Category Archives: Wine & Food

Dim Sum in Shanghai — Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant


Approaching Old Town Shanghai

Approaching Old Town Shanghai

Our last day in Shanghai was a busy one indeed.  In fact, our China Spree guide Mr. Jim Mao positively ran us ragged beginning in the early morning until well into the night.  The day began with a hurried breakfast followed by the Jade Buddhist Temple.

Yuyuan Garden at City God Temple

Yuyuan Garden at City God Temple

We then visited the Old Town and with it the City God Temple of Shanghai to view by daylight the decorations that would be in full, brightly illuminated display during our scheduled return much later that evening.  That afternoon we hit the Shanghai Museum, had dinner, took a night lights river cruise (later blog), and then returned to the Old Town for the Lantern Festival at night (another upcoming blog topic).

Old Town and the City God Temple area

Old Town and the City God Temple area

But for now let’s talk about lunch.  In the City God Temple area of Old Town is the Yuyuan Garden., and alongside the Yuyuan Garden is a very interesting restaurant indeed.

Yuyuan Garden at City God Temple

Yuyuan Garden at City God Temple

But first a little background on how we came upon this delightful hidden gem.  Ursula and I discovered the wonders of Cantonese dim sum some twenty-six years ago on a trip to Hong Kong, and we’ve been craving it ever since.  Indeed we have a brunch date coming up in June at our favorite Boston dim sum restaurant The Empire Garden, but that trip is for another blog series.

Dim Sum Chefs at Work

Dim Sum Chefs at Work

So, what is dim sum?  Think of it as a meal consisting of a dizzying array of appetizers Cantonese-style — a Chinese version of Spanish tapas, as it were.  It’s a fun and tasty way of grazing through myriad delectable treats one small bite at a time.  That brings us to the Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant, a government-owned eatery so unique that it even has its own Wikipedia entry.  And how popular is this place?  Be prepared for a wait.  A very long wait, as this young patron discovered:

Dim Sum Enthusiasm in the Waiting Area

Dim Sum Enthusiasm in the Waiting Area

When our little group broke up for lunch and a little “me” time in Old Town, Ursula and I asked Jim Mao if we could treat him to lunch.  The stipulation was that he had to take us to the best dim sum restaurant in the area.  Instead, he took us to what is probably the best dim sum restaurant in all of Shanghai, and it was within easy walking distance.  But Nanxiang it turns out is not your usual dim sum restaurant.  Unlike most dim sum restaurants — in which wait staff wheel carts about the one large dining room until flagged down by a hungry patron who then points to what has piqued their curiosity or awakened their taste buds — Nanxiang has several rooms that are stratified by price structure.  Each room serves customers who pledge to spend a specified minimum amount per person.  As such the wait lines are longer for the cheaper rooms, less so as you go up the economic food chain (sorry — just had to say that).

Preparing Dim Sum

Preparing Dim Sum

In Nanxiang you also order off a menu rather than await a traveling cart.  Here’s just a small sampling of what’s available on the menu:

Nanxiang MenuWould you like to drool over what Jim, Ursula, and I decided upon for our leisurely and very tasty lunch once we were finally seated?  Here is a sampling:

Nontraditional Dim Sum

Nontraditional Dim Sum

Traditional Dim Sum

Traditional Dim Sum

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Tea Time at the Jade Buddha Temple


Tea Time at the Jade Buddha Temple

Tea Time at the Jade Buddha Temple

As I mentioned on Monday, one of the treats our China Spree guide Jim Mao had in store for some of us was a visit to the restaurant inside the Jade Buddha Temple for a sampling of various Chinese teas.

Different Teas for Different Ailments or Benefits

Different Teas for Different Ailments or Benefits

Amazingly, serving tea in China is a lot more complicated than just pulling out a bag from a box of Sir Thomas Lipton’s finest and plopping it into some hot water.  On this occasion we were confronted with a dizzying array of choices that promised everything from liver health to relief from hypertension and aiding in weight loss.

Tea Time at the Jade Buddha Temple

Tea Time at the Jade Buddha Temple

Fortunately we were not limited to only one or two selections.  Here you can see our reference guides for selecting various samples, as well as our individual tea cups:

Lone Tea Cup

Lone Tea Cup

Preparation was also a visual art form.  No teabags at this establishment!  Each sample was painstakingly blended, carefully steeped, gently jostled, and delicately strained before serving.

Tea Time at the Jade Buddha Temple

Tea Time at the Jade Buddha Temple

Tea Time at the Jade Buddha Temple

Tea Time at the Jade Buddha Temple

Tea Time at the Jade Buddha Temple

Tea Time at the Jade Buddha Temple

Tea Time at the Jade Buddha Temple

Tea Time at the Jade Buddha Temple

The results were very tasty indeed.  Here’s our table enjoying a sampling:

Some of our Tour Group

Some of our Tour Group

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Dinner was Just Ducky


There is a delicacy for which certain high-end restaurants in Beijing are famous.  It’s called “Peking Duck.”  I must say that it is indeed impressive.

After a very exhausting day our guide Mao Gu’i “Jim” Chen of China Spree turned us loose for a bit of rest back at the hotel, only to return a short while later to herd us to our next destination — the famous Bianyifang Restaurant dating back originally to 1855 using an established name that goes back even further.  A lot further.  To 1412 to be exact.

Can you imagine . . . a restaurant that traces its roots back to 364 years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and some 80 years before Columbus tripped over the New World on his way to Beijing for some Peking Duck?

The most incredible thing you’ll first notice about Peking Duck is the tasty, crisp skin.  It’s simply indescribably.  You just have to taste it to know what I mean.  Served with the duck were lotus root, noodles, snow peas, other assorted vegetables, a type of crepe in which to place the duck meat, various condiments, and a rather interesting Yanjing beer.

Here’s the feast complete with descriptions:

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