Delicious Build-Your-Own-Bowl Meals in Shanghai

DIY has never been more appetizing.

by Michaela Fulton | Fri, June 09, 2017

Our run-of-the-mill homemade salads have been looking a little sad lately. Though, in the name of earning a coveted bikini bod, we've been (somewhat) diligent in trying to stay away from all the sugary treats that jump out at us. Is it possible to leave your wilting leaves at home once in a while and dine out without feeling guilty? Yes and we've picked out a few of our favorite locations that have great customizable options.

Ban Ban by Sproutworks

At Ban Ban, Sproutworks' second concept, you'll find six different styles of fusion bowls that will have you feeling giddy with excitement! After choosing your base (greens, noodles, or grains) and your protein (chicken, beef steak, salmon and more), you can then choose your fusion of choice. These range from Sichuan Mama and The Soul in Seoul to HCMC is My Jam – all of which take inspiration from different countries for their ingredients and flavor. What's more, you can top off your DIY bowl with even more toppings at their free sauce bar! So, will you be dining in Tokyo, Ho Chi Minh or Korea today?

We recommend: Nikkei Sensation for a blend of Japanese flavors and an incredible creamy Sriracha mayo that we just couldn't get enough of!

Find it: 5/f, Huaihai Zhong Lu, near Xianggang Nan Lu

Price: ¥65/bowl

EQ

Short for Equilibrium – meaning balance – EQ is a Scandanavian eatery that will be your next go-to stop for quality ingredients on your lunch break. Each week, they offer eight different salads to choose from at their deli salad bar on a four week cyclus. What types of salad can you expect to see there? Everything from a green leaf salad, watermelon panzanella salad and pesto pasta with feta cheese to a popular seared tuna salad on Tuesdays! These will leave you feeling guilt-free and mighty full with their generous portions.

We recommend: Add an extra ¥10 and opt for a small plate of three meatballs to accompany your mix-n-match salad.

Find it: 309 Hankou Lu, near Shangdong Lu

Price: ¥49/three deli salad options; ¥69/three deli salad options + side

Hunter Gatherer

With a seasonally-inspired menu, the mix-and-match items you can find at the deli bar regularly change to highlight their all-natural grub sourced from Hunter Gatherer farms. Here you can build your own bowl by choosing one base, one protein, two vegetables, one topping and added sauce and crunch to finish! Definitely take the time to browse through their 'marketplace' too, where they stock fair-trade chocolate, freshly ground nut butter and other all-natural products.

We recommend: We love, love, love the Smokey BBQ sauce on top of premium Chicken thighs alongside some roasted vegetables.

Find it: 135 Yanping Lu, near Wuding Lu

Price: Under ¥100/bowl

Baker & Spice

Not only is Baker & Spice one of our favorite bakeries to get a solid batch of scones, it's now a place to delve into healthy superfood bowls that will leave you utterly stuffed! Every one of their bowls includes salad, avocado and a crunchy pickled Asian slaw. You can then top this up with your choice of base (B&S grains, black rice or mixed greens) and protein. Lastly, you can choose from four different protein options, all of which come with some delectable dressings that are - thankfully - not too sweet. You can opt for the lemongrass chicken or a some grilled sesame tuna, both of which come with a honey, lime, ginger chili soy dressing. Or, you can try out their spicy prawns or grilled salmon which both come with a ginger, lime and peanut sauce. 

We recommend: The lemongrass chicken - it's tender, juicy and full of flavor!

Find it: Shanghai Centre, 1376 Nanjing Xi Lu, near Xikang Lu

Price: ¥70/bowl

Poke Poke

Poke is still holding strong in popularity and who can question it when this combination of raw fish and rice is so tantilisingly fresh? You can choose from fresh cuts of salmon, tuna, tobiko, salmon roe, prawns, scallops and more - all of which lie on a bed of ingredients that make up that 'authentic' Hawaiian taste: sushi rice, seaweed, soy sauce, cashews, onion, sesame seeds and scallions.

We recommend: The 'Original', which has a lovely sesame flavor!

Find it: No. 18, 339 Changle Lu, near Xiangyang Bei Lu

Price: ¥50-60/two seafood items, ¥70-80/three seafood items

Sproutworks

With a daily rotating menu and a fresh range of tossed salds, healthy sides, gourmet paninis and more, there's bound to be something that will take your fancy at Sproutworks. Here you can opt for two, four or six healthy sides as you customize your plate. Raw kale and broccoli with almonds, purple cabbage salad, butternut squash with chili, lime and coriander vinaigrette and sweet potato with a soy sauce sesame glaze – we're sold.

We recommend: Chimichurri grilled chicken is always a great bet for added protein! Or the pineapple teriyaki pork loin. Drool-worthy.

Find it: 185 Madang Lu, near Zi Zhong Lu and other locations. Different branches have different menus.

Price: ¥30/two sides, ¥50/four sides, ¥70/six sides

Max & Salad

Ever thought you'd be working your way through (what look like) poker chips in order to get your lunch? Neither did we. At Max & Salad, each poker chip you see lined up against the deli bar corresponds with the ingredients that lie just beyond your reach behind a plate of glass and allows you to build your own salad. There's a huge variety to choose from, including different types of meat, tons of vegetables and bread. Normally, it's recommended that around six to ten poker chips is enough to completely fill you up, but this does depend on which ingredients you choose.

We recommend: Take it easy with the dressings on offer as, although the salad bar is healthy, we find these dressings to be a little too sweet. 

Find it: Henderson Metropolitan, 155 Nanjing Dong Lu and other locations.

Price: Less than ¥99/salad

Pure & Whole

Though they don't follow the build-your-bowl theme, Pure & Whole is still worth the mention for their delicious range of plant-based and ultra-healthy pastas, curries, soups and more. Their small salad bowls more than adequately fill bellies – where "California" took centrestage with ingredients like kale, bell peppers, olives, diced avocado, pumpkin seeds and more. The mezze platter is also a great option filled with pita, a wonderfully moreish falafel, roasted cherry tomatoes and crunchy vegetables to munch on. It comes with a choice of three signature dips to accompany your platter.

We recommend: The roasted red pepper and walnut dip and the smoky sweet potato hummus!

Find it: Shanghai Centre, 1376 Nanjing Xi Lu, near Xikang Lu and other locations.

Price: ¥68/small california salad, ¥68/mezze platter

Little Catch

Bringing a modern update to your traditional fishmongers, Little Catch sources high quality seafood from around the globe. Head towards their little poke cafe in Jing'An and you'll find a great selection of bowls to choose from, including: a classic hawaiian tuna, dynamite tuna, umeboshi octopus and more. You can then choose to personalize your bowls by swtiching to a grain or salad base, adding nuts, seaweed and/or avocado! We're getting hungry just thinking about it.

Find it: 89 Taixing Lu, near Wujiang Lu

Price: ¥60/dynamite salmon, ¥85/ponzu scallop, ¥70/simply the best