What to eat in Shanghai: 8 Shanghai dishes you need to try

8 amazing things to eat in Shanghai

Is it possible to talk about China without mentioning its amazing cuisine? As diversified as the size of the country, Chinese cuisine can offer anything that you can imagine. And Shanghai, being the enormous hub that you are all aware of, is in the epicenter of this ever developing culinary world. Although you can experience chinese dishes from all around the world, it’s fair to assume that you will be seeking for Shanghai dishes in Shanghai.

Well with “only” 400 years of history, Shanghai cuisine is the youngest of chinese cuisines. Shanghai dishes are usually shiny looking due to the use of wine to “drunk” the meat, and the “sweet and sour” taste is a typical shanghai taste. Enough of the details, here is our list of amazing things to eat in Shanghai! We tried most of the dishes in this list during our 2 days in Shanghai, and we loved them all!

Steamed Soup Dumplings – Xiao Long Bao

Nanxiang steamed bun restaurant 

Xiao Long Bao is a type of dumpling that is filled with soup. The soup inside is actually gelatin (aspic made of pork meat based stock) that melts during the steaming process of the xiaolongbao. Xiao Long Bao was originally created in the Nanxiang district near Shanghai. Be extra careful when eating Xiao Long Bao (or any soup dumplings actually), as it is very easy to make a hole in the dumpling and lose all the delicious soup!

Best restaurants in Shanghai for Xiao Long Bao

Xiaolong Bao are literally at every corner of every street of Shanghai. And most of them will be good honestly. It was difficult to bring down the list, so we chose 3, each of them representing a “type” of Xiao Long Bao: Historic, Local and higher class!

Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant

Located in the Yu Garden, Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant is an extremely famous one. The reason: it descends from the original Nanxiang restaurant that created the Xiao Long Bao. So this is a rare occasion to eat from the originals! We tried most of their Xiao Long Bao (we ordered them all, one of the perks of traveling together!) and they were truly excellent. But be aware, it’s in a very touristic area, it’s crowded of people and the service is very bad.

Crystal Jade

crystal jade xiao long bao

Crystal Jade is a chain of restaurants famous for its refined chinese cuisine dishes. Compared to Nanxiang Steamed Bun restaurant (which feels like a “touristic” restaurant), Crystal Jade restaurants are more like dining restaurants, with a real service and other dishes than Xiao Long Bao. Recommended if you would like to dine properly in a quiet restaurant. Our opinion is that the Xiao Long Baos of Nanxiang Steamed Bun restaurant tasted better, but we enjoyed the quiet atmosphere of Crystal Jade.

Jia Jia Tang Bao

Jia Jia Tang Bao is a locally famous restaurant. It’s crowded, with a very long queue, but mostly of local population (unlike Nanxiang, which is crowded of tourists). We didn’t see any English menu, but it’s quite straightforward. The Xiao Long Baos might be the best ones we tried.

Fried Soup Dumplings – Sheng Jian Bao

yang's fried dumplings

Like xiaolongbaos, Sheng Jian Baos are dumplings filled with soup. The difference? The dumplings are pan fried (only the bottom) after steaming! This gives a fantastic oily taste and crispy texture to the dumpling that adds to the melting taste of the filling. Delicious, cheap and typically chinese, this snack is perfect. We really think it’s one of the must try foods in Shanghai!

Best restaurants in Shanghai for Sheng Jian Bao

Shanghai people LOVE Sheng Jian Baos. You will see a lot of locals going for Sheng Jian Baos for breakfast or afternoon snacks. But it doesn’t mean all Sheng Jian Baos are good. As the dish uses oil, you can have bad surprises with old oil being reused and leaving a bad taste in your mouth. We recommend you two restaurants, with which you will be safe.

Fried Dumplings

Yang’s Fried Dumplings

Yang’s Fried Dumpling is just accross Jia Jia Tang Bao (we recommended their Xiao Long Bao just above!). So it might be a good idea to try them both while you are at it. The Sheng Jian Baos of Yang’s Fried Dumplings are REALLY good. We really enjoyed it. We had some trouble with the soup splashing on our things, but that’s our fault to be newbies in the art of eating soup dumplings! Moreover you can watch the whole process of making the dumplings!

Dahu Chun

We didn’t try this one (we had too much to eat in 2 days…), but we heard it was one of the best (if not THE best) Sheng Jian Bao in Shanghai. The only problem would be that they do not have an english menu, but it shouldn’t be too much of a problem! If you want to read a more in depth review of Dahu Chun, here is a great article by Shanghai Girl Eats.

Shanghai Fried Noodles – Shanghai Cumian

shanghai fried noodle

Shanghai Cumian is an extremely famous Chinese Fried Noodle. Well actually it’s just the noodle type, but it’s mostly associated to the wok fried shanghai style noodles. Its characteristics are the thickness of the noodle, and the caramelized onions that gives it a sweet taste. Of course, it’s not just the onions, as most restaurants adds a VERY generous portion of sugar… It’s usally wok fried with some vegetable and one type of meat (very often pork, but also beef or chicken). It’s nowadays a very widely loved dish that you can easily find anywhere in the world, but you have to try it in Shanghai!

