By Urban Family
As the extreme chill of winter sweeps over Shanghai, seek refuge inside these cozy restaurants. Each one serves comfort foods that will awaken your hibernating taste buds. Whether it's a spicy curry, flavorful paella or a scoop of piping hot mac and cheese, these irresistible (and warming) meals are well worth braving the cold for.
Image via URBAN Cafe
What is it? Hailing from Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia, this slow-cooked curry is underscored by fragrant spices and coconut milk, balanced with the zinginess of dried fruits.
We recommend The Wagyu beef rendang at URBAN Café, The Sukhothai Shanghai. Malaysian chef Marcus Ng uses fresh ingredients from his home country (including gula melaka, aka coconut palm sugar) to achieve an authentic taste.
URBAN Café, see listing here.
Chicken Tikka Masala
Image via Kebabs on the Grille
What is it? As far as Indian curries are concerned, tikka masala is undoubtedly a crowd-pleaser. Fusing warm spices of ginger, turmeric and garam masala with creamy dollops of yogurt, it is a staple alongside any flatbread or rice for a comforting meal.
We recommend Kebabs on the Grille's chicken tikka masala. The twist lies in the addition of fenugreek leaves, which lends the broth a caramelized flavor. There is also an alternative version using paneer for the vegetarians out there.
Kebabs on the Grille, see listings here.
Image via Mayita
What is it? Packing 50 shades of chilies, tomatoes and wholesome beans to fill you up, this staple Mexican dish is a must-have when things get frosty. This one-pot wonder is a gratifying mix of spicy and tangy, with a subtle note of smokiness underlining each and every spoonful to revive your windswept body.
We recommend Mayita's black bean chili, which incorporates a plethora of locally sourced and imported chili peppers to maximize the punch. It's an incredibly delicious dish to start the meal, before you relish in more Mexican delights from Mayita's generous menu.
Mayita, see listing here.
Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Image via Stone Brewing Tap Room
What is it? There's no flowery spiel with this one. Just melting cheese oozing out of crunchy, toasted bread, aka food that warms your soul when harsh weather has the upper hand.
We recommend Stone Brewing Tap Room's oxtail grilled cheese sandwich, which packs slow-braised oxtail, Mahon Menorca Tierno cheese, Brie, jalapeño and caramelized onions between generous slices of marble sourdough. Not to mention the spice level is thoughtfully toned down, to suit those who can't handle too much spice.
Stone Brewing Tap Room, see listing here.
Image via Ginger
What is it? A classic laksa is a melting pot of spicy, sweet and umami. The satisfying blend of chilies and shrimp paste forms the primary flavor of this soup, while toppings like tofu puffs, fish cake and hard-boiled eggs provide extra sumptuousness to the dish. It's best served with rice noodles.
We recommend Ginger's Singaporean seafood laksa is a nod to a family friend affectionately known as 'Aunt Anne' (whose recipe is replicated at the restaurant daily), and the Nyonya culinary tradition this dish represents.
Ginger, see listing here.
Mac and Cheese
Image via Shanghai Tavern
What is it? Hailing from Northern Europe, and later the US, a bowl of steaming hot mac and cheese is the definition of winter comfort food. A somewhat sinful combination of chewy macaroni pasta and creamy cheese sauce, this will grab the attention of any picky eater.
We recommend Shanghai Tavern's The Tavern mac n' cheese. This simple yet sophisticated take on the classic family dish combines two types of cheddar, English Stilton, Gruyère and Parmesan to form an indulgent cheese sauce. It is then topped with red wine braised beef blade and brioche crumbs, for that extra depth of flavor and texture.
Shanghai Tavern, see listing here.
Image via el Willy
What is it? There are few things more satisfying than sharing a sizzling pan of plump rice cooked in amber saffron sauce with family and friends. We're talking, of course, about paella, a Spanish farm dish which received global fame thanks to its simplicity and variety. From the classic Valencian rabbit and rosemary combo to the popular seafood remix with lobster, there is bound to be a paella dish that tickles your fancy.
We recommend el Willy's Spanish wild red prawn dry paella and Paella Valenciana (a dry paella with rosemary and rabbit). The socarrat or burnt edges of the rice adds a subtle charred flavor to the dishes, and has received a thumbs up from local Spaniards.
el Willy, see listing here.
[Cover image via el Willy]
This article was originally published by our sister magazine Urban Family Shanghai. For more articles like this, visit the Urban Family website, or follow the Urban Family WeChat account (ID: urbanfamilyshanghai).