Deciding what to eat in Shanghai would never be easy since there are must eat food from Michelin star restaurants to locally loved food stalls. This blog will show you “What to eat in Shanghai: The ultimate Shanghai food guide”.
This blog post is divided into 3 parts: What is Shanghai food? Shanghai must eat food & places and Shanghai food guide & tips.
I. What is Shanghai food
Before introducing “What to eat in Shanghai: The ultimate Shanghai food guide”, I’ll talk a little bit about What is Shanghai food? History of Shanghai food and Shanghai food culture.
1.1. What is Shanghai food? Shanghai food characteristic
Shanghai cuisine, usually known as “Hu cuisine”, is one of the popular cooking styles in China. It is well known for the cooking of freshwater food, seafood and vegetables in season.
Although using a variety of cooking methods (including braising, steaming, deep-frying…) and spices, Shanghai food retains the original flavours of raw ingredients. Sweet and sour is a typical Shanghai taste.
1.2. A brief history of Shanghai food
Among the ten major cuisines of China, Shanghai cuisine is the youngest which aged for more than 400 years. It originated from the Ming and Qing dynasties and traditionally called Benbang cuisine.
When Shanghai became an international trading port in the 19th century, most dishes experienced significant changes by adopting Western influences. And that has developed a unique cooking style called Haipai cuisine.
These 2 aforementioned cuisines Benbang and Haipai have made up Shanghai’s signature Hu cuisine.
1.3. Shanghai food culture and manner
Like any other countries in North East Asia, the Chinese primary utensils are a pair of chopsticks (for solid foods) and a spoon (for soups and congees). So make sure you know how to use chopsticks.
In a meal, everyone will have their own bowl however, the accompanying dishes will be served on communal plates and shared by all people.
Make sure to install the most popular Shanghai food app named “Dianping”. Dianping is like TripAdvisor of China, where you can find locally loved restaurants and read reviews. I find most of Shanghai must eat places via this Chinese-specialized-desgin app.
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II. Shanghai must eat food and places
It will take time to tell you about my recommendation for must eat food and places in Shanghai, so here is my shortlist:
2.1. Xiao long bao – Din Tai Fung
The first dish I will introduce in this Shanghai food guide is the world famous Xiao long bao (soup dumplings).
Every China trip wouldn’t be complete without trying out Xiao long bao. Xiao long bao is typically made with pork (or shrimp) and gelatinized broth which melts down into soup during the steaming process.
And Din Tai Fung is always my favorite place to enjoy Xiao long bao from Bangkok to Shanghai. However, there was no Custard bun – one of my favorite dishes in Din Tai Fung (I asked the staff in Chinese and they said no), so I tried Chocolate Buns instead.
|DIN TAI FUNG|
2.2. Hotpot – Haidilao
Haidilao, which is famed for out-of-this-world services and tasty hot-pot, is definitely in my top-to-do list when travelling to China.
However, this meal took me more than 4 hours to queue. Just kidding, after getting the number, we went out for sightseeing and came back after 4 hours. If you are too lazy to go out, stay here since there are tons of things to kill time: manicure, shoeshine/hand massage services, board games, and a variety of snacks and drinks, all for free.
I would rate 10 out of 10 for their customer service, but not for the food. I order 2 grid soup based: Classic Spicy Soup Base and Beef Soup Base, which are significantly different in terms of flavour. The spicy soup tastes good while the beef soup tastes bland. If you want to see the signature Noodle dance “gong fu mian”, try to dine before 11 pm.
2.3. Cute Buns – Tian Zi Fang
The adorable animal-shaped buns are considered to be the most Instagrammable food in Shanghai, which can be easily found in Tian Zi Fang. However, those buns are only for photos, not for the taste. Each shape has different fillings so make sure to ask the vendors before making your decision.
2.4. Fried Dumpling – Yang’s Dumpling
Yang’s Dumpling is an expanding dumpling chain with over 140 locations across China. Their signature dish is Sheng jian bao (or Fried dumpling) and it’s also the reason why I visit this restaurant.
Being pan-fried on a cast iron pan until the bottom turns crispy brown, Sheng jian bao tastes crunchy outside. However the inside literally surprises me as it remains watery.
Beware that there will be a “steaming effect” that unexpectedly drops on your shirt from the very first bite. And it is better to take-away than dine-in as this restaurant is crowded and not-so-clean.
2.5. Ice cream – Prée Ice cream lounge
Prée Ice cream lounge offers premium ice cream with a variety of flavours from popular ones (Strawberry, Cherry…) to you-never-heard-before ones (Truffle, England Black Ale, Foie Gras…). The ice cream has a nice soft texture and fresh flavor as it was made after every order.
But I wouldn’t recommend this ice-cream. It is literally overpriced. As it takes only 30¥ for a bowl of noodles in Shanghai but this ice-cream costs double than that.
If you wish to pop your Instagram feed, Prée Ice Cream Lounge is definitely a good option. The shop decoration reminds me of a fashion store, with the main theme of black and white. And it is literally photogenic.
2.6. Flair Rooftop – Best Rooftop Bar in Shanghai
Flair Rooftop bar is definitely the best rooftop bar in Shanghai as you can take pictures with the iconic “Oriental Pearl Tower”.
However, the bar is more than an Instagrammable place as it lively ambience. Make sure to reserve a table if you don’t mind queuing (it takes me more than 1 hour).
And the price surprises me. It’s only 70 – 120¥ for a drink, not so expensive compared to other top bars in Hanoi.
2.7. Big Mango – Taimangle
This big mango cup catches my eyes when strolling around Yuyuan Old Street. The cup has two levels. mango smoothie and grinded ice with some slices of mango on top.
China is not a “mango” country, so the mango tastes not as good as that of Thailand. Beware that this cup is “extremely huge” and takes me and my friend “forever” to finish.
2.8. Bubble Tea – KOI
Like any other Asian, I’m craving for bubble tea. And when I find a bubble tea store, my eyes start bling bling.
KOI is an international bubble tea chain across Asia. And when I travelled to China, KOI has not opened in Hanoi. So I’m extremely excited to try KOI. The tea tastes extraordinary from the very first sip, but I’m a little upset with the “golden bubble pearls” as they are not chewy.
Besides the aforementioned Shanghai must eat food, do not hesitate to try: Malatang, Jianping Steamed hairy crab, Yang rou chuan, Doujiang, Cong yong bing, Hong shao rou, Shao mai, Ma jiang mian ….
III. Shanghai food guide and tips
– Use app Dianing to search for Shanghai must eat places and read reviews. Dianping is like Tripadvisor of China. And don’t trust TripAdvisor when traveling in China as the shown information is not correct.
– English is merely used in China, for sure. Learn some simple Chinese words or use translation apps.
Here are my recommendations for “What to eat in Shanghai: The ultimate Shanghai food guide”. So you’ve already know what you are craving for when traveling to Shanghai. If you have any further questions and recommendations, please feel free to contact me.
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