Every few days our team will scour Shanghai’s dining scene for scrumptious dishes that’ll fill your belly without emptying your savings. Not to discriminate, we’ll search everywhere from bicycle carts to chic venues with twenty-course tasting menus, knowing that any spot could have the next Dish of the Day.
We’re almost a month into summer and we can’t ignore the elephant in the room any longer. It’s xiaolongxia (小龙虾) season! So if you haven’t cracked open one of Shanghai’s most coveted crustaceans (perhaps second only to hairy crab), the time is nigh.
Countless sites have broken down Shanghai’s best xiaolongxia destinations, and you can do alright at any of these spots, but we’re partial to Duan’s Crayfish (段氏龙虾) because they let you select your meal from a pen of live crayfish, and they serve them with the heads on (66RMB per kilo).
Once you’ve chosen the desired amount of crayfish (one kilo feeds around two), it’s onto a hissing outdoor stove, where the critters are bombarded with a rainbow of spices, and jostled about until they turn from a glossy purple-black to a Christmas red. Afterwards, they’re presented in a metal tub mingled with onions and veg, upon which you strip the armor off the tail and unveil a red and white sprig of meat.
The flesh invokes lobster tail except more delicate and fragrant due to the infusion of Sichuan peppercorns, dried chilies, and other seasonings. Finish off each critter by sucking on the head like a prehistoric pacifier until you’ve absorbed all the buttery tomalley.
At the meal’s close, with your plate impossible to make out under a heap of shells, channels of crawdad juice inching their way down your forearms, and spices nibbling at your lips, you’ll know you’ve just been thoroughly xiaolongxia’d.
Duan’s Crayfish – 107 Changhua Lu, near Anyuan Lu (昌化路107号, 近安远路). Hours: 4pm-4am daily.
Last time on Dish of the Day: Frog @ Dong Da Shi
See a complete list of our Dish of the Day series here.
Have a recommendation for Dish of the Day? Let Shanghaiist’s food editor Benjamin Cost know at [email protected]!