Shanghai-born, U.S.-raised DJ Zhang (@ShanghaiGirlEats) has been prolifically writing about her culinary adventures since 2011. And even though the food blogging scene has waned over the years and largely migrated to Instagram, Zhang has stayed surprisingly relevant.
“I’m not disillusioned because I have my full-time job,” she says. “I’m not a food writer. I can just tell you if this dish is good or not.”
She’s active on Instagram as well. But what makes Zhang stand out from the legions of food-obsessed documentarians out there is how she’s kept up with Shanghai’s food scene for nearly a decade and still consistently posts despite not being a professional reviewer.
“The two areas in Shanghai that are still popping after all these years are the Bund and French Concession,” she says, referring to two upscale neighborhoods in Shanghai.
But lately, she’s been really into the Gubei district. “It has a lot of Japanese and Korean food,” she says, adding that many Japanese people frequent the restaurants there.
We caught up with Zhang over dinner in Shanghai, where she shared some of her recommendations for favorite restaurants.
One caveat: Zhang spent most of her life in the States, and her preferences are more international than strictly Shanghainese, but that’s exactly what makes her feed so attractive to the English-speaking world. Her taste buds pander to residents looking for something novel, while tourists can still find a uniquely Shanghainese culinary experience.
Best local fare
Best soup dumplings
Some travel to Shanghai just to have these steamed balls of pork and soup nestled in a soft dough casing. For xiaolongbao (小笼包), as they are called in Chinese, Zhang recommends Lin Long Fang Specialty Soup Dumplings (麟笼坊特色小笼包).
Best fried pork dumplings
Guotie (锅贴), or fried pork dumplings, are a breakfast staple in Shanghai that’s often eaten on the go. Zhang’s go-to choice is Yiren Yiguo Guotie Wang (一人一锅锅贴王).
Best hairy crab
Crab season, which runs from October to November, is always a grand affair in Shanghai. The crabs used, river crabs, are small and adored for their briny flavor, but it takes a lot of finessing to disassemble and suck out the meat and guts. Zhang loves the dish but hates the work, so she recommends Cheng Long Xing Palace (成隆行蟹王府). “It’s the best hairy crab without needing to use your hands,” she says.
Zhang is a self-proclaimed burger fanatic. Her pick? Highline. She’s especially a fan of the bacon cheeseburger. “Loose patty, bacon, gruyere, and pickles on a soft potato bun served with mayo. The pickled vegetables–carrots in particular–are fantastic,” she writes on her blog.
The lobster eggs benedict at Jean-Georges is “exactly how a good eggs benedict should taste,” says Zhang. Mr. and Mrs. Bund is another fine option. With dishes starting at around $10, it’s surprisingly affordable.
“HeyTea. All the wanghongs are raving about it,” Zhang says, referring to 网红, the Chinese slang for internet celebrity. “There’s a pineapple bun with boba and custard filling. It sells out really fast.”
The international classics
The latest fad
For the ’gram
“The Nest is a lounge and restaurant that really changed the scene. It’s late-night dining. The aesthetic is what sets it apart. Except now, there’s a lot of copycats.”