Shanghai's Most Slurpable Scallion Oil Noodles

By Sophie Steiner, September 4, 2023

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Originating in Shanghai, there is arguably no other noodle dish more ubiquitous with the city than cong you ban mian (葱油拌面), or scallion oil noodles.

Modest in both ingredients and appearance, the heart of the dish is the humble scallion, fried low and slow so that it caramelizes and mellows, releasing a fragrant umami aroma that makes this unassuming bowl so memorable. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The recipe consists of just a handful of household staples; boiled Shanghainese wheat flour noodles coated in slick, scallion-laced oil and a drizzle of dark and light soy sauce to bring it all together – with fried scallions for crunch.

Yet, such a basic dish couldn’t be more of a poster child for the quip “less is more,” as its greatness both eclipses and glorifies its everyday ingredients.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

In Shanghai, scallion oil noodles can be found everywhere – from street-side canteens to Michelin-starred restaurants – eaten any time of day, from early morning breakfast to a side dish at dinner.

But, something about the way the oil sticks to the springy, pulled noodles makes every last bite – regardless of location or time  – a culinary masterpiece. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

While Shanghai has an unquantifiable number of cong you ban mian available across thousands of venues, we've chosen a few of our favorite spots around the city for the most slurpable scallion oil noodles.

A Niang Mianguan 阿娘面官

A Shanghai noodle shop institution, A Niang Mianguan specializes in all the Shanghainese canteen classics – yellow croaker noodles, fried pork chop, eel noodles, stewed spicy potatoes, and Scallion Oil Noodles (RMB20) topped with a copious amount of dried and fried river shrimp for an added hit of oceanic salinity. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Most of the shrimp are no bigger than a fingernail, but add a chewy textural contrast to these noodles. 

A Niang Mianguan 阿娘面官, 36 Sinan Lu, by Nanchang Lu, 思南路36, 号近南昌路.

Dong Tai Xiang 东泰祥

A 24/7 Shanghai diner, Dong Tai Xiang is our go-to spot time and again for both shengjianbao – pan-fried pork soup dumplings – and Scallion Oil Noodles (RMB15).

They never skimp on the scallions, ensuring each inky strand is juxtaposed against a brittle spring onion. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The most pungent of the lot, these slippery noodles earn our top cong you ban mian spot for the balanced sauce – a perfect amalgamation of sweetness from sugar, saltiness from dark and light soy sauce and savoriness from the dried shrimp.

Even as these noodles cool, they still maintain their appeal, a statement that doesn’t hold true for a few others on the list. 

Dong Tai Xiang 东泰祥,  188 Chongqing Bei Lu, by Dagu Lu, 重庆北路188号,近大沽路.

Gusha Wumian Pu 谷沙屋面铺 

As well as serving up quite possibly Shanghai’s largest lion’s head meatball, Gusha Wumian Pu's myriad of other noodle toppers are arguably just as tasty – daily specials that they’ve been doling out for more than a decade.

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Begin by picking your noodles (in reality, there’s no choice – we’ve never seen anyone go with anything other than the Scallion Oil Noodles (RMB7)) and add on as many toppings as you’d like – they range in price from RMB2-20 depending on portion size and meat-content.

There’s everything from sweet and sour pork ribs to Shanghai-style kaofu (or wheat gluten); from large pork intestines fried with ginger, peppers and garlic to tofu puffs and tea eggs. 

The only downside: it’s only open for breakfast and lunch. So, if it’s late night noods you’re after, you’ve just gotta push on through to 5.30am, when they open again the next day. 

Gusha Wumian Pu 谷沙屋面铺 , 1011 Qiujiang Lu, by Xizang Bei Lu, 虬江路1011号, 近西藏北路.

Huxi Lao Longtang Mianguan 沪西老弄堂面馆

If you arrive at Huxi Lao Longtang Mianguan at a meal time, expect to wait in a line 50 people deep. But don’t fret, it moves like a well-oiled machine ensuring you’ll be crushing noodles in under 10 minutes flat. 

Well-oiled is not exactly how we would describe the Scallion Oil Noodles (RMB7), however; thin strands lacking that luscious slather and that excessive cap of fried scallions.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The noodle shop specializes in other Shanghainese selections like braised large pork intestines and fried pig liver noodles – proteins with more oomph in the flavor category – so we can see how the scallion oil noodles pale by comparison.

