15 warming winter dishes in Shanghai

Warm yourself inside out with our favourite comfort food in the city

Pie's Society's seriously beefy pie

Seriously beefy pie at Pie Society, 48RMB

Succulent meat and buttery shortcrust pastry – mmm, pie. Thankfully, former pop-up pie purveyors Pie Society have now opened a permanent location and you can indulge in this satisfying combination whenever the craving hits.

The new space is more bright and business-like (i.e. just like a traditional British pie and mash shop) than cosy, but opt for the Seriously Beefy hand-made pie (48RMB) filled with juicy rump steak cooked in Guinness with carrots and mushrooms, and you’ll feel lovely and warm after just a few bites. An extra 14RMB will get you a side of mashed potato or some mushy peas to fill your belly and feed your soul.

Pie Society 381 fanyu Lu, near Fahuazhen Lu. See full address details.

Mac and Cheese at Liquid Laundry, 45RMB

Is there any better pasta accompaniment than cheese? Come winter, we think not. But the debate over who does the best is more complicated. We’re fans of Element Fresh’s version, as well as Captain Rooster’s, and the recently opened District Bar & Kitchen’s; but we think that perhaps the four cheese mac and cheese (45RMB at dinner) at Liquid Laundry takes the prize as most delicious.

Slight caveat, it’s only served as a side, so we wouldn’t advise sharing; but never mind, with dishes such as duck nuggets (68RMB) and mini Reuben sliders (88RMB) on the menu, you’ll be hard pressed to leave hungry.

Liquid Laundry 1028 Huaihai Zhong Lu, near Donghu Lu. See full address details.

Fondue at La Cabane, 168RMB


While fondue probably clocks in as perhaps the least healthy entry on this list, nothing says ‘I don’t care about calories because I can wear a coat’ like eating lots of it. This wonderful concoction of bread dipped in melted cheese manages to fill the void that summer leaves in our hearts by giving us something delicious to take our minds off the outside chill. La Cabane’s fondue (168RMB – best shared to avoid drowsiness) hasn’t exactly been top of our cravings list throughout the long hot Shanghai summer, but now looks well set to come into its own.

La Cabane 1 Taojiang Lu, near Dongping Lu. See full address details.

Chicken tikka masala at Masala Desi, 64RMB

When it’s freezing outside and you can’t face the thought of moving from your sofa, curry is generally the solution to your woes. Masala Desi is available on Sherpa’s and we’ve found ourselves ordering it a little too often as the cold weather has set in. The spicy, fragrant onion and tomato-based chicken tikka masala (64RMB) is a solid bet; add some gobi paratha (bread stuffed with cauliflower, 28RMB) into the mix and head into the eating zone. You’ll feel like a different, warmer person when you re-emerge.

Masala Desi 401 Dagu Lu, near Chengdu Bei Lu. See full address details.

Xiaolongbao at Din Tai Fung, 64RMB


Generally in Shanghai, all dumplings are good dumplings, be they from Yang’s Fry Dumpling or any of the hole-in-the-wall gems you’ll find dotted around the city – especially when you’re in need of a quick on-the-go filler during those biting winter months. But if you’re in the mood for some calming comfort and a slightly more refined experience, we recommend heading to a branch of Din Tai Fung.

Given the fresh ingredients involved in their xiaolongbao (64RMB per basket) – not to mention the lack of cheese – we’ve convinced ourselves that these steaming pockets of heavenly porky goodness are possibly the healthiest recommendations on this list. Regardless, they’re perfect winter warmers – eat liberally.

Din Tai Fung Shanghai Centre, 1376 Nanjing Xi Lu, near Tongren Lu. See full address details.

Big plate chicken at Miss Ali, 58RMB


Sometimes all you need in life is a heaving plate of chicken with a bunch of vegetables mixed in to make you happy. Miss Ali (now with a new branch opposite Boxing Cat on Fuxing Xi Lu to replace their soonto- shutter Dagu Lu original) is a cosy Xinjiang eatery where you can’t seem to order badly.

And if you’re in need of something warming, their ‘Big plate chicken’ (dàpánji) is quite literally, a big plate of chicken (58RMB small; 98RMB large) served with crunchy chillis and filling potatoes. The ‘small’ serving is plentiful enough to share between a few and it also comes with a side of rice noodles just to make perfectly sure you don’t leave anything less than stuffed.

Miss Ali 133 Fuxing Xi Lu, near Yongfu Lu. See full address details.

Crawfish etouffee at Ruijin Cajun, 60RMB

Ruijin Cajun isn’t in the most glamorous of dining destinations; but being tucked inside the low-lit Kangaroo Bar on Yongjia Lu can be seen as an advantage when it comes to hunkering down and scoffing some serious energy in the form of their crawfish etouffee (60RMB). This hearty Southern US-style dish is a mix of crawfish (obviously) with a thick and rich tomato-based sauce dotted with veggies, herbs, and served with a steaming hot side of rice.

Ruijin Cajun 35 Yongjia Lu, near Maoming Lu. See full address details.

Poutine at Tock's, 42RMB


When trying to choose a deep fried potato dish for this list we were faced with a glut of options. So after debating whether to include Charlie’s ‘awesome fries’ (35RMB) or Union Trading Co.’s tachos (tater tot nachos – yummm), we settled on the poutine from Tock’s (42RMB). Why, you ask? Because chips covered in cheese curds, covered in gravy. Love is the only answer.

