Show Us Your Best Noods! 7 Bowls of Chinese #PastaPorn – Part III

By Sophie Steiner, April 19, 2024

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Shanghai boasts an amazing array of global cuisine: from authentic Italian to genuine Korean; from unpretentious Colombian to dependable Turkish, we're spoiled for choice.

So much so that we often find ourselves guilty of foregoing the abundant resident mainstays in favor of the new and exciting and overseas. 

But, that ends – here and now. 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

We’ve made it a mission to re-discover our own backyard, celebrating the local cuisine in the country we live in. And what better place to start than glorious carb-laden noodles?

We could easily list out over 100 regional Chinese noodle dishes without batting an eyelash. And so we did…

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Just kidding (but close).

To save you all from going into immediate cardiac arrest via noodle overload, we broke it up into multiple parts, sharing our favorite spots around the city so you can find your regional carb delicacies. 

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

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


Changning La Mian 长宁拉面

Throw a stone in any direction in downtown Shanghai (even with a jello arm as weak as ours) and you’ll hit a Lanzhou pulled noodle shop. They’re a dime a dozen, harder to avoid than to find. 

So, for a Lanzhou noodle shop to stand out, to warrant going out of one's way rather than just settling on the closest option, there needs to be that 'wow' factor – something that makes it a cut above the rest, that extra je ne sais quoi.

Yet, there are such shops that garner a cult following, ones that are filled at peak hours and beyond – and for good reason. 

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Changning La Mian (长宁拉面) is one such shop, a humble storefront along Changning Lu that (despite looking like it was decorated for a kindergarten classroom with plastic chairs and tables in bold primary colors) serves up just one thing – Beef Noodle Soup (RMB13/small, RMB15/large)

The only 'ambiance' is the slurping of fellow diners around you, and alternating ooohs and aaahs as everyone’s insides are simultaneously warmed.

Which is probably why it’s open 24 hours a day and full round the clock. 

The wow factor we seek? It is in that slurp – the broth. 

It could be the soup’s robust meatiness from hours of simmering beef bones, viscous oil bubbles skirting across the top of the bowl ready to be lapped up with each mouthful.

Or maybe it’s the notably piney notes from a hefty hit of black pepper that laces each spoonful with a nip of spice.

It could also be the heaping scoop of aromatic cilantro and scallions that adorn the top – a substantial portion compared to other noodle shops.

Or possibly it’s the tender shavings of beef that are flavorful without being overly fatty.

Whatever it is – one gulp is capable of curing all ailments. 

Our only gripe? Give us the option of paying extra for more meat. Our next visit will involve some sweet talking to the ayi ladling bowlfuls...

Changning La Mian 长宁拉面, 458 Changning Lu, by Jiangsu Lu, 长宁路458号, 近江苏路.


Chimido 柴米多农场餐厅

Situated on the second floor of the revamped Wulumuqi wet market – the trendiest of all of Shanghai wet markets – is Chimido (柴米多农场餐厅), a modern Yunnan-cuisine-meets-wine-bar with an equally hip menu to match.  

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Aside from classics like Shiping-style grilled tofu and assorted mushrooms steamed in a banana leaf, there’s the restaurant’s signature dish, Mixan (RMB38-58) aka rice noodles in soup.

Available in three varieties – original Yunnan copper pot soup; sour fish soup; and morel mushrooms, prosciutto and black chicken soup – there are options to meet any definition of comfort food. 

Mild in flavor, the broth is subtle, filled out with thick, udon-like rice noodles – a generous portion that hugs the line of excessive.

If the ratios leaned closer to 50% soup, 50% noodles, we’d probably be back in a flash, but the abundance of tasteless, ropey carbs left us wanting more of everything else instead – be it soup toppings, soup broth, or simply more flavor across the board. 

That being said, there is something mysteriously comforting in a piping hot bowl of savory broth, so as a supplement to other dishes, we wouldn’t balk at a re-order.

