Chasing jellyfish with baijiu on a Shanghai food tour

Noodles, hot sauce, and bread on a Shanghai Food Tour

Over the past few years, our love of Asian food has grown and grown. This is due much to our travels, which have introduced us to new, interesting, and tasty ingredients, flavors, and textures. We’ve even gotten pretty good at recreating some of our favorites at home. We consider ourselves comfortable with (if not experts in) Vietnamese, Thai, Korean, and Japanese food. But Chinese food? Not so much. Growing up in New York, we knew that what we are most familiar with having for takeout is not traditional Chinese food. And while over the past year we’ve developed an obsession with soup dumplings, we also knew that there was so much more to discover. So when we booked our trip to Shanghai, one of the first things we did was look for a food tour. We found our Shanghai food tour at UnTour Food Tours and couldn’t have been happier.

Our delicious Shanghai food tour

We went on a food tour in Shanghai for two reasons: to taste a lot of different foods we’d otherwise be nervous to try on our own and to learn about the foods we were eating. We chose the Shanghai Night Eats tour which did a great job on both fronts. We had a great evening of eating and drinking our way through the city.

The food

We ate a total of 22 different dishes over the course of the evening. Some were familiar (noodles and dumplings), but some were things we would never order ourselves. Not because we wouldn’t find them tasty, but because we wouldn’t know how. When you don’t speak or read the language in China, it’s difficult to try new things on your own. Out of the 22, only one dish was unpalatable to us: jellyfish. And one of our favorite dishes, fried bamboo shoots, was completely new to us.

The tour is set up to have you taste food from and learn about four regions of China. So even though you’re in Shanghai, only one of the restaurants was Shanghaingese. That was great for us since we were pretty much eating Shanghaingese food the rest of our trip. Our favorite stop on the tour was a restaurant featuring dishes from Chengdu. The standout was a bowl of soft dumplings in a fragrant and tongue-tingling Sichuan pepper and coriander broth.

About half the dishes on our tour had meat or fish, but the other half were vegetable dishes or had another protein like tofu. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, talk to the people at UnTour in advance so they can arrange substitutions. And it should be noted that one of these was rabbit head that we (only four of us, Sarah included) dismantled and ate with our hands.

The drinks

In addition to all the food, UnTour also provides unlimited drinks. At each stop, they pour a couple different types of alcohol. We tasted four Chinese beers, yellow wine, and baijiu. This being our third night in Shanghai, we already knew what to expect with Chinese beer (not much). We also did not particularly enjoy the yellow wine. But we actually quite liked the baijiu. And we especially liked the custom of drinking it. It’s served in itty bitty little glasses and there is a specific way to cheers everyone else imbibing at the table.

If you do not drink alcohol, the guides will be happy to order you any other soft drink you’d like. And you can always grab a bottle of water from one of your guides whenever you’re thirsty.

The evening

Numerous dishes on a lazy susan eaten on a Shanghai food tour

Our tour started at 6:45pm. We were given very specific instructions (including helpful directions) about where to meet. It was right by a Metro stop which was convenient. We were a fairly large group of 11 adults and one child, so we had two guides.

Over the course of the evening we went to four different restaurants. Sometimes they go to five, but it was a holiday so one was closed. At each restaurant we were ushered to a large table so we could all enjoy the food together. It is communal eating, with different dishes spun around the table on a lazy susan. It was fun to do this type of tasting with a group. We enjoyed talking about the foods with our new friends and learning about what brought them all to Shanghai.

We were especially impressed by the culinary adventurousness of the child participant. At his age (eight), we would never be so willing to try rabbit head or glutinous rice cakes. But he was all in. So we saw first hand that this tour is totally appropriate for young kids, but if you have a picky eater on your hands, it won’t be as fun.

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Tour accessibility

The tour involved some walking, but it was all on flat ground and the group goes at an easy pace. UnTour helpfully includes the total walking distance for each tour on their website (ours was 2.3 km). Some of the restaurants we stopped in had stairs. The owners of UnTour confirmed that their group tours are not wheelchair-accessible to those who cannot get out of the chair and walk up some steps. But they said are able and happy to arrange private tours if full wheelchair-access is required.

About UnTour Food Tours

UnTour Food Tours was founded in 2010 by Jamie and Kyle, both of whom live in Shanghai. When researching where and what to eat in Shanghai, we kept stumbling upon their articles on Culinary Backstreets, so we knew we’d be in good hands on our tour. They are clearly experts in the field of Chinese food and food in Shanghai.

UnTour runs food tours in Shanghai, Beijing, Chengdu, and Hong Kong. In Shanghai, in addition to the one we went on, they offer a breakfast tour, a dumpling-making experience, and more. You can check out and book all the UnTour Shanghai food tours here.

Disclaimer

UnTour hosted us on our Night Eats tour. All opinions and distaste for Chinese beer and jellyfish are our own.

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