Shanghai Food

Ultimate Guide to Best Food, Snacks, Restaurants in Shanghai 2023

Chinese cuisine is amongst the tastiest and healthiest cuisines in the world, while Shanghai food is amongst the healthiest in China. As an international megacity, Shanghai has an all-encompassing inventory of both foreign and local food.

So, what should you eat? With so many incredible food choices and so little time, how do you make the best of your trip? Luckily, there is really no bad food in Shanghai. Here, we have listed the most popular local dishes and unmissable snacks with the top-recommended restaurants, from the little steamed bun - Xiaolongbao to the oddly yummy crabs. Whether it’s cheap eats or fancy dining, there is an option that meets every traveler’s budget. The snacks and food in Shanghai will always leave you desiring more.


Unmissable Shanghai Snacks

Shanghai Food
Shanghai Food
① Pan-fried Buns

Chinese: 生煎 • Pinyin: shēng jiān
Recommended Restaurant: Xiaoyang Shengjian (Wujiang Road) 小杨生煎(吴江路店)
Average Cost: CNY 50/pp
Location: 2/F, Huangpuhui, 269 Wujiang Road, Jing'an District, Shanghai (near Maoming North Road)上海市静安区吴江路269号湟普汇2层(近茂名北路)

Having a history of more than a century, Shanghai fried bun is the most representative local snack, the top recommended food to eat in Shanghai. It’s crispy at its bottom, juicy and savory inside with thin and soft skin. Since Shanghai people are used to calling bun as "mantou", fried buns are generally called "Shengjian mantou" in Shanghai. Since the 1930s, Shanghai has developed its filling recipe, with chicken, shrimp and other varieties added to the stuffing.

② Steamed Buns - Xiaolongbao or Soup Dumplings

Chinese: 汤包 • Pinyin: tāng bāo
Recommended Restaurant: Nanxiang Steamed Buns Shop (Yu Garden) 南翔馒头店(豫园路店)
Average Cost: CNY 50/pp
Location: 85~87, old street, Yu Garden, Huangpu District, Shanghai上海市黄浦区豫园老街85~87号

Originated from nearby Jiangsu Province, Xiaolongbao is a typical Chinese dumpling (Baozi) with juicy fillings with same fame as fired buns. It is traditionally steamed in a xiaolong, a kind of bamboo basket, and that is how the dumpling was named. Although you may find Xiaolongbao in other places, the Xiaolongbao in Shanghai has a very thin skin, and some vendors will have crab meat and shrimp inside the little dumpling.

Shanghai Food
Shanghai Food
③ Scallion Pancake

Chinese: 葱油饼 • Pinyin: cōng yóu bǐng
Recommended Restaurant: Ada Congyoubing 阿大葱油饼
Average Cost: CNY 10/pp
Location: 120-1 Ruijin 2nd Road, Huangpu District, Shanghai 上海市黄浦区瑞金二路120-1

Scallion pancake is a popular snack among the locals. Every morning, walking into the city’s lanes, you will see people lining to buy this flaky, buttery, flattened pan-fired bing as breakfast. With scallions rolled inside the dough giving off a distinctive flavor, the bing gradually get caramelized and crisp on the outside layers. Besides the scallion, some vendors will bake their pancakes with pork fillings, which makes them juicer inside.

④ Crab Shell Pie

Chinese: 蟹壳黄 • Pinyin: xiè ké huáng
Recommended Restaurant: Wangjiasha Snack Shop (Nanjing West Road) 王家沙点心店(南京西路总店)
Average Cost: CNY 30/pp
Location: 805 Nanjing West Road, Jing'an District, Shanghai上海市静安区南京西路805号

Found in the early 1920s, the crispy crab-shell like little pie is one of the representative snacks in Shanghai. The yellow crispy “crab shell”is usually coated with white sesame seeds. The fillings can be various. Some are sweet with sugar, rose sauce, red beans, etc, Some are savory with onion, meat, crab, shrimp, and so on.

Shanghai Food
Shanghai Food
⑤ Savory Pork Mooncakes

Chinese: 鲜肉月饼 • Pinyin: xiān ròu yuè bǐng
Recommended Restaurant: Wangjiasha Snack Shop (Nanjing West Road) 王家沙点心店(南京西路总店)
Average Cost: CNY 30/pp
Location: 805 Nanjing West Road, Jing'an District, Shanghai上海市静安区南京西路805号

Mooncakes are not only for mid-autumn festival. The savory pork mooncakes are very fresh with juicy meat fillings inside. Compared with the sweet traditional mooncakes, the pork mooncakes can not be keep for a long time but it is insanely delicious. As a popular snack in Shanghai, you may need to wait in line to get one.

