Shanghai food tour: The best South Korean food in Koreatown
Some 10 years after South Korean soap operas won the hearts of Shanghainese audiences, Shanghai's South Korean restaurants have started to climb their way up local restaurant lists.
Although there are countless Korean restaurants in Shanghai's downtown dining areas, to get the real deal you have to head out to Shanghai’s own Koreatown.
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Koreatown is located near Jinhui Nan Lu and Hongquan Lu in Minhang district. About three-quarters of the area’s population are long-term Korean residents (from both North and South Korea). Here are eight restaurants in the area that you absolutely cannot miss. All prices are for two, but do not include drinks.
1. Zheng Yi Ping (正一品）
Price: RMB 150
Why we like it: This just might be the most famous South Korean barbecue restaurant in Shanghai, making it a go-to for most Koreans in Shanghai. The venue is known for its pot-style barbecue.
“We are particular about the quality and freshness of our meats,” says restaurant manager Jin Ming Shi. “The food is directly sourced from high-tech, ecological and contaminant-free farms.”
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Their meats are cooked over a large iron plate, making for a smoke-free, healthy dining experience.
The best way to cook your order: leave a small portion of meat on the iron plate, let it sizzle for a few minutes, then dunk the meat in the dipping sauce before pairing it with a piece of fresh vegetable.
“Our complimentary cakes are also very well-received among customers,” adds Jin.
Don’t miss: The five-layered pork (RMB 50), fresh beef (RMB 120-260, depending on which part you order) and chicken soup (RMB 60).
225 Jinhui Lu, near Hongquan Lu 金汇南路225号, 近 虹泉路, +86 21 3432 2735, +86 21 3432 2736; open 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
2. Gammiok (甘味屋）
Price: RMB 100
Why we like it: Although most people automatically think "barbecue" when talking about South Korean food, Gammiok defies the trend: all the items on the menu is either boiled or steamed.
“We don’t do barbecue here,” says owner Shin Seunghwa. “Barbecue has only been around in [South] Korea for the last few decades. Before that, we mostly used the boiling or steaming methods to make our food. We want to carry on this culinary tradition to provide only the most authentic Korean dining experience.”
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Their signature dish is Snow Soup (a type of beef soup) and while you wait for your order you can snack on the free kimchi sides. Customers have reportedly traveled from across Shanghai just for a taste of their side dishes.
The South Korean couple who own the restaurant are very friendly and go out of their way to make customers feel like they have been invited into someone's home -- a rare display of hospitality in Shanghai.
Don’t miss: Snow Soup (RMB 40), steamed beef pancake (RMB 100 for a small portion, RMB 130 for the large) and chicken soup (RMB 60).
193 Jinhui Nan Lu, near Hongquan Lu 金汇南路193号, 近 虹泉路, ＋86 21 3431 8345, ＋86 21 3431 8458; open 5:30 a.m. - 3 a.m.
3. Xiang Cun Tu Cheng (乡村土城）
Price: RMB 150-250
Why we like it: Beijing’s not the only place known for roast duck -- South Korean chefs also know how to do a bird right. This restaurant is famous for its South Korean roast duck, and using oak in the cooking process.
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The oak is warmed in the oven by itself before being used to cook the duck, giving the dish a light, woody flavor. More than just making a good meal, duck is said to be good for diners' circulation. A bit of TCM at dinner can never hurt.
In addition to dishing up a great duck, Xiang Cun Tu Cheng is also know for its roasted pork and good service.
Don’t miss: Roasted duck (RMB 190) and roast pork (RMB 95 for two portions).
193 Jinhui Nan Lu, near Hongquan Lu, next to 1004 supermarket 金汇南路193号, 近 虹泉路, +86 3421 3232; open 4:30 p.m. - 11 p.m.
4. Myeongdong Dao Mian (明洞刀面）
Price: RMB 120
Why we like it: Don’t be fooled by the name of this restaurant; besides South Korean noodles, they also offer a variety of dishes, such as Korean hotpot and dumplings. This is also Shanghai’s only South Korean restaurant that offers authentic South Korean kalguksu, or knife noodles, somewhat similar to the Chinese hand-pulled noodles.
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The noodles are made by slicing through a large round piece of dough to get thin doughy strips, resulting in a bowl of extremely smooth noodles. Add in some tasty beef soup and we will guarantee that you’ll be licking your bowl clean.
Restaurant waiter Cai Wenya says that noodle-lovers who want to savor a bowl without the rush should come during off-peak hours, it’ll be the only time they’ll be able to easily find a seat.
Don’t miss: Kalguksu (RMB 40) and dumplings (RMB 40).
