food in Shanghai
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Updated 2 weeks ago

Shanghai has an exceptionally diversified food scene. In this city, you will have your choice of a gourmet meal at a five-star hotel, a steaming bowl of handmade noodles at a nearby eatery or a fresh seafood buffet with the view of the river.

Cuisine

China’s cuisine is traditionally varied with cooking styles and staple dishes changing from province to province. The most revered regional cuisines are known as China’s Eight Great Cuisines — but you will not find Shanghai cuisine on that list. The city’s cuisine, locally referred to as “Hu cai”, may not have been traditionally famous — but it represents one of China’s most varied and colourful approaches to food.

Shanghai cuisine is made up of two components: Benbang cuisine and Haipai cuisine.

Benbang (translated as “local cuisine”) originally started out as hearty peasant cuisine but has evolved and gained sophistication over time. Its most distinctive contribution to Shanghai food today is the signature sweetness — you will find that sugar is an essential ingredient in most Shanghainese dishes from dumplings to braised pork.

Haipai is translated as “all-embracing cuisine” and reflects Shanghai’s cosmopolitan culture and the balanced blend of eastern and western traditions in its food. Fresh fruits and vegetables as well as fish and seafood form the base of Haipai cuisine — and have earned Shanghai cuisine the reputation of being light and delicate.

Modern Shanghai cuisine is a mix of a number of influences and there is a lot of stress put on the freshness and quality of the ingredients. If you are looking to taste the city’s signature flavours, try Xia Zi Da Wu Shen (braised sea cucumber), which is one of China’s most famous seafood dishes; Ba Bao La Jiang (Eight Treasures Chilli Sauce) known for its mix of components that include shrimps, chicken, pork, bamboo shoots, and lots of seasoning; Hongshao Rou (braised pork belly), Xiao Long Bao (soup dumplings), etc.

Restaurant scene

Shanghai is one of the best places to be in China when it comes to fine dining. There are a total of 34 Michelin star restaurants in Shanghai as of 2019 with exclusive Ultraviolet being the only three-star restaurant in the city. There is also an abundance of local and international hotel chains in the city offering lavish buffets, boutique tasting menus and more.

Shanghai's magnificent skyline is one of the city’s main landmarks — and if you are looking for a dinner with a view, there are plenty of spots around town that offer just that: Vue Bar, Aura Lounge & Jazz Bar, M on the Bund, and others.

Street food

While fine dining is definitely something that Shanghai does well, there is no underestimating the appeal of sights and aromas coming from the city’s small street food stalls. You will find plenty of miniature street food venues across the city –— but there are some streets that have earned the reputation of being the best street food destinations in town. These include Fangbang Road, a popular street food market; South Bund Fabric Market, Qibao Old Street, Yunnan South Road, and some others.

Some of the must-haves of Shanghai street food include xiao long bao (soup dumplings), shaokao (meat skewers), cong you bing (stuffed spring onion pancake), liang pi (cold jelly noodles), and others.

International restaurant chains

While Shanghai offers some very exciting local options when it comes to fine dining or a quick takeout, there are also plenty of places to turn to when you need a taste of home. There are a lot of international restaurants in the city and you will be able to find venues serving Italian, German, Spanish, American, Middle Eastern, Japanese, Korean, and other staples.

Fast food chains are also well-represented in the city: you will find everything here from KFC and Burger King to Starbucks and Subway.

There are also quite a few boutique cafes, bars, coffee shops, and other eateries various price categories catering specifically to expats.

Food delivery

Food delivery has become very popular in Shanghai as well as the rest of China — and you should have no problem having almost anything delivered to your home or office. While you can easily call a local restaurant (or ask for help from a colleague if you doubt your Chinese speaking abilities) — most city residents prefer to use one of the many food delivery apps.

Apps like Ele.me and Meituan can get almost any food delivered to your doorstep from Starbucks coffee to shrimp fried rice.

 Useful links:

Waimai Meituan
Ele.me
Shanghai Michelin restaurants

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