⑥ Glutinous Rice Balls

Chinese: 粢饭团 • Pinyin: zī fàn tuán
Recommended Restaurant: Nanyang Road Rice Ball 南阳路粢饭团
Average Cost: CNY 10/pp
Location: No. 993, Nanjing West Road, Jing'an District, Shanghai上海市静安区南京西路993号

Chinese people love sticky rice so much. Despite of its simple looking, the sticky glutinous rice ball will surprise you inside with a piece of crispy youtiao (a kind of fired long breadstick), salted duck egg, chopped pickles, dried pork floss, etc. You can choose different flavored sauce according to your preference. It is very popular as a healthy breakfast among the Shanghainese.


Shanghai Local Dishes

Shanghai Food
Shanghai Food
① Steamed Hairy Crab

Chinese: 大闸蟹 • Pinyin: dà zhá xiè
Recommended Restaurant: Chenglonghang Crab Palace (Jiujiang Road) 成隆行蟹王府(九江路店)
Average Cost: CNY 520/pp • Opening Time: 11:30-14:30; 17:30-21:00
Location: 216 Jiujiang Road, Huangpu District, Shanghai 上海市黄浦区九江路216号(河南中路口)

About 43 miles away from Shanghai, the Yangcheng Lake has the best crabs in China, and Shanghai people love crabs! What the hairy crab to shanghai is like the Peking duck to Beijing. In autumn, it is a tradition for Shanghai people to have the buy hairy crabs with family. Steam and unwrap the crabs, crack the shell, and suck the meat out of the crustaceans. The simply steamed hairy crabs bring laughters for the whole family and they always come with vinegar, soy bean sauce, ginger, and scallions.

② Red Braised Pork

Chinese: 红烧肉 • Pinyin: hóng shāo ròu
Recommended Restaurant: Green Wave Gallery (Yu Garden Road) 绿波廊(豫园路店)
Average Cost: CNY 150/pp
Location: No. 115 Yuyuan Road, Huangpu District, Shanghai上海市黄浦区豫园路115号

Red braise or Hongshao in Chinese is a typical Chinese way to cook meat, and Shanghainese are good at cooking pork belly in the way of Hongshao. It is a marvelous dish which can be found either on fine dining restaurants or ancient lanes. The brown color are dyed by the slow-cooking soy bean sauce mixed with melted sugar cubes. If visiting Zhujiajiao water town, outskirt of Shanghai, the red braised pork is a must-order dish. 

Shanghai Food
Shanghai Food
③ Classic Poached Chicken

Chinese: 白斩鸡 • Pinyin: bái zhǎn jī
Recommended Restaurant: Xiaoshaoxing (Yuncheng) 小绍兴(运城店)
Average Cost: CNY 120/pp
Location: 577 Yuncheng Road, Jing'an District, Shanghai (near Guangzhong West Road) 上海市静安区运城路577号(近广中西路)

Drunken Chicken is a popular local dish in Shanghai. The steamed chicken is chopped to small pieces and preserved overnight with strong Chinese baijiu or other liquors. The next day, the cold chicken is done and it’s always served with chilly sauce, vinegar, and other sauces. It is usually a appetizer with strong flavor.  

④ Sweet and Sour Spare Ribs

Chinese: 糖醋小排 • Pinyin: táng cù xiǎo pái
Recommended Restaurant: Green Wave Gallery (Yu Garden Road) 绿波廊 (豫园路店)
Average Cost: CNY 150/pp
Location: No. 115 Yuyuan Road, Huangpu District, Shanghai 上海市黄浦区豫园路115号

Shanghainese love sweet food, and the sweet and sour spare ribs is one of the most popular cold appetizers there. The sweet and sour ribs are usually ordered for people to eat while the waiting for other savory hot main dishes like fired shrimps, steamed fish, etc. You can have it in almost every Chinese restaurant of Shanghai.

Shanghai Food
Shanghai Food
⑤ Pork Chop with Rice Cake

Chinese: 排骨年糕 • Pinyin: pái gǔ nián gāo
Recommended Restaurant: Xiandelai (Yunnan South Road) 鲜得来排骨年糕 (云南南路店)
Average Cost: CNY 50/pp
Location: No.36, Yunnan South Road, Huangpu District, Shanghai 上海市黄浦区云南南路36号

Having a history of more than half a century, Pork Chop with rice cake is a local specility, and the deep-fired pork chop is good with the rice cakes. It is a common dish for lunch. Both the ribs and rice cakes are deep fried. The pork ribs are red sweet-sticky coated in soy-based sauce and the rice cakes are also slippery and soft.

