salad-days on 275 Lujiabang Lu, near Zhongshan Nan Lu 134 7272 7211 Xinjiang Ali Price per Person: 50 Rmb
Let me introduce you to a man, a myth, Xinjiang Ali. Catch him whilst you can, because he might not be here for much longer. When I arrived in Shanghai as a young buck back in November 2015, street food was common place all around Shanghai. I lived in the Wuding Xi Lu community, and in this area alone, there were several options just a stones throw away from my apartment.
Fast forward four years, and finding any street food in Shanghai, let alone good stuff, is like looking for a needle in a haystack. The continuing gentrification of Shanghai has all but eradicated the great cultural practice of eating on the streets. But in the summer of 2019, I heard a rumour. There was a glimmer of hope, possibly a mirage in the desert. Like a wolf stalking its prey, I followed the clues and was rewarded with the best street food I've ever tasted.
I heard about this place from a friend of a friend. After seeing the screenshot on WeChat Moments, I was instantly intrigued and had to find out more. After tracking down the person who shot the photo, he explained how a Shanghai chef of many decades had recommended these as the best skewers he'd had outside of Xinjiang.
Full of hope, I went down the the meeting point, (which isn't fixed) to discover if these sticks of meat were all that. This time it was at 275 Lujiabang Road, located near a bank under Nanpu Bridge. I've been told this can change weekly, depending on a number of factors, which you can probably guess, or be closed suddenly without warning.
Onto the food, the options were limited to meat. No vegetables, no nonsense. The lamb skewers are 10 RMB a pop and looked pretty good even raw (more on that later), other options were various cuts of mutton, stomach and other assorted offal. Chicken and beef are also available. The 'nang' bread (馕) is 5 RMB a piece.
I came with a mate and we got 8 pieces of meat between us and a piece of bread each. The skewers exceeded the hyperbole I'd already built up inside my head. They were cooked to perfection, big chunks of tender meat coupled with lumps of fat that melt in your mouth It doesn't get much better than this. Putting the lamb inside the bread to form makeshift sandwiches, as well as letting the skewers soak the bread until it's soggy, oily and delicious are absolute winning combinations.
The first time I came here during the summer, they were even selling ice cold beers from Xinjiang (Wusu, 10 RMB a can). These are still on offer during the winter but not chilled, although it'll be cold enough soon. In short, the food on offer here is outstanding. The nostalgic feeling of eating and drinking on the streets of Shanghai is also well worth going out of your way for.
SmartReviews is SmartShanghai’s crack squad of amateur reviewers, eating their way around the city and writing about it. They have been chosen from a large pool of applicants and given a set of strict guidelines to follow to make sure their reviews are honest, informed and fair to both potential customers and the restaurants themselves.