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beijing shanghai hardcore local style eating recommendations

ill be in shanghai and beijing for 3 weeks this december and my primary goal is to eat...
im not interested in trendy expat, local nouveau riche, xintiandi type dining. i want OG locals only type places. are there any good websites or food blogs or flickr sets that you know of that are particularly good?


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  1. I do indeed have recommendations for you.

    In Beijing, let's start easy. Quanjude for the most wonderful, smoky, delicious Beijing Duck you've ever had. There are two locations, but I went to the original one located on the street "Qianmen Dajie" which is directly south of the bell tower at the southern end of Tiannamen Square. The one thing about this duck that made this duck different (and far superior in my opinion) was the intense smokiness of the duck that was lacking at the two other places we went (Liqin Roast Duck, worth the trip just for the old hutong surroundings which are quickly being demolished for ugly condo highrises) and Made in China, located in the Grand Hyatt east of the Forbidden City.

    There was one total hole in the wall place that served fantastic baozi (pork buns) and dumplings for breakfast, and super terrific dough slice noodles. It's in a random little hutong, and you'll be able to tell the place because there's usually a guy right in the front window slicing the noodles into a vat of boiling water. There is no name, but the address is 155-2 Lishi Hutong 100010 (postal code). To get there, orient yourself by going to the Dongdan metro station. Walk north on Dongdan Dajie (sometimes called Dondgan Nandajie or Dongdan Bedajie, depending on the part of the street you're on). This street runs parallel to the hugely touristy Wangfujing Dajie (Dajie means "street" in Mandarin) so it's not hard to find. Now as you're walking north, look for a Kodak Express on a corner on the east side of the street. The alley next to this Kodak Express shop is Lishi Hutong. (I believe across from the Kodak Express on the other side of the Hutong is a red store called "Meisse Underwear". Walk east down the Hutong, and this little shop is on the left side, next to a shop that sells stewed stick of various veggies and meaty things. Really, the baozi and dumplings (pronounced like "shway-jiao") here were absolutely killer, and the dough slice noodles..... wow! Also, it's hard to go wrong wandering the old alleyways (hutongs) and eating grilled lamb skewers at outdoor tables sitting on little kid sized chairs that Chinese people are so fond of.

    My last rec for Beijing is a place called "Old Beijing Noodle House". It's not hard to find, near Temple Of Heaven park and west of the Pearl Market. I'll have to check my notes for the business card and report back.

    As for Shanghai, we were largely disappointed with the food here. It tends to be very sweet and very greasy, though we did find a little hole in the wall... gotta research my notes on that one as well.

    Mr Taster

    2 Replies
      1. re: Mr Taster

        I must concur with Quanjude! We had the most delicious Peking Duck, perfectly crispy skin and greaseless, tender, flavorful meat.

        I had planned to try Da Dong (from CH recs, confirmed as good duck by a chef we met at Yung Kee in Hong Kong) but our driver brought us to Quanjude saying that Da Dong would require a long wait.

        There are actually six Beijing Quanjude locations: Tiananmen Sq is the original, a bigger fancier one on Wangfujing near the Beijing Hotel, three others (locations written in Chinese on my flyer so I don't know where they are) and Yayuncun, where we went, at 309 Huizhong Beili, between the 4th and 5th ring roads in Chaoyang district (north of Datun St).

        Our driver deposited us there since we were coming from the Summer Palace (and I think he lives on that side of Beijing). It is close to the new Olympic Village and bills itself as 'sports themed', ready to cash in on the Olympic crowds, with private rooms named after (and decorated in the styles of) cities that have hosted the Olympics. We ate in the high-ceilinged, spacious main floor room with views into the kitchen and at of the ducks emerging from the fruitwood fire oven. The service was really excellent, we were seated at a large table, lots of room between tables, definitely a top notch, comfortable experience.

