Shanghai cuisine, also known as Benbang cuisine, has showed great talent in balancing the color, aroma and taste.
Beneath the exquisite look, these dishes feature a comparatively sweet and light-salt flavor that is in sharp contrast with the heavy and spicy flavor prevailing in northern China.
In a vibrant international metropolis like Shanghai, one could also indulge in many international flavors that remind you of many places that you’ve visited or lived.
It could be a nice treat to tuck in authentic delicacies while explore the city's famous sites or hidden backstreets. The followings are some of the most popular local specialties that you can not miss in Shanghai.
- Pan-Fried Bun Stuffed with Pork - Flavor: salty and crispy
- As the most iconic Shanghai snack, this pork bun is fried till its bottom turns golden yellow, leaving the un-fried write upper side drizzled with sesame seeds and chive slices to enhance the flavor.
- Juicy Steamed Bun Stuffed with Pork - Flavor: fresh and soft
- A delicate sour-made skin is wrapped around a juicy pork filling, and like magic, the bun also contains a shot of tasty broth. Enjoying the inside broth first with a small bite of the skin is the key to explore the best of its flavor.
- Steamed Hairy Crab - Flavor: salty and fresh
- Shanghainese is the biggest fan of hairy crabs all around China, which are only available between the months of September and November. Steaming is the best way to retain the original flavor of crabs, with a salty vinegar sauce to spice up the taste.
- Sliced Cold Chicken - Flavor: salty, original taste of chicken
- If Peking Duck is the signature dish of Beijing, then Sliced Cold Chicken must be the one to Shanghai. With fresh chicken boiled with minced scallion, ginger and rice wine, it perfectly keeps the chicken's original taste.
- Steamed Duck with "Eight Treasures" - Flavor: salty and soft
- A fresh fat duck is stuffed with eight treasures, namely chestnuts, ginkgo, ham, diced gizzard, peeled prawns, glutinous rice, dried shellfish and bamboo shoots before steamed for a tantalizing blended of flavor.
- Sweet and Sour Spare Rib - Flavor: sweet and sour
- A traditional cold dish that is mostly served on the table for gathering of friends or family to all Shanghainese. To make it charred outside, red and juicy within, pork ribs would be quickly fried in oil, and then stewed in a sweet and sour sauce.
- Ribs with Rice Cakes - Flavor: sweet and slightly spicy
- A quick and affordable dish combined with crispy ribs and soft rice cakes. To make it tasty, pork ribs are salted before fried and then stewed with slices of rice cakes in a sweet and spicy sauce.
- Sweet Green Rice Ball - Flavor: sweet and chewy
- A green rice ball with fresh herb smell. Consisting of a grass-colored skin made by mixing wormwood juice with glutinous rice flour, and a sweet filling of red bean or lotus paste, this traditional dessert will enthrall you with its perfect chewy mouthfeel.
Popular Food Streets
Want to enjoy a feast of authentic Shanghai foods in a relaxing way? Bustling food streets frequented by locals will definitely deserve your preference.
- As the very first food street in Shanghai, it still retains an air of old Shanghai with a few century-old restaurants scattered around, such as HongChangXing, WuFangZhai and DeDa Western Restaurant. Adding to charm are some rising stars represented by Aunt's Milk Tea, A Pao Fried Pork, etc.
Traffic guide: Take metro line 8 and get off at the Big World Station.
- Go on a unique food crawl along Wujiang Road, the most popular food street that will have you taste some of the city's best: XiaoYang's pan-fried bun stuffed with pork, Northwestern Wolf's barbecue, WuZiFang's fried stinky tofu and many more to make your mouth watering.
Traffic guide: Take metro line 2 and get off at the Nanjing West Station.
Chenghuang Miao Bazaar Food Street (城隍庙美食广场)
- The food street in Chenghuang Miao Bazaar is a must-go place to delve in authentic regional flavors from all kinds of local snacks such as Nice Green Bo Restaurant’s desserts, Yuesong Lou's Vegetarian Steamed Bun, Songyun Lou’s Eight-treasure Rice Pudding and Nanxiang’s Juicy Steamed Bun Stuffed with Pork.
