[CRA 2010 Signature Dish] Rice Cake Crab 年糕蟹 from Ningtu Restaurant

We had never paid any serious attention to this particular restaurant. With an English name like Ningtu we actually thought this is just of the many HK Style Cafe around. Moreover, I remember reading somewhere too that the service was bad in this restaurant. Sometimes these sort of things will unfairly make one form a negative impression and prevent me from wanting to check this place out.

Given our long list of to-try restaurants, Ningtu was just not on our radar. That is until now when Ningtu landed on the CRA award list.


The Ningtu Restaurant is located on a quiet side of Kingsway. This is just slightly east of the intersection with Victoria Drive.

Well, Ningtu is not a HK Style Cafe as I assumed it was. It was the lack of X and Z in the Ningtu name or else I would know it is a Mainland Chinese restaurant. LOL! Ningtu is a very Shanghainese restaurant and a pretty authentic one too.


The dining hall was of average size but definitely not small. I am guessing it can seat about 50-60 people, at least. Most of the table sizes are big round tables indicating that a lot of their customers are families.

Suanne and I arrived at Ningtu just 15 minutes past their opening time at 11AM. We thought we are early but oh wow, the whole place was already quite full. We had to wait 20 minutes for a table for two.

I had earlier read some reviews of Ningtu before I came. Many of the reviews said that the service was poor. So we were expecting the worse and went ahead nevertheless. I guess this is what Keev meant when he once thanked us for TOFTT. Keev comes up with some of the daftest acronyms that makes me scratch my head wondering what he meant.

It took a while for me to learn that TOFTT means Take One For The Team. That seems like the current chowhound-speak for being a guinea pig to scout out a new restaurant. Well, except that Ningtu is not a new restaurant. I was just saying that we went to check out this restaurant expecting the worst service.

It was nothing of that sort. Not for us. The service was courteous and very fast. It is without a doubt a very busy restaurant. The swivel door to the kitchen swings open every few seconds with people going in and out. We were seated facing that door and it was noticeable … and annoying.

Everything is about speed and efficiency here. The table cloths were plastic — quite practical because all they need to do to clear the table is just to wrap everything up (cups, plates, bowls and all) and wallah … a new clean table is ready.


Click on the menu above if you can’t read it clearly.

Being a Shanghainese restaurant, the dim sum menu is full of the northern variety. You would not expect to find siu mai or har gow or phoenix claws here.

We like the prices of their dim sum. It is mostly within the $4 and $5 price range.

Talking about dim sum, I saw that they serve some of the dim sums in metal steamers unlike the bamboo type that we usually see in (southern) dim sum places. Is that right that traditionally northern dim sums are served in metal steamers?


They also have various kinds of rice cake dishes. Rice cakes is called Nian Gao in Chinese. It has a soft-chewy texture. Rice cake is apparently Ningtu’s specialty. You will see what it is later on down this blog post.


For starters, we opted to get You Tiao ($2) which is also known as Chinese Donut.

Our eyes were wide opened when we saw it. It was … huge! It has to be the fattest You Tiao we had ever seen.

Deep fried into fragrant golden brown, it tasted awesome. It is lightly salted and are so crispy and flaky that it can even be eaten on its own.


Look at the size of the You Tiao. It is almost as wide as a regular rice bowl.

Oh yeah. You know why You Tiao is always made in pairs joined in the middle? Here is what I found out from wikipedia:

The Cantonese name yàuhjagwái literally means “oil-fried ghost” and, according to folklore, is an act of protest against Song Dynasty official Qin Hui, who is said to have orchestrated the plot to frame the general Yue Fei, an icon of patriotism in Chinese culture. It is said that the food, originally in the shape of two human-shaped pieces of dough but later evolved into two pieces joined in the middle, represents Qin Hui and his wife, both having a hand in collaborating with the enemy to bring about the great general’s demise. Thus the youtiao is deep fried and eaten as if done to the traitorous couple. In keeping with the legend, youtiao are often made as two foot-long rolls of dough joined along the middle, with one roll representing the husband and the other the wife.


