Shanghai: Xinjiang Cuisine at Miss Ali

Miss Ali 阿里家

Miss Ali 阿里家

Note: Original Dagu road location has closed. New address is 133 Fuxing West Road (复兴中路133号). Tel: 021-64334261 

The first time I ever had Xinjiang food was when I lived in Beijing. There was this hole in the wall restaurant close by my school that I used to go to every week. It was one of the things I missed most about living there. In Shanghai, I struggled to find good Xinjiang food. Probably the most famous restaurant is Xibo, but I wasn’t really a fan. The restaurant was modern and hip and I also thought overpriced. Luckily, a friend recommended Miss Ali 阿里家 (380-1 Dagu Lu; 大沽路380-1号) and I’m so glad she did. I’ve finally found Xinjiang food that rivals what I used to eat in Beijing.

大盘鸡 (da pan ji) aka Big Plate of Chicken

大盘鸡 (da pan ji) aka Big Plate of Chicken

Miss Ali is a small restaurant on Dagu Road that could easily be missed. I would definitely recommend making reservations because it’s a popular spot and space is limited. I was overjoyed to see that some of my favorite dishes were on the menu. I love 大盘鸡 (da pan ji), which literally translates to big plate of chicken. Miss Ali’s version was exactly how I remembered da pan ji in Beijing. Chunks of chicken, potatoes, bell peppers and onions are served in a dark broth with chili flakes and a hint of cinnamon. Clearly, the chicken and broth have been simmered to perfection because the chicken is tender and incredibly flavorful. Probably my favorite part of the dish are the noodles that come with it. The noodles are smooth and slippery, the perfect complement to the broth. I will forewarn that da pan ji comes with chicken with bones so it’s definitely a little bit of work to eat.

Lamb Skewers and Lamb Wontons

Lamb Skewers and Lamb Wontons

In addition to da pan ji, my friend and I ordered lamb skewers, green bean skewers and lamb wontons. The lamb skewers were large with delicious morsels of meat. In the middle of the skewer is a piece of fat, which renders nicely on the grilled meat. I normally find lamb too gamey, but the mixture of spices on the skewers covers any offensive smell.

I really loved the lamb wontons. It was actually my first time having lamb in a dumpling and Miss Ali’s version is wonderfully seasoned. They were served in a clear broth, which was soothing and tasted like something my mother would cook. It was the perfect dish on a cold day. It was so good that I was tempted to order another bowl.

My last recommendation would be to order the homemade yogurt. While it’s technically in the “dessert” section of the menu, I like to get my yogurt earlier with my meal. With the little bit of chili in Xinjiang food, the yogurt helps cuts any spice. Plus, it just tastes so darn good. I can’t wait to go back to Miss Ali soon. The food was warm and hearty and brought me back to my time in Beijing. It’s definitely going to be my new go-to restaurant to take any friends visiting from out of town.

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