Traffic guide: Take metro line 10 and get off at the Yuyuan Garden Station.
Top Restaurants for Authentic Shanghai Cuisines
Lv Bo Lang 绿波廊 (Since 1522-1566)
- The most favorite restaurant for local cuisine to old Shanghainese, a five-star restaurant that has hosted the former US President Bill Clinton and many politicians from other countries.
Specialties: Date Mash Cake, Crisp Like Eyebrow, Osmanthus Pudding; Braised Pork Intestines with Alfalfa, Braised Minced Eel, Stir-fry Shrimp.
Address: No. 115 Yuyuan Road, Huangpu District, Shanghai
Average cost: 130 RMB per person
Wang Bao He 王宝和酒楼 (Since 1774)
- A dreamy place for top hairy crabs in China, where you could enjoy the most authentic crab dishes while take in the unique crab culture in Shanghai.
Specialties: Lotus Crab Meat, Jade Crab and Shrimp, Fried Crab with Pork, YangCheng Crab Roll.
Address: No. 603 Fuzhou Road, Huangpu District, Shanghai
Average cost: 165 RMB per person
Da Fu Gui 大富贵 (Since 1881)
- A snack world famed for local delicacies like Pan-Fried Bun Stuffed with Pork, Juicy Steamed Bun Stuffed with Pork, Ribs with Rice Cakes, Fried Pork Chops, Small Wonton and various noodles of Shanghai flavor.
Specialties: All kinds of authentic local snacks.
Address: No. 1206 Tibet Road (S), Huangpu District, Shanghai
Average cost: 38 RMB per person
Lao Zheng Xing 老正兴 (Since 1862)
- Serving chiefly freshwater produce from Taihu Lake, Lao Zheng Xing owns quite a few dishes titled "National Gold Medal Prize", such as Stir-fry Shrimp.
Specialties: Stir-fry Shrimp, Liquor-Saturated Chicken, Braised Eels, Shrimp Eggs & Sea Slugs.
Address: No. 566 Fuzhou Road, Huangpu District, Shanghai
Average cost: 165 RMB per person
- A European-style building revealing the charm of old Shanghai, where you could tuck in a good variety of local delicacies and western foods.
Specialties: Seafood Deep-fried Dough Sticks, Sweet Green Bean Paste, Pan-Fried Bun Stuffed with Pork, Swiss Steak.
Address: No. 115 Fumin Road, Jing'An District, Shanghai
Average cost: 105 RMB per person
Shanghai Min 小南国 (Since 1987)
- A leading Chinese restaurant brand dedicating in offering inspired Shanghai cuisine to high-end customers. Specialties: Liquor-Saturated Shrimp, Grandma's Braised Pork in Brown Sauce.
Address: 2/F, Xintiandi Nanli Plaza, Xingye Road, Shanghai
Average cost: 200 RMB per person
Western Restaurants Recommended
Western restaurants once symbolized the "Modern Era" of Shanghai, carrying the memory of older generations and now comprising an essential part of local catering industry.
Talking about the most popular western restaurants, it is reasonable to start with DeDa Western Restaurant and Red House, two century-old restaurants where older Shanghainese made their first contact with western foods.
Today, one would casually encounter one or several western restaurants only for a walk in the avenues or alleys, unsurprisingly to find various themes like Italian, India or French culinary.
- DeDa Western Restaurant
Address: No. 473 Nanjing West Road, Huangpu District, Shanghai
Average cost: 150 RMB per person
- Red House
Address: No. 845 Huaihai Middle Road, Shanghai
Average cost: 189 RMB per person
Address: No.59 South Maoming Road, Luwan District, Shanghai
Average cost: 165 RMB per person
- Oriental Pearl Tower Revolving Restaurant
Address: Oriental Pearl Tower, No.1 Century Boulevard, Pudong New Area, Shanghai
Average cost: 328 RMB per person
Address: No. 2500 Binjiang Avenue, Pudong New Area, Shanghai
Average cost: 374 RMB per person
- Morton's The Steak House
Shop 15-16, 4/F, Shanghai ifc Mall, 8 Century Avenue, Pudong New Area, Shanghai
Average cost: 820 RMB per person
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