Chimido 柴米多农场餐厅2/F, 318 Wulumuqi Lu, by Wuyuan Lu, 乌鲁木齐路318号二楼, 近五原路.


Gaga Chongqing Noodle 嘎嘎重庆小面

When a noodle shop is full of delivery drivers chowing down rather than just picking up for waimai, that’s always a good sign.

Every time we’ve stopped into Gaga Chongqing Noodle (嘎嘎重庆小面), it’s been that way, with the singsong echoes of Sichuan dialect bouncing off the walls.

Albeit located in Putuo, a bit of a trek from downtown, it ticks all the boxes a beloved neighborhood noodle joint should, warranting a regular revisit. 

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The noodle house’s namesake dish, Chongqing Xiao Mian (RMB25) is usually ordered combined with wanza (碗杂) toppings – ground pork, starchy cowpeas, bok choy, pickled vegetables and peanuts in a smarmy sesame paste and chili oil gravy of sorts.

Diners can choose between soup or dry, thin or wide noodles, and spice level. 

Compared to the complex spice found at Chongqing xiaomian shops in Sichuan, the heat here is straightforward, run-of-the-mill chili oil found on every noodle shop tabletop across town – heavy on the la, just a hint of ma, and some chili crisp. 

What’s lost in the complexity of the spice, however, is made up for in the duo-textured cowpeas – half fried, half smashed – and the nuttiness of the sauce that pervades each bite, slickly coating each individual noodle strand, authentic to true Chongqing wanzamian

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Depending on your spice tolerance, you can cool your mouth down post-heat feast with a hongtang bingfen (红糖水粉) for an extra RMB20 – a typical Sichuan dessert consisting of brown sugar soaked jelly, topped with hawthorn leather, raisins, and sesame seeds. 

Gaga Chongqing Noodle 嘎嘎重庆小面, 1130 Datong Lu, by Zhijiang Xi Lu, 大统路1130号近芷江西路.


JYJ Noodle Bar 金玡居

Jin Ya Jun, aka JYJ Noodle Bar (金玡居), has been a mainstay on iapm Mall’s sixth floor for nearly a decade.

With a menu sporting an abundance of regional Chinese noodle dishes, you could eat here every day for a month without repeating an order.

But, what piqued our interest most is a 'higher end' take on a popular Shanghai dish – sesame paste noodles...

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Take the sesame noodles of one of Shanghai’s most famous and time-honored shops – Wei Xiang Zhai – add ribbons of shaved beef, an onsen egg, julienned fresh cucumber, diced ginger, garlic, and scallions, and you’ve got yourself a well-rounded meal, the Angus Beef Sesame Sauce Noodles (RMB69)

While the portion size is ample, and we appreciate the added freshness and depth of flavor from the bonus ingredients, we found the whole plate to be somewhat sterile; the dish may be considered more 'refined,' yet we aren’t so sure if that’s a good thing in this case.

There’s something to be said about 'down and dirty' sesame paste noodles, served up by a screaming ayi because we aren’t ordering fast enough.

Although flavorful, the sesame paste sauce at JYJ Noodle Bar lacked that sticky lockjaw-inducing density – a milder, tamed down rendition to appeal to Western palettes. 

Both the OG Wei Xiang Zhai and the JYJ Noodle Bar iterations are worthy additions to the halls of Shanghai noodle fame, but the latter is clearly not a replacement for the former. 

JYJ Noodle Bar 金玡居, iapm Mall, L6-606, 999 Huaihai Zhong Lu, by Shaanxi Nan Lu, 环贸iapm商场, 淮海中路999号环贸广场L6-606, 近陕西南路.


Lanzhou Chenji Beef Noodle 兰州陈记牛肉面

Lanzhou Chenji Beef Noodle (兰州陈记牛肉面) has four locations in Shanghai, according to the Foodies' Bible, aka Dianping, but we can only vouch for the one we visited (address listed below).

Frankly, consistency across franchised budget noodle chains isn’t exactly China’s strong suit (while making unauthorized copies kinda is...) 