The scallions themselves are perfectly caramelized (almost gummy in texture, in a delectable way) but we want more of said good good.

Without it we are left with an expertly cooked, yet unapologetically plain bowl of noods. 

Huxi Lao Longtang Mianguan 沪西老弄堂面馆, 500 Guangdong Lu, by Fujian Zhong Lu, 广东路500号, 近福建中路.

Jianguo328 建国328小馆

One of the city’s most beloved benbangcai haunts, Jianguo328’s founder is Taiwan- rather than Shanghai-born, but that doesn’t stop him from banging out the Shanghai standards in a renao two-floor venue that prides itself on being MSG free and only cooking with filtered water, despite the wallet-friendly prices.  

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The Noodles in Scallion, Oil and Soy Sauce (RMB22) are quintessential Shanghainese, although less ‘saucy’ than their street side counterparts.

While we appreciate the addition of some noteworthily plump dried shrimp, the small quantity of browned scallions gets lost amongst the noodles. 

Jianguo328 建国328小馆, 328 Jianguo Xi Lu, by Xiangyang Nan Lu, 建国西路328号, 近襄阳南路.

Lao Difang Mianguan  老地方面馆

Separated from the street but still very much a part of it, Lao Difang Mianguan is exactly as the name describes – an old, crowded storefront serving up noodles and pre-cooked toppings to hordes of people that line up outside on the daily. 

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Like other time-honored noodle shops, choose you noodle base – fitting for more than just the sake of this article, we suggest the Scallion Oil Noodles (RMB14) – and add on the extras of your choosing.

By this point you know the drill, it's just a matter of personal preference – how sweet you prefer your kaofu (braised wheat gluten), how spongy you prefer your suji (soy-based “chicken”), the marinade you gravitate towards for your dachang (braised large pork intestine), or the level of spice you crave on your larou (spicy pork). 

Whatever you order, it comes together lightning fast, centered around aromatic oil-slick noodles, charred scallions, and happiness. 

Lao Difang Mianguan 老地方面馆, 107 Sinan Lu, by Jianguo Zhong Lu, 思南路107号, 近建国路.

Old Jessie 老吉士酒家

A culinary powerhouse in the city’s dining scene, Old Jesse started out as a living room of an old house on Tianping Lu, later expanding into a chain of “New Jesse’s” that pump out Shanghainese classics like a machine, but the OG location is worth the ever-present wait, even if you make a reservation. 

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The Braised Noodles with Scallion Oil (RMB22) rivals the best of the them, with notably thicker cylindrical noodles – bouncy and al dente – sheathed by what could only be described as a metric ton of fried scallions.

And Old Jesse is no stranger to scallion-coated items; as one of the venue’s most famed dishes, the Roasted Scallion Fish Head (RMB228), is worth pre-ordering. 

Old Jessie 老吉士酒家, 41 Tianping Lu, by Huaihai Xi Lu,  天平路41号, 近淮海西路.

Xiao Tao Mianguan 小陶面馆

This 20-seater noodle shop embodies homestyle cooking – one of the many reasons it’s packed at all hours, with seats flipping every 10-15 minutes to make room for more hungry neighborhood dwellers.

The menu is all noodles, with an array of cooked toppings spread out in metal bowls of varying sizes. Similar to Lao Difang, Gusha Wumian Pu and so many other local noodle houses, patrons choose their noodle base and then select add-ons.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

But, unlike other noodle shops we visited, Xiao Tao Mianguan doesn’t change their preparation tactic for Scallion Oil Noodles (RMB16) to ensure a predominant scallion aroma – instead they toss their noodles in a black-pepper laden oil and finish it with a spoonful of fried scallions.

More just ganban (mixed) noodles rather than tried-and-true scallion oil noodles, we found the black pepper coating overpowers any spring onion flavor, the few scallion strands getting equally lost in the fray. 

The noodles are satisfyingly satiating regardless – they just aren’t proper scallion oil noodles when matched up against their contenders. 

Xiao Tao Mianguan 小陶面馆, 222 Jiashan Lu, by Yongjia Lu, 嘉善路222号, 近永嘉路.

Yunhe Noodle 雲和面馆

It’s hard to stray from Suzhou-style Three Shrimp Noodles, Yunhe Noodle’s must-order dish, but we make an exception for the venue’s Scallion Oil Noodles (RMB16).

