DJ Zhang (@ShanghaiGirlEats) at one of her favorite restaurants in Shanghai.
Food

Where a food influencer eats in Shanghai

Nov 28, 2018

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.”

DJ Zhang has over 16,000 followers on Instagram.
DJ Zhang has over 16,000 followers on Instagram. / Photo: Nicholas Ko

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.

Zhang has been documenting Shanghai’s food scene since 2011.
Zhang has been documenting Shanghai’s food scene since 2011. / Photo: Nicholas Ko

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

For classic Shanghainese dishes like red-braised pork, slippery shrimp, and tofu with crab, Zhang recommends Old Jesse and Dianshi Zhaixiaoyan (点石斋小宴).

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).

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

My favorite place for soup dumplings (“xiaolongbao”) in Shanghai. My favorite things to order are pork and salty egg yolk xiaolongbao (咸蛋黄鲜肉小笼包) and XL size pure crab roe xiaolongbao (纯蟹粉小笼包) wrapper in thin skin and made on the spot after you place your order. Big or baby wontons (大馄饨、小馄饨) here are good too if you have room. Don’t fret, they have a sheet with rough English translations to order with if you don’t know Mandarin.📍Lin Long Fang Specialty Soup Dumplings - 10 Jianguo Dong Lu / 麟笼坊特色小笼包 - 建国东路10号 (other branches available but this branch is the best). Alipay or cash (no WeChat pay).

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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.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

It's hairy crab season in Shanghai.

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Best burgers

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.

Best brunch

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.

Best dessert

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.”

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

In America, people line up around the block for Supreme drops. In China, we partake in long lines for internet-famous (网红) god knows what like... bubble tea. If you live in Shanghai, you have seen the hour-long waits for Heytea (喜茶), which sells fruit and milk teas. A Heytea bread flagship just opened in Xintiandi (currently the only Heytea branch that sells freshly baked bread) and it is madness. Batches come out every half hour and some breads are like rare Pokémons — you don’t know when they will come out and as soon as a poor kitchen baker brings them out, hangry girls surround him and snatch them up with snapping tongs. Anyway, so I got really lucky and was walking by the store just as they were bringing out these pineapple buns with milk tea flavored filling and tapioca bubbles and managed to snag 2 buns before anyone noticed. A second later, only 1 bun was left with three girls battling tongs. So if you can’t get the tapioca milk tea bun, the taro stick is also good and more commonly baked. Lol I love Shanghai tings. 经过喜茶随便看了一眼,居然厨房刚出爆浆波波包!被我抢到了2个。1秒后全部抢光!哇哇哇再也不会有这种运气了。📍Heytea (this branch has the bread) - 150 Hubin Lu, 1/F, Hubin Dao Mall / 喜茶 - 湖滨路150号湖滨道购物中心1楼 #xicha #heytea #喜茶

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The international classics

“I like Mercato for the truffle farm egg pizza. Robuchon and Villa Le Bec are great as well. Le Bec is a classic French restaurant with an entire villa.”

The latest fad

“Poke is hot,” Zhang says. Little Catch and Miss Poke are at the top of Shanghai’s raw fish bowl wave.

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.”

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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