by Jamie Barys, Chief Eating Officer of UnTour Food Tours
Looking for Shanghai’ Best Xibei (Northwestern) food? The food from China’s northwestern provinces of Xinjiang, Gansu, Qinghai, Ningxia and Shaanxi is culturally unique in the country. The dishes focus mostly on the halal flavors of Muslim cuisine from China’s 10 ethnic minorities who practice Islam. The Hui minority are the largest group of Muslims in China, and their diaspora reaches well across the country to China’s eastern shores, and especially in Xi’an, the former terminal city of the Silk Road. Uighurs – the second largest ethnic group in Xinjiang – have mostly remained in the region. Uighurs are descendants from the ancient Sogdian traders once observed by Marco Polo, and unlike many of the nomadic tribes of Central Asia, the Uighurs are an urban people whose identity crystallized in the oasis towns of the Silk Road. The cuisine of the Hui and Uighur is halal, meaning that there is no pork (or alcohol – although beer often makes it in to restaurants in China), and all meats must be butchered halal. The cuisine often feels more Central Asian or Middle Eastern than Chinese food, thanks to the usage of strong spices like cumin and the addition of naan bread to the table.
A Luo Xinjiang Restaurant (阿罗新疆餐厅)
This highly-rated Uighur restaurants does all the classics perfectly. You don’t want to miss their thick yogurt, served topped with your choice of honey from their home region or chopped nuts.
People’s Square Location: 9F, 2-68 West Nanjing Road, near People’s Square.
Xuhui Location: 2F, 1 Dapu Lu, across from SML Plaza.
Dunhuang Xiaoting (敦煌小ீ)
Dunhuang, a former Silk Road oasis town in present-day Gansu province, was a historical refuge for weary travelers peddling their wares along the trade route, and this confluence of cultures influenced the ancient city’s cuisine. Dunhuang Xiaoting, which translates loosely as Dunhuang Rest Stop, offers Shanghai diners a break from the southern staples of rice and pork.
Changning Location: 591 Dingxi Lu, near Xinhua Lu. 定西路591号近新华 .
Jing’an Location: 333 Changde Lu, near Beijing Xi Lu. 常德路333号, 近北ி西路
Xuhui Location: B1, 580 Tianyaoqiao Lu, near Lingling Lu. 天钥桥路580号星游城B1楼, 近零路
Lanzhou Lamian (兰州拉面)
At neighborhood halal restaurants around the city (of which there are hundreds), expert noodle masters create spaghetti-thin strands from fresh dough right before your eyes. Most are named after the capital city of Gansu province (Lanzhou) and the pulled noodle dish (lamian), but some of these spots will be called Xibei Lamian or Qingzhen Niu Rou Mian (halal beef noodles).
Huangpu Location: 638 Fangbang Lu, near Luxiangyuan Jie. 方浜中638弄园.
Jing’an Location: 326 Wulumuqi Bei Lu, near Nanjing Xi Lu. 乌鲁木齐北路326号近南ி西路.
Lele Xinjiang Fengwei Canting (乐乐新疆风味餐厅)
Tucked away down a street near Old Town, this small restaurant does a bustling trade big plates of chicken. The friendly owners are always ready with a smile and a joke, and they are a highlight of UnTour’s Night Markets tour. The giant silver grill is located outside the restaurant, roadside to entice passersby, and you can watch the fat sizzle on the lamb skewers that everyone orders while dining at Lele.
272 Dongtai Lu, near Fuxing Zhong Lu. 东台路272号近复兴中路.
Miss Ali (阿里家)
Yan Ali didn’t like the way her native cuisine was often represented in Shanghai – with waiters robed in garish costumes and performing songs and dances from their region – and decided to create a more accurate representation of the restaurants of Xinjiang. Think wooden tables lit by bright lanterns that wouldn’ be out of place in a Turkish bazaar and walls lined with photos of the night markets in Turpan and local minority children at play in their hometowns.
FFC First Location: 133 Fuxing Lu, near Yongfu Lu. 复兴西路133号近永福路
FFC Second Location: 101 Yandang Lu, near Nanchang Lu. 㞜荡路101号近南昌路.
Jing’an Location: 2F, 20 Yuyuan Dong Lu, near Tongren Lu.愚园东路20号2楼近同仁路
Every Friday afternoon, the area around Putuo district’s Huxi Mosque becomes a showcase of culinary delights from the city’s Muslim community. Visit the market around lunchtime to try lamb in all its glorious forms. Perfectly seasoned cumin lamb skewers are a must, but fried and oven-roasted mutton-stuffed dumplings can also be found, as well as other vendors selling traditional jewelry, precious gems and more. This market has suffered shutdowns in the past, so it’s worth checking out before the authorities further stamp out the minority culture on display.
Corner of Aomen Lu and Changde Lu. 澳门路和常德路的路口.
Years before Miss Ali had dreamed up her turquoise lamps, Xibo was starting the trend of high-end, design-focused Xinjiang restaurants in town. They just had their seventh anniversary (a lifetime in Shanghai, especially for a restaurant located on the third floor), and are still going strong, thanks to their excellent food and not-too-shabby cocktail program.
3F, 83 Changshu Lu, near Julu Lu. 常熟路83号3楼, 近巨鹿路.
Zhu Que Men (朱㞛门)
Shaanxi province is famous for having more than 100 types of noodle dishes, and Zhu Que Men has hand-picked some of the best strands– all made in-house – to show off the regional cuisine in Shanghai. The owner, showcasing another local specialty, carefully curates the vinegars used in each noodle dish.
Zhabei Location: 101 Zhenping Lu, near Zhongshan Bei Lu. 镇坪路101号近中山北路.
Jing’an Location: 477 Aomen Lu, near Jiangning Lu. 澳门路477号近江宁路.
Written by Jamie Barys, Chief Eating Officer at UnTour Food Tours.
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