        Duck with all the trimmings and soup at the end was Y198. That's two types of pancakes and also sesame-covered biscuits and lettuce for wrapping up your duck, with ginger and garlic as an alternative to hoisin. It is supposed to be 4 ways of eating Peking Duck. I loved that you actually got to eat the whole duck--in NY it seems that you get about ten slices from one duck. At Quanjude they say that each duck is sliced to produce 108 pieces, and you get the head, of course, also (the brain is not bad and the skin off the head is quite good). We also had duck gizzards (chewy but nice), jelleyfish steeped in a dark, winey vinegar, dao miu (I don't know the english spelling, that spinachy veg with garlic and black bean sauce, yum), an outstanding green bean with minced pork dish (my friend's uncle from Hong Kong said it was the best he had ever had), and little duck shaped cookies at the end. Dragon Seal cabernet sauvignon/gamay is really pretty good Chinese wine and only Y88 a bottle. All in all, for the total price for 4 (about Y500, $60), this was an outstanding meal in luxurious surroundings. Highly recommended!

      2. I disagree on the topic of Quanjude. I find their duck to be pretty flavorless, and the factory feel of the place does not appeal to me, either. Better choices are Dadong (on the 3rd Ring Road) or Liqun (near Qianmen).

        For Shanghai, you should probably go to Yuyuan Garden for a taste of touristy old Shanghai, where you can have the famous xiaolong bao at Nanxiang, though they are not as good as some you can find for a fraction of the price at street-side places. Also you should try shengjian bao at a street place; ask your hotel for recommended locations near where you're staying.

        1. Never tried Dadong but I couldn't disagree more about Liqin. We went to both Quanjude and Liqin on consecutive days and Liquin's duck was good (and the neighborhood more old-world Beijing than touristy Qianmen) but the duck was missing the intense smoky flavor that Quanjude had in droves.

          Incidentally, the hutongs around Liqin were in the process of being demolished, so who knows how much longer they will be around... I do recommend a visit if for no other reason than to see it before it disappears forever.

          The original Qianmen Quanjude neighborhood, incidentally, is currently surrounded on all sides by massive construction and scaffolding as Beijing reinvents itself for the Olympic masses. Quanjude, however, remains untouched... it's strange to see Quanjude a the only open shop while literally every building around it is shut down. It's tragic really, as I have heard the plans for the neighborhood are to tear down buildings that had been built up to nearly 600 years ago and replace them with all new buildings which are designed to appear old. Yes, you read that right... but that's the new Chinese government for you. What a waste. Thankfully someone in the Communist party seems to like original 150 year old Quanjude restaurant and was spared the wrecking ball.

          Mr Taster

          4 Replies
          1. re: Mr Taster

            Well, I was going to keep my big mouth shut but... I couldn't agree with you more about Liqun!!! People go to there thinking they're getting an "authentic" experience because it's in the hutongs... but it's filled with foreigners and I think the duck is terrible. The owner is some self-promoter.

            In case you were wondering what happened to some of the old Beijing restaurants in the Qianmen area, a bunch of them moved into one courtyard house in Houhai, near Soong Chingling's house. It's actually very charming, sort of a traditional lao Beijing food court. You grab a tray and walk from stall to stall gathering dishes. They have tripe, douzhi, dalian hushuo dumplings, sliced mutton, more sweets and bing than you can shake a stick at. The place is called Jiumen Xiaochi.

            1. re: Petitpois

              Your first clue to the fact that you're not getting a "local" duck experience at Liqin are the hordes of bicycle rickshaws that congregate outside. Of course they're outside Quanjude too, but that place makes no efforts to hide the fact that they appeal to tourists. Having said that, I really don't care that it's touristy when the duck is authentically prepared (hanging in the special oven fueled with the fruit wood), and really is *that* good.

              Mr Taster

              1. re: Petitpois

                To each his own, I loved Quanjude (it's a big operation but in my experience they take care to ensure quality duck, run their own farms for consistent supply, and "bony"? not the one I had...).

