Shanghai's best Yunnan cuisine

Shanghai's best Yunnan cuisine

A mix of traditional Han Chinese cuisine with the best of the province's minority fare, Yunnan food is distinct, delicious and in demand

Recommended: Lotus Eatery

CNNGo Best Eats Shanghai -- Lotus EateryAt Lotus Eatery, the cold noodles are fresh and just about anything with mushroom is delicious.

Several of our experts admit to a mild addiction to Lotus Eatery's cold noodle salad, as well as about a dozen other dishes on the menu.

One of the city's newest Yunnan stops, Lotus Eatery is a tiny restaurant run by a Yunnanese family.

The menu features authentic dishes made with wild mushrooms, spices and liquors flown in weekly from Yunnan as well as produce grown in the family's Pudong farm.

For an authentic spread that includes Miao minority barbecued fish, minced beef with water chestnuts, salt and pepper goat cheese and beef liver mushroom, the price is modest. It's possible to eat here for RMB 50-100.

The cold rice noodles are served with slivered vegetables and chicken in a light sauce, a refreshing start to dinner.

Lotus Eatery, 85 Yangzhai Lu, near Xinhua Lu 杨宅路85号, 近新华路, +86 136 4174 4333, hours: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

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Recommended: Yunnan Gourmet

CNNGo Best Eats Shanghai -- Yunnan Gourmet"Crossing the Bridge Noodles" are a Yunnan Gourmet specialty. Atmosphere is not.

“There is this restaurant on the basement floor of Raffles where basically everything is mediocre, except for these Crossing the Bridge Noodles. They are the best thing to eat in a mall in Shanghai, by far,” says food editor Rica Lou.

That says something considering how many malls Shanghai has.

Lou's tip is to go for late lunch or early, early dinner.

“Unless you go at an odd time, like 3 or 4 p.m., this place is always packed,” Lou explains. “The chicken broth for the noodles is very rich and umami, but afterwards your mouth isn't dry because the flavor is from stewing, not MSG.”

If you work near People's Square, jot this down as your next late lunch place.

Yunnan Gourmet, multiple locations, Shop 19-20, B1, 5078 Raffles City, 268 Xizang Zhong Lu, near Nanjing Dong Lu 西藏中路268号莱福士广场5078号地下1楼19-20室, 近南京东路, +86 21 6340 3076, hours: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

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Recommended: Southern Barbarian

CNNGo Best Eats Shanghai -- Southern BarbarianYou're sure to see these three dishes on every table at Southern Barbarian: fried goat cheese, cold eggplant with tomatoes and a fried potato pancake.

Known as much for its 80-plus beer selection as for its food, Southern Barbarian has become an institution since moving downtown in 2007.

We considered listing it in our “Food to Drink By” category for its beer list, alone. But the food can stand on its own.

Try Southern Barbarian's famous spicy garlic chicken wings or the potato pancake, a crunchy mass of shredded fried potatoes.

Food critic Peipei Yang favors the Crossing the Bridge Noodles.

“It’s not greasy here like at most places," she says. "They taste like the noodles you'd have at a Yunnanese friend’s home. I just wish Southern Barbarian served bigger portions."

Another route to deliciousness is the signature fried goat cheese. The restaurant goes through an average of 180 kilograms of goat cheese a year. Order a plate and you’ll see why.

Between bites of goat cheese, slip in a bit of Southern Barbarian's mint salad and cold eggplant. Both are simple dishes that complement each other -- the mint heating up your mouth while the eggplant cools things off. 

Southern Barbarian, 2/F, Area E, Ju'Roshine Life Art Space, 169 Jinxian Lu, near Maoming Nan Lu 进贤路169号生活艺术空间E区2楼, 近茂名南路, +86 21 5157 5510, hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., 5 to 11 p.m.; Rm. B9, DBS Building, 1318 Lujiazui Huan Lu, near Dongyuan Lu 陆家嘴环路1318号星展银行大厦B9室, 近东园路, +86 21 5015 1520, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.,

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Winner: Legend Taste

CNNGo Best Eats Shanghai -- Legend TasteMinced chicken with morning glory and braised chili frog are two Legend Taste staples.

When Chef Tang Dechao left the Lost Heaven group, he opened Legend Taste to bring authentic Yunnan food to the masses.

Two years later, Legend Taste's line-up of Dai minority and Northern Yunnan dishes is consistently delicious, and in high demand.

Due to its history, Legend Taste has been called a cheaper version of Lost Heaven.

We disagree. On any given week night this place is packed and not because Legend Taste emulates the food at Lost Heaven, but because the dishes offered are simply great.

For our critics, an awed silence descends when the Legend Taste chicken arrives with a topping of crown daisies. It's a dish of finely diced chicken stir-fried with herb-like leaves and stems of crown daisies.

Add a squirt of lemon and this will become your favorite dish to eat over a big scoop of rice. The texture of the meat makes this a mellow cousin to Thai larb, but without the acidity.

The Xishuangbanna-style stewed shrimp is another good order for those who like a sour tang to their seafood. The garlicky shrimp come with sweet cherry tomatoes and bamboo shoots covered in a tasty sauce.

Adventurous eaters can try Legend Taste's signature frog dish -- Boletus Mushroom Exploded Bullfrog -- which is the restaurant's most ordered dish.

Chunks of frog are served up in a thick sauce, flavored with wild Yunnan mushrooms and dried chili.

Legend Taste, 1025 Kangding Lu, near Wuning Lu 康定路1025号, 近武宁路, +86 21 5228 9961, hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. , 5 to 11 p.m.

Meet the experts who helped us choose Shanghai's Best Eats.

Full Best Eats list and winners
Joanne Yao is a writer and editor based in Shanghai.
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