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Looking for the best Shanghainese noodles, the city’s most slurpable strands? From hairy crab specialists to the sesame sauce of your dreams, there’s something for everyone. Unlike the spicy strands of Sichuan or the pungent sauces of Dongbei, Shanghainese noodles, like the rest of the food native to the city, are characterized by the use of vinegar and sugar to create sweet and sour flavors, and pork is the go-to meat (although you will find seafood too). These tiny family-owned restaurants are a dying breed in a city where the RMB rules and shops with small margins are struggling to survive amongst rising rents, so hit them up now before they become part of Shanghai nostalgia. Come prepared to chow down, but don’t forget there’ll be a wait at most of these joints. 

Reservations are not available for these mom-and-pop owned shops, and demand for these nostalgic flavors is high, especially during the breakfast and lunch rush.


We can’t have a list of Shanghainese noodle shops without at least one restaurant that focuses on hairy crab. At Cejerdary, that focus is laser-like. There’s just a handful of dishes to choose from – a plate of hairy crab meat, a drunken hairy crab and, of course, the piece de resistance: the hairy crab noodles (蟹黄金 xiè huángjīn). One bowl includes the roe and meat from 12 crabs when they’re in season (it’ll take even more crab to fill a bowl when they’re not). This is of course reflected in the hefty price tag (RMB 360/US$56 per bowl), but it’s well worth the wait in the luxurious waiting rooms.

Lao Difang

A Shanghai legend, Lao Difang was rumored to be closing back in 2016, but thankfully Ms. Lu is still wielding her pen to take orders in the tiny former French Concession shop. You’ll hear mostly Shanghainese bandied about here, and the 30 varieties of noodles on offer are all local specialties. Try the eel noodles (鳝丝面, shàn sī miàn), made from the local freshwater wok-fried in a red-braised sauce with whatever greens are in season. Their Shanghainese take on the Beijing pork noodle dish (炸酱面 – zhá jiàng miàn) are also excellent.  There’s only about 12 seats at a push, so the lunch rush is always packed. But you’ll line up on one of Shanghai’s prettiest blocks to wait for your noodles.

San Lin Tang

Owned by a multi-generational family of wonton and noodles makers, San Lin Tang is old school. The noodles come standard – it’s the 浇头 (jiāotou – toppings) that make each bowl special. The options are all Benbang (Shanghinese homestyle) classics: wheat gluten (烤麸 kǎo fū), pork intestines (大肠 dàcháng), vegetarian “chicken” (素鸡 sù jī), pickled mustard greens (雪菜 xuě cài) and shiitake mushrooms (香菇 xiānggū). A side of wontons are a definite must!



Wei Xiang Zhai

This bustling noodle shop in the former French Concession serves up the city’s best sesame noodles (麻酱面, májiàng miàn). The workers haven’t changed in over a decade, and neither has the recipe or the service. Order from the front, grab any seat that’s available (or hover over a diner who is slurping their last noodle down), and clip your receipt to the clothespins on the table, numbered to denote where you’re sitting. Your noodles will be out before you blink because the only way a shop that sells their best product for RMB 13 (US$2) makes money is turnover.

Yi Gui He

Yangchun mian (阳春面 Yángchūn miàn) is the test of a good chef – and really good ingredients. Sometimes called “Shanghainese plain noodles,” the bowl is made up of wheat noodles floating in a pork and chicken stock with soy sauce and green onions plus lard – this is Shanghai after all! No better version can be found than the one at Yi Gui He. There’s also no going wrong with the scallion noodles (葱油拌面 cōng yóu bàn miàn) or the haipai (Shanghainese fusion from the colonial era) beef curry soup noodles.

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Jamie Barys

Published on November 16, 2021

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