Steeped in culinary history and auspicious traditions, like li-cee (little red envelopes filled with money), the two-week-long celebration (starting Jan. 23) of the Chinese New Year makes the perfect time to visit Shanghai. The city will be alight with fireworks displays and colorful celebrations to welcome in the incredibly lucky Year of the Dragon for 2012. And the foods that come with the festivities are mouthwatering reasons enough to join the red-hued revelry, which starts with the ringing of the bells at midnight at the Longhua Temple.
During the Chinese New Year, locals traditionally eat Chinese soup dumplings as well as sweet rice balls, sliced pork, sesame-covered fried dumplings, and stuffed cookies. Some of the best places to sample xiao long bao (traditional soup dumplings) are Din Tai Fung, Jia Jia Tang Bao, and Lao Zhengxing, while sweets like fried dumplings are best at Yang’s Fry-Dumpling. Visitors should hit Fu 1039, which is a sleek, high-end restaurant serving traditional Shanghai cuisine, set in a house built in the 1930s with a beautiful courtyard garden. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/MdenHoedt)
Dig into all kinds of crab dishes at Wang Bao He, a restaurant that has been specializing in all things crab for more than 200 years, or spring for the drunken chicken and crispy duck from 1221. Of course, being the metropolitan city that it is, Shanghai has a wealth of international cuisines represented, from the charming Vienna Café, where locals relax in the afternoon over a strudel and a coffee, or Bonomi, a popular Italian restaurant with multiple locations.
The Chinese New Year is the perfect excuse to try Shanghai’s wealth of diverse sweets, like sweet rice balls from Wang Jia She Confectionery, sweet dumplings from Ye Shanghai, sweet soups (in flavors like mung bean or mango) from Honeymoon Dessert, or just a Shanghai-style iced coffee, which comes with extra cream, from Gloria Jean’s Coffee.
At the end of a long day celebrating the Year of the Dragon, the city’s rife with prime cocktail spots. Take in the sweeping views at JW Lounge, hide out in a dark velvet banquette at Velvet Lounge, drink amongst the city’s most fashionable denizens at the Dolce and Gabbana Martini Bar, or hear some live jazz at the JZ Club.
Gung Hay Fat Choy!