Behind the shop, diners can watch ayis peel shrimp, rip open crabs, and de-shell crab legs, all in the name of their seafood noodle dishes; but if you sneak a peak in the kitchen, you’ll witness just as many ayis washing, drying, and slicing scallions length-wise, cutting them into roughly five-centimeter long strips to ensure the utmost crispness.

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Said scallion strands are added to hot oil and scorched to a golden brown, both infusing the oil with flavor and frying the scallions into brittle chips.

Perfectly uniform, thin Shanghainese noodles are tossed in the hot oil, garnished with a fistful of reserved fried scallions, and served still steaming. 

Choose to add meat-toppers, like fried pork ribs, for a few extra kuai. 

Yunhe Noodle 雲和面馆,  1603 Huashan Lu, by Huaihai Zhong Lu, 华山路1603号, 近淮海中路.

BONUS: Not So Scallion Oil Noodles

With scallion oil noodles being such an ingrained aspect of this city’s culinary tradition, it’s no surprise that other venues beyond local Shanghainese restaurants and noodle shops have embraced the flavor.

Here are three unconventional, yet equally delicious uses of this umami-bomb of flavor.

Gelato Dal Cuore’s Scallion Oil Noodle Gelato 

Gelato Dal Cuore's gelato flavors are a labor of love, with Italian-trained Gelato Chef Gerard Low focusing on sourcing the highest quality ingredients that result in the most ideal balance of taste and texture. 

Created as a tribute to Shanghai, the Scallion Oil Noodle Gelato (RMB38/2 scoops in a cup, RMB45/2 scoops in a cone) sees charred scallions browned in butter with premium soy sauce, lending this customarily sweet treat a deep umami richness.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Topped with actual “chow mein” noodles, that soften from the gelato’s creaminess, this gelato is a play on the senses; boldly savory with a prevalent scallion taste, worth sampling for the novelty alone.

Note: This flavor is only available at the Maoming Lu location.

Gelato Dal Cuore, W3-1B, 260 Maoming Bei Lu, by Weihai Lu, 茂名北路260号W3-1B, 近威海路.

Toasty by O’Mill’s Scallion Oil Focaccia 

O'Mills has developed a cult following for their bakery items and health-focused (without sacrificing flavor) all day brunch menu, which led to the opening of their fifth location, Toasty by O'Mills this past winter on Yanping Lu.

And for good reason, because – in short – their breads, pastries and cakes slap. 


One of the city's top notch bakeries.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Most famed for their breads (made with 72-hour fermented wild yeast sourced from London for maximum digestibility, flavor and fluff) we couldn’t recommend the Scallion Oil Focaccia (RMB16) highly enough.

This baked-fresh-daily focaccia is pleasantly chewy, light from ample air pocket holes, yet still boasts that crusty crunch.

A painting of salt-flecked homemade scallion oil – the same family recipe owner Xiao Xiao uses to make scallion oil noodles at home – is what takes this up to a 10. 

Toasty by O'Mills, #105, 135 Yanping Lu by Wuding Lu,延平路135号105室, 近武定路.

Shanghailander’s Scallion Oil Hua Zhuan Bun 

More than just your average coffee shop, Shanghailander is about European style pastries and coffee with an Asian twist. "We like to highlight our own personal favorite tastes," says co-owner and Shanghai-native Daniel.

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Aiming to create a bridge between Shanghainese and European breakfasts, the team came up with the Scallion Oil Hua Zhuan (RMB13) – a stretchy cinnamon roll dough base, brushed with intensely “scallion-ified” sesame oil and flecks of diced scallions, and cut to resemble a hua zhuan mantou bun. 

Reminiscent of breakfast scallion oil noodles in taste, the pleasantly stretchy dough pulls apart in layers like a pastry, ideal fodder for dunking in your morning Americano. 

Choose between the original, or the Scallion Oil Shanghai Ham Hua Zhuan (RMB18), with cubes of local-cured pork adding extra oomph to your brekkie. 

Shanghailander, 92 Wuyuan Lu, by Wulumuqi Lu, 五原路92号, 近乌鲁木齐路.

READ MORE: Show Us Your Best Noods! 8 Bowls of Chinese #PastaPorn

[Cover image by Sophie Steiner/That's]

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