DININGDiscover the best Shanghai street food

What to eat and where in China’s street food epicentre

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Merchants and migrants have travelled to Shanghai for centuries, bringing with them regional dishes from across China and beyond. From steaming baskets of dumplings to delicious tofu, there’s a fascinating menu waiting to be discovered. Our Shanghai street food guide takes you around the city’s backstreets to unearth the most delicious finds.  

 

What to eat

 

Jian Bing

The French have their crêpes, the British have pancakes and the Chinese have jianbing. This thin, circular pancake is rolled out on a griddle, generously stuffed with spring onion, egg and power-punching chilli sauce, then neatly rolled. They’re a signature Shanghai breakfast, so seek them out first thing. 


Xiao Long Bao

Deliciously moreish and fun to eat, xiao long bao have started to become popular beyond China in recent years. Perfectly pinched parcels of savoury taste, these soup dumplings contain a rich meaty broth within the dough. There’s an art to eating them: dip the dumpling into sauce with your chopsticks, place it onto a spoon, pierce it to release the juice, and devour. 


Shāo Kǎo

Follow your nose or the long plumes of smoke rising from vendor stands to find shāokǎo meat skewers being hawked on street corners across Shanghai. Marinated in herbs and spices, these kebabs of spare ribs, chicken legs or fish and vegetables are lovingly barbecued over hot coals. 

 

Cong You Bing

This iconic Shanghai street food staple is so beloved, locals will queue in long lines to get their fix. These savoury spring onion pancakes are stuffed and seasoned with aromatic fennel and are eaten throughout the day. Legend has it Marco Polo loved them so much he had his Italian chefs try to recreate them when he returned to Italy from China.


 

Where to go

You can’t turn a corner or enter an alleyway in Shanghai without encountering mobile food carts and hole-in the-wall spots selling delicious street eats from dawn to dusk. 

In the western suburbs, among the pagoda-style buildings and elegant arched bridges of Qibao Old Street, you’ll find street food carts selling steamed buns, fermented tofu, banana rice and adventurous delicacies like sparrows on sticks.

Lined with restaurants and vendor carts, Huanghe Road is one of Shanghai’s finest food streets. Pick up a mouth-watering breakfast jianbing (pancake), try preserved duck or sample sweet Osmanthus cake made from the eponymous scented flower. You’ll find Huanghe Road right next to People’s Square.


Evoking Old Shanghai but with a hipster twist, the neighbourhood of Tianzifang is a trendy dining destination of cafés, restaurants and street food stalls. Meander through the area’s narrow alleyways and grab a bench before tucking into tasty seafood noodles. 


Inspired to go on a culinary tour of all of Shanghai’s street food destinations? In the heart of Pudong district, the Jumeirah Himalayas Hotel is the perfect base for exploring the city’s gastronomic highlights.