)

Jia Jia Tang Bao: Xiao Long Bao Place

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According to the Internet, this restaurant was to have xiao long baos (soup dumplings filled with pork) that were comparable to that of Din Tai Fung. We waited in a line for more than 40 minutes around lunch time on a weekend only to find that the store’s standard pork xiao long baos were already sold out. Therefore, we got the next best thing, pork and crab xiao long baos. But to be honest, these were okay but did not meet our expectations. Maybe it was because we didn’t get the standard pork xiao long baos but that was how we felt about them. On the plus side, these are far cheaper than that of Din Tai Fung.

Rating: 3 stars

Dish to Order: Pork Xiao Long Bao

Price: Around 15 RMB for 12 pork xiao long baos. More for the ones filled with crab, but it’s not worth it.

Address: 90 Huanghe Road

WangHaoWang: Stall known for Sesame Balls

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I found this stall on a blog on CNN‘s website. It also happens to be right around the corner to the wonton soup place. These sesame balls are pretty decent. It’s basically a ball of fried glutinous dough covered in sesame balls and filled with a small amount of red bean paste. It’s a pretty delightful snack.

Rating: 3 stars

Dish to Order: Sesame balls. Don’t try to order the other stuff. I’ve tried them and let me tell you, it’s not worth it. Also, come before 2pm. Because this is more of a breakfast item in China, it sells out pretty early. If you’re lucky though, they may have 1 or 2 left, but it won’t be fresh.

Price: Less than 5RMB per sesame ball

Address: 117 Xiangyang Nan Road

McDonald’s: You guys know what this is.

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Ever since my Europe backpacking trip, I always enjoyed trying out the different McDonald’s one dollar cones that are offered. Each country/region has its own version so I like to try them. In China, the McDonald’s was advertising matcha flavored cones, so being a matcha lover, I had to try one. However, this was pretty gross I have to say. It basically has very little flavor and the cones are pretty standard McDonald’s cones. If you’re really craving the McDonald’s one dollar cone, stick with the standard vanilla one, though that’ll probably be the same as the one in the United States. So this is written just to prevent future China visitors from making the same mistake that I did. I won’t bother to write the rest.

Rating: 1.5 stars

 

Liu Dao Men’s Dan Dan Mian: Supposedly good dan dan mian and other such spicy noodle dishes

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I found this place on Smart Shanghai because I was craving good spicy noodles after Hong Lajiao. I was pretty excited for this place but to be honest, this was a bit of a disappointment. I had the Dan Dan Mian (noodles in a spicy chili oil sauce) and the Tian Shui Mian (Thick noodles covered in a sweet/spicy peanuty soy sauce). First of all, these dishes are quite small. One doesn’t fill you up and more importantly, the noodles weren’t that great. They were just kind of meh. The dan dan mian was not as spicy and flavorful as I had come to expect from dan dan mian. And the tian shui mian’s noodles, although visually appealing, had the texture of thick dough, something you don’t want from noodles. All in all, not a good pick.

Rating: 1.5 stars