Shanghai is the epicentre of China’s street food culture. In the heart of the Yangtze River Delta, it’s where merchants and migrants have travelled to for centuries, bringing different regional dishes from all across the country. From steaming baskets of dumplings to pungent stinky tofu, our Shanghai street food guide takes you around the city’s backstreets to unearth the tastiest delights.
What to eat
French have their crêpes, British have pancakes and 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
So deliciously moreish and fun to eat are xiao long bao, their popularity has infiltrated the West in recent years. Perfectly pinched parcels of savoury goodness, these soup dumplings house a rich meaty broth within the dough. There’s an art to their eating; dip the dumpling into sauce with your chopsticks, place it onto a spoon, pierce it to release the juice and devour.
Follow your nose or the long plumes of smoke rising from vendor stands to find these meat skewers being hawked on street corners across Shanghai. Marinated in herbs and spices, meats like spare ribs, chicken legs or fish and vegetables are lovingly barbecued over hot coals and known as shāokǎo.
Cong you bing
An iconic Shanghai street food staple that’s so beloved, locals will queue in long lines to get their fix of cong you bing. A savoury spring onion pancake stuffed with pork fat and seasoned with aromatic fennel, it’s eaten at all times of day. Legend has it Marco Polo loved them so much he had his Italian chefs try to recreate them when he returned from China.
Where to go
You can’t turn a corner or enter an alleyway in Shanghai without encountering mobile hawker carts and hole-in the-wall eateries selling delicious street eats from dawn to dusk. Our Shanghai street food guide points you to all the culinary hotspots.In the western Shanghai suburbs, Qibao Old Street is awash with pagoda-style buildings and elegant arched bridges. Here, you’ll find street food carts selling steamed buns, fermented tofu, banana rice and adventurous delicacies like sparrows on sticks.
Lined with row upon row of restaurants and vendor carts, Huanghe Road is one of Shanghai’s finest foodie streets. Pick up a mouth-watering breakfast jianbing, peruse preserved ducks and sample sweet Osmanthus cake made from the 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 with quaint cafes, restaurants and street food stalls to be discovered. 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 Shanghai’s street food destinations? In the heart of Pudong district, the luxurious Jumeirah Himalayas Hotel makes the perfect base from which to explore the city’s foodie highlights.