Good noodles are a dime a dozen in Shanghai. Thick or thin, spicy or mild, with or without soup; the affordability and plentitude of quality noodles are one of the best things about life in Shanghai.
There are, however, some shops that are a level above the rest. Places that take mian to an extreme where others fear to tread. So come take a walk on the wild side with us, we're diving in straight at deep end.
Owned by a husband and wife duo,
Chang Jiao Tang Mian ('Long Foot Noodle Soup') is a vestige of pre-economic boom Shanghai, operated
from a dilapidated lane house down an alley on Zhaozhou Lu. Cast aside any aspersions you may have about eating in such a down at heel place,
Chang Jiao Mian’s impeccably old school beef noodle soup is rich enough
In true Shanghai tradition, it’s the husband who does the cooking here, doing so with a consistently stern look on his face every night until supply runs out. Luckily his wife is the hospitable one; she’ll tell you all about her daughter studying in America, and that time Anthony Bourdain came to film for Parts Unknown.
bowl begins with few ladles of exquisite and deeply-flavored beef
broth into a scalding hot wok, followed by a handful of handmade,
centimeter-thick signature noodles. Next a small spoonful of Chang Jiao’s secret weapon: pure beef lard. The noodles bubble furiously,
absorbing all the flavor of the broth and beef fat and reducing the
stock down further. Last but not least, a handful of fresh greens are
thrown in right at the end.
The result is beyond fragrant and delicious. The noodles have a lighter, spongier texture than you’d expect, making this bowl all the easier to finish. A must-visit for intrepid eaters in search of true Shanghainese cooking. Available from 9.30pm, cash only.
What to order: beef noodle soup (niu rou tang mian, 牛肉汤面, RMB30)
The Shanghainese are known for their fervent love of hairy crab, fiddly buggers though they are to eat. Owned by devout Buddhist Xu Jing, who has imbued the restaurant’s interiors with a pristine, temple-like aesthetic, Cerjerdary is in fact a shrine to gourmet excess. Here, steaming bowls of noodles are topped with up to 12 pre-shelled crabs per portion, and they are nothing short of heavenly.
With fresh crabs shipped in from Yangcheng Lake on the daily, Cerjerdary has a legion of dexterous ayis who spend hours each day shelling crustaceans. The house specialty is the crab fat and roe number, topped with gold leaf for extra enlightenment (RMB360). You can opt for the less luxe but still quite tasty crab meat noodles (xierou mian, 蟹肉面) if you're not about throwing hundos for noodles.
How Xu Jing marries his religious fervency with the obvious and marvelous excess of these noodles remains as illusive as enlightenment itself. He can often be seen at the back of the restaurant performing tea ceremonies and sagely extolling nuggets of Buddhist wisdom to friends. One thing we know for sure is that this place is a fast track to noodle nirvana.
What to order: crab fat noodles (xie huang jin, 蟹黄金), RMB360; crab meat noodles (xierou mian, 蟹肉面), RMB72.
Yellow croaker noodle soup (huangyu mian, 黄鱼面) is as ubiquitous as they come at Shanghainese noodle joints, but trust when we say Ding Te Le serves the best one in town. With a creamy, opaque broth made from long-simmered fish bones, this classic noodle soup is pretty much the Chinese answer to ramen.
At your standard noodle house, this broth will be fragrant but relatively thin. At Ding Te Le, however, it’s super concentrated and thick, coating every strand of noodle with an exceptional savory flavor that only intensifies as you slurp.
Balancing out this broth is piquancy that comes from preserved vegetables and strips of dried greens that melt into the soup. Ding Te Le certainly doesn’t skimp on the yellow croaker either, an abundance of (mostly) de-boned bites of fish are the final flourish.
One bowl is enough to sate a hearty appetite, though if your stomach can make room for one of Ding Te Le’s famous five-spice fried pork chops, your visit will be truly complete. Best of all, this place is open 24-hours a day. Cash only.
What to get: yellow croaker noodle soup (xuecai huangyu wei mian, 雪菜黄鱼煨面); fried pork chop (zhu pai, 猪排).
Just across the road from Ding Te Le lies another of Shanghai's most famous noodle houses: Wei Xiang Zhai. Walking in, you'll see a fading menu plastered to the wall. Ignore it; there is but one thing you need to order and that's sesame paste noodles (majiang mian, 麻将面). In this dish, hot chili oil mingles with sesame, tangy vinegar and scallions, thickly coating each strand.
If you're dining with a friend, improve your experience with a bowl of the less renowned but equally delicious spicy pork noodles (larou banmian, 辣肉拌面) We reckon the soup-less version of this dish is the best, so be sure to specify 'ban mian' (拌面) when giving your ticket to the waitress after you've paid at the front desk. Cash only.
What to get: sesame paste noodles (majiang mian, 麻将面), RMB15; spicy pork noodles (larou mian, 辣肉面), RMB13; fried pork chop (zhupai, 猪排), RMB5.