We ordered Salty Soya Bean Milk ($1.75) to dunk the You Tiao. It seems like their Soya Bean Milk has already some pieces of You Tiao already.

This was equally great too. Just like the You Tiao, this is one of the better soya milk we ever had.

Chinese Restaurant Award 2010 ♦ SILVER in the CRAB Category ♦ Rice Cake Crab 年糕蟹
Chinese Restaurant Award 2010 ♦ SILVER in the CRAB Category ♦ Rice Cake Crab 年糕蟹

The above is the silver winner in the Crab category. This is called Rice Cake Crab.

The price of this dish is dependent on the weight of the crab. We ordered a 2.5lb crab at $11 a pound. There is an additional $4 charge for the rice cake. So this beauty worked out to be around $34.

The dish was more than enough for two persons. We did not even need to order rice as the rice cake is a good enough substitute for it.


This is it … the rice cake (nian gao). It has a soft-chewy texture and it does a great job in absorbing all the yummy sauce. This is such a great combination with the crab.


Look at that.

Dispensing with all decorum, we ate with out fingers. Well, it was I who ate with both hands. Suanne choses to use one hand with chopsticks on the other. That is the wrong way to eat it, right?

The shell is soft enough to bite into and can be easily broken off with our hands. So we did not even need to use the nutcracker.

Taste-wise, the sauce has a gingery flavour. The crab meat is fresh (they brought the live crab out of the tank to show us before they take it back to the kitchen to cook it). We had such a great time sucking on the juice/sauce.


Hey err … what do you call this part of the crab on the shell? Is this the crab roe?


I got to say that this is one of the best crab meals I ever had. Really satisfying even though this is almost $34.


The Lemon Water goes perfectly with seafood all the time. Restaurants always serve it together with seafood. You should drink this AFTER the crab not DURING. The waitress told us it is for AFTER the eating crab. 😉


We actually also ordered the Ningtu Special Rice Flour Ball ($4.50). This is filled with red bean paste and coated with sticky rice.

It was very chewy. Our jaws got kind of tired chewing these. Perhaps we should have eaten them while it’s still hot. We ate them last as we were too engrossed with the crab.


The food was fantastic and for all that we had, I even think that $44 is inexpensive.

You know … I had tried to stop directly recommending anyone to try any restaurant for some time already. We even stopped calling our blog posts a review as we are NOT restaurant reviewers but just mere bloggers sharing our dining experiences. We are definitely not food critics and do not pretend we are Michelin Inspectors. No siree … we are just mere bloggers. I’ll make it an exception this time … I recommend you try the rice cake crab here. You might just like it.

Note that Ningtu is closed on Wednesdays and they accept cash only.

NingTu Restaurant 寧都飯店 on Urbanspoon

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  1. fmed

    I think Ningtu is great. Old school Shanghainese. I have never had anything but great service from the staff there.

    You should try the iced lemon water next time. It’s far more refreshing than the usual kind.

    1. Doug

      I think Ningtu is bland, but I prefer New school Shanghainese (Which the dishes are presented artistically and the restaurant owner’s care about there customers, by providing good service).

      I’ve had good, bad, and nightmare experience at Ningtu but it just depends on what day of the week and time, that you would dine at Ningtu.

      You should try the lime water, infused with jasmine water soup.

      1. Ben

        Hi Doug:
        For the food we had in Ningtu, they were anything but bland. I think one fact will speak for itself — that Ningtu is popular and they are absolutely packed the day I was there. I had never been there for dinner but from all indication of what I saw that morning, I am not surprised that they often run full house for dinners too. Maybe the service complains are true but we were well attended to — very prompt, efficient and quite personable too.

        1. Doug

          This restaurant is quite busy throughout the day but I’ve had boring dishes that the waitress had recommended. Next time I should try the dishes you’ve had order because it look much tastier then what my waitress had recommended.

