Kid-Friendly Culinary Adventures in Shanghai: Northwest Flavors

Shanghai is blessed with a variety of regional Chinese cuisines (as featured in UnTour’s Shanghai Night Eats tour). With proper planning, you could eat two weeks of lunches and dinners without repeating a cuisine. Adding kids to the picture complicates things, as palates get pickier and you often find yourself ordering the same dumplings, noodles, fried rice or – god forbid! – ending up at McD’s for a kids’ meal.

As demand for family-friendly options has increased, more and more restaurants are stepping up their service and choices to entice hungry families desperate for some variety in their dining. Northwest Chinese cuisine (Xibei Cai) has come up big, with kid-friendly menus at two of the most popular of their diasporic restaurants. Expect lots of lamb and beef from China’s Muslim-dominated countryside, as well as wheat-based noodles and breads that have made their way along the Silk Road from Central Asia and the Middle East.

Yershari Xinijang – 耶里夏丽 (Yē Lǐ Xià Lì)

14 locations around Shanghai.
The “flagship” restaurant is located at 2F, 680 Zhaojiabang Rd, near Wulumuqi South Rd. 肇嘉浜路680号近乌鲁木齐南路. Tel: 6466 8388. Hours: 11am-9:30pm.

For the kids

Kids meals come in a partitioned tray that is either car-shaped/dinosaur-shaped (noodles) or plane-shaped (rice pilaf) and also includes fruit and juice. My kids are meat eaters, so we add a couple lamb skewers (羊肉串儿), which allows them to share in the adult food. Yershari also has regularly scheduled entertainment in the form of “traditional” Uighur dance. If it is dinner time, other patrons may be encouraged to join on stage.

For the parents

The picture menu starts with dishes native to Xinjiang and then branches further west with Turkish and even Lebanese-inspired dishes. The freshly squeezed fruit juices are excellent and good value. A unique salty and sweet milk tea is paired with large, rose-scented raisins. There are three varieties of draft beer (lager, passion fruit wheat, and American IPA). Pro tip: the kebabs on willow branch skewers are 2x the meat but 3x the price.

Other recommended dishes: stir fried lamb & naan (馕包肉), stewed chicken over naan bread (大盘鸡), rice pilaf with lamb ( 手抓饭), homemade yogurt (自制酸奶) , cold wheat starch noodle salad (石河子凉皮). 

Northwest Oat Noodle Village – 西贝莜面村 (Xī Bèi Yoú Miàn Cūn)

50+ locations in Shanghai, including: 4F, 618 Xujiahui Rd, inside SML Plaza. Tel: 4008 207 320. Hours: 11am-2pm, 5pm-9pm.

For the kids

Early adopters in the kid-friendly game, the kids menu offers no fewer than eight options that parents can mix and match to their child’s taste. Choices include beef rib, chicken wings, noodle soup, “steamed fried rice”, lamb kebabs, a cheeseburger, beef sausages, and more. The meals also include corn soup, steamed veggies, a fruit cup, and a dessert (usually animal-shaped milk pudding or heart-shaped fruit tart). If your kid is really enjoying their food, the restaurant offers frozen options for reheating as well. Kids leave with a balloon animal.

For the parents

For adults, the menu contains pictures and draws from a large swathe of the Northwest: Shanxi, Shaanxi, Inner Mongolia, Gansu, and Xinjiang. Quite a few offerings feature oats, from their specialty oat rigatoni with stewed tomatoes to their house “oat” beer that is reminiscent of a hefeweizen. Another nice touch – the meals are guaranteed to arrive in under 25 minutes (the server puts a sand hourglass on the table that kids can watch patiently).

Other recommended dishes: oat spaetzle in mushroom soup (蘑菇汤莜面鱼鱼), lamb siu mai (羊肉烧麦), steamed bok choy sprouts drizzled with scallion oil (葱油菜心苗)

Where to Eat When You’re Dining Solo In Shanghai
Where to Eat When You’re Dining Solo In Beijing

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