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The Clear Broth Beef Noodles (RMB22) are the most common order, with a whopping nine noodle shapes and thickness choices to select from (wide, thin, flat, round, buckwheat – you name it… and the list goes on).

For the price, the meat is abundant – a leaner cut with a pleasant chew. We also greatly appreciate the added chunks of daikon that soak up the broth’s richness.

One major tip: we suggest ordering it without spice (regardless of your heat preferences) and then adding your own level after sampling the broth.

We began with a large dollop of chili oil from the get-go (mistake!), which greatly masked the soup’s inherent depth, a distinguishing factor that nudges this Lanzhou noodle shop above the rest. 

Despite how busy the venue gets during meal times, it remains clean – reflected in what’s served on the plate, spanning everything from noodle soups to grilled shaokao meats and vegetables. 

Bonus: there’s complimentary red date tea for all those dining in, an added hit of warmth to survive any lingering brisk days of spring.

Lanzhou Chenji Beef Noodle兰州陈记牛肉, 1331 Lujiabang Lu, by Zhaozhou Lu, 陆家浜路1331号,近肇周路.


Mian Chi Guan Ran Mian Guan 面吃官燃面馆

Straight out of Chongqing (literally – the owner is a Chongqingren) comes Mian Chi Guan Ran Mian Guan’s (面吃官燃面馆) Yibin Ranmian (RMB24), considered the fieriest of all noodles from arguably China’s spiciest province. 

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The blaze is in the name, which translates to “burning noodles from Yibin,” a city in southeastern Sichuan where the Min River meets the Yangtze. And the secret is in the minced pork-to-crushed nuts ratio, balanced by preserved and pickled mustard tubers, called yacai

The sauce (which is hidden below the noodles to maintain heat until ready for tossing) is an aromatic medley of chili oil, roasted rapeseed oil, sesame seeds, spices, and more toasted and crushed peanuts. 

Finally, the noodles are not just your average Shanghai wet market noodles. Instead, these springy alkaline strands have a distinct chewy texture that hold up to both sauce and broth. 

The owner also clearly knows his way around a Sichuan peppercorn, resulting in the ideal balance of ma and la, one that (outside of Sichuan) tends to skew too far towards the former, so that you’re left with numbing onslaught that destroys your taste buds – and your ability to enjoy a dish along with it. 

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The finesse is in the restraint, one that lingers and tingles just at the outskirts of the corner of your mouth, while still allowing room for the other aromatics and spices to shine through.

That mix of spice is exactly what makes this one helluva bowl of tasteful noods. 

Pro tip: Don’t miss the large container of chili oil pickled daikon, a free add-on that kicks any dish up a notch. 

Mian Chi Guan Ran Mian Guan  面吃官燃面馆, 100 Yejiazhai Lu, by Changshou Lu, 叶家宅路100号, 近长寿路.


Second Sister 云洱云南小馆

Second Sister Yunnan Restaurant (云洱云南小馆) is the newest concept by the Azul Group, taking up residence in the old Xouk spot in 1000 Trees Mall.

Sitting on the mall’s 5th floor, the space is split evenly between outdoor and indoor seating, with expansive, sun-soaked views over Suzhou Creek.

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One of the restaurant’s signature dishes since day one, and a Yunnanese staple, Small Pot Rice Noodles (RMB38) – or mixian (米线) – boast a complex mix of sour and savory, a secret family recipe of Chef Li.

Slippery rice noodles encircle spiced ground pork, juxtaposed against crunchy pickled vegetables plus scallions, mint, and other herbs.

A warming bowl enjoyable year round. 

Second Sister Yunnan Restaurant, 开业酬宾 狂欢派对, 5/F, 1000 Trees, 600 Moganshan Lu, by Changhua Lu 大洋晶典5楼, 莫干山路600号, 近昌化路.


READ MORE:

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

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Show Us Your Best Noods! 9 Bowls of Chinese #PastaPorn – Part II

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[Cover image by Sophie Steiner/That's]

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