Shanghai’s recent spate of shitty weather has gotten us hungry for soup. And when we say “soup,” we generally mean the kind of soups we grew up eating during cold Pennsylvania winters. Chunky soups. Soups, to borrow a slogan, that eat like a meal. On a recent trip home, we dined a couple times at Panera Bread Company, which serves, among other things, hearty soups in sourdough bread bowls. We remember thinking Panera would be one of the American chain restaurants we’d like to see exported to China, instead of Applebee’s or TGI Friday’s.
We like a good chowder (or chowdah — see embedded video), but pickings are slim in Shanghai. Last week, however, we happened upon a Manhattan Clam Chowder (that’s the red one) that passed our taste test and, even better during this time of year, came delivered piping hot to our apartment. It comes from Element Fresh, which charges RMB 48 for a bowl (free delivery) that is packed with clams and potatoes (we added some fresh ground pepper on our own, but we do that with almost everything we eat). The “bowl” portion is huge — definitely more than one serving — and it should be noted that we later ordered the “cup” portion (RMB 32) and the serving seemed almost identical to the bowl. Anyway, worth a try — definitely not the best chowder we’ve ever had, but perhaps the best we’ve tried in Shanghai.
In the past, we have been big fans of the seafood chowder in a bread bowl at A Future Perfect, and we wanted to be able to recommend it here, so we ordered it via Sherpa’s for lunch today. Either we’re usually too drunk on wine while eating at AFP to notice our food or something has changed with the chowder. It was runnier than we remember and almost totally devoid of, yes, seafood. While it does come delivered with a bread bowl (if you ask), the serving is about a third the size of what you get from Element Fresh and, once delivery fees are tacked on, it is RMB 57. Disappointing.
But while we definitely enjoy food, we are by no means a foodie. So we posed the “Shanghai soup” question to two guys who get paid to eat and write about it: Former SH food guy Jarrett Wrisley, and his successor Christopher St. Cavish.
“I haven’t found a half decent chowder in town yet,” said Jarrett. And, tellingly, only one of their soup recommendations is of the Western variety. Well, when in Shanghai …
- Black Chicken Soup at Hengshan Cafe
- Double-Boiled Chicken Soup at Crystal Jade and Din Tai Fung
- Mushroom Tea at Jean-Georges (“Though I doubt anyone would go there simply to eat soup.”)
- Ramen at Yakitori Fukuchan (“Kicks ass.”)
- Pork and Yellow Bean Soup at Fu 1088 (“Really delicious. Chris just gave them 5 stars. They have about 10 soups there actually — I suspect they’re all good but can’t say.”
Chris’ picks (many described in more detail in this SH story):
- Country Chicken (Jia Ji) Conjee at Yi Fang Seafood Conjee (“They’ve got two pages of animals you can choose from … it’s a great winter pick me up. About ¥60.”)
- Ginseng Chicken Soup at Hengshan Cafe (“If you like ginseng.”)
- Laksa at Parkson’s New Crossroads (“Is laksa cheating?”)
- Bak Kut Teh (“or rou something cha“) at Parkson’s New Crossroads (“Translates roughly as ‘meat tea,’ and it’s a Malaysian pork rib soup, with youtiao. They’ll give you a little side dish of sweet soy and garlic/chili that you’re meant to use to season the soup.”)
- Chicken Soup at Grandma’s Kitchen (“The line is, appropriately, long.”)
- Several soups at Hamilton House
- Jiangxi Style Soup at either Tian Yuan Ge (“Soups are cheap (¥6-16, if not less), and come in blazing hot clay pots. I’ve been once, but it was too late, and the choice was very limited. Still, it’s a good, inexpensive way to try four or five different kinds.”)
- Hot and Sour Soup at Di Shui Dong
Chris closed, however, by saying this: “Although, to be honest, I haven’t been eating soup at many of these restaurants recently — I’ve been making tons of soup at home. Black bean, red bean, pumpkin and vegetable.”
Hmmmm. Chris, start looking for real estate. Shanghai could sure use a Soup Nazi.
This list is by no means complete. Please tell us your thoughts in a comment. Any soups in Shanghai we should check out?
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