Guide to treasured stores on Shunchang Road
Just one block away from Xintiandi, life on Shunchang Road is totally different. With a history of more than a century, it’s almost the only place still keeping the authentic Shanghai lifestyle as decades ago in the central urban district.
The 1.3-kilometer street was dubbed “Market Road” in the 1930s, and became a famous food street in the 1990s. Most of the food stores have been open for decades, still offering customers the most authentic Shanghai traditional food.
The street used to have many big-name landmarks, including the Tianchu aginomoto plant of tycoon Wu Yunchu and Aotu Printing House which now only exist in photos and memories.
No. 550 Shunchang Road is a 100-year-old building that used to be the Shanghai Art College, the first higher education institute for art founded by Chinese artist Liu Haisu. The school has been a residential building for decades. It will be restored to its original look in a renovation project. Western-style carved patterns and French windows on the building are still identifiable, and visitors are allowed to take photos in the cluttered corridor.
With the progress of a government demolition and relocation project, the traditional Shanghai longtang, or alleyway, along the road is gradually emptying. Residents have begun to move out, and the land is to be developed for commercial use. The treasure stores may move into the modern shopping malls, or close in the next six months.
It’s the time to check out the time-limited Shunchang Road and taste its authentic food.
Shengxing Snack Store
As a time-honored food store open for nearly 100 years, Shengxing sells just three kinds of Shanghai traditional snacks — wonton, tangyuan (glutinous rice balls with sweet or salty fillings) and zongzi (a traditional glutinous rice dumpling wrapped in reed leaves).
It is a small store with just four old wooden tables. Regular customers even stand to eat. Mobile payment is not available, so don’t forget to bring cash.
All the snacks here are freshly made, and the chefs in white uniforms can be seen making tangyuan at the window.
The signature dish named quanjiafu (literally means family photo), is a combination of assorted snacks, including five wonton and two tangyuan, one with pork filling, and the other with sesame filling. It’s a special offer to try all the signature snacks in the store, priced at just 14 yuan (US$2.16).
The reporter’s favorite is the tangyuan with pork filling. The filling tastes like the famous steam bun after a bite, with plenty of soup inside, but its glutinous rice skin is chewy and a little sweet, providing a rich flavor. The tangyuan is almost as big as a fist and sold by piece, at 3.5 yuan each.
Do not miss the traditional Shanghai-style wonton here. Its wrapper is made with alkaline water, which not only makes up for the lack of gluten but also gives the wonton skin a lovely golden color.
They also offer uncooked snacks for takeout, but you need to pay 1 yuan for a box.
Address: 528 Shunchang Rd
Opening hours: 6:30am-5pm
Hualiang Fresh Noodle Store
Located at the corner of Shunchang Road and Hefei Road, this store has been making noodles for 72 years, still using an old-style machine to make their signature fresh noodles. This unique machine requires an experienced worker to keep the special bite of fresh noodles ever-so-slightly chewy.
As a historic brand of authentic Shanghai noodles, there is always a queue in front of the store. The signature products, wonton wrapper and fresh noodles, are sold at 3.5 yuan per half kilogram. Moreover, Hualiang has been providing ingredients for some of the city’s time-honored noodle shops for decades.
It also provides some seasonal products, such as fresh spring roll wrappers in spring, and Shanghai cold noodles in summer.
The fresh noodles are made in the early morning, so don’t be late.
Address: 107 Hefei Rd
Opening hours: 6:30am-6pm
Dongfeng Yanla Store
Yanla literally means “preserved and cured meats.” The Dongfeng store opened over 90 years ago and only sells Chinese preserved meat.
The 10-square-meter shop offers almost all kinds of preserved meat used in Shanghai dishes, including tasty Chinese sausages made from marinated pork, and air-dried duck, goose and fish.
As a neighborhood store, Dongfeng has a reputation for uncompromising quality. “I’ve bought salted pork here for 40 years, it’s a must-come store to cook a family dinner,” said a frequent customer.
Chinese salted pork, called Nanfeng meat in Shanghai, is the signature product in the store. It’s one of the most important ingredients in Shanghai dishes, such as yanduxian, a signature delicacy of springtime, a soup made with fresh spring bamboo shoots, salted pork and fresh pork.
The huge salted pork legs and ribs are piled up on the counter, cut after being ordered, charged by weight, the same as in the old days.
The 70-year-old owner is the third generation of the store, and the old store will be closed when the demolition begins.
Address: 469 Shunchang Rd
Opening hours: 8am-5pm
Operated by Li Kuiyuan, his wife and three daughters, Jiangxi Restaurant has been attracting customers with its unique stir-fry for over 16 years.
As the name suggests, it’s a restaurant offering authentic Jiangxi stir-fry dishes, featuring crisp quality, fragrance and modest taste (a little spicy).
The kitchen is outside, with a long chimney — which is said to be used when an authentic stir-fry is set on fire. When the reporter passed by the store, two of the sisters were stir-frying, while another sister was cutting vegetables at an amazing speed, as well as taking orders.
There are eight pans to stir-fry different dishes. “All the dishes must be cooked separately to keep the authentic flavor,” one of Li’s daughters said.
The restaurant is crowded, and so is the menu. There are almost 100 choices printed on a red poster on the wall, as well as an A4-size menu for customers to order from.
Honestly, the reporter took over 10 minutes to read the menu and make her order.
The dishes are piping hot, served less than one minute after stir-frying. That’s the point of an awesome Chinese stir-fry dish.
The signature stir-fry Jiangxi rice noodles are priced at 15 yuan. They were 4 yuan when the restaurant first opened. Although it’s a quick-fry, the rice noodles provide a rich taste, with eggs and vegetables, a bit spicy but quite delicious.
The pepper and preserved vegetables are the soul of the Jiangxi flavor. Li said he brought them from his hometown to keep the authentic flavor.
Address: 522 Shunchang Rd
Opening hours: 10am-11pm