          I just prefer modern restaurant because they are up to date about service and fresh quality of products.

          I’m curious if dried products like fish tend to lose its natural flavor, compare to fresh fish?

          I just think dried products are easier to cook because they don’t rot and can be store for many years. While fresh products have to be cook as soon as possible or the fresh product would taste awful.

      2. fmed

        I actually find the food at Ningtu more robust in flavour than the newer Shanghai places that often tend to cater to the Cantonese palates. If anything, the food is more savoury and salty at Ningtu.

        They also serve some now pretty authentic Shanghai homestyle dishes that use items like dried fish, etc that you often don’t see at the more modern places.

        1. fmed, if you can recall, can you point me to the Shanghai homestyle dishes? Or some recommendations as to what to order at Ningtu. Thinking of checking it out over the weekend. TIA.

          1. fmed


  2. Ryan

    Haha re: lemon water. Maybe you should put a star next to it just in case some new reader is not familiar with Chowtimes running jokes!

    Actually, my dad told me a story when he first immigrated here like in 1980’s…there were not many Chinese restaurants, and when we dined with Western people, they actually thought it was for drinking…

  3. $44 for two with crab seems like a good deal. I’ll take your recommendation and head over to Ningtu shortly. 🙂 Time to explore. . .

    Thanks for that tidbit about the yu tiao: I’ve always wondered why there was a “ghost” at the end of its name. Now I know.

  4. Jan

    I’ve been to Ningtu for dinner many times and it’s always packed. Is their lunch menu new? I’d have to go and try it one of these days, especially since I spied desserts on their menu (or the receipt)!

    1. Ben

      Hi Jan:
      Nice blog you got there. Too bad it’s such a hassle leaving comments on it. Anyway, to your question, dunno. I dunno if their lunch menu is new. That visit was the first and only time I was in Ningtu.

  5. etranger

    You look very happy to have a nice refreshing drink of lemon water!

  6. Marike

    HAHAHA…Ben, you and your lemon water!

  7. jason

    maybe this is a running joke too, but I think instead of wallah you mean voila.

    1. Ben

      No Jason. I meant wallah. No mistake there. LOL!

  8. sharon

    this is my fav cheap chinese restaurant to eat at! next time try the (deep fried) pork chop (Strips?) with noodles (some non spicy soup base) I think it’s only $5 for a big bowl and the pork is always crispy and succulent. the you tiao is my favourite too 🙂

    1. sharon

      forgot to mention i’ve eaten here maybe 30 times and the service was always satisfactory (nothing special but definitely better than the average chinese specifically shanghai restaurants out there–especially for these wonderfully affordable meals)

  9. biki

    lmao~ now eating “Yao Tiao” will make me feel so malicious! So the moral of the story is: do something hateful and someone will create delicious food in your “honor”! (j/k)

    For the longest time I always thought that the inner part of the shell were “brains” or “innards” so I would not touch it – lucky for my brother eh? But the crab looks goooooood!

  10. SolutionError

    thanks for informing me on what the lemon water is there for. i have always wondered when restaurants provide it with their seafood but am afraid to ask. i have been to hong kong a few times and they provide something similar, but with tea instead of water. in that case, many people use the lemon tea (usually warm when it arrives) to wash their hands after eating their seafood.

    1. Ben

      OMG! I think I got myself into trouble now … someone had actually took me seriously about the lemon water joke!

  11. Chinese food lover

    Thanks foe the usaful comments. But I really just hv to tell you that the lemon water is for washing your hands after eating any food that will get your hands dirty. It’s a Chinese tradition. Just in case you ever go to China, if you drink that water, people will laugh their asses off.

    1. mo

      … just like Ben laughs his ass off at new readers who fall for this running joke of his… 😛

      1. Ben

        Hi Mo: Hehehe … one of these days this joke of mine is gonna backfire and give everyone a poor impression on chowtimes. 🙂 Ben

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