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Shanghai Korea Town: A Touch of Seoul

by Mitch Blatt   - Feb 26, 2015

 

If they don’t have a flight at the Hongqiao Airport, few travelers to Shanghai ever think about going to the Hongqiao area one hour from downtown at the end of subway Line 10. But if you want authentic Korea food, it might be just the place to go.

 

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Nanshan Korean Barbecue (南山碳烤韩国料理) is one of the main restaurants in the Hongqiao Dongguan restaurant street.

 
About 30,000 Koreans live in the northern section of Minhang District (闵行区) in Hongqiao. The roads are lined with Korean markets, bbq restaurants, bars, coffee houses, and massage parlors with Korean characters. With a craving for kim chi, I set out on Line 10 to Longbai Xincun Station (龙柏新村站). At the end of Line 10, the line forks off with one direction going to Hongqiao Railway Station and the other going to Longbai Xincun and ultimately the Hangzhong Road (航中路) terminal. Visitors to Koreatown should make sure they are on a car headed to Longbai Xincun. Once there, get out at Exit 2 or 3 and walk south on Hongjing Road (虹井路) past Wuzhong Road (吴中路) until you get to Hongquan Road (虹泉路). By then, you will see Korean characters on most of the buildings, and you will know you are there. Alternatively, Koreatown can also be accessed by Line 9 to Hechuan Road Station (合川路站), from which you should walk north up Hechuan Road and turn left (west) on Hongquan Road. There are so many tantalizing food photos outside each restaurant - it is difficult to know where to start.
 
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Area Map of Shanghai Korea Town
 
 
I chose to start at Seoul Plaza (井亭大厦) at 1000 Hongquan Road. Outside there is a vendor selling dried persimmons. Dried persimmons are used for a spicy drink in Korea called sujeonggwa, and persimmon leaves are used for tea. It is one of the few fruits grown in Korea, and its production there has increased by a factor of ten since 1970. 
 
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Persimmons are among the most widely grown fruits in Korea.
 
 
Nearby, people enjoy fried potatoes and other snacks from Mukbang Korean Fast Food.
 
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Outside of Seoul Plaza, snacks abound.
 
  
Seoul Plaza houses three floors of mall shopping and six upper floors of fixed shops, training schools, and entertainment venues. The shopping mall is mostly Korean apparel boutiques with small cafes sprinkled throughout. On the first floor there is a Korean market where you can purchase kim chi and Korean imports. 
 
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Seoul Plaza is your ticket for bargain Korean fashion items.
 
 
In the back of the market, a fragrant smell wafts from a stall under the name Busan Fish Cakes. Busan is South Korea’s second biggest city, and, located on the south coast, a fishing hub. The fish cakes in Koreatown are round snacks with fillings like cheese, hot dog, and imitation crab. They come with a warm cup of soup.
 
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On the first floor of Seoul Plaza, Busan fish cakes come in half a dozen varieties, all for 10 RMB.
 
 
Other Korean markets nearby include 1004Mart, next to Seoul Plaza, which has a larger selection of fresh vegetables, and W-MART, at 3811 Hongxin Road (虹莘路), which has a larger selection of everyday necessities. 
 
If you are looking for a more substantial feast, Zhengyipin (正一品) is one of the top-rated Korean barbecue and cuisine restaurants in the area. It is located behind a rustic wooden door at 225 Jinhui South Road (金汇南路225号), just south off Hongquan Road. The average cost per person is 143 RMB, according to Dianping (大众点评网), where it has a 4-out-of-5 star rating. Duolefang Potato Soup (多乐房土豆汤), at 1051 Hongquan Road (虹泉路1051弄1号2楼), is another highly-rated restaurant. Despite the name “gamjatang” translating to “potato soup” the main focus of the soup, which is also called “pork bone soup” in English, is pork ribs and hot peppers.
 
I opt to go towards the entrance of Hongqiao East Garden (Hongqiao Dongyuan) at the corner of Hongquan and Hongxin, where the bars and restaurants lined up outside the complex are packed tightly and bubbling with noise. 
 
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Along the Hongqiao Dongyuan restaurant street, there are many small house eateries.
 
Along the center of the wide plaza are festive one story houses that remind me of the kinds of establishments in downtown Seoul. I walk into Bullomann, a chicken and beer (“maekju” in Korean) place with a Korean show on the television set. Along with fried chicken in many sauces, they have other fried foods and Korean comfort food. I order fried squid. The beer is served in a chilled glass.
 
IMG_2328.JPGFried chicken and beer at Bullomann attracts a crowd.
 
 
IMG_2333.JPGBesides fried chicken, Bullomann offers many other tasty fried foods, including fried squid.
 
 
After dinner, the line of bars entices me. Western-style bars and Korean-style bars exist side by side. Some are trying to be a little too obvious about their identity. (One is called “Gangnam Style Bar”, to remind you in case you forgot you were in Koreatown.) German Corner is a narrow bar with a brick wall, wooden tables, and an Inglorious Bastards poster on the wall. It has popular beers and German black beers on tap.
 
IMG_2347.JPGThis German-language "Inglorious Bastards" poster certainly adds a nice touch to German Corner.
 
 
Also notable about Koreatown is how many coffee houses there are. In “Gangnam Style”, Psy sings about being “a guy who one-shots his coffee before it even cools down” and that he is chasing after “a classy girl who knows how to enjoy the freedom of a cup of coffee.” Coffee is serious business in South Korea, so much so that it was the subject of a research paper by JungHee Jang, 2012 honors graduate of Carnegie Mellon’s school of global studies. In his 2011 paper, he referred to Caffé Bene as the “Starbucks of Korea” due to the fact that it is the largest chain there. Of course there is a Caffé Bene in the shopping plaza right outside Hongqiao Dongyuan. The Korean coffee houses usually have waffles and specialized ice cream sundae dishes.
 
IMG_2254.JPGCaffé Bene is the leading coffee house in Korea. It has 935 stores in Korea and 538 in China.

 

IMG_2315.jpgKoreans are crazy about coffee and it shows in Korea Town.
 
 
Korea Town sprung up in Hongqiao in the late 1990’s. For much of the 2000’s, about 50,000 Koreans lived there, but the financial crisis caused an exodus of Koreans as trade opportunities dried up. Now there might be more like 30,000 Koreans still living there. “Now they can’t earn as much money in China,” the manager of a Korean restaurant said.
 
In addition to Korean nationals, there are also about 22,000 Chinese of Korean ethnicity in Shanghai, according to a 2012 survey released by the Shanghai municipal government. Minhang district, where Koreatown is located, has the highest proportion of minority Chinese of any district in the city.
 

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South Korean idol groups often visit Korea Town. Girls' Generation (少年时代) has sold over 5 million albums in their 7 year career.

 
 
IMG_2249.JPGShanghai has a number of Korean-language publications.
 
 
 
IMG_2272.JPGSeoul Plaza is your ticket for bargain Korean fashion items.
 
  IMG_2282.JPGMany kinds of kim chi are for sale in the market on the first floor of Seoul Plaza.
 
 
IMG_2343.JPGHongqiao Dongyuan's restaurant district features foreign-style bars as well as Korean-style. Pictured here is the interior of German Corner.
 
 
 

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