1051 Hongquan Lu, Bldg 209, 2/F, near Jinhui Nan Lu 虹泉路1051号209号楼2楼, 近 金汇南路, +86 21 3432 3258; open 11 a.m. - 3 p.m., 5 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.
5. Shui Yuan Wang Barbecue (水源王烤肉）
Price: RMB 100
Why we like it: Shui Yuan Wang Barbecue is a place for meat eaters as grilled steak is the specialty here.
The "Wang" in the restaurant’s name means “big” or “number one” in Korean, and the venue lives up to expectations -- the meat is delicious and you won't leave hungry.
The steaks are prepared South Korean-style: grilled over charcoal until almost all of the oil has been “forced” out, as the restaurant's chefs describe it, leaving the meat tender, but not greasy.
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All the ingredients used at Shui Yuan Wang are imported from South Korea, so the food has a truly authentic taste.
Besides a wide range of other dishes to choose from, there are also plenty of complimentary side dishes that will be ferried to your table -- making this place a great gathering point for a large group.
Don’t miss: Beef steak (RMB 78 to 98), cold soup (RMB 35 to 40), five-layered pork (RMB 45).
1101 Hongquan Lu, Bldg 8-9, near Jinhui Nan Lu 虹泉路1101 号 8-9号楼, 近 金汇南路, +86 3432 3001; open 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.
6. Jinxiu Jiangshan (锦绣江山）
Price: RMB 70
Why we like it: Jinxiu Jiangshan is famous for its seafood dishes and relaxed atmosphere. Catering to all budgets, this restaurant has three tiers of prices for its seafood. The budget option, which includes mainly seafood-based soups, costs only RMB 70 for two (not including drinks). The more expensive menus run to a few hundreds kuai each.
After selecting your seafood, you get to choose how you want it prepared. Soup options range from clear and mild to mouth-on-fire hot soup bases. Sashimi is also available a la carte.
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While you wait for your order to arrive, half a dozen side dishes including kimchi and seafood will be served to keep your chopsticks busy.
“South Korean seafood soup is especially fresh -- it’s not oily at all and very nourishing,” says restaurant manager Xu Yuan Fen. “Those who like it hot should try our spicy seafood soup.”
Don’t miss: Royal seafood hotpot (RMB 40-400), raw octopus (RMB 30 per piece, available fried too) and fish hotpot (RMB 120-220).
1101 Hongquan Lu, Bldg 59, 2/F, near Jinhui Nan Lu 虹泉路1101 号 59号楼2楼, 近 金汇南路 +86 21 3432 1711; open 10:30 a.m. - 10 p.m.
7. Fu Jia Seafood (富家海鲜）
Price: RMB 200-300
Why we like it: This is the only South Korean restaurant in Shanghai that specializes in octopus, and only those with big appetites and strong stomachs should venture forth, as you can get the eight-legged creature in all forms here, be it raw, stir-fried or boiled in a hotpot.
Service is fast and efficient, meaning that your octopus arrives quickly, without much fuss.
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If you end up dining with those who aren't fans of the restaurant's theme, there’s a South Korean barbecue place opened by the same owner right next door.
Don’t miss: Grilled octopus (RMB 180-230), cabbage and octopus hotpot (RMB 150) and raw octopus (RMB 100).
3988 Hongxin Lu, Dijon Hotel 1/F, near Hongquan Lu 虹莘路3988号 近虹泉路, +86 21 5157 8520; open 10:30 a.m. - 11 p.m.
8. Tao Yuan (桃园）
Price: RMB 100
Why we like it: The food at Tao Yuan stands out because it’s Shanghai’s only South Korean-style Chinese cuisine. This restaurant showcases Chinese delicacies, but with some Seoul-inspired tweaks, and has quickly picked up a loyal following in the city.
Fans of South Korean dramas know that Chinese soybean paste noodles are a popular takeout option in the ROK, and they’re available here. South Korean-style soybean paste noodles are coarser and less salty than the original version found in Beijing, and they come with more paste. It’s similar to the Taiwanese version of this dish.
Besides the soybean paste noodles, Tao Yuan's other specialty is sweet and sour pork with fried dumplings. When business is good, they sell about 1,000 portions of fried dumplings and sweet and sour pork per day.
If you are worried about missing your favorite South Korean soup while dining, don’t worry, the shows are screened non-stop in here. If you’d rather watch people instead of TV, choose a window seat.
Don’t miss: Sweet and sour pork (RMB 70), soybean paste noodles (RMB 20) and fried dumplings (RMB 35).
103 Jinhui Nan Lu, near Hongquan Lu 金汇南路103号, 近 虹泉路 +86 21 3432 2177; open 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.