The perfect ingredient for creating beautiful travel memories is sampling Shanghai street food, available at any time of day from breakfast through until late in the evening.
With Shanghai street food so much a reflection of the melting pot that is Shanghai itself, it’s not surprising to find it profiled on travel and food sites around the world. Diversity, exotic flavors, and unusual dishes make for a culinary experience you’ll savor long after the last sticky dumpling has been devoured.
Come on tour with ChinaTours and on our Shanghai tours, a day tour or Shanghai layover or a longer multi-day China tour starting in Shanghai, make the most of the opportunity to expand and excite your palate. For a real experience of China – food adventurers can take to Shanghai streets with their dedicated ChinaTours.com local guide for a completely different edible experience.
Where to find Shanghai street food
Shanghai street food snacks can be discovered at well-known locations like the Shanghai Long Tang Food Court. Famous for the houses built in the area from the second half of the 19th century to the first half of the 20th century, the public area between townhouses in the community acquired the name ‘LongTang’.
Now a busy intersection of food, commerce, leisure and entertainment, the Shanghainese keep tradition alive with their Shanghai street food businesses. From the early morning to the evening, all kinds of snack vendors line the alleys and the selling sounds echoed in various Long Tangs in Shanghai. On the top of the Mei Luo Mall, be sure to visit the Shanghai Long Tang Snack food court. There you’ll take a step back in Shanghai history as you discover the many hundred-year-old stores which have been serving traditional food to locals and travelers alike.
Ready for a food adventure? Let’s hit Shanghai’s streets and make some beautiful food travel memories.
Discover the origins of Shanghai street food
Steam Bun (小笼包 Xiao Long Bao)
The most famous steam bun in Shanghai is the Nanxiang steamed bun. Like just about everything in China, this iconic steam bun has a history spanning a hundred years. The bun’s skin is very thin, and the filling is made with lean pork meat, pork jelly, ground sesame, bamboo shreds and shrimps. So delicate is the outer skin of the bun that it’s said to have at least 14 layers of folded bread, and the flour used for 10 buns weighs just 100 grams. Virtually transparent, small and delicate, these delightful buns are juicy with each bite.
Soup Bun (灌汤包 Guantang Bao)
As with most of China, Shanghai street food wouldn’t be considered complete without a mention of these flavor (and nutrient) rich broth laden tasty morsels. Soup buns are in fact a kind of dumpling that is filled both with soup (broth) and seasoned pork filling. Eating these buns requires the help of a straw – first to ‘drink’ the broth inside the dumplings, then leaving you free to devour the bun in its entirety.
Pan-fried Pork Bun (生煎包 Shengjian Bao)
Yes, it’s another pork bun found among Shanghai street food! While the tasty, moist pork filling is similar to others we’ve mentioned and is wrapped with dough, these delicious dumplings are pan-fried, making them part soft, part crispy. Try eating just one – we don’t know anyone who has!
Shanghai Shao-Mai, more commonly known as pork shumai, is a very common breakfast Shanghai street food. It’s different from the ubiquitous dim sum shumai, which is made with pork and shrimp. Shanghai Shao-Mai is filled with sticky rice and pork. Why not skip the hotel breakfast and get amongst the local Shanghai residents making their way to work and play?
Fried rice roll (糍饭团 Ci Fan Tuan)
There are few amongst us who don’t love fried rice, but what about a fried rice roll? Sound too good to be true? Well, it’s not. A fried rice roll is one of the four breakfast warriors famous in Shanghai. It’s a sticky rice ball filled with Chinese fried dough (You Tiao), pork sung, and pickled vegetable. We recommend starting at least one day on a Shanghai tour with this famous Shanghai street food.
Crab Shell Cake (蟹壳黄 Xieke Huang)
Crab shell cake is a type of shortbread baked from fermented flour with oil, sesame seeds and salty or sweet fillings. The name comes from its yellow/brown color, which resembles a cooked crab shell. There are many filling options so there’s no need to feel limited: spring onion, pork, crab meat, shrimp, sugar, rose petals, bean paste and jujube paste. The cake is crispy with a sesame flavor. Delicious!
Meat Wonton Soup (小馄饨 Xiao Wonton)
Wonton soups are found all over China and Shanghai is no different. The wontons in Shanghai’s wonton soup are filled with freshly minced pork. Just prior to serving, the wonton soup is added with three fresh delicacies – egg pancake slices, dried small shrimps and dried laver (dried seaweed).
Glutinous Rice Dumpling in Sweet Rice Wine (酒酿圆子 Jiuniang Yuanzi)
Perhaps not a breakfast food, but certainly worth a sample at some time while taking in the streets and sights of Shanghai, this dish has tiny glutinous rice balls or dumplings boiled in a sweet rice wine recognized as Chinese yeast fermented glutinous rice. Low in alcohol content and sweet tasting, with the additional flavor of goji berries or Osmanthus added, this is a Shanghai street food dish to indulge in.
Make your stay in Shanghai a totally memorable street food experience
Apart from the wonderful culture and history of China, local Shanghai street food makes for a wonderful travel and culinary memories. When in Shanghai, be sure to take in this wonderful city’s street food with your local guide for an experience to truly savor.
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