Mashed potato (22RMB) and fried cheese (40RMB) at Lotus Eatery

For a while we wondered if this list had a few too many potato and cheese combinations on it. But it is winter after all, and we couldn’t not include Lotus Eatery’s mashed potato (22RMB) when talking about comfort food. The large serving of mashed potatoes has a wonderfully runny-yet-scoopable consistency and is punctuated flavour-wise by scallions and the occasional chili pepper.

While you’re there, don’t skip the energy-dense and mighty-moreish fried goat’s cheese (40RMB; although we’re partial to Secret Haven’s fritter version, too).

Lotus Eatery 1112 Dingxi Lu, near Wuyi Lu. See full address details.

Eel rice at Unagi, 100RMB


Ending this round up on a slightly more refined note is Wulumuqi Zhong Lu eatery Unagi’s eel rice (100RMB large; 70RMB small). This dish can easily be shared between two with a couple of other sides (the omelette at 28RMB is divine), however there’s something wonderfully satisfying about hogging a whole serving to yourself and indulging in the combination of fatty eel dipped and grilled multiple times to create sticky and smoky flesh, served on a bed of light, steaming white rice.

Pick and mix with condiments including wasabi, sesame seeds and kombu broth, for a flavour-fuelled food adventure that’s hard to top.

Unagi 342 Wulumuqi Zhong Lu, near Wuyuan Lu. See full address details.

And for added eating pleasure, here are five dishes from our 2012 round up that are still keeping us warm.

Beef fajitas at The Chalet, 80RMB

The Chalet is consistently underrated for its food, but these sizzling beef fajitas are one of several great comfort dishes. Bag yourself a spot on the sofa or close to the electric fireplace at the back and go for this noisy dish that will cause everyone to look over, then order some themselves. The hissing strips of tender beef sit atop a pile of greasy pepper and onion slices and are served with sour cream, tomato salsa, cheddar cheese, shredded lettuce and a clutch of flour tortillas to wrap it all up in. Pair this with The Chalet’s ‘famous’ bowl of fries (35RMB) or the moreish chicken strips (50RMB) and you’ll forget all about the weather outside.

The Chalet 385 Yongjia Lu, near Taiyuan Lu. See full address details

Pork belly at Kota’s Kitchen, 45RMB

Excellent Beatles-themed yakitori (Japanese barbecue) joint, with a relaxed vibe and quality food at reasonable prices. Usually busy with Kota loyalists tucking into the excellent skewers of grilled meats, vegetables and cheeses to a soundtrack of Beatles hits and covers.

We named their pork belly as one of the best dishes in the city back in April 2011 and its place in our affections hasn't altered since. Braised to perfection, the belly is finished off with a blowtorch to create tear-away, mouthwatering strips of deliciously tender, fatty meat. It’s a simply masterful dish. One thing to note: this pork belly appears on the menu as hongshaorou, and shouldn’t be confused with the yakitori pork belly here, although that’s tasty too.

Kota's Kitchen L102, 688 Nanjing Xi Lu, near Qinghai Lu. See full address details.

Bibimbap at New Star, 45RMB

Back in 2012 one of our favourite bathhouses opened a new outlet behind Tianshan Park; a bigger, more boisterous version of the Gubei original with a mainly Chinese clientele compared to the Korean and Japanese families who quietly pad around the first branch. Regardless of which one you choose, both serve great Korean food in cosy surrounds – the temperatures are pleasantly high and everyone sits around on cushions in pyjamas.

Their bibimbap, or stone pot rice, is a classic. A large dish of still-cooking rice (we like to let it lie for a bit to form a crispy brown bottom) is smothered in ground beef, avocado slices, grated carrot,mushrooms, beansprouts, spinach, spicy chilli sauce and an egg yolk sat in the middle of it all. It’s so good, it can stand as a dish in its own right or as an accompaniment to the restaurant’s range of Korean staples.

New Star 1900 Tianshan Lu, near Yanan Xi Lu. See full address details. See the original New Star in Gubei

Cheese balls at Nepali Kitchen, 70RMB

With its small hidden nooks and comfy cushioned areas, this Julu Lu house-set curry joint makes for a great spot to hunker down. Their Nepalese curries (from 45RMB) are good winter fillers, if a little on the small side, but it’s the cheese balls that we’re truly infatuated with. With small spheres of gooey fried cheese in crispy breadcrumbs and a tangy, sweet sauce on the side, this dish is renowned in the city and though the restaurant has taken advantage of their popularity with a hefty price tag, we still can’t resist ordering them every time.

Nepali Kitchen 819 Julu Lu, near Fumin Lu. See full address details

Roast potato at Wu Guan Tang, 18RMB

This zen little vegetarian restaurant on Xinhua Lu is regularly packed and unless you get here reasonably early for dinner, you’ll find they’ve often sold out of some of the items on their handwritten menu. First to go is their roast potato and for good reason.

A silver dish houses a whole potato roasted simply in oil and cut into thin slices. It’s a basic dish, but utterly satisfying. We also like their yipinxian (28RMB, a bell pepper stuffed with vegetable puree, braised ginger and vinegar) and the hexiang zhusun fan (bamboo and lotus rice, 15RMB), served only on Thursdays.

Wu Guang Tang 349 Xinhua Lu, near Dingki Lu. See full address details