Best restaurant in Shanghai for Shanghai Cumin – Ming Ming Can Ting

Ming Ming Can Ting is a typically small local noodle shop that makes fresh noodles daily. Extremely popular with local population, you will have to queue up quite a long time to be able to lunch there. But the wait is worth it! Cheap and delicious, this is the best place to try Shanghai noodles. They also serve other types of noodles (with soup for example) that looked equally delicious!

Shanghai Street Food

Shanghai Street food

If there is one type of food that can easily define a city’s culinary profile, it’s street food. And like the city, the Shanghai street food scene is incredibly diverse. We are pretty sure that if you look around there is a lot of hidden places to eat authentic street food. However, we didn’t have enough time (and knowledge) to find some so we settled to the most famous and touristic area for street food: the Old Street near Yuyuan garden.

Where to eat Street food in Shanghai – Yuyuan Old Street

The Old Street in Yuyuan garden is THE snacking street of Shanghai. Be prepared to be surprised by the number of people, it was the most crowded area we visited during our stay in Shanghai. There is an entire area dedicated to snacks, so you will a broad range of street food you can choose from.

We tried 3 of them (we know it’s a rookie number, but we had to eat lunch at the Nanxiang Steamed Bun restaurant that is also in the area!)

  • The big soup steamed bun that comes with a STRAW. We tried thisoneforthe imposing looks (look at it! it looks majestic). But we ended up a little bit disapointed… The soup was bland and the bun had no taste.
  • Boiled skewers. These one are quite tasty, although it’s difficult to know exactly what they are made of, except the obvious one. We really liked the mushrooms!
  • The deep fried thin bread thing: Very tasty, we really liked it. But be advised, it is very oily and HUGE, we couldn’t finish it.

Shanghai seafood

Due to the proximity to the sea, Shanghai has absolutely delicious fresh seafood awaiting for you. And Chinese cuisine has a lot of surprisingly succulent seafood dishes, so we really recommend that you try at least one seafood restaurant in Shanghai. Of course, these restaurants are a little bit pricier than the other ones, but so much worth it!

Steamed fish

When Chinese people eat fish, they usually steam it. It’s a very popular way of cooking fish, as it preserves the natural taste of the fish. Of course, it’s steamed with diverse ingredients to enhance this taste, and the result is magnificient. The freshness of the fish, the cooking style and the authentic feeling, all these things together create an exceptional dish that all the visitors in Shanghai should try.

Best restaurant in Shanghai for Steamed Fish – JiangBian Chengwai

This restaurant is mainly for spicy food lovers. Extremely famous locally, this restaurant steams the fish with typically chinese spicy sauce, and we adored the lunch we had there. It’s really an excellent meal to experience spicy chinese food. For those of you too weak (;) joking) to eat spicy foods, they do have non spiced meals (with a sweet soy sauce base for example). We really recommend this restaurant!

Hairy Crab

cheng long hang shanghai

The Shanghai Hairy Crab is considered an autumn delicacy in China and is extremely popular. The prices can go up to hundreds of yuan for one little crab! And there is a reason to it: it’s absolutely delicious, especially around October, when the crab roe is ripe. If you asked us in this whole list that we made, what is the one thing we think you should absolutely try in Shanghai, it’s the hairy crab. Because it’s THAT good, it’s worth all the price that it costs.

Best restaurant in Shanghai for Hairy Crab – Cheng Long Hang

Cheng Long Hang Wang Fu is an expert in one ingredient: the crab. While they do offer other dishes, all their main dishes contain crab. XiaolongBao, rice, noodles tofu, EVERYTHING! And of course, whole crab. The restaurant was delicious with a fantastic service. We really loved every moment we had in this restaurant. The crabs are fresh, ripe and melt in your mouth. And they know exactly how to use the crabs in their various dishes. Absolutely recommended!

Shanghai Fine Dining

the bund

This is actually something we didn’t try. But Shanghai is not only famous for the local chinese dishes and street food, it’s also famous for fine dining. There are a lot of luxurious restaurants in Shanghai that offer top notch service and dishes. The best onesare around the bund, even though you can find excellent ones in other districts. On our side, we just took a drink at the Nest near the Bund. It was a good experience, the bar and the terrace were gorgeous, but not personally the kind of experience we seek in a trip. However, we’ve heard somegreat things about 2 fine dining restaurants from reliable sources.

Best restaurants in Shanghai for fine dining

M on the Bund

M on the bund is located…on the bund. With a fantastic view on the harbor and on the Pudong area, the rooftop is said to be the best in Shanghai. They serve european style dishes, and we’ve heard that they are wonders. The view does look truly gorgeous, so if you are planning a proper fine dining in Shanghai, this is the place we would go!

Mr and Mrs Bund

We actually entered Mr and Mrs Bund accidentally while looking for the Nest. The interior was lovely, and the atmosphere was relaxing. We would have loved to dine there if we didn’t actually have plans that evening. As one of the two restaurants run by Chef Paul Pairet, this restaurant is a broadly loved modern eatery in Shanghai, that you should definitely try one day if you like fine dining.

End of our list

One post is never enough to talk about all the foods you can eat in a city, especially for a city like Shanghai. The city’s culinary scene is so diverse and so large that we could never stop talking about it. So we tried to sul up what we loved from what we actually tried, or what we’ve heard from very close friends. We hope this article could help you to plan all the meals that you will eat during your stay in Shanghai! If you need more information, you can also refer to our Shanghai 2 days itinerary! Thank you for reading 🙂

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