                I didn't try Liqun but Chinese friends who went there on a Beijing trip a month before we were there agreed with Petipois that the duck there "sucked". They wished they had gone to Quanjude after our descriptions. I wish we had had time to try Da Dong and compare...a big attraction of that place may be that it is less expensive for excellent duck, but long waits are usually involved from what I hear.

                1. re: kenito799

                  Well, none of these places are cheap! Liqun used to be inexpensive, but the owner saw RMB signs... it's not now.

            2. I have to admit, I have not been to Liqun/Liqin, and also that I am not a big fan of Beijing duck. However I truly do not care for Quanjude at all, since I feel the ducks there are just bony and not very tasty at all.

              1. No one is mentioning Bianyifang. Is it gone? their oven was different than Quanjude's - which is more of a hearth.

                1. Maybe too late to help you, but for Shanghai, here's an extensive listing of small eats places beloved of locals, with addresses and nutshell characterizations of most:


                  1. hey everyone, just a brief update, im now in beijing after spending about 4 days in shanghai. i have about ten more days in shanghai after this....

                    some brief notes that i should elaborate on later:
                    first day in beijing: xinjiang food at the place by workers stadium north gate. food is good, not hardcore xinjiang like the old "xinjiang villages" where they used to offer you hash once you stepped in, but good noneless for "la tiao" and "lamb plate"

                    dinner at "made in china" two ducks. the works... good stuff. i think ill check out the new da dong in the ming dynasty grainery two days from now.

                    shanghai: i've been cock blocked on the xiao long bao front. went to ding tai fung at 3:01. they closed at 3. ended up at zen for dim sum... went to jia jia tang bao at 6pm. sold out...instead had so so tang bao at that one pedestrian food street off of nanjing lu... was supposed to have lunch again at ding tai fung with friends but my ayi made wontongs for me so i felt guilty and cancelled and ate her rather bad dumplings...

                    my friend took me for great chiu chow fresh crab congee at 4am which i believe was in xujiahui somewhere. ill find the info...
                    cooked fresh in clay pot with fresh crab and shrimp.

                    had yunnan food that my friends raved about but i thought was kinda touristy and designy with so so food. they have yunnanese minority dishes and some burmese dishes. its called "lost heaven". mostly expats in a designer setting with dramatic lighting...

                    had an amazing hunanese meal at "guyi" with seven friends..

                    had a few good meals in hangzhou. one by the lake near xihu that had a so so beggars chicken. and had a good meal in a small town called ning ping. my friends coworker even managed to call ahead and arrange a plate of "xiao ma chuan" which are sparrows and actually illegal to eat cuz of endangerment and they help fight insects... woops! they were tiny and you eat the entire bodies as they were fried and the bones are crunchy. i also had the famous hangzhou wontons with skins made of fish meat. that was very delicate... steamed pork balls covered in sticky rice... hmmm. i have pictures so ill have to elaborate more...

                    but thanks again for everybodies input...
                    im on my way to check out some artists villages right now.
                    i also saw the beginnings of rem koolhaas' cctv headquarters...

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: modernist

                      In Shanghai, if you happen to be doing the Lu Xun Park/Duolun Lu thing, there's a little place nearby that happens to have what many consider to be the best "san xian" (three-flavor) wonton soup in town. I can't vouch for that, but it was very good. It's Wan Shou Zhai at 123 Shan Yin Lu, just down the street from the memorialized Lu Xun residence. The xiaolong bao there is thought highly of as well by the locals, but at lunchtime they appear to stockpile it; my order came much too fast and the top-knots on the XLB were a little dried out and the wrapper generally showed signs of brittleness. At any rate, they are only 7 kuai for 16 baozi; compare that to Din Tai Fung's 45 yuan for 10, and cut Wan Shou Zhai a little slack.

                      1. re: Gary Soup

                        Are the three flavors distinctly "taste-able"? What were they?