There's a lot of stuff on my blog about eating out in Beijing and Shanghai so I thought it'd be useful if I put together a quick guide to eating out in these two cities. There are also links to the original posts if you require further details.
The Must Eats
It's pretty obvious that you must try Peking duck when in Beijing. My favourite place is Ya Wang – a whole duck is brought to the table and skilfully carved into slices of meat and crispy skin.
This is served with the usual accompaniments although I recommend trying sesame buns as an alternative to pancakes. Most parts of the duck are also served as starters if you fancy duck tongues and that kind of thing.
In Shanghai, you've got to try xiao long bao (XLB) - the famous dumplings with a soupy filling. These are available in a number of varieties from the basic pork XLB and my fave, pork & crab XLB.
The Easy Options
Eating out in China can be daunting but there are places that serve up authentic food in comfortable surroundings with the clincher of bilingual menus. For Shanghainese cuisine, I can recommend Xiao Nan Guo/Shanghai Spring which has branches in Beijing and Shanghai. One of their signature dishes is the 'lion's head' meatball with crab meat pictured below.
South Beauty which also has branches in both cities. My favourite chilli fried chicken (la zi ji) is pictured. Don't be put off by the fact that these are chains, some of the best restaurants in China have multiple branches.
The Cheap Eats
Cantonese food is very popular in Shanghai and if you fancy some congee, noodles or Cantonese BBQ on rice then the café inside the Cathay Theatre is a good bet. I've already extolled the virtues of xiao long bao but many Shanghainese reckon the crispy pan fried sheng jian bao are superior – try these at Yang’s Fry Dumplings.
Shun Yi Fu. This is a much better alternative to the street food available in what passes for night markets in the capital.
If you're visiting China, be spontaneous and just try loads of different foods. I also like Hunan, Taiwanese and Yunnan cuisines whilst others swear by hot pot, Mongolian or Xinjiang food. If you've visited China, I'd love to hear from you especially if you have some top tips to share.