⑥ Yellow Croaker Noodle/Wonton Soup

Chinese: 上海黄鱼面 • Pinyin: shàng hǎi huáng yú miàn
Recommended Restaurant: Rongshu Yellow Croaker Noodles 荣叔黄鱼面
Average Cost: CNY 130/pp
Location: 692 Nanjing West Road, Jing'an District, Shanghai上海市静安区南京西路692号

Yellow crockers are the most popular fish for every household in Shanghai. The fish is tender and fresh, and the cooking ways are various, ranging from steamed fish to pan-fried fish, but the most popular yellow crocker dish is the fish soup. Having the yellow croaker broth with the thin-skinned wintons or noodle is a simple savory feast!

Shanghai Food
Shanghai Food
⑦ Smoked Fish

Chinese: 熏鱼 • Pinyin: xūn yú
Recommended Restaurant: Shanghai Old Restaurant (Yu Garden Road) 上海老饭店(豫园路店)
Average Cost: CNY 170/pp
Location: 242 Fuyou Road, Huangpu District, Shanghai 上海市黄浦区福佑路242号

Besides the fresh fish soup, Shanghai people love fried fish. It is a traditional family dish serving the Chinese Spring festival. The fish is delicately fried and bathed in a sweet and savory sauce and coated with sesame seeds. Although it is translated as smoked fish, it is nothing to do with the smoke. For it is deep fired to crispy like being smoked.  

⑧ Braised Wheat Gluten with Mushrooms

Chinese: 烤麸 • Pinyin: kǎo fū
Recommended Restaurant: Lvyangdun Restaurant 绿杨邨酒家
Average Cost: CNY 140/pp
Location: 282 Fengxian Road, Jing'an District, Shanghai上海市静安区奉贤路282号

The Braised Wheat Gluten may sound odd, but it is really healthy and yummy. It’s a traditional dish in Shanghai and the wheat is braised in the way the red braised pork cooked and the wheat is usually cooked with mushrooms, black fungus, peanuts, dried daylily, and it is very popular among the vegetarians.

Shanghai Food
Shanghai Food
⑨ Lion’s Head - Meat Balls

Chinese: 狮子头 • Pinyin: shī zǐ tóu
Recommended Restaurant: Yangzhou Restaurant (Huangpu) 扬州饭店(黄浦店)
Average Cost: CNY 150/pp
Location: 345 Fujian Middle Road, Huangpu District, Shanghai 上海市黄浦区福建中路345号

Are you a meat eater? You will like the “Lion head”. It is a giant meatball surely smaller than the lion’s head but much like the size of a fist. It is very delicious, creamy, bathed in savory broth with some vegetables. It is very porky and delicately presented with irresistible nice smell. It is one of the representative dishes in Shanghai.  

⑩ Beggar's Chicken

Chinese: 叫花鸡 • Pinyin: jiào huā jī
Recommended Restaurant: Shanghai Huiguan (96 square) 上海会馆(九六广场店)
Average Cost: CNY 160/pp
Location: F2, 96 square, 800 Dongfang Road, Pudong New Area, Shanghai 上海市浦东新区东方路800号九六广场F2

Juicy and tender, the beggar’s chicken is a popular dish in Shanghai, originated from the neighboring Hangzhou. The chicken is well wrapped by lotus leaves and clay and slowly baked in low heat. It is said recipe was created by a beggar who stole a chicken for his mom, and that’s how the chicken way named.

Chinese Food Culture

Nourished by the five thousand years’ history and multiple nations and regions in the vast land, China’s food culture is more than what words can describe. Rooted in traditional Chinese philosophy, like Yin-Yang and Five Element and Confucianism, Chinese cuisine is beyond the food itself but an artwork of the creative minds. Under the guidance of Traditional Chinese Medicine, most of the Chinese cuisines are healthy and nutritious, pursuing to maintain people’s health, and even help the patients get healed.

Are you wondering about Chinese cooking process? Is that hard? around 100 cooking techniques have been formed over the development of Chinese food culture. The diverse cooking techniques show the wisdom of Chinese people and also help a lot on the sustainable development and reformation of the Chinese cuisines.

To enjoy the authentic Chinese flavour in a right way, Chinese dining etiquette plays a rather important role in Chinese food culture. Getting to know the Chinese etiquette will not only show one’s good self-cultivation and manners, but also help your understand the culture deeply and avoid making taboos accidentally to behave offensively to your Chinese host.