Ningbo China – Ningbo’s Food Scene
People travel from all over China to taste Ningbo’s renowned bustling food scene. They specialize in preparing locally sourced, fresh seafood. That being said, national favourites like noodles and dumplings are found everywhere. Ningbo has a relatively large population of foreigners, so there are some great international options.
It’s always best to eat local, and Ningbo is a fine example. Here are the local dishes we love most, and where to eat them.
Yellow Croaker Soup
A local favourite, this fish dish takes painstaking preparation in order to be done perfectly. Along with the fish, there’s also bamboo and cabbage that’s braised in the Shaoxing wine that’s present in many dishes in the area. The resulting dish is fresh, colourful and a treat for the taste buds.
There’s no better place than Grandma’s Home (Waipo Jia). This is a national chain that serves local specialties. As the name suggests, dishes are prepared just like grandma used to cook them. The staff are extremely attentive. The restaurant is sleek and modern, but with a distinct Chinese theme. Right in Tianyi Square, there is often a long line outside, so avoid peak times to get a table. For the quality you receive, it’s very affordable- you’ll pay around 100 RMB per head.
Bingtang Jia Yu (Steamed turtle soup)
There are ten famous dishes of Ningbonese origin, and many argue this colourful dish is the top pick. You can have it sweet or salty, and the deep yellow colours of the dish draw you in instantly. The cooking methods leave the turtle soft and tender, bursting with flavour.
Shang Palace, at the Ningbo Shangri La. Sleek, modern, ground-breaking. Fred Zhou is the head chef here, and he specializes in adding unique twists to Ningbo’s local delicacies. He won gold at Shangri-La Group’s Chinese Culinary Challenge in 2011 as well as 2013. His kitchen prepares Ningbonese food, Chinese food as well as Cantonese style dishes periodically.
His own turtle soup is different because it’s sour, in contrast to the sweet norm. Other great dishes to try are his braised pork, braised sea cucumber, and steamed crab. This is a world class restaurant so expect excellent service and high prices.
Braised river eel
Not all of the city’s cuisine comes from the sea. This dish has a long history in Ningbo, and the eel is hailed and revered for it’s tasty flesh. It’s normally steamed first, thereafter bones are removed and it’s braised in a brown sauce, containing the ever-present Shaoxing wine. The result is flesh that will melt in your mouth, and a taste that you are unlikely to forget.
Shi Pu restaurant at Tianyi Square has great local seafood, as well as the eel. It’s set up in a way that’s common in China- you walk past and choose your dishes before the chefs cook them for you. This hands-on style gives you a better idea of what you’re ordering, and you won’t have to deal with a menu in Chinese.
Street Food in Ningbo
Those who love street food will not be disappointed with what Ningbo has to offer. Crab-filled steamed buns are a local favourite, just look out for the stalls with the classic bamboo steamers outside. They’re commonly eaten for breakfast, so get there in the morning before they sell out! They’re cheap too, about 5 RMB. Other street snacks are rice cakes, dried bamboo shoot, and lard dumplings.
The highlight for us is the outdoor barbeque vendors. Usually, meat on a stick (squid, sardines, chicken wings, beef). You can also chose from a variety of veggies. You walk up, put your choices into a basket and they will cook it all up to perfection, to your specs. You’ll sit at a plastic table, enjoying the sights and sounds of the night. This is a highly recommended experience if you’d like to eat and socialize like a local.
Check out Guluo street. It’s entirely pedestrian, so you’ll be safe. The street itself is an interesting attraction, and you’ll enjoy the neo-traditional Chinese architecture. Here you’ll find loads of hole-in-the-wall type joints that prepare freshly made local snacks.
The Chenghuang Temple walking street is another one that’s popular with the locals, so stop over at a stall after you’ve visited the temple.
Western and International
A few western restaurants have opened up to satisfy Ningbo’s small foreign community. There are the usual MacDonalds, Pizza Hut, KFC to be found everywhere. For a finer dining experience, there are a number of options, and most are found in the downtown area of Haishu. Western style eateries are fewer in Ningbo than big cities like Shanghai or Beijing, so don’t expect to find very many.
Amore’s Italian Restaurant
If you like Italian, try this funky joint. They have a huge menu to choose from, and they make a great pizza.
Picanha Brazillian Barbeque
For something different from the Chinese-style barbeque, we recommend this meat house in Haishu. Meat of all kinds, in abundance so make sure you’re hungry! Try out the bacon roll.
They specialize in preparing western food that you’d find on a menu back home. Steaks, pizzas sandwiches are all there, but their burgers are what you need to order. It’s frequented by many of Ningbo’s expats, so it’s a good place to meet new friends. Great beer!
Mundiver Spanish Restaurant
For all things Spanish, come here. Traditional tapas, and superb Spanish delicacies. The owners are from Spain, and they also sell Spanish wines.
Cafes and coffee houses
Coffee is not commonly drank in China, but because it’s popularity is increasing there are a few places to grab a good cup of bean. They’ll commonly sell various tea-based drinks, too. Try out these shops:
Starbucks Tianyi Square
Whilst Starbucks may be something you’re very familiar with, this one is a little different. This outlet is made almost entirely from glass! It’s also in a great location, so stop here and take a break from all your sight-seeing. They have everything you’d expect from a Starbucks, with some tasty cakes too.
On the old bund, we like this one because of the outdoor deck. Walk up, and sip your coffee whilst drinking in the view. They also sell some fast food snacks. We loved the ambience- it’s a great place to take a break from the busy city.
Also by the Bund is this funky store. It’s got three levels, with some private rooms in which to sip your drink in peace. Their prices are affordable, and they’ve also got a small menu.
If you’re in need of a drink in Ningbo, you’re in luck. There are many Chinese-style bars as well as western ones. If you like craft beer, visit the western ones.
O Reilly’s Irish Pub
A traditional Irish pub. It has a great atmosphere. They also have sport on TV, so come here to watch the game. Their food menu is also fantastic if you’re looking for a western-style snack.
We liked this one because of the pool tables (watch out, there’s a competition every Thursday!) They sell great beer, and it’s frequented by both locals and travellers so the vibe is awesome.