Shanghai offers a huge range of dining at every price point imaginable. Fortunately for us, cost is not necessarily commensurate with quality in this town; you don’t have to break the bank to eat well. In fact, some of our favorite eateries offer bargain set lunches.
Mi Xiang Yuan
Hidden down an alley, Mi Xiang Yuan, a Shanghainese joint owned by a local celebrity chef and his family, serves affordable set lunches that bring in the crowds. Try their marinated pork rice bowl (卤肉饭, lǔròu fàn) or “lion’s head meatballs” (蛤蜊牛蒡肉圆套餐, gélí niúbàng ròu yuán tàocān), and you’ll also get a side of soup, tofu and vegetables of the day plus a bowl of rice, all for less than 30 RMB ($5), no matter which benbang main you try. You can’t beat that price in the Xintiandi neighborhood.
Yi Sheng Yue Wei
This home-style Canto restaurant has taken over the quiet end of Yongkang Lu, turning empty real estate into dining rooms and serving claypot dishes and Hong Kong-style roast meats from a central kitchen. Lunch sets here are less than 40 RMB ($6.50) and include soup of the day, steamed rice, pickled veggies and a “salad” – although don’t get your hopes up; more often than not it’s a single cherry tomato. Try the Qingyuan chicken (清远鸡), a regional steamed specialty served with ginger-soy dipping sauce.
Chenghuang Miao Tese Xiaochi
Don’t let the aggressive lunchtime crowds psyche you out at this local mini-chain. Order any of their dishes as a set meal (套餐, tàocān), and you’ll get a smaller portion of the dish, along with a small soup, rice, sautéed bean sprouts and pickled vegetables on a cafeteria tray. We love the spicy stir-fried pork (鱼香肉丝套餐, yú xiāng ròu sī tàocān) and can never resist an extra order of delicate soup dumplings on the side.
Braving the lunch rush here is worth it for sets that cost less than 45 RMB ($7.40) in a trendy Canto spot. The deal here includes fruit, preserved Chinese mustard greens, stir-fried bok choy and a big bowl of rice, as well as delicious mains, like our favorite whole perch steamed with veggies, chilis and fermented black beans (剁椒梅菜蒸鲈鱼, duòjiāo méicài zhēng lúyú), and sweet roasted pork with honey (蜜汁叉烧, mìzhīchāshāo).
Jian Guo 328
Their menu of “working day lunch specials” is all noodles, priced under 30 RMB ($5). For an extra 15 RMB ($2.50), you can add on a glass of their sweet black tea, wok-fried bok choy and a sliced deep-fried pork chop, which is one of the house specialties. We usually opt for a bowl of the fried pork noodles (炸酱面, zhá jiàng miàn) or scallion oil mixed noodles (葱油拌面, cōng yóu bàn miàn), both made without MSG.
Published on October 29, 2014
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