Hong Chang Xing

  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Hot Pot
Photograph: Christopher House
1 Yunnan Nan Lu

The history of Hong Chang Xing has been passed down through the generations. Zhang Zhihua, the current manager, who has been working at this popular spot near People’s Square for ten years, eagerly tells us the story of the restaurant being founded in 1891 by the famous Peking Opera star Ma Lianliang’s second uncle, Ma Chunqiao.

At the time, the mostly Muslim Peking Opera troupe had trouble finding suitable restaurants in Shanghai. Worried about their throats and concerned that the team would not be able to sing, Ma Chunqiao rented a house and opened a restaurant called Ma Jia Ban Huofang, selling sesame biscuits, mutton pies, zhajiang mian noodles and mutton dumplings. Soon after opening, they added mutton hotpot, which garnered a reputation as their specialty. When the original owners returned to Beijing, they passed the joint to Hong Sanba, who renamed it Hong Chang Xing.

Zhang describes the original, rustic, single-storey restaurant on Lianyun Lu. ‘They only had one big hotpot. So it wasn’t that you would wait for a table, what you would do is order your meat and vegetables, then you sit with a group of strangers and share the hotpot. We might not know the person sitting beside us, but we’d cook our meat in the same pot. The soup in the hotpot would also not change at any point during the day, but the froth from the meat would be removed. This was a special characteristic of Hong Chang Xing in the past. But now, it has changed because people might find that a little unsanitary and wouldn’t want to eat with strangers. Back then, people liked it because it was livelier.’

The Yunnan Nan Lu incarnation, which you’ve likely spotted from Yanan Dong Lu courtesy of its mosque-inspired minaret, has moved on from the communal pot, and now offers multiple tables on the ground floor, or individual sized hotpots on the second storey. Unsurprisingly, the interior here is steamy – mostly thanks to the pots being constantly replenished. Service is friendly and relaxed, and the space feels open and clean. The crowd is older; something Zhang puts down to the long history of the brand.

Hong Chang Xing prides itself on the quality of its ingredients, and boasts that by using a traditional water base for the hotpot they are able to truly show off their produce. ‘Using this clear broth is very healthy, and you can taste the real flavour of the mutton and beef,’ says Zhang. ‘With clear water, you can immediately taste the original freshness of the meat.’

Key dishes Although there’s a bilingual menu that resembles a Russian classic in length, it’s really all about the hotpot here. That said, there are a couple of other key dishes worth the stomach space, including the niurou jianbao (牛肉煎包, pan-fried beef buns for 3RMB each) – the restaurant apparently sells between 1,500-2,000 of these daily – and the boiled mutton dumplings (羊肉水饺, yángròu shuijiao 7RMB for six).

The hotpot is priced at 18RMB for the soup base, with fatty mutton at 40RMB a plate and delicious wafer thin beef at 108RMB. Accompaniments are also wellpriced, with fried bean curd going for 18RMB and a generous assorted mushroom platter for just 45RMB.

Health claims about the base aside, the sauce at Hong Chang Xing is delicious, and should be embraced. A ‘secret recipe’ that has, like the origin story, been passed down through the generations, the mix includes peanuts, sesame, honey and soy sauce, with the option of adding spring onions, coriander, garlic and chilli.

Venue name: Hong Chang Xing
Opening hours: 11am-2pm; 5pm-9.30pm daily
Metro: Dashijie
English address: , near Yanan Dong Lu, 1 Yunnan Nan Lu Huangpu district
Chinese address: 黄浦区云南南路1号, 近延安东路