When you walk on the streets in  Shanghai, you can choose to dine in a western restaurant or opt for a Chinese dish of your choice. People often choose to hunt down unique foods at a pocket-friendly price.

In the spirit of the real local lifestyle and having a personal experience of the Chinese culture, we would like to search and try out various dishes. Some of them are Shanghai-native foods; others are popular snacks from destinations around the country:

  1. Jiānbǐng

At dawn, jiānbǐng vendors set up in shops and sidewalks across Shanghai. They arrive on time, ready to prepare the country’s favorite street breakfast. Their motorbikes are laden with hundreds of eggs, packed in cardboard trays that have been perilously stacked and tied together. They bring select ingredients, a cash box, and a QR Code. Oh, I almost forgot to mention the circular grills that reflect the dish’s origin story!

As each regular customer of the urban breakfast shift begins crisping his first pancake, a line forms. Hungry commuters watch a batter of mung bean and other flours spread across the hot griddle. There is no rushing a jiānbǐng. Each wrap is made to order, ensuring a hot, fresh bite every time. While the crepe-like dough cooks, vendors layer on a beaten egg, followed by a smattering of cilantro, green onion, and fermented vegetables. Then, they smear on hoisin sauce, fermented bean curd, and chili, which provide pops of sweet, savory, and spicy flavor.

By 10 a.m., after the last of the morning commuters have been handed their custom breakfast, vendors vanish.

  1. Xiao Long Bao

Shanghai-style Xiao Long Bao originated in the town of Nanxiang in the suburbs of Shanghai. The buns are traditionally steamed in bamboo baskets. Nowadays, some people simply call it the soup dumpling.

The small buns are served hot in the bamboo baskets in which they were steamed, usually on a bed of dried leaves. The buns are dipped in Chinkiang vinegar with ginger slivers. Unlike other stuffed buns, or Baozi found throughout China, the fillings of Xiao Long Bao are traditionally broth and meat, while other fillings are also available. The broth wrapped as the filling is the essence of this food. When you bite a Xiao Long Bao, the broth inside will immediately flow out. The delicious taste will just overwhelm you, making you year for more.

Someone said eating Xiao Long Bao is indeed an art to be mastered; it is not just about putting the food in your mouth, chew, and swallow. Therefore, we should pay attention to this art and enjoy eating Xiao long bao.

First: Pour some vinegar to the shredded ginger. (A basket of Xiao Long Bao is served with shredded ginger and Chinese black vinegar.)

Second: Use your chopsticks to pick up a Xiao Long Bao, be careful to avoid breaking the skin because of the broth that filled inside.

Third: Dip the Xiao Long Bao in the ginger vinegar sauce and then put it on the spoon.

Fourth: Nibble the side of Xiao Long Bao and suck the soup/broth inside the Xiao Long Bao. This is the best way of savoring the meaty, juicy, and flavorful broth/soup inside the dumpling.

Fifth: Add some ginger and vinegar (as you may like) to the dumpling and eat the rest.

There are two famous Xiao Long Bao shops in Shanghai. One is Nanxiang Mantou located in the Yu Garden Shopping Street, and the other is Guqiyuan Snacks, near the Yanan crossing of Tibet Road.

Check them out, I promise you will like it.

  1. Ya xue fen si tang (duck blood and glass noodle soup)

A few duck-loving Nanjing natives brought it to Shanghai more than a decade ago. Many Shanghainese who prefers a quick but hearty lunch enjoy Yaxue fensi tang. It has everything: duck soup, duck blood and entrails, green vegetables and glass noodles. All served in one bowl. What more could you ask for?

  1. Xun yu (smoked fish)

Deep-fried then boiled in soy sauce, this fish dish can be served as a starter in traditional festival banquets or simply as a snack when you are out. While the outer skin is fried until golden brown and crispy, the inside remains as white as snow, and tastes incredibly tender and succulent.

It usually tastes sugary, a typical preference by the Shanghainese


  1. Shanghai Crawfish

If you would like to eat seafood, you probably have had Shanghai crawfish already.

This cuisine gets many different names such as crayfish, crawfish, crawdads, “little dragon shrimp” or “little lobsters”. A series of names used to express the love for this dish.

The idea of cracking the crayfish, sucking out the meat and licking the messy goodness off our fingers is excessively enchanting.

With several outlets in Shanghai, FOMO Crawfish Restaurant has become one of Shanghai’s most well-known crayfish chains. Take a convenient situation in Huaihai Zhong road; The FOMO is one of the most popular restaurants to serve Shanghai crawfish cuisines. Be prepared to wait in line, especially during high season. The wait is usually worthy of your time and money

Duan Crayfish is another restaurant preferred by many. It has an open kitchen and customers can pick up crawfish by themselves because those live crayfish are displayed. Your selections are weighed in front of you so you can be sure to get exactly what you pay for.

  1. Fried Rice (Chaofan)

Fried rice is a common kind of food, which can be divided into many categories, such as Yangzhou Fried Rice, Sausage Fried Rice, Tomato Fried Rice, Curry Fried Rice, Bacon Fried Rice, etc. It is very popular among the public and is characteristic of various places.

shanghai chao fan

The main ingredients are cooked rice, some dishes, and fried eggs. It is served at any time of the day in most restaurants, both big and small. It does well when you need healthy fast food to save time and go on with the business of the day.

To sum up, these just a few local foods may want to start with as you explore more that suits your taste. I have eaten many kinds of Chinese food some of which I cannot even remember the names. Therefore, next time you are strolling downtown does not persevere the headache of locating the nearest Western restaurant. You will appreciate it even more.

Author